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Dec. 18, 2006

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Debbie Ryan, Virginia head coach
On first half time outs:
“Most of the time my message was to get back on defense. I felt like the whole first half was transition defense, that was it. They scored 22 points in transition. We were even on the boards and that was my biggest concern was the rebounding. We ended up with 19 offensive boards, and they ended up with five. I felt like we did our job there. We always spend a lot of time on transition defense, always. We were just not back. We have to give them a lot of credit, because that’s their game. They score a lot of their points on runs and getting up and down the court quickly. Montgomery did a great job right off the bat with her little pull-up, and we must have worked on that at least three days last week, stopping her in transition. We were just one foot too far into the lane, we just weren’t close enough to her, there were just some really tough possessions in the first half. When we cut it to seven I felt pretty good because I felt like we were bopping them and scoring at the other end and we were doing our job, and then they went one last run at the end of the half, which was like a five or six point run to get them ahead by 13, and that was the toughest part right there.”

On the game getting out of reach:
“It was 13 I think at like 2:49, I can’t remember when the last time out was, but that was the last little spurt there, it was like 6 points, bang, bang, bang, all within a minute, and we couldn’t stop it. You have some first years in the game who just aren’t ready for that speed, that quickness. We didn’t have enough size or side. I think that really bothered us; it seemed as if we couldn’t get a call. That really hurt us a little bit. But to be honest with you, I thought that the 13 point lead was all transition. We played them pretty well head to head in terms of the rest of it, we got in the paint whenever we wanted to, but we could just not finish it tonight.”

On Virginia’s defensive game:
“The real difference in the game was that Connecticut made us feel off balance, and we didn’t do anything to get them out of their comfort zone. You can’t play like that. You’ve got to play the defensive end of the court. Virginia teams have always been very good defensive teams, and this is not one of my best defensive teams right now. I’m playing so many young players right now, and they’re just not ready to play at this level right now, defensively. They can handle most of it offensively, but they just aren’t at that point yet. I was surprised that we stayed with them on the boards, that was something that I really felt good about. If there’s a couple of good aspects of the game that you can hold on to, I thought that turnovers were equal, the rebounding was almost equal. We had 19 boards even when they weren’t missing. They only missed 22 shots from the floor and 5 shots from the free throw line, so if we got 19 boards off of that, that’s an awful lot of offensive rebounds. So I felt like we did our job there, but I just feel as if we weren’t ready for this level defensively. This is one area that they have really improved, and I wasn’t expecting them to be this good tonight. They were very good.”

On Connecticut’s amount of offense:
“Well we have five or six kids that can score double figures. We only had three tonight, but everyone that played significant minutes scored for us. That really hasn’t been our problem this year, we’ve turned that around a bit. But we could not hit shots tonight. We got shots, but just could not hit them.”

On the opposite point margins from the Cleveland State game (Virginia won 100-60) and tonight:
“UConn and Cleveland State are worlds apart. I felt like UConn had a very good defensive game plan. They came at us, we didn’t hit shots. If a couple shots go in at the end of the first half and you leave down seven instead of 13, that makes a difference. But even down 13, I don’t think that it was completely out of reach, and I don’t think that the team felt that way. The way that we started the second half, with three transition baskets right off the bat, that’s 18 points all of a sudden, and it’s hard to overcome.”

On UConn’s shots seemingly always finding the basket:
“They were making lots of shots tonight, but some of that I thought was us not playing defense really well. We just did not do a good job defending.”

On adjusting to UConn’s style of play:
“I really couldn’t play into their style of play. It was already a track meet, and I tried a lot of soft pressure, but to be honest, I was not substituting much because I don’t have a lot of choices in a game like this.”

On the team not expecting such impressive offense from Connecticut:
“I can’t speak for them; I really don’t know. I think our team was very prepared to play them. I thought that they were going to be incredibly tough to keep off the boards. I just didn’t think that they would shoot the ball like that. They had people coming off the bench and they were shooting threes. It was just difficult to defend them all the way around, at times I felt as if we were running in mud. We were just not able to get down the court with them. They were really quick tonight.”

