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March 23, 2009

Listen to press conference

Georgia Tech Head Coach MaChelle Joseph
Opening Statement

“Well obviously we feel very blessed to be here today, and had a great win last night against a very good Iowa team, but we don’t feel as though we are done. This has been a team all year we have talked about. We were on a journey to find success, and success for us was becoming the best team we could possibly be. Along our journey we have had a lot of special moments, some very difficult challenges and some very good wins, and some very tough losses to deal with. But through it all I really feel as though every time we had a tough loss we bounced back higher than where we were before, and this time was no different. We had a very difficult loss against Clemson in the ACC tournament, but I thought we came out against Iowa and showed what kind of team we could be. In the process of that we lost our leading scorer and leading rebounder so I really thought our team showed a great deal of character, toughness and heart in the way they played the other night. We are excited about the challenge of playing Oklahoma. Like I mentioned the other night, we have played three out of four of the No.1 seeds, and now after tomorrow night we will have played all of the No. 1 seeds this year. So for a young team that’s a great experience and I know that I’m not ready for our season to end. I know our seniors aren’t ready for the season to end. Jacqua Williams in particular is not ready for her career to be over. She has meant so much to this program that the other players on this team want to keep it going for her and one of the things we have talked about is that size is one thing, but one thing you can always control is your effort and how hard you play. One of the things we pride ourselves on is being a blue-collar team that comes in and tries to outwork you, and that’s what we are going to try to do tomorrow night.”

On Oklahoma’s Amanda Thompson’s presence on the court
“Outside of the Paris twins she is their other rebounder so she brings a rebounding presence to their perimeter game. She also gives them some versatility because she can play inside and outside, so she can guard a forward, a quicker forward like Iasia (Hemingway), when she goes to the forward position. She can also guard a guard, obviously, on the perimeter so she gives them a little bit more versatility inside and outside. The other thing she does is that she is a big strong guard. Defensively, you can see without Alex we have gone bigger. We’ve moved Iasia from the inside to the outside, and that gives us a strong presence on the perimeter. You saw against Iowa where we posted them up on several occasions, and I think that’s one thing Amanda Thompson does, is give them a guard that can defend a bigger guard.”

On losing nine games this season and being selected as a #9 seed
“Okay, that’s a loaded question. First off all we said all along that we felt we played ourselves into a better seed than a #9 seed. It was kind of a mystery to us when we finished ahead of Virginia in the ACC standings, and I know they say they don’t put a lot of credence into how you finish in your conference, but we finished above Virginia and they got a #5 seed and we dropped all the way to a #9. That was kind of a mystery to us. We did have one bad loss at the end of the season when we lost – no disrespect to Clemson – but when we lost to Clemson in the ACC tournament. Obviously that hurt us and I think that’s where we fell in terms of the seeding procedure. But also when you lose your leading scorer and your leading rebounder – I’m not sure how that should affect your seeding – but obviously I think it does and that’s something that as we go down the road we will have to figure that out. Last night I think my team played to their strengths and eliminated their weaknesses. I thought we did the things we’ve done all year long, but you have to remember of those nine losses, four of them were to top 10 teams. We lost to Maryland, we lost to North Carolina at Carolina, and we lost to Connecticut at Connecticut. Our losses were to the top teams in the country, outside of Wake Forest and Clemson. Those were the only two losses that the team wasn’t ranked in the top 10. You can say we lost nine games, but we lost to some very tough teams, and I think that made us better. There was no intimidation on our team’s part last night because of the fact that we have been there and done that. We have been in these situations before. I also believe that everything happens for a reason, and I mentioned throughout the course of the week that without Alex there were other players that had stepped up. It was interesting. I was excited to see how they would perform and I thought last night they made some significant contributions. Mo Bennett, she came off the bench, hit her first shot and got six offensive rebounds and a couple of tip-ins. I thought she played extremely well. Moving Iasia Hemingway to the perimeter, you know she played there throughout the course of the season then I moved her to the four so she was back at the three. It wasn’t a huge adjustment for the team, but it gave us a totally different look, and that was a tough adjustment for Iowa.”

On receiving #9 selection and playing Iowa on their home court
“Really to be honest with you, I should probably send a letter of thank you to the selection committee because that was one of things I think that really motivated our team. I think it was one of the things why we were playing for a little bit of respect last night. We really felt as though, like I continue to mention, we had played ourselves to a higher seed. It was one thing to be a #9 seed, but to get sent back to somebody’s home floor after we had done the same thing almost a year ago. We really felt as though we has scheduled stronger in the pre-conference, played tougher teams, beat ranked teams, we really felt that we had put ourselves in a position to not play somebody on their home floor in the first round. That’s what we talked about since the selection, that Monday, was hey, that’s fine this is where they see us so let’s go out and show that we belong here and we can be successful in this tournament.”

