March 3, 2009
Opening remarks on regular season finish:
“I have a pretty special team, that is very balanced, but really the goal for this year was to get better every game and to be focused on each and every game. I think the balance is really illuminated by the fact that three of our players were named all conference, and I am hoping that (Cierra Bravard) is on the all freshman team. I think that statistics show that we are a tough team to guard and that we have a lot of different weapons, and our commitment to defense is one of the things our kids are most proud of.”
Q: Your team went 3-0 against your probable opponents for Friday night (Boston College and Miami). What do both of those schools bring to the table as far as matchups are concerned for your team and what do you think favors your team as far as matchups are concerned?
I think the toughest part is they are two very different teams to prepare for. We have seen Miami on two different occasions so we are a little bit more familiar with them. Boston College, with their size and ability to shoot the ball from the perimeter, is a different kind of look than Miami gives you with their speed and pressure. So those two things are going to make our preparations a little different. I do think having beaten those teams in the regular season will give us some sort of confidence, and at the same time this is a veteran enough group that understands that it’s very difficult this time of year and that you have to go out give it your best game. I think we have both different strengths against these teams and different weaknesses.
Q: Has winning the ACC Tournament been a specific goal for you? Also, talk about the enthusiasm – especially at home – you have been able to create:
I appreciate both questions. First off, no I have never voiced that to our team as this is a goal that we have set for us this year. We have really taken things by steps. When we got here and we were 0-11 in the ACC and didn’t win a game in the ACC Tournament, it was definitely take care of the regular season first. Then I remember winning our first game in the ACC Tournament and what that meant. I think too, that for us now winning an ACC Championship is definitely something that was important, and the NCAA is even more important than that early on, so it’s really step by step. So now that we have been able to conquer different things, I think that is something that is an exciting venture for us.
Secondly, I think with our attendance and home court enthusiasm has been our player’s ability to make our games exciting to watch. I think women’s basketball is now really gaining momentum in the south. That is one of the things having come from Wisconsin where we had eight to ten thousand people at the games and the environment was always electric. Then you come to the south where football was king, and with the emphasis that has been placed on not just football and baseball, but with basketball has really helped us to create an environment that is fun to play in. I remember Mara (Freshour) saying at one of the press conferences that it used to feel like an away game her freshman year when we played over at the Tucker Center. But now it really feels like home and it’s an exciting level of progress that has occurred here.
Q: You are 12-3 away from home including neutral site games, and you have also won an enormous number of close one- or two-possession games. Can you address both of those? Because that is the difference between maybe where people picked you (to finish the season) and where you are today.
The other side of that too, is if you look at our ACC losses, they were also one- or two-possession games. I think the environment, it’s a team and program that has learned to push through adversity and you know that from the 2004 year until now. There have been hurdles that this group of individuals and a program as a whole that have helped us say we are not going to allow a tough situation to get the best of us, and I think this year you have seen the fruit of that. When you look at our close situations and being able to play on the road, I think that has been years in the coming. It’s been a group of people here now, but a group of people that have passed that on. I could go back to the Ganiyat Adeduntan’s, the Holly Johnson’s, the Alicia Gladden’s, those kids who have come and breathed that kind of enthusiasm and spirit in life into our team.
Q: Looking at the big picture, this league has been dominated by Maryland, Duke and North Carolina for so long. What does it mean to your program to sort of crash that party and is it tempting at all for your players to get caught up in that knowing there is still so much more to do?
Honestly we do not look at it like that way. We want to be a top 10 program and we don’t look around to compare ourselves with other programs. We really try to be the best that we can be. I know that sounds cliché, but we just don’t have that kind of measuring stick. We just look at what we need to do to be a top 10 program and so it doesn’t feel like we have crashed anyone’s party. It feels like we have continued to grow to a place where we want to be and now want to sustain, so I don’t think that there is really any thought about it with our kids. It’s very strange, lot of times I don’t think they even knew they were in first place in the ACC. All year long it was what do we need to do to get better?