On this being a “good” loss:
“I don’t think that any loss is a good thing. I think that losses are good for learning, in terms of learning what you have to do, where you have to go, and how much better you have to be. It all depends on how much you choose to get out of it. Like the players were saying, I think that it can be very motivational. I think that they came into this game believing that they could win, and when we started the game off, it was obvious that they still felt that way. I still think that we are ways away from where we need to be, but we can get there.”

On practice tomorrow:
“I feel as if I’ve already sent a message to them about how I feel about tonight. I don’t want to belabor the issue. They know how I feel about it, so now I have to try to leave them with something positive: the fact that they were right there with them on the boards. Some nights your shots aren’t going to go in, but you can always play defense. That is the area that they have to get better with, and they know that now.”

On the John Paul Jones Arena environment:
“The environment was awesome tonight. There was a fabulous crowd. They did a great job, and I was just disappointed in our performance. We have great fans.”

On freshman guard Paulisha Kellum:
“Paulisha plays with no fear. I think that she did the best job of all of the first years in playing with no fear, of staying strong, and not being intimidated. She went in there and showed it from the start.”

On sophomore forward Abby Robertson:
“Abby’s really taken some steps forward. This was not a good game for her. I thought that she could have played better. But Geno’s a good coach; he forced her to her offhand They learned a lot tonight, because none of our other opponents have played our tendencies at all, and Geno had his team prepared to play our tendencies.”

Sharneé Zoll, Junior Point Guard
Did nerves affect your game today?
“No, we weren’t nervous at all. None of us were nervous; we were very prepared for this game. We had weeks to prepare for them, and it wasn’t nerves.”

In the first half, did it feel like you were one run away from being right back in the game?
“Yeah. We cut it to seven at one point on our defense, and we let it get back up to 13 off of our defense. I give UConn a lot of credit, they played with a lot of intensity and a lot of heart for all 40 minutes of the game. We just didn’t match that intensity today, but like I said before, we were prepared. For this game coach prepared us very well, we were working on it for a week. We didn’t come out and perform tonight.”

Did you feel like it was frustrating when there was nothing you could do to stop their shooting?
“They were shooting layups, it’s not like they were putting up hundreds of threes. There were a couple of times where we were in their faces and they put up their shots. But when you have confidence because you can hit layups, we do that a lot of games where we have our transitions going and we can hit outside shots. We already have our confidence and are warmed up. It’s difficult when they’re hitting shots, but we gave them their confidence. They are a confident team coming in. They’re the No. 6 team in the country.”

Will you remember this game everyday? Will this become a motivational thing?
“Everyday. You don’t forget a 30-point loss on your home court in front of all these people and national tv. This will be a great motivating tool because it goes to show that anytime in practice when we get tired, this will be brought up. Whether you’re tired or not, you’re going to suck it up because we don’t want this feeling again. It’s one of the worst feelings in the world that you can feel. We don’t want it again. I know everyone on that team doesn’t want to feel like this. We played too hard to have an outcome like this. We will play as hard as we can and remember how this feels. In a way, we have to forget it because we have to get ready for Maine. We have to get better by keeping it in the back of our minds, but it’s definitely not going to leave.”

Is this a measuring stick for where you need to be?
“It’s how you need to perform. There are days in practice where I feel like we do the same things that they do. There are games where we put out on the floor, but we just didn’t put it out tonight. And give credit to them. They played with intensity and heart, tremendous amount of intensity and heart every single minute and not a lot of teams can do that. It’s a measuring stick of what we need to do and how we need to perform in practice or a game.

Lyndra Littles, Sophomore Forward
Was it a difficult game? Is it frustrating when all their shots keep going in?
“It’s all us. We need to make sure we do the little things right and get back on defense. No matter how many times they score and no matter what’s going in, you have to fight. They fight and you have to fight back. They’re a good team, and we can’t just fold, regardless of what’s going in and who’s making the shots. Or what the scoreboard says. You just have to keep playing.”

