Coach Joanne Boyle and the No. 4-seeded Golden Bears spoke to the media at a press conference in Haas Pavilion following their last practice before departing for Trenton, N.J., where they will play the No. 1-seeded Connecticut Huskies Sunday at 9 a.m. PT in the team's first-ever trip to the Sweet 16.
Head Coach Joanne Boyle
Just happy to be playing this time of year. There's only 16 teams left, and I'm just excited that our team has advanced and taken care of business. I'm looking forward to what everyone's is talking about, the next game in the Sweet 16.
On whether she has ever coached against Geno Auriemma:
I have not. I've watched him quite a bit. I think he's a great coach. He prepares his team really well. He's a great adjustment coach. During games, he makes good adjustments. He gets his kids ready for tournament time, no matter what they are doing in terms of playing during the conference and nonconference season. They are always looking for, he's always talks about, "We didn't have a great season, let's get a national championship." He always has his kids buy into postseason and playing great basketball. I give him a lot of credit. He has a long history.
On whether UConn's 35-0 record affects the way she approaches the game with her team:
No. The one good think about it is we just talk about what Virginia did and how we had to to prepare for Virginia and what we had to take away from them and what he had to do to be successful. And looking at that in small increments and not making a huge picture for them. So it's talking about the game in terms of four minutes. We've got to play a great four minutes and then you get a timeout where you can focus and talk about what's good and what's bad. I think it's stopping their transition. It's rebounding the basketball. It's not putting them on the free throw line. And it's taking care of the ball. They have the big three. You have to do your best on those and play them accordingly. That was pretty much the game plan we had for Virigina. It's just doing a little bit different game planning but the same general idea.
On whether an underdog role is beneficial for this team:
I don't know. I think our team is pretty mature. We've gone through a lot of ups and downs and this group has been together for a long time. It's a new experience for them. We're in unchartered territory. But I think if you could just shrink that picture down a little bit, without looking at the big picture, I think the game will take care of its self.
On how a first-ever trip to the Sweet 16 heightens nerves and how that can be countered:
You're a college basketball player, you've worked hard to put yourself in this situation. You have to embrace going to Trenton and playing Connecticut. You can't be fearful of it, you have to embrace it. There are only 16 teams that are getting to do this right now. Just do what you need to do, focus on the little things, everything we talk about this week, just take it to heart and play your game. You can't put too much stock into "it's the biggest game of their lives." You can't do that. I understand that and they understand that. It's just like they put their right shoe on, they put their left shoe on, there's a basket, you play basketball, you just pay attention to detail and the things we've been working on this week.
On any comparison between this Connecticut team and some of their great teams in the past:
It's tough to go 35-0, no matter who you are and who you're playing against. On any given night, you can have a bad night. [Coach Auriemma has] just got all the pieces of the puzzle. At the same time, they have to stay out of foul trouble, they have to do all the right things, too. He's done a great job with a really small number of kids and I think that's why this team in particular is really special because he's not throwing eight or nine people at you. He's got a small group that's been able to do it. He's had some injuries. Other kids have stepped up for him and have played great roles for him. They're just getting it done.
On whether she picked up advice from Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer, whose Cardinal is the last team to beat UConn, and on staying composed:
Sure. Of course I'm going to pick [coach VanDerveer's] brain. It's nice to kind of have everybody reiterate the same thoughts that you have about things you can do against a team. But ultimately, if big players make big players at this time of the year, you have to just stay composed. I thought that's what we did this weekend. We fell short last year in the Sweet 16, and the kids were not going to be denied. Virginia's a great team. I thought we did a really great job of taking away their strength and staying poised and composed. We just kind of keep them a mentality of poise and composure, take things away from other teams the best you can and do the little things.