On Sasha Goodlett’s performance
“Obviously Sasha, I had mentioned earlier, that she had big numbers throughout the course of the year. She hasn’t necessarily been consistent with it, but most freshmen aren’t. You saw last night what she is capable of and one of the things that has bee great to see with here is her development, her continued development throughout the course of the season. When she came to us, you know she has lost a lot of weight, and she has gotten herself in better condition and as she has done that, she has been able to play more minutes and as she has played more minutes her stats have gone up. Her rebounds have gone up, her point production has gone up, she has been able to play in our style and our system more effectively and I thought last night it really just came together for her. She played with a tremendous amount of confidence and I think that she missed her first three shots, but that didn’t stop her. She just kept demanding the ball and going up and finishing. Obviously, we are very excited about the future of our program with her anchoring us at that position.”

On Oklahoma in comparison to the other No. 1 seeds
“That’s interesting, because I was thinking today, comparing them to each one that we have played. One of the people on the Oklahoma team that doesn’t get the credit she deserves is (Danielle) Robinson, I think she makes them go. She is the difference maker. She pushes the ball in transition, as good as anybody in the country. I think she is the speed and the quickness that makes them difficult to defend, especially in transition. I compare her to a (Kristi) Tolliver, but she doesn’t have the three-point shooting abilities as Tolliver. But, we have seen that type of quickness at the point position; we have seen that kind of ability from a point guard though. That’s where I would compare them to Maryland. The other thing with Maryland is that they have a very good inside presence; though they are young they have a great four and five tandem inside to go with their two great guards on the perimeter. I think they compare a little bit more to Maryland then the others. You look at Connecticut and I don’t think that anybody, necessarily, compares to Connecticut as the big three. Maya Moore is what separates them from someone like Oklahoma. Tina Charles can match-up, they can match up inside, (Courtney) Paris and Tina Charles, but I don’t know who can match-up with Maya Moore. On the perimeter, I also think that Robinson can match-up with their point guard, with Montgomery, but I’m not necessarily sure that they have a Maya Moore. And then the other one, Duke. They have Shante Black they can match-up on the inside with Courtney Paris, they have lost Abby Waner to an injury, but they are so deep and athletic. That’s one of the things about Duke that I think separates them a little bit is their athleticism.”

On team response to Alex Montgomery’s injury
“That’s very interesting. Right when the ACC tournament ended we gave them a couple of days off, and when we came back together, they looked like deer in headlights. They were looking at me like `oh no, what are we going to do now’, and I just kind of said `hey, somebody’s problem is another person’s opportunity’ and we are not a one person team, this team is not about one person, that’s why it’s a team sport. After a couple of tears and a little feeling sorry for ourselves I took a quote from Kay Yow that said `the man that had no shoes was sad until he met the man with no feet’. I said we can be sad that we are going to the NCAA tournament without Alex or we can be happy we are in the NCAA tournament, and we could be sitting home watching this on TV. So, I think after that we just decided we were going to make the most of a difficult situation and we were going to come out here and earn some respect for our program. Alex has given so much to this team, not only was she our leading scorer and leading rebounder, she was our heart and soul. She is our hardest worker. Every day off she was in the gym, she did everything above and beyond you could ask for of your best player, your leading scorer and leading rebounding. So, everybody wanted to give more because of what we knew she had given to us.”

On what’s missing with Montgomery’s absence from the court
“She helps us spread the floor, she made 72 three’s for us this year. But, I think what we miss the most is her toughness. She was a competitor, and her defensive rebounding. She was third in our league in defensive rebounds, and for a guard that is pretty phenomenal. She was our back-up point guard; she played half the game at the point. So she could jump from center to play point guard. Her versatility is amazing. Next year she will be one of the top five players in the ACC, she is just such a tremendous talent. Above and beyond all that she is our toughest kid. She is just a tremendous competitor and I know after last night you are probably wondering, wow, we were pretty tough, but she has definitely set the tone for our toughness on the defensive end and offensively taking shots.”

On Montgomery not traveling with the team
“Absolutely, but right now we are going through the rehab procedure, so the doctor’s felt like it was best for her to stay there. If or when we advance she will definitely be with us going down the road. That was one of the first things she said last night was, `you have to win one more so I can join you all.’ We called her right after the game in the locker room. Obviously, it was a consideration, but the doctors felt like it was in her best interest to stay behind and rehab. Plus, we have school today and academics is, obviously, very important to us at Georgia Tech, so she had to stay behind and attend classes today.”

Georgia Tech Senior Jacqua Williams
On preparedness having already played three number-one seeds this season

“I feel like we’re well prepared. We’re just going to go out and play with heart and a lot of energy. Like our coach said, we’re not ready for this to be over, and we showed that last night. We’re going to build off of what we did last night.”

On Oklahoma Senior Courtney Paris
“More likely, it’s not going to be about the first shot she takes. It’s going to be about boxing her out and not allowing her to get the offensive rebounds and put-backs. We’re going to play our game and do what we can.”

Georgia Tech Sophomore Iasia Hemingway
On Oklahoma Senior Courtney Paris

“I agree with Jacqua (Williams). We just have to box her out and make sure she doesn’t have three or four offensive rebounds. We just have to play our game and get defensive stops.”


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