A&M Hosts James Madison For Trip To Sweet 16

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COLLEGE STATION- Game 34 • Tuesday, March 25, 2014 • 8:45 p.m. • NCAA Second Round
[11] James Madison Dukes (29-5, 15-1 CAA)
No. 15 AP / No. 14 Coaches’ [3] Texas A&M Aggies (25-8, 13-3 SEC)
College Station, Texas • Reed Arena (12,989)
Television: ESPN2 (Carter Blackburn, Ros Gold-Onwude)
Radio: Texas A&M Sports Network (Mike Wright, Tap Bentz)

No. 3 seeded Texas A&M hosts No. 11 seed James Madison in the Second Round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament on Tuesday night for a trip to the Lincoln Regional. The Aggies are looking for their sixth trip to the Sweet 16 and fifth since 2008.

The Aggies defeated North Dakota 70-55 to reach the NCAA Second Round, going on a 26-5 run at the end of the first half and start of the second half that put the game out of reach. Texas A&M won a game in the NCAA Tournament for the eighth straight year, only one of eight programs to do so, joining Baylor, UConn, Duke and Stanford.
On Sunday, James Madison upset No. 6 seeded Gonzaga 72-63 for their first NCAA Tournament win since 1991 to reach this point. Kirby Burkholder poured in 28 points and grabbed 18 rebounds for the Dukes to lead the team.

The game is televised on ESPN2, with Carter Blackburn and Rosalyn Gold-Onwude on the call. The game is regionally protected and shown in its entirety on ESPN2 in Texas (cable) or on ESPN Full Court on DirecTV and Dish Network for no extra charge. Fans outside of Texas can watch on ESPN3 or on ESPN Full Court, or tune into "whip-around" coverage on ESPN2, which will show the best action around the nation at that time.

The game is also broadcast on the Texas A&M Sports Network, with Mike Wright and Tap Bentz on the call.

Tickets are still available for this game, and can be obtained through the Texas A&M Ticket Office. Students can still register for FREE tickets on AggieAthletics.com.

The winner of this game heads to Lincoln, Neb. for the Lincoln Regional Semifinal, which will be against No. 2 seed Duke or No. 7 seed DePaul on Mar. 29.

PRESS CONFERENCE QUOTES – JAMES MADISON

Kenny Brooks, Head Coach

On embracing the Cinderella role:
“We don’t talk about a whole lot of that. We felt like we were a better seed. We were just excited about the opportunity to prove ourselves. We’ve been doing that all year long. We’ve been fighting for respectability a lot. We knew this team was going to be very good. We’ve had a really good run the last couple years with the same cast of characters, and we still weren’t getting the national recognition that I thought we could have gotten. We used that as a chip on our shoulder all year long. We were battling and fighting, trying to get to the point where we were getting some recognition in the polls. It seems like as soon as we got there and were on the verge of being ranked, we lost a game. We had a hiccup and lost a game. That’s been a motivation of ours all year long is to try and get some of that recognition that these kids deserve. I really feel like they are one of the better teams in the country, and now we get an opportunity to prove it. And, we will use that as motivation. They seem to thrive off of it and they play harder. If you listen to them, they are a very confident group. They are very confident in their abilities. No disrespect to anybody else that they play, they are just very confident in what they are capable of what they are doing.”

On the matchups up front:
“Thanks Cease, I was really on cloud nine, and now I have to… It was. You know we enjoyed last night. You heard the kids say ‘on to the next one’. That’s been one of our sayings all year long. Texas A&M is good. They are fast, they’re long, they’re athletic, they’re big. They play good defense. It was a little bit of a buzzkill watching them, but we’re excited. As many advantages as they have, I think we have advantages as well. Their size is going to be a tremendous challenge for us. But, I think that our undersize could be a challenge for them as well. We’re a tough, scrappy group. We rebound the ball well. If we are able to do that against their big team, I think we can have an advantage, because I think we can pull them out a little bit and try to make them as uncomfortable as possible, then let the chips fall where they may. We’re excited to be here, but that’s not all that we are. We’re here to win. We’re here to win a basketball game. It’s going to be a tremendous atmosphere. Someone alluded to our experience two years ago in the WNIT when we went to Stillwater and played in front of that crowd, and I think that’s really going to help us in this situation. A lot of these kids saw that; a lot of these kids played in that atmosphere. We are just going to go out and play.”