On what it means to take this group to the Sweet 16 having played together the last four years:
Sometimes I feel like this group has been together for 10 years and I look back and it's only four, but they've played so many minutes together that usually by the time you're juniors and seniors, that's when you start making a little bit of noise. That's what is happening and it's just their time. The thing I did not want to have happen was for them to fall short, and they didn't. For them to really make a statement in that Virginia game, I think, was just crucial to not only them saying, "Yyou know what, we did come here for all the right reasons, and we did accomplish our goals, and we still have things out there that we want to do."
On whether she has been emotional knowing that Devanei Hampton and Ashley Walker have been playing their final few games:
I don't let myself up on that. It's afterwards [that it will hit]. I'm going to enjoy it. I'm going to enjoy every moment we have in practice out there, the plane ride, everything we get to do with them because its that whole story of every season is a lifetime. You have one lifetime with that group then you start a new lifetime. This is our last lifetime with this group and we're going to enjoy every moment with it. When it's all said and done, they are still going to be in my life, they just won't be in a Cal uniform.
On having three Pac-10 teams in the Sweet 16:
It's awesome. People talk a lot of junk about the Pac-10. The West Coast is always fighting for respect, and I think it really makes a huge statement.
On being able to appreciate that this is the first Cal team to make it to the Sweet 16:
I knew that, but then I read it this morning and was like, wow. It's great. It's great when you start getting that buzz around the school like for the Stanford-Cal game. For me, it's just a great time to be a part of this program. I'm just happy for the kids in terms of getting to have this experience. It's great to be a part of success. It's great to be a part of history.
On facing UConn:
I'm getting a chance to play against an amazing team. Everyone knows that they are 35-0 right now. They've done it three times in the past and been national champions. Our team is just excited to get a chance to get on the floor and play a premier team and we're just ready to play.
On naysayers who think Cal has no chance to win:
I think they say that about everybody, so I don't know if it's any different.
On being in the Sweet 16:
It means a lot. It's a big deal to this program. When we got home, a lot of our teachers and support staff were outside cheering for us. We're really excited, but we're also really excited about playing another premier team. We didn't get a chance to play Baylor. We got our chance against Oklahoma, and this is going to be our second No. 1 team to play. We're excited to play them and we're ready.
On whether she is emotional down the stretch of her final season as a college player:
Extremely. Today's our last time practicing in Haas if you think about it. If we do play a good game and get a win, we won't be back here, so it's the last time to see the Haas floor. I think every time we put on our jersey, I just say I don't want to waste these last 40 minutes.
F/C Devanei Hampton
On the mindset vs. UConn:
I guess it's like when we were freshmen and we were like big underdogs coming in here with them. They're a really great team and they have a really tremendous five players that they play. We have our 11 players and Coach [Boyle] has a pretty good idea of what to do against them. We have to go in and execute that game plan and hopefully we can come out with the W.
On the emotions in the midst of her last games at Cal:
It is very emotional and right now we just got to look forward. We just have to let it all out on the floor. We have to give our blood, sweat and tears, and try to claw our way up to the top.
On the underdog role:
Going against Connecticut, they're the top team. They're No. 1 and they have Maya Moore, Renee Montgomery and Tina Charles. They have their big three, but like Alexis said at USC, we have the big 11. We're going to play collectively as a team and hopefully come out with the positive outcome.
On getting to the Sweet 16:
It feels great to be in a situation where there are 16 teams left. We were at home last year crying. Just to be in a situation where we're happy, we're excited. I've never been so excited to play in practice ever. We're very precise right now and we're just having fun.
On the matchup vs. UConn:
They're a great team. They're led by obviously a great point guard in Renee Montgomery, and I'm actually friends with Nee. Renee's a great point guard, leads her team to high standards. Overall, obviously they are a great team. But we also are a great team. I think that for us, they've been perfect, but we've had some bumps in the road. We just have to continue to get better. It's the great thing about this team. That last game showed we're getting better during the tournament and were peaking at the right time. Coach talked about peaking and I'm glad we're peaking at the right time.