How do you prepare? Was this a test?
“It’s a test. I think the test is everyday in practice; how we come in mentally every day ready for practice. We need to be ready for practice and be physical with each other. Right there, that’s just laps. We have practice tomorrow and we have to get back on the court. Go out there. Holes are filling in, and go out there and get better just one day at a time.”

Did their defense hold you back?
“Their defense was great. They were physical. There are a lot of things that we are that we didn’t put on the floor tonight. We got in the lane, Sharnee got in the lane. Paulisha [Kellum] got in the lane, Monica [Wright] got in the lane. They got in the lane pretty much every time they wanted to, but we just didn’t finish. But we were supposed to finish, and we were supposed to finish when it counted.”

Geno Auriemma, Connecticut head coach
On his team’s offensive execution tonight:
“I was telling the kids on the team, I don’t know if we expected to take that many shots and shoot that well after not having played in ten days and coming off of finals. Sometimes when you make a lot of shots it makes it look like you played great basketball and it can be misleading, but I thought today we made a lot of shots because we played pretty good basketball. We got the shots we wanted to get, I thought we were pretty aggressive and had a lot of energy. It seemed like every time we needed something we got it and it didn’t have to be from the same person all the time. I was telling the kids in the locker room, Virginia is a good team. It wasn’t like you go into a place and you play a bad team and you win by a lot. Virginia’s a good team. They already beat two teams in our league including Marquette, who I think is really good. So, I think making the shots that we made and playing the way we played, I don’t think the score is indicative of the difference between the two teams. We just played exceptionally well today, better than we have played in a long, long time. I don’t think we have played a game this well in the last two years.”

On his team’s mental state after a long lay-off:
“I think mentally we have been pretty good for most of the season. I think the mental part of the game was lousy at Holy Cross. I don’t think we were mentally prepared for that game. But I think that every other game that we have played since then we have been in a pretty good state of mind. I don’t see them getting rattled easily. They may do some dumb stuff but they always manage to get it back and they get it back quickly, which is a good sign. Because every team is going to lose it for a little bit and it’s how quickly you get it back. They seem like they get it back pretty quickly.”

On coaching against someone you’ve worked with:
“Yes, it’s difficult. I hate these games, when you are in that situation. That’s why I try to avoid it as much as possible. Because someone is going to walk out of there feeling bad, whether it’s myself or whoever is on the other sideline. Tonight, everything we threw up there went in. But Debbie’s Debbie and she knows she has a good team and hopefully in the NCAA Tournament we will get a chance to play them on a neutral court.”

On the new John Paul Jones Arena:
“I don’t want to go home now. I want to stay here. Of all the places I have seen, I was telling (Virginia athletic director) Craig Littlepage, I haven’t seen any better. None. It’s laid out perfectly I think. If I was a kid and I was playing college basketball, I don’t know that I could find it any better.”

Kalana Greene, Sophomore Forward
On why her shots were falling tonight:
“I don’t think there was too much of a difference [as opposed to previous games]. I think confidence is the most important part of it. The shots were going to go in when I shot them, and I just felt like every time the ball left my hand it was going to go in.”

On what Coach Auriemma said to her at halftime:
“The strategy in every game is to get the momentum at the beginning of the [second] half. So we were all looking at getting a bigger lead as soon as the second half started.”

Renee Montgomery, Sophomore Guard
On how the offense was working tonight:
“I think everyone was aggressive and that was the best part of our offense. Everyone was looking to find the open man and when someone was open they were shooting the ball. I think that that makes our offense run smooth – when everyone is playing aggressive and looking for their shot.”

On whether or not the entire team was on the same page:
“I think that we have been doing the same thing every game. I think everyone has been on the same page. We all know that we want to score when we are open and we want to get the best shot possible. I think that’s what we have been doing for the most part this whole season.”

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