On playing A&M:
“Their size is a tremendous concern. Gilbert, she’s big. She’s experienced. She played behind Kelsey Bone the last couple of years, and she waited her turn. She’s hungry. Watching her development over the last couple years, I see a fire. We are going to have to make sure we stay in front of her—in between her and the basket. If we give her a free lane to the basket, it is going to be a tough night for us. At the same time, we are going to try to extend the floor. We don’t play a traditional lineup all the time. You look at Toia Giggetts, she’s probably 5-11 on her tippy toes. But she’s tough, she’s scrappy. We are probably going to use her to pull them out a little more. Like I mentioned before, they have a tremendous advantage with their size, and hopefully we’ll be able to use that as a detriment to them, and try to get up and down the floor. Transition is a really good thing for us. Being in this tournament and this region, where we are playing mostly against teams who play man-to-man, is a treat for us. We get up and down the floor, and I think that could be an advantage for us. But also, their guards are as talented and tremendously athletic, so we have to watch it and just try to figure it out.”

On messages after the win:
“My favorite story, I have three daughters, one’s 16, one’s 14, and I have an 8-year-old. My 8-year-old is joined to my hip. I was shaving one day, and right on my counter I have three pins that said first round of the NCAA. She asked me, ‘Do you get a pin if you go to the second round?’ and I said ‘I don’t know baby. I have to see.’ She Face Timed me last night and she said, ‘Did you get your pin for the second round yet?’ That was my favorite story. They ground me a lot. But, I had to stop answering texts last night, because it was cutting into me watching Texas A&M. You celebrate it. These kids have deserved it. I remember during a portion of the game last night, I looked at Nikki and Kirby in the huddle and it really calmed me down, because I said I don’t want this to be the last game that I’m going to coach them. Let’s coach them up, and we were able to prevail. Great feeling for a group that deserves it more than any that I’ve ever coached. They bought into everything that we have told them. It has been a tremendous year. They’ve sacrificed so much, and to see them be able to celebrate this. But to watch their faces, and today they came down, they had smiles on their faces, but their intensity, their focus today in film – I really understood that they weren’t done yet. I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, but what I do know is that they are going to fight. They are going to give their best shot and it’s going to be a tough task to beat A&M here. But, I think we are up for the challenge.”

On A&M’s Achiri Ade previously singing with JMU:
“No, just a little tap as she walked past me, I think they were going to practice. It was special, she would have been in the same class with Jazmon Gwathmey, Toia Giggetts and that group. Ironically, when we were playing in the championship game, at our conference tournament, her mother came to the game and I had a chance to speak with her. No, other than it is ironic that we are playing them here and we get a chance to compete against her. But we recruited her, recruited her hard. She signed with us, things didn’t work out, but I think she’s happy here at Texas A&M. She’s a major part of what they’re doing, so it should be fun. One thing, she’s the player that I know best on the team and we’re able to understand what she does, what she does well. It’s fun, I think the kids will connect with her, on the court maybe exchange pleasantries before the game, but once the game goes on I know they’re probably going to compete as hard as they can against each other.”

On surprises from A&M game:
“How big they are. One of things before, what made me so anxious before the Gonzaga game was I just didn’t know, I didn’t know how big Gonzaga was going to be, I didn’t know how fast they were and I haven’t seen Texas A&M. I’ve watched them on film a little bit, but I when I got down and finally sat down and looked out there, I was thinking to myself, they’re big. They’re big, they’re long, they’re athletic and they’re fast. But, we prepare ourselves for situations like this. Our non-conference schedule was very demanding. We played against teams like this. One of the games that probably prepared us the most and is probably helping Texas A&M as well is we played against Mississippi State with Vic Schaefer. I know Vic was an instrumental part here in what they did and I’m sure there has been conversation between him and Coach Blair about that game, but we also, before that, came out and watched that game and how they defended us, and we learned a lot from that game to help prepare us for the season. After that loss, we grew up, we grew up as a team. We understood what some of the teams were going to try to do to us and it prepared us well for situations like this. I mean, they’re an SEC team and they look like an SEC team. We’re going to have to go out and we’re going to have to play well to keep ourselves in the game and try to prevail in the end.”

