March 15, 2008
Final Stats |
LAS VEGAS -
San Diego State Postgame News Conference
THE MODERATOR: Coach, if you want to just begin with some opening remarks about the game.
COACH BURNS: We'd like to open with just great congratulations to University of New Mexico and Coach Flanagan for just a fantastic game. I thought their team did a terrific job exploiting everything that we had. They're a great champion and I know that they will represent us well when they get an opportunity, especially to play with their home fans the first two rounds. So that's great for the Mountain West Conference. They're a class act.
I think the thing I was trying to get across to our team, is that we are right there and we kept it close. Because our foul situation, any flow that we might have had, made things really challenging. It was really disruptive.
I think that Dionne Marsh is a great champion and I think she's been the most valuable player here before. She fouled three of us out or came close to it. That's a credit to Dionne.
I think that Quenese did a fantastic job all week, but especially today. She and Jene, they're running mates. I think coming into the game I knew that both Jene and I felt that Brandi Kimble and Jene are the two best defenders in the league. I knew it was going to be a battle. But unfortunately Brandi didn't get the chance to guard Jene because Jene spent most of the time on the bench with foul trouble, which is really the first time all year. She's really never, ever been in foul trouble. I know that now that you've seen her for three games, it's remarkable with the kind of pressure she consistently puts on the ball. She's that good. Her feet are that good and she doesn't foul. That was a bit of a loss for us.
I think both Paris and Allison struggled today. A lot of big bodies being thrown at 'em. At the end of the day, rebounding does win championships and we struggled I think beginning, middle and end in that area.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach. Questions for the student athletes.
Q. Quenese, could you take me through the last shot, whether you thought that was going in.
Quenese Davis: I was just trying to get it as close as I could. I was just trying to cut the lead and get the ball up.
Q. Jene, do you see this as an end or just the beginning?
JENE MORRIS: I definitely see it as just the beginning. Our team has grown since the beginning of the season and even though it's a disappointing loss, there's definitely hope for the future.
I think we finally found ourselves in this tournament. We gained our confidence, and we finally found our flow. So it's definitely the beginning.
Q. You're taking this loss hard, really hard, aren't you?
Quenese Davis: Yes.
JENE MORRIS: Yes. I'm taking it very hard. We work so hard, we fought hard the first two games of this conference (tournament). We fought hard today. It just didn't go our way. Like coach says, sometimes you aren't able to cut down the nets. But we were right there. We were right there.
Q. Were you playing with heavy hearts after what happened yesterday?
Allison Duffy: Well, of course we were. But I just think we kept her in our mind and just kind of wanted to take into consideration all the support she showed our team. It was more like we just wanted to put it out there and play as hard as we could because we knew she wouldn't want us to give up in the end, not to let that get us down, so... I think that pushed us even harder to play.
Q. Allison, can you talk about how foul trouble changed your game today.
Allison Duffy: It affects you a lot, both offensively and defensively. When you're working with so many big bodies on offense, you have to watch out for offensive fouls. Then on defense, with Marsh, as good a player as she is, you can't go as hard as you want to guard.
So when the ref is telling you to back off, you need to lower your contact, it's kind of hard because it affects your defense.
With foul trouble, you have to take it down a notch, so that does hurt.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, ladies. Good job.
Questions for Coach Burns.
Q. Could you describe how proud you are of this team right now and what they've done the last four days.
COACH BURNS: Yeah, it's been a remarkable week. This one is not in the manual, how to put I can't even put it into perspective.
I think we've grown so much. Before the game, right before we went out, I said to them, I only have two words which for all of you that know me, they probably know that I was making that up. I said, I have two words. One of them said, You've already exceeded your two word limit. And the two words were: thank you. This is why we do what we do.
Usually I say they kind of like you when they're around, and 10 years later they remember that they love you. But to watch people grow up in front of your eyes, at the end of the day, you get an opportunity to play in a championship game, on a whole lot of guts. No matter what was thrown our way, it's been remarkable.
The most exciting part obviously is maybe this was a little bit of future. We got a little taste, which how fantastic is that for the hunger that will fuel us? Not just the hunger, but the experience.
I mean, look at Brandi Kimble, look at Dionne Marsh, look at the experience, because they've done this so many times. Every game we've played in was a game. The experience and the confidence that we take from that, you know, if we're fortunate enough to continue our season, whether it's the WNIT bid, which would be great to add to it, or just to springboard us into next season, would be great.
