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NCAA Women's Basketball First Round Practice Day Quotes - Florida

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March 22, 2014


2014 NCAA Division I women’s basketball championship

First Round · News Conference Day
Bryce Jordan Center · University Park, Pa.
Saturday, March 24


Amanda Butler, Florida Head Coach:

Q: You have got a starting lineup where the tallest player is is 6’. That has got to be strange in this game. How have you guys managed to win this year with such a small lineup?

A: It is just never what we have focused on. We never focused on what we did not have and what we were not, and we just made sure we dwelt on the things that made us special and made us good and gave us an advantage, and really tried to make those important in our strategy and in our game planning, and then in our own minds, and I think our team, in particular our leadership, did a great job of just really leaning into the idea that smaller is better. What you believe is so powerful, and I think our team really believed that. They believe smaller was better.  A smaller lineup allows us to be a maybe a little quicker.  Maybe we can get from end to end a little bit faster. It gives us a little bit more defensive versatility, a lot of different things, and I just have to give them a lot of credit that they never let that be a factor. It was a great storyline. It was a great thing for folks from the outside to dwell on, but it was not what our team was dwelling on at all.

Q:  How do you keep your players rested and ready with the time off between the conference tournament and now? I’m guessing the time off is good.

A: Absolutely, I think our team did a great job of maintaining focus. We did a lot of planning and a lot of meeting and talking as a staff and really trying to decide how much time we really need to take off and balance it out and mixing the in-days off with the time from competition to competition. We have tremendous leadership on this team that if we practiced every single day for two and a half hours I don’t doubt my team’s focus at all. Obviously we didn’t do that and you hope as a staff that you struck the right balance of rest and readiness and intensity and all those sort of things but we’ll find out when we play tomorrow.

Q: Can you talk about this matchup with Dayton and where you think it favors you and where you maybe see some weaknesses?

A: I don’t see a lot of weaknesses, I’ll tell you that. Jim has done a fantastic job with his team looking at some of their earlier game film all the way through to their conference championship game. I think it’s a team that really improved throughout the year. They didn’t start out in a bad spot; they are really one of the best teams in the country. They look a lot like some of the teams we have faced in our conference. They are big, they are fast and they score a lot of points. They can put you in some defensive positions that are really tough to get out of. I think they are very complete. I think they are very confident; they play in a great, great basketball league that I think has gotten them ready for their opportunity right now in the NCAA Tournament. I think that there is a long list of strengths. There is no question. And from the standpoint of the matchup I think it just is one of those times of year where you have to make what you do more important and that is what we’re going to try and do. The interesting part of the ball game will be I think in some of the areas we overlap. You know we both like to run a little bit; we both like to score points, and seeing how things shape down from there. 

Q: You need chemistry in the postseason. With TJ [Jaterra Bonds], Lily [Steve], and Kayla [Lewis], and the leadership and the chemistry of this team, they really are something special this year.

A: It is not something I can sum up in a quick way and do it adequately.  It is a fantastic group of women. I have already bragged on our leadership. They have worked very hard on that chemistry piece. They have really invested in one another, and invested in ideas and concepts that extended past the court, like trust and loyalty and commitment that we have tried to make important all year long, and I think our staff has done that as well. I have a great staff and a great team behind the team that also embodies those ideas and the way that we value each other, not just for our skills, abilities, and talents, but who we are as people, and all the intangibles because I do not think you go through a season like we have and a league like we have and be able to experience the amount of success that we have. Certainly there was still more success to experience without really having a serious amount of glue that comes from those intangibles, and I am really proud of my team from that standpoint than anything else.

Kayla Lewis, Florida #22, Position: Guard 

Q: Do you think the underdog role suits you well in this tournament?

A: I think a lot of people would consider us an underdog all year because we’re undersized and under-manned, at one point in the season having seven players and now having nine. But we don’t consider ourselves the underdog because we try to go out and be the most confident and aggressive team. That’s something Coach [Amanda] Butler has instilled in us since day one. Being the underdog seeding wise, that’s what everyone else might consider us, but we consider ourselves a great team. We made it into this field of 64 and we’re here to compete and win. 

Q: What do you have to do in regards to leadership to get this team ready for the challenges ahead?

A: I think, because we play in the SEC and because some of our players like January Miller and Carlie [Needles] who are considered sophomores make big plays, none of us are really going to be shell-shocked by the big stage. We played against Tennessee and South Carolina, two of the one seeds. We went to their home floor and played hard and well, and our young players stepped up. Ronni Williams, our true freshman, went 19 and 10 against Kentucky. There isn’t anybody on our team who is afraid of the NCAA Tournament because it’s just another game. It’s a one-game season; now you have to play one game and win. I think that’s the mindset everyone on our team has.

Jaterra Bonds, Florida #10, Position: Guard 

Q: Talk a little bit about the toughness of the SEC and how the conference schedule prepared you for the NCAA tournament.

A: Day in and day out it’s a battle whether you’re in the bottom of the league or the top of the league. As you can see, Auburn and Alabama finished sixth and seventh, respectively, but it’s a matter of who wants it more. You know each other and you know what the others are going to do, so it becomes a matter of who wants it more. You have to dig down deeper and execute your plays offensively and defensively.  

Q: How do you think the strength of your conference has prepared you for the NCAA tournament?

A: The SEC is the best conference in the country. You’re going to see some of the best players day in and day out. Our strength of schedule is near the top; it’s the hardest in the country because we have some of the best players and the best coaches. We have to be prepared with the right mindset, physically and mentally we have to be prepared every day. We have to win the preparation battle. All year, we thought we had to win the preparation battle because when you’re prepared, you set yourself up for a better chance to win.

Q: You talked a lot about preparation, but how much can you honestly do in the time leading up to the tournament?

A: We had a long time, but you have to break it up. We only have nine players so you have to manage and be specific about what you work on each day. We have to be smart with how we operate. I think Coach Butler and our entire staff has done a great job all season. 

Q: What do you have to do in regards to leadership to get this team ready for the challenges ahead?

A: You just can’t overthink it or get nervous because you’re under the spotlight on the big stage. You just take it, prepare and play like we have every other game this season. It is just another game, another stepping stone to get us where we want to be.






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