On Kirby Burkholder:
“She’s a special kid, she’s a special player. Our relationship is, we’re almost identical. Which is good in some instances and we butt heads a lot. But the one thing she does is she gives you everything that she’s got. Whether she feels great, whether she doesn’t feel great. And it is, I think I said it last night, the beautiful thing about her, we didn’t recruit her as a shooter, so if her shot’s not falling she wouldn’t be anything for us. For a kid like that, she’s 6-feet tall and can barely jump over a piece of paper sometimes, her will to go get the basketball, it amazes me. I even watch film and watch it and rewind and slow it down and I still don’t know how she comes up with some of the rebounds she comes up with, or how she sees some of the things she sees. I’ve mentioned it, we call it ‘Kirby defense’ and it was on display last night. We watched film last night just for entertainment and I promise you there were probably eight, nine possessions where she just she did what she was not supposed to do as far as the scheme of our defense goes, and probably 80 percent of the time she came up with the play. It’s kind of one of those things, you kind of let her go, and that’s what she’s done for our program all her career. You look at her stats, her accomplishments and she’s really don’t everything in three years. That’s the most remarkable thing for me and it makes me very proud because I’ve known her since she was 10 years old. I went on vacation with her when she was in eighth grade. She’s best friends with my niece. To see her come from where she’s come from, she’s in eighth grade and we’re at the beach for a week, and to think she’s going to be at where she is right now, it just makes me very, very proud. Everything she’s accomplished, it’s a great feeling for me.”

Kirby Burkholder, Senior, Guard

On tempo against Texas A&M:
“We definitely feel like we want to keep our transition game going. That’s one of our strong points, anyway. Run with their bigs and just try to get down the court. We definitely need to keep our transition game going.”

On if Texas A&M’s win was surprising after the first half:
“A little bit. It was very close in the first half and they just started to dominate in the second half. Once again, we are not really looking at what the other team did against them. We are focusing on us, like Nikki said, and what we do, like our defense and just trying to keep the focus on us.”

On playing against Oklahoma State at Oklahoma State in the WNIT a few years ago:
“I think it will definitely help, especially for those of us who were in that. It is kind of like a bright lights situation. We are kind of used to that. Also, with our other teammates, we have played in other big games. We already played a first round game here. I don’t think that is going to have an effect on nervousness or anything. I think we are very ready to go. They have their home crowd and that is an advantage but I think we are prepared for that.”

On moving forward to the next game:
“Like Nikki said, that has kind of been the way we have been all season. You win one game, you celebrate it that night, and then you are on to the next one. We were happy. We were excited last night. Now I think we are all in game mode for tomorrow.”

On personal health:
“I am feeling much better.”

On guarding Jordan Jones:
“We have very team defense. Whoever is matched up on her, play the best they can. If not, the rest of us have their back like we usually do.”

On her shooting performance against Gonzaga not being up to par:
“A shooter’s mindset is just to always keep shooting. I didn’t lose any confidence. You have those games sometimes. I’m just going to come out shooting like any other game.”

Nikki Newman, Senior, Guard/Forward

On preparing for Texas A&M:
“I don’t think we are really concerned so much about what they do. It’s just us being us. We go out and play the basketball we are capable of playing and I think it will be a very good game. They have a lot of size but we’ve played teams with size. I think that is one of the biggest things they have over us is their size but there are a lot of ways for us to come out and do things to overlap that. We are just really excited for the opportunity to play them. Coming into this, even starting with the game yesterday, we knew it wasn’t going to be easy but we are up for the challenge and we feel like we deserve to be here. We are really excited for it.”