Q. What do you think your chances are NIT wise?
COACH BURNS: You know, we've been locked in this little conference bubble for about four days, so I don't know who's winning and who's losing. I think it kind of comes down to that. In my case, the wrong people have to win games. You need some NIT people like New Mexico just made somebody mad, because I'd like to think that both of us had to win the game to get in the tournament. So we need some more New Mexicos out there to win some conference tournaments to give us an opportunity.
I know we've bid to host. But we'll just have to wait and see.
Q. Can you talk about that final three, when Quenese threw that up, what was going through your mind?
COACH BURNS: We were fortunate we had a little time to get organized because Coco had never I bet you knew that was Jene's spot. But we had kind of a little misdirection screen where either Quenese or Coco would set up for a three. And I actually kept both my bigs in with Sandy who can shoot a three point shot as well, because I thought they were rebounding so well, even if I put a fourth shooter on the floor, if we missed it, I thought I'd need two rebounders to throw it out to three.
Players make plays. You saw that yesterday. That's why I put Coco at the point and Q I wanted Q to make the decision. Make the decision. You think you've got a look, take it. For 15 years, if she doesn't have it, she knows where to find her sister.
All you can ask for is a chance at the end. She had a good look. It almost went down.
Q. I know you look at this team right now, you did this in three days with seven or eight players on the bench. You have two sophomores, two freshmen. What do you see your ceiling being?
COACH BURNS: One of our signees won a California state championship last night. That's pretty cool. We've signed four more that are coming in.
I guess we kind of accelerated the future with the misfortune of Shanna Demus' injury, because that was going to be our biggest loss, from the complexion of this year's team to next year's team.
I think Coco Davis had a fantastic tournament. Coming in as a freshman, that is really big because even though the other ones you say, of course they're young, but they've been playing all year long. I'm really excited for Coco, for her confidence level.
There's nothing better than to get you know, the guy who comes in 257th doesn't usually cry, it's the guy who comes in second. That gives you the hunger and the passion to do what you got to do. They're great kids. They're great competitors. We'll work hard. We'll learn and come back.
It's exciting. I'd like to think we've only just begun. But today is the Lobos' day.
Q. Was this a worst case scenario where they beat you up pretty good inside on the boards?
COACH BURNS: It's our biggest area of weakness. Consistently all season long we very rarely have out rebounded opponents and really focused just as much as we can to keep them off the glass. It's not surprising. You know, it would have taken really a huge effort on our part. Not that we didn't, but day three, we were asking a lot.
They get the ball. You know, we had one, I would tell you, like point blank missed assignment. Brandi Kimble is the best 5'9", if she's that, on a good hair day, rebounder in the country. She's relentless and it was just we got physically overmatched a little bit.
The want to, was there. This is what I said to the team when I said, not everybody can cut down the nets. If we played really poorly, we'd feel bad. We didn't play really poorly. We got in a ton of foul trouble. And they were great. I thought they played very, very well.
Q. Early on they went on that 7 0 run to open the game, you called a timeout. Seemed like you fired them up, you went on a run. What did you say to the team?
COACH BURNS: Not the best start. Well, we opened the game and two of our five ran the wrong set. First ever championship game. So play through it. Play through it. We just needed to calm them down. Just needed to remind them where they go.
I look like I'm firing them up, but we just yell all the time. We love each other. We just are yelling. It's a positive thing. We're all emotional. But it was more just encouraging. C'mon, let's do what we know how to do. I think that just settled them down to get playing.
Q. You upset No. 2 and 3 seed, almost knocked off No. 4. Utah was also upset. Do you think that shows the strength of this Mountain West Conference? If so, how many bids do you think this conference will get for the NCAA tournament?
COACH BURNS: Well, part of the reason we think we've been able to sign such good players in these last two classes is, thanks to Don Flanagan, Elaine Elliott, Jeff Mittie, eight tournament bids over the last two years, then two years ago obviously all five winning their first round game. We're one of the top seven RPI leagues in the country.
I thought coming in that Utah and Wyoming were a lock. New Mexico was my dark horse. I said that yesterday. So nobody thinks I'm making that up. I thought TCU, only because they struggled in the non conference, may have to get to the championship game.
