Texas A&M took the floor for their practice day Friday and met the media at the NCAA Lincoln Regional.
MP3 audio and video are available through the links to the left. Photos are available through the link to the left. Quotes are posted below, courtesy Nebraska Media Relations.
PRACTICE DAY QUOTES – Texas A&M
Head Coach Gary Blair Quotes
“It is good to be here, we had a chance to work out in the practice facility earlier today---they did an excellent job. I haven’t been out on the floor yet but I understand that this arena is just the top. I remember back when I was at Arkansas and Bud Walton Arena was built in 1993, people used to come over 500 at a time to watch practice just to see the eighth wonder of the world. I am sure they have a lot of cheerers in this place as well. I think our team is playing well right now, we are going to have our hands full with DePaul. That is to be expected if you get to the Sweet 16. I am just excited to be here, we are looking at one team, and that is DePaul. I think no matter what happens, in that game, the other three teams are going to combined teams and maybe play Connecticut. I asked Connie [Yori] when I saw her if I could borrow Jordan Hooper too, and I’d like to borrow Connie too. We are all here though, and we are dancing and you never know what is going to happen. Our game against DePaul will be the one of the most entertaining games you have ever seen. Both of us like to get up and down and hopefully one of us will be able to play some defense. Hopefully defense will still decide the majority of the game when you get this late in the NCAA’s.”
On getting over the second round game
“You move forward just because it is March. Even our kids are starting to watch just as much basketball on T.V. as I have been doing, both on the men’s and women’s side. Listening to Barkley and Kenny Smith and all that stuff. This is the best time of the year, it is the best time of the year for the media also when you go from the conference tournament to the NCAA Tournament, even to the WNIT. It is our time right now. As a team, we are healthy, we have been healthy all year and we are one of the few teams that we haven’t had a kid miss practice this year. How do you get over James Madison? You keep playing 40 minutes a game. James Madison hung with us for about 30 minutes and then our depth and getting to the foul line was able to win. I hope there are not as many fouls called this ballgame against DePaul as there were at our place. There was just too many fouls for television.”
On DePaul and what they bring
“First, as I have said before my thoughts are always on the head coach first. I know Coach [Doug] Bruno really well, there are not two coaches in the game that love baseball more than Doug Bruno and I. He talks about his Cubs---that’s all he can do, is talk about them, because they usually don’t play that well and I talk about my Rangers. We talk about what trades we would make, and it just fun. I know what Doug’s tendencies are, I think I am 1-1 with him over the years. I lost about my first or second year over in Hawaii or somewhere and then I beat him in an opening game at Bud Walton in 1993. You are talking about a man that has been the head WBCA President, Geno [Auriemma] has been the WBCA President, so this field is really good. I look at his tendencies, and I allow my assistants to do all the homework. I worry about Texas A&M. I worry about what we did well against James Madison and Tennessee and Auburn and North Dakota. I have studied a lot of film on us. They study a lot of film on our opponents. Then I do my research on DePaul and what they have been over the years. Consistency. That is what Texas A&M is doing right now. Consistency, in the last seven years we have had four No. 2 seeds and three straight No. 3 seeds. Bruno I think has been in 13 out of 15 of the last NCAA Tournaments or some streak like that. Give him credit for what he is doing because he is not getting McDonalds All-Americans. He coaches them up. He does a great job. He is like the mayor of Chicago.”
On the guard matchup
“The strength of our team is preventing threes. We do that because we are a man to man team. I’d say about everyone that is in the top 10 in three point defense are probably man to man teams. That is what we do, we get out and guard people and hopefully we stick with them. To me his guards are similar to Vanderbilt’s guards. I think those teams will be very similar then what we saw in the SEC.”