On historic win for James Madison program:
“I think it is something that is very exciting. A lot of people have been talking and we have been seeing things calling it an ‘upset,’ I guess since we are an 11 seed and we beat a six seed. For us, we don’t really think of it as being an upset. We just wanted to come out and play hard. Like I said before, I think we have proved ourselves thus far but we feel like we can make noise in this tournament. If we just come out and do what we are capable of doing, I think we will do that. Obviously, last night was very exciting for us. It was a bittersweet feeling. There were a lot of emotions riding behind it but we are not done yet so we want to continue playing hard and keep making noise in the tournament.”

On moving forward to the next game:
“For us, it is one game at a time. After last night, it is almost ‘On to the next one.’ We are going to be excited about the win that we had, but for us both, and I am sure I can speak for everybody on the team, we are not ready for the season to be over at all. Just going out there and playing in each game, once the game is over, you don’t want to have the ‘What-ifs’ or ‘If I had another game to play in.’ You just want to put it all out on the court. We have 40 minutes ahead of us and that’s what we are focused on right now.”

Precious Hall, Sophomore, Guard

On one key thing to playing Texas A&M:
“One key thing is to just be ourselves. We’ve been doing it the whole season. Just because we are playing Texas A&M at Texas A&M, it’s not a big deal. We can do what we want to do and we are just doing what we know how to do the whole season.”

On guarding Jordan Jones:
“Just stay in front of her. From what we have seen, we have seen a person that knows she is a good point guard. We have guarded point guards just as good as she is. We just play the defense we know how to play, help defense and just communicate and we will be fine.”

LOCKER ROOM QUOTES – TEXAS A&M

Achiri Ade, Junior, Forward

On signing with James Madison but never playing for them:
“Things didn’t work out with James Madison. I have a lot of respect for them and Coach Kenny [Brooks]. My mom was at their championship game against Delaware last week, and she talked with Coach Kenny. We still have a good relationship. It’s just things didn’t work out, and sometimes that happens.”

On if there’s anybody on James Madison she knows well:
“I don’t know any of them really well, but I’m really familiar with Jazmon [Gwathmey]. We came in together. We had a visit together. Again, I have a lot of respect for them – the team and the coaches. It’s going to be fun tomorrow. I’m glad we have an opportunity to link up and play against each other.”

On what she thought when she saw James Madison was coming to College Station:
“I was like, ‘It’s crazy how things work out.’ I was excited, because I really do like Coach Kenny, and I’m excited we get a chance to play them.”

On if she’s had a chance to talk to Coach Kenny Brooks:
“I didn’t have a chance to talk to him, but I saw him. We made eye contact. He was doing an interview with somebody. It was pretty cool. I would like to talk to him and catch up and see how he’s doing.”

On if she has any regrets about not going to James Madison:
“No, I made the right decision. Just like I said, things don’t always work out. That doesn’t mean I have bad feelings for them. It’s just things don’t work out. I still have a lot of respect for them.”

On if her mom is coming to the game and who she’ll be rooting for:
“No, she won’t be here unfortunately. She always has my back.”

On if everything has worked out for her at A&M:
“Yes, I’m happy here.”

On height advantage for the Aggies:
“We can get the ball into them, get inside to our posts. We should take advantage of that.”

On best thing about this team:
“Our team chemistry. We have a really good bond with each other.”

Tori Scott, Junior, Guard

On James Madison and what it does well:
“I think we have to get back in transition defense, first of all. We have to stop the transition shots also and make sure we know where our players are.”

On stopping Kirby Burkholder:
“Just really stay up on her and deny the ball sometimes. Just get in her face and play our defense. We have to keep up the intensity on defense.”

On Aggies’ height advantage:
“We’ll try to [take advantage of it].”

On losing in the second round to Nebraska last year and trying to avoid that feeling this year:
“We still talk about it, because it was kind of hurtful losing in the second round like we did and being at home. It was kind of disappointing. So we’re trying to keep it up, like keep up the intensity. Keep up everything we worked hard for this whole season.”