I'd be really disappointed and surprised. Wyoming has earned it by what they accomplished last year going through the run in the NIT and the non conference wins. I mean, Wyoming and Utah to me should be in. Obviously New Mexico's in. The one who has a chance, because of the good Oklahoma State win and how they finished their last 10, TCU is the tournament team now. That's a good basketball team. Wherever they're seeded, they can win a game. But I'm not in those smoke filled rooms, so I don't know.
I would hope three and I think we have a chance at four.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks very much, coach.
COACH BURNS: Thank you all very much.
New Mexico Postgame News Conference
THE MODERATOR: The all tournament team is Sara Hunter, Colorado State; Dionne Marsh, New Mexico; Brandi Kimble, New Mexico; Allison Duffy, San Diego State; Jene Morris, San Diego State; and tournament MVP, Dionne Marsh.
Coach, if you want to begin with some comments on the game.
COACH FLANAGAN: First of all, congratulations to San Diego State. They played a heck of a game. I'm not sure anybody knew who was going to win that game with about two minutes left to go or three minutes left to go. It was a highly competitive game.
From our standpoint, it took us a while to get accustomed to the speed of the game. They're very quick at every position. I thought the first half it took us a while to get effective at all on our offense. We started moving a little bit more, setting some more screens, trying to get the ball inside. I thought getting the ball inside was the key.
And then Brandi slashing and Dionne posting was about the best that we could do.
Coming right down to that last shot, they fouled Amy, first of all, with eight seconds or nine seconds left to go. And Amy's a very, very accurate free throw shooter when the pressure's on her. She hit both of those. It made it a three point difference.
Then at the end we were switching all screens. We were fortunate that that ball didn't go in because they shot it up there. Didn't look like it was even close. It rimmed around there.
Again, congratulations to San Diego State. But I thought our two seniors were just outstanding playing another great tournament for us.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.
Questions for the student athletes.
Q. Was part of the strategy to go in and put them in foul trouble? How much damage do you think you did to San Diego State?
DIONNE MARSH: Well, they're a very physical team. When you play in the post position, it's going to be physical anyway. You know, it has somewhat to do with kind of somewhat experience and hustle. When you're a little bit older, you know a little bit more things to do, you know, to maneuver, get around players, make sure you're getting into position.
So the girls from San Diego State, they played very well. They're going to be very good coming up in the next two years. But we were just the more aggressive team towards the end and we kept our poise and we did well.
Q. Third tournament MVP. Talk about that. What about the tournament gets you going?
DIONNE MARSH: That was like totally unexpected. Brandi did like exceptionally well today. Especially there towards the end, I was having a little bit of trouble offensively.
But it's a great honor. I mean, I'm sure nobody would not want it. But the team did well. As a team, we played our best basketball, I think, as of yet. And hopefully we can continue that going into the tournament.
Q. You talked yesterday about how the team seemed to grow as the season went along. Can you talk about how they showed that poise at the end of the game.
DIONNE MARSH: Yeah, like I said, San Diego State plays well. They're going to keep fighting. They're going to keep hustling. We had a lot of practice with that all year, trying to gain poise throughout games because we've lost a few games by five points or less.
The fact that you keep playing those types of games gives you more and more experience. The more we play, the more the girls should be used to these type of situations. And everybody was just ready.
Q. Playing in the Mountain West Conference tournament year after year, having the success, how much does it help you?
BRANDI KIMBLE: We're very fortunate, you know, to have the chance to go there. It means a lot to us, especially me and Dionne being seniors. We're looking forward to it.
Q. Just talk quick about what, if anything, you two seniors told the rest of the team coming into this?
BRANDI KIMBLE: Actually, me and Dionne kind of talked to each other since we're seniors. We just said, We have to step it up. We're the leaders of the team. That's what we did. I think the other girls, they fed off our energy after that.
Q. Talk about the start of the second half. You go down six, they come out get a couple, down eight immediately. How important was it for you to get it going at that point?
BRANDI KIMBLE: You know, it was huge. But basketball is a game of runs. I think we handled their pressure really well. We just took one shot at a time.
THE MODERATOR: Ladies, congratulations. Thank you.
Questions for Coach Flanagan.
Q. I know you enjoy every championship, but talk about this year's team. How is this championship special?
COACH FLANAGAN: It meant a great deal, first of all. This is a team that had some failures. The top three teams in the league, we lost both times to them. All of those games were close. A lot of the times we had leads going into the last four minutes of the game.
So we had some disappointments throughout the year. For them to come back at this point in the year and play so well and play so confidently, that's a tribute to the effort they gave in practice and the determination they had when they came to this tournament to be successful.
