March 14, 2009
THE MODERATOR: We're ready to go with the University of Utah. Student athletes for University of Utah, Kalee Whipple, Katie King, and tournament MVP Morgan Warburton. Coach Elaine Elliott, if we could start with general remarks about the game.
COACH ELLIOTT: I'm just, you know, so pleased for these kids, this team. They worked hard this year. You know, we gave a team with, you know, freshmen point guards the toughest eight game stretch that we've probably ever done to a team as far as scheduling early in the year. They were so resilient. They believed in themselves because they were competitive and they didn't put it all onto whether they won them all.
So when it was really sort of time to start blossoming, they really grew into a great group. I'm so pleased with really where their head was in this tournament. I think that's what carried them. I guess it was maybe heart a little bit more than the head, which is nice to say about a team, as well.
I really commend San Diego State for an amazing season. They will do extremely well in the NCAAs. They will represent us well. As you saw, they had us on the ropes certainly most of the game. Just a great 1 2 game, rubber match, conference championship tournament matchup. I don't know that you could ask for more.
THE MODERATOR: At this time we'll open it up for questions for the student athletes.
Q. Morgan, could you talk about the last four minutes or so of that game. Did you make a conscious effort to take it over like that?
Morgan Warburton: I think it just sort of happened. Thankfully my team got some screens for me, I hit that one three to get us up a couple points. I think we all came together and realized this is it. What's good about this team is we find ways to win at the end of games. I'm just so proud of everybody.
Q. Talk about the difference between the first and second half.
Kalee Whipple: The first half, I don't know where I was. I think I was focused more on defense than I was on offense. Didn't take a lot of shots. Didn't feel really open.
But the second half just kind of went out there and just kind of tried to rebound more, get to the offensive rebound, maybe I could get to the line, do things like that. I wasn't really focused on shooting. But just happened.
Q. Kalee, do you remember the play that you and beat the shot clock on Morgan's pass, you tipped it in? Did you think it would get it up in time? How much of a momentum lift did you feel that was?
Kalee Whipple: I was hoping I got it up on time. Me and Morgan had that look. She looked at me. I cut to the basket. She gives that squint eye look like, You're going, right? I went to the basket. It was a really big momentum. She just hit that three and then we got that shot. I think that was just a boost of confidence for our team.
Q. The first part of the second half you looked like you were playing a little tentative. You didn't take the lead until three minutes left in the game. What happened that gave you that boost to take the lead?
Katie King: You know, going through my head the entire game, I just thought we're going to win. That's what my mentality was. So we didn't necessarily panic or anything. Where some teams, you know, going into three minutes left, four minutes left in the game, they sometimes panic. We just stayed together as a team and just kept playing.
Q. Beth Burns admitted her team panicked down the stretch. Did any of you sense that?
Morgan Warburton: For me, I don't necessarily think they did. I think they're a really great team. They're really athletic. They get to the boards, get to the rim. But, you know, I think we were the ones that made the plays in the end. They made plays throughout the whole game and were ahead of us. At the end, we were the ones that made the plays. I don't think they necessarily panicked.
THE MODERATOR: At this time we'll dismiss the student athletes. Thank you, ladies. Now we'll open it up for questions for Coach Elliott.
Q. When you look at the postgame stats, one number stands out, free throws. What do you attribute the disparity to there?
COACH ELLIOTT: I mean, we were aggressive and had to be because, you know, the style of defense that San Diego State runs. They're gonna get after you. They're gonna chase you. They're gonna overplay you, which really forces you to play to the rim more. We played to the rim a lot tonight. We only took seven threes. It's a lot different feel to a game that way.
I mean, I don't know what else to say. I mean, obviously getting to the line was huge. It's kind of the two styles. We kind of play between them and the basket, and don't overplay a lot, try not to allow so much to the rim. Maybe it's a difference in styles. I don't know if Beth felt differently. You'd have to ask her.
Q. Looked like you forced San Diego State to play your style from the start. How were you able to do that? There were a couple times it looked like San Diego State might run away and you sort of hung together. How were you able to do that?
COACH ELLIOTT: Well, you know, they forced us into 11 turnovers the first half. They're so good when they're scoring off turnovers. I mean, if they can get transition, and even their transition offense was on makes. I mean, they just push it right back at you. Your kids, if they fall asleep, you're in trouble. They got that on us the first half. That was the reason and the discrepancy of field goal attempts. The first half was turnovers. It was just the wrong kind of game for us. We knew if that was what we were looking at at the end of the game, they would have won.
We controlled that the second half. We can talk about it. Doesn't mean we could have done it. Our turnovers were down.
In terms of their attacks in the open court, because of whether it was a defensive play or offensive transition, just weren't a factor in the second half. And that was the big story for us.
I don't think we would have survived that.
You know, we felt like if we could run offense that, you know, we could if you force them to defend in the halfcourt, that's not what they would choose. They'd love to get you some steals before that and get some open court stuff. So that was to our advantage.
We've been down a lot. These kids' heads were in great places this whole tournament. They never really were concerned about it as far as it being a panic time. They didn't think about the score as being the game. How much time do we have left? We got eight minutes to play. That's what they focused on. That allows you to just keep making plays and not worry about it in the game.
Q. Morgan hit your biggest shot yesterday and today after not having a good shooting day. Talk about the mentality that takes.
COACH ELLIOTT: Yeah. It's amazing. I mean, it takes guts because when you're willing to make plays to win a game, you may also not win games. You know, you're not going to make all those plays. That takes a big heart and that takes somebody who's willing to take the failure of missing a shot to the wonders of making a shot.
That's what most people are fearful of. They don't want that situation. Morgan just isn't that way. You know, you just sort of always look at parents, at their parents, go, What are they like? That's probably why you're like that. She's a happy go lucky, happy, honest kid. She's made more than not. I'm happy for her because she's good enough and she's been able to come through with it. She's been wonderful for us.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about Kalee Whipple's play. Did you have to talk to her at halftime or did she just come out with that fire in the second half, carry the team there?
COACH ELLIOTT: Yeah, no, there's been times when she'll get like that and you'll feel like her head's not there and that's the problem. I never felt that way about her. She was fine. She's hurting. About six minutes into the start of that game she made a cut. She hurt her hip flexor from last night. I wasn't sure she'd play. That was where her head was early, I can promise you. Unfortunately, there's not much you can do about that if a kid's kind of hurt.
I think you get into the real meat of stuff. I just think it didn't matter. It went away. When it went away, I think she just really was focused.
Q. I know the story is still being written on this season, but what has allowed this group, what is special about them that has allowed this to happen?
COACH ELLIOTT: This is really a unique team. I suppose I'd use the word 'overachieve' because we just really had a lot to sort of put together with this group. Freshmen point guards are just not the way you want to go. When you have two of 'em, it's tough. And when you have a senior who's a great individual player, but then still have so many sort of, How are we going to put the rest of it together, you can't win with one or two kids. And, again, giving them such a taxing early season schedule where they took their lumps. It's a real testament to who they are.
I think that's why they've won games here, why they've won close games. They would have folded before this if they just didn't have that in their character.
That got them to this point, so it's really not surprising that that's allowing them to win these kind of games.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.