On home-court advantage:
“I think it will help us out a lot, because most home games when the 12th Man is really behind us, we do really well. I think we’ll do pretty well.”

On team goal:
“Right now, it’s one game at a time. Everybody’s just got to give it the best they have. Work hard on defense. Look for the best shots on offense – the good to great shots. Just basically playing basketball like we know we can.”

On if this team is capable of going a long way:
“I believe so. I think so. If we stay focused, we can.”

Courtney Williams, Sophomore, Forward/Guard

On James Madison:
“They have a good transition offense, so our transition defense will have to be on point. They execute their plays really well. They cut real hard, and they play real hard. So we just have to match their intensity and play hard and get back on defense.”

On stopping Kirby Burkholder:
“We just can’t leave her. When she’s trying to get any open shots, just don’t leave her and don’t help off of her on defense. If her teammate is driving to us, we just don’t help at all. Just stay on her and box out and make sure she doesn’t get any open shots in transition.”

On what they have to do better than what they did against North Dakota:
“As a team, we need to come out with the intensity we came out with in the second half [against North Dakota]. Transition defense. We just have to run. I don’t feel like anyone in the country can run with us if we’re active on defense and getting steals and getting long rebounds and running the floor and passing the ball, sharing the ball. We’ll have to get out in transition and get easy baskets.”

On losing to Nebraska at home in the second round last year:
“It affects us a lot, because we remember what happened against Nebraska. We kind of took them lightly. We don’t want to take James Madison lightly. We don’t want the same result as last year. We’re just going to try to come out there and match the same intensity as the other team unlike we did against Nebraska last year and don’t let anybody play harder than us on our home floor, because we don’t want this to be our last game.”

On home-court advantage:
“The 12th Man will help us a lot, because if we start getting down, the crowd can pick us back up, and when we start going back on runs, the crowd will pick us up as well and keep us going, keep the momentum going. If James Madison scores, they won’t have that much of a momentum change, because this isn’t their home crowd. So I feel like if we go on a run, our home crowd can back us up, and we can just continue to go and do what we’re doing.”

PRESS CONFERENCE QUOTES – TEXAS A&M

Gary Blair, Head Coach

On challenges of JMU:
“I was telling our team while ago when I was watching film that they remind me a lot of Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt had great guard play. They used their 5 player, they kept rotating them in, and I think Vanderbilt beat them by two this year. So those teams matched up very well. James Madison is a very guard-oriented team, but they’re very serviceable at the 4. Really when you put, I’m not going to butcher her name, but when you put Jazmon (Gwathmey) at the 4, she’s the most underrated player that they have. She does an excellent job for them. She can hit the mid-range shot. We could have some matchup problems. Can we guard a team that, a lot of the time, likes to run a five-out offense, a cutting game, a shuffle offense? Can we guard somebody, can our 5’s be effective on defense, not on offense, can they be effective on defense? If they can’t be effective on defense, we’ve got to go small to stay up with them. At the same time, can their smalls guard our bigs? So I imagine you’re going to see (Lauren) Okafor in there at least 20 minutes of the game because she’s a very good player. I just think you’ve got to monitor your fouls in that situation. We‘ve got to get touches inside a little bit like Gonzaga was doing in the first half yesterday. But everybody talks about our size, but if you look at it, their 4 player is 6-2, mine’s 6-foot, it doesn’t matter if she’s listed at 6-1 or not. My 3 player is 6-foot, theirs is 6-foot. Our guards are about the same – 5-6, 5-8. We’ve got an advantage of three inches at the 5 spot, two inches if Okafor starts. So its basically just two good ball teams. How’re we going to be able to defend their offense, because it’s a lot of passing and motion and movement? They do a great job of running their fast break and their secondary break in their early offense. Now, Karla is going to be tested. But if she has to guard everybody coming into the hole that’s getting by my guards, then she’s going to get in foul trouble. I mean she had five blocks and probably five other times she changed shots, and four other times she fouled. That’s too many times that your five player’s involved in the defensive scheme. I’ve got to do a better job of my guards at not allowing penetration. And then making sure that we do a good job of boxing them out, not letting Burkholder go for 17 rebounds. That’s ungodly, but she’s just a good basketball player. So the matchups are very similar except for two inches at the 5, that’s all.”