Q. You had some turnover problems, 17, but none in the last three and a half minutes. Is that being tournament tested or getting accustomed to the pace of the game?
COACH FLANAGAN: First of all, the speed of the game was not to our liking. They were faster at every position, so that didn't bode well for us.
Against them, 17 turnovers is not bad, really. I know it sounds bad. But UConn had 26 turnovers against them. UConn might be the best team in the country.
With the way they pressure the ball, what they do at every position, deny, it's very difficult to not turn the ball over. But as you said, we didn't turn it over in the last three and a half minutes and that's probably one of the reasons why we won the game.
I was trying to find a combination of players that would take care of the ball. Obviously you could see that I was subbing. I wasn't subbing Brandi out. I wasn't subbing Dionne out. I wasn't subbing Amy out. But the other players I was rotating pretty quickly. Trying to get them to be calm when they caught the ball to make good decisions on their passing because I knew if we got it into Dionne, she could score.
I knew with Brandi, Brandi could score on her player, also. So those were two players we had to get the ball to. I guess we did it just enough.
Q. Did you consider that last possession trying to foul them?
COACH FLANAGAN: I considered it for about one second. What I don't like about that is if you foul them, they go to the line, they shoot one free throw, okay? They hit that one. They hit the second free throw. They could tip it back out and actually win the game. That's the only way they could win the game.
To me, I know there's a controversy about it, it would depend on who handled the ball. If they threw it into the worst free throw shooter on their team, I might foul her. But other than that, I don't trust us to block out well enough to be able to get that rebound after a missed shot.
Q. The first couple times you played them, the zone was very effective. In that first half, seemed like they shot the lights out. What did you talk about at halftime on how to slow them down?
COACH FLANAGAN: Well, what I felt at halftime was that we had to match their effort, their hustle, their speed. It took us a half to get accustomed to the speed of the game. And once we got accustomed to it, we were a lot more effective as a team.
But I'll tell you what, I mean, they earned those shots. We played zone halfway decent, but they just knocked them in. I've never seen them shoot that well. I thought the zone would be much more effective against them. They actually got us out of the zone in a big hurry just because they could shoot the three so well. Normally they miss some of those shots, but they didn't today.
Q. Dionne wins MVP. Can you talk about Brandi's performance?
COACH FLANAGAN: I don't know how you make a decision between those two players. There's not two trophies, so you can't give them each a trophy. I don't know who was more effective.
I'll tell you this, Dionne has had great tournaments here, just tremendous tournaments here. Three out of four years being MVP, that's just unheard of.
But Brandi has always guarded the toughest offensive player on the other team. She played their toughest player and did an excellent job on defense there.
I couldn't make a choice if I was the one to make the choice. Since I didn't have that decision to make, I'm not going to make any comment about the decision.
I thought both of them deserved that trophy.
Q. Obviously automatic bids to the NCAA. With 1 through 3 seeds out in the tournament early, who do you see or who do you think deserves as spot in that tournament?
COACH FLANAGAN: Now I'm going to make some enemies if you make me say something like that (laughter).
I don't think there's any doubt that Utah deserves to go. Are you from Cheyenne?
COACH FLANAGAN: Wyoming deserves to go. I thought TCU had a good year, too.
We've done it before. We've had four teams go from our conference. It would be nice to have four teams go again. But we'll see what happens.
I do think we certainly will have three, and it would be nice if we had four. Sure has been a tough conference, I thought.
Q. As little as Porche has played, did you have to swallow hard before you put her in or did you feel like she had what you needed at that time?
COACH FLANAGAN: Well, I was in Vegas and I figured I'd take a gamble. When I put her in, I said, I'm shooting craps right now.
She's very athletic, long. She's gonna be a good player. She just hasn't learned some of the fundamentals she needs to learn. But I thought she could rebound and I thought she could defend efficiently enough that we could get some quality minutes out of her.
I thought we were getting a little fatigued at that position and a little bit standing around at that position. I wasn't going to play her too long. But she hit a shot. I actually told her, I said, You know you hit a shot during the game. I don't think she was sure she did score. She was probably a little bit in awe of the situation.
But every time I've put her in, she's played with a lot of poise. I see her being a good player in the future. Maybe she wasn't ready for that situation. But maybe because I put her in, she will be in the future.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, coach. Good luck next week.
COACH FLANAGAN: Thank you.