On what tell team to get to next round and not let slip away:
“First you throw the seeds out the window, and you throw the teams in there. I study coaches and tendencies. I’ve looked at what he’s done in the last 11 years there and he’s been just as successful as Texas A&M on getting to the playoffs or WNIT or NCAA tournament. He’s one of the best young coaches in the game. Our kids look at this as survive and advance, and that’s what you have to do when you’re hosting. You’ve got to find a way to win, one way or the other. Hopefully I won’t have to go into halftime and do another revival session, but we were struggling. If we hadn’t hit those two shots before halftime, it was anybody’s ballgame. And I could just hear, as we were leaving going to the floor, I could hear their dressing room as we were passing by, they were, North Dakota, was like they were 15 points up on us. That’s the way you have to be, particularly if you’re on the road. And what we want to do is go in, take care of business, play our game, have an up-temp game, but the games are still going to be decided at the end on half-court defense, half-court offense. All the fast breaks, all the presses, and all that stuff, that’s all window dressing. That sets the tone. At the end, can you execute your sets, can you run an in-bounds play, can you hit a pressure free throw, do you need a 3 to tie. All that comes on the half-court, and that’s what we have to do a better job of than what we did yesterday.”

On longevity at Texas A&M:
“Well, I had Whataburger for lunch. That’s a tough one. There have been some coaches that have gone, but to tell you the truth, there haven’t been as many from this university go as you would think. I know we are on our fourth football coach, I think. Is that right? Third? Basketball coaches, I have been through four. Baseball coaches, this is my second one. Track coaches, my second one. Everything else is pretty much status quo. A little bit of tennis change. I just believe in doing things the right way, even if it means not getting all the talent. Who can fit and who can play for you? What type of kids do you want in your program and who can play your style? These three up here definitely can. They all had great options of going places. They believe in what we are doing as a staff. They believe in the education that this school can provide and they also believe in what an Aggie degree will do for them when that ball is deflated at the end and they have to start thinking about work. W-O-R-K. When you look at it, 75 percent of college athletes have never had a job in their life. They used to, but right now, today’s athletes, 75 percent of them have never worked in their life. They’ve just always been an athlete for 12 months a year. They’ve got to grow up. I am trying to teach life’s lessons, as well as I am trying to teach the Xs and Os. I am trying to recruit families, not individuals. I am trying to find out who really wants to be here and be part of a top 15, top 10 team. Top 5, hopefully again someday. There are a lot of kids that don’t want that. The best part that saves our game is that I don’t have to deal with one-and-outs. I think three out of the four one-and-outs are already gone right now. The Dukes, Kentucky survived. Did North Carolina lose? They lost and Kansas lost. Three out of four of them are gone. The teams that are still standing are the ones that have a lot of good juniors and seniors that appreciate the education. In the women’s game, that’s the best thing that we have going. While the money is not enough in the WNBA to entice the lawyers, that’s who will come next. The lawyers who will want to change the rules that you can go one-and-out. There’s not enough money for the lawyers, so the women’s game is policed very good, with a 22 age limit and the four years of staying in school. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy it. That’s my long-winded answer.”

On the layoff and lack of a sense of urgency in North Dakota:
“First, we were a little surprised that North Dakota came out into a man. We called three straight man plays that worked – bam, bam, bam. The first one we threw out of bounds when Karla was wide open on a slip. The next time we ran a little screen action that they misjudged. Williams had an open two in the next one. We just went into our weave offense, which James Madison runs just as well as we do. All of a sudden we had a perfect look and we missed the shot. Is it the layoff? I don’t think there really is a reason. We did start off 10-3 up, even though we missed a few early shots that might have stretched it out. Sometimes it is just basketball. It’s just basketball. It’s the ebb and the flow of the game, and you’ve just got to adjust with the game and realize as a coach, don’t get too excited. Don’t get too upset. Look at that doggone wrist. Supposedly that plus is for me to be positive and realize that it’s a 40 minute game. My assistants made some great adjustments at halftime. We showed them what the press can do and be effective. Usually it is effective at the first of the game, but it was effective in the second half of the game against this team. James Madison isn’t a team that we can press for 40 minutes, I promise you that.”

On similarities between Texas A&M and Mississippi State and using Mississippi State’s game against JMU:
“I think very similar. Mississippi State has (Martha) Alwal on their team and we’ve got Karla Gilbert. We run a lot of the same sets. That’s what you do when you leave a program that is successful. You steal a lot and then put in some of your own stuff. I think that will happen, but if I am not mistaken, Mississippi State won that game by about 13. But I am sure it was not one of James Madison’s best games. I like to look a little bit at the Mississippi State video and see how they are going to guard our triple-post offense or how they are going to guard our high-stags on the offense because they run some of the same things, so we will be devouring some of those tapes to see how they guarded it in their zone. On the man-for-man principles, we run a lot of the same things. I think that is just part of it. It is a new thing. That was November or December, early. James Madison is a whole lot better. Remember, we went over to the Islands also and we lost two out of three games when we were on the Islands. Anything can happen on the Islands, when you go over there. Maybe the same things happened to James Madison that happened to us. Maybe we were putting on suntan oil when we should have been reading our playbook a little bit better.”

On discussing the second round loss in 2013 with the team:
“I talk to our team about everything in the world. That’s just life. I talk to them about every men’s game that I see, every women’s game. I try to keep them informed. I want them exposed to the world of sports. To the highs and lows that you have to go through. I want them to be a student of the game, not just a player of the game. Sure, I talked to them about Nebraska last year, but it is going to be the same type of things. Remember the year before that it was Arkansas and we won by one point or two in that ballgame. It’s pressure. You have got to love pressure and you’ve got to embrace it. That’s what we want. I sure would rather be playing here than at James Madison. Hopefully our 12th Man will show up tomorrow night and get me 8,000 in there and make a difference. They helped us in the second half yesterday.”

On Kirby Burkholder:
“Butler of Syracuse. You guys didn’t see her. We played here over in the Islands and she tore us up. Absolutely tore us up. One of the quickest releases that I have ever seen. She is all Syracuse has left because their other player blew her ACL in that last game they had. I mean, Butler, for a 2 guard, is very similar because Butler was about 5-11 and we tried three different people on her and we couldn’t guard her. This kid is very similar. She is not like maybe anything we have seen in SEC this year because Foggie of Vanderbilt is a lot shorter. She is a smaller version of Walker. I just think she is a basketball player. I like what she does without the ball. I guarantee you that girl will go into coaching. When you find a basketball player that knows the game, they eventually all end up in coaching, even though they probably have other options. Those are the types of kids you live for as a coach to be able to put on your roster and say ‘Hey, take care of my team when I am not there. Take care of the locker room. Take care of the dorm. Help me recruit.’ I am sure she has done that for James Madison, just like the girl last night, Madi Buck. What a senior, what a story. When you look at her stats from the freshman year on down, that’s what seniors are supposed to be. The NCAA story. The storylines up here. I brought Tori to the press conference and not Courtney Walker. Courtney Walker is at all the press conferences. I wanted Tori Scott to feel the pressure of a press conference because if she starts tomorrow night, she will feel the pressure of Burkholder. If she starts. We haven’t decided on that yet.”

On thoughts about James Madison:
“What I like about James Madison is that they should have those t-shirts that say ‘No Fear’ on them. They don’t’ fear anybody. They played against all those McDonald’s All-Americans at North Carolina. It was a 3 point game at North Carolina. It’s the number that you are guarding, not the name on the back or the pedigree, because I’m sure he doesn’t have a lot of McDonald’s All-Americans. That’s the way I was when I first started. I had a lot of Burger Kings and Wendy’s. But those kids turned into damn good players for me and that’s what he has right now. He has very good players and some of them can be next-level players. You don’t always have to go to the ‘University of’ schools to be great players. I am very proud of my eight years at Stephen F. Austin and what that did to start my career going. A lot of those kids were very successful in life and he’s got some kids that are going to be very, very good players.”

On what James Madison might play that would be different from other teams:
“I hope it is not the 4-3; 4-3 would give us some problems. We saw a little bit of 1-3-1. We saw the 2-3 last night. We’ve seen the triangle in two. We’ve seen the box and we’ve seen the chaser. We’ve seen the collapsing inside the 3-point line. We’ve seen everything. It’s all about ball movement, player movement and ball fakes. You have to be sure you are moving the ball and you are seeing the whole floor. Sometimes we struggle a little bit on that. What I like to do against the zone is I like to dribble penetrate instead of making five passes around the perimeter and hoping to hit a 20-foot jump shot with five seconds to go. I like to penetrate into the guts of it, see how they are going to defend it and then if it opens up for a 15-footer, I am in love with that. I don’t have to have the 3-pointer but I am really in love with the offensive rebound and the put back and the foul. I get excited and I jump up high and we jump into the press. To me, that’s like a triple in baseball. You get an offensive rebound, a put back and a foul and a free throw and the press. I love it. But we’ve got to do it.”

Karla Gilbert, Senior, Center

On exploiting their size advantage:
“We talked about it in film today, how they really have just one true post player. As long as everyone is doing their job, we can always rotate all three of our 5’s in. If they try to go small, either way we’ll have our bigs. Our small post can take advantage of them also.”

On if what happened last year is used as motivation:
“Every year we go to NCAA, it is used as motivation. From freshman year, winning the championship, to present. Especially since last year was such a letdown—mostly for ourselves—getting knocked out at our own place in the second round. That’s definitely going to be in the back of my mind, that we cannot allow that to happen again.”

Courtney Walker, Sophomore, Guard

On starting better this game:
“I think we came out with a lot more energy in the second half than we did in the first half yesterday. Coming out, being focused, and knowing our scout and who we are guarding, being prepared, and having a lot of energy.”

Jordan Jones, Sophomore, Guard

On limiting James Madison:
“We just have to take care of the ball. They are a very scrappy team, but don’t want to let their scrappiness and their intensity affect what we do and how we handle the ball on offense. If we stay patient, and not let their intensity affect our decision-making on offense, we should play pretty well. As for the defensive end, just stick to our game plan. We know that Kirby Burkholder can score fairly well. She’s a pretty good free throw shooter. She’s only missed 18 free throws the whole year—shooting 88 percent. And her 3-point percentage, she’s 33 percent and that’s pretty good. We can’t allow her to get hot and let her get involved in the offense early. If we do that and execute our game plan, we should be pretty good.”

On her first impressions of Coach Blair:
“His swag. Not dress swag, but his demeanor, his personality. He was the type of coach that knew his program was elite and knew that he could coach the elite players. And he had coached elite players, especially from DeSoto. Just getting to know him, our personalities really click. Sometimes we bump heads, but I think a point guard and a coach, that’s what’s good for the relationship. His demeanor as a person and a coach is what attracted me.”

On playing for the seniors:
“For our seniors, they mean a lot to us. As you could tell from senior night when we played against Arkansas, the team came out focused, prepared, with energy and intense. You could tell from the start that we were focused and motivated to play for them. This game means a lot, because our seniors last year didn’t get to exit College Station. They lost twice, once on senior night and once in the second round. The look on their faces and the feelings that we all felt coming back to the locker room wasn’t a good feeling. Not just for our seniors this year but for everybody we’re all extremely motivated. We all have goals and we all have a purpose. We know that exiting the second round and potentially getting further is not just a goal, but it is Texas A&M basketball. It’s what we look forward to. We just have to come out, play for each other—especially our seniors, use that as extra motivation but not only just our single motivation.”




 
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