On Nebraska’s fans supporting A&M
“If you give me a Cornhusker hat I would wear it right now, I would put that on and say ‘Gig ‘em Aggies,” and ‘Go Cornhuskers’ and bow down to Tom Osborne and Connie Yori. We have always liked Nebraska, you gave us Bill Byrne. For 10 years I was his first hire at Texas A&M so I have always been fond of coming up here and playing Connie over the years, because your fans are so knowledgeable of the game. What I like about your fans is they also get here an hour and a half early and they go eat together and talk the game. We are still trying to build that tradition in basketball, we have it in football, but we are still trying to get that way. They need somebody to rally around. Why not a former Big 12 team just like their selves. Hopefully they see what our team has and they will get behind us and give us support. I have always liked coming to Nebraska, I didn’t have good luck here, I think I went 1-3 over the years here. We are going to sample some of your good restaurants while we are here. We have some fans that our driving up, and some that are flying up. There are Aggies everywhere, there are A&M clubs I am sure right across the border in South Dakota and A&M clubs in Wichita and hopefully here in Lincoln. They might have to be underground here in Lincoln, there are Aggies everywhere. Hopefully we will be able to get the support, but I want the Nebraska fans to realize what an honor it is to host a regional. It is a heck of a lot of pressure on Notre Dame, Stanford, Louisville and Nebraska to try and get back. I wouldn’t want that pressure. It is hard enough trying to host the first and second rounds and trying to get out to the regionals. Next year thank heavens we are going to neutral sites where we should have been in the first place. You are getting a chance to host, you are getting a chance to show off what you already have here and even though Nebraska is not coming, why not build up your following and sell the season ticket holders. Get people to appreciate great basketball, you have the No.1 team in the nation are going to be here. People need to come see Connecticut, and the others.”
On slow starts in the past few games
“It will just be the flow of the game. It is going to be like a ping pong match going back and forth. We are both good in transition; the key is going to be who is good in transition defense. There are a lot of people that can run the ball, and a lot of people that can defend transition. The two weeks off was good, they got sick of practicing and sick of my motivational things. I gave them plenty of time to catchup with academics. At the same time they are ready to play. When we were in the Big 12 we always played the last weekend so you knew. Now the Big 12 switched and are playing in front of the men’s tournament. So we are looking forward to playing, it has been a short turnaround since we played Tuesday night. We will play again on Saturday but right now it is just momentum. You guys got to sell it. Sell it to the fans, the nation, everything that y’all can do. We need the media. Picked up the USA Today, not one story on women’s basketball. I picked up the Lincoln paper yesterday, not one women’s basketball story. I picked up the Omaha today, not one story on the tournament. Hopefully the Lincoln paper will have something this afternoon but we need to sell what we have. You cannot just do it on game day. Sell what you have. You have something that is beautiful here. You have a chance to have the best attendance---I know if Nebraska was in it you would have sold it out at 17,000. Now that they are not here, help out Connie out by showing up here and seeing good basketball.
Texas A&M Players - Courtney Walker, Karla Gilbert and Jordan Jones Quotes
On the matchup with DePaul's guards
Jones: "The guard matchup is a very crucial and vital to this game because we're playing some very, very talented guards. They can go off the dribble, they can pull up for the jump shot, [DePaul] can set up for the three. They really have the total package of what you want in guards, so it's really just up to us to contain them. We're not necessarily just going to stop them and take them out of the game altogether, but if we do our best and just follow our game plan and just contain them and not let them get into the flow and let them set up and do what they want, then we should be pretty good."
Walker: "I agree with what she said, just containing them and playing the percentages of what they do and take that away. Players always want to do what they do best. When they can't, it frustrates them. If we can do that, we'll be in good shape."
On what they focus on to carry their performance against James Madison over to the DePaul game
Gilbert: "I would just basically say execution. No matter what, we have to be able to execute. Even if the defense takes it away, there's always something else you can do to still make it work. Just being able to step out there and do whatever we were supposed to be able to do."
Gilbert on putting the second round game against James Madison behind them and moving forward
Gilbert: "We've talked about the games that we've played. We've talked about what we should’ve done better, what we could’ve done better, and now we're just focused on what we need to do for DePaul in order to be successful and get the win. We've scouted them very well; our coaches have given us a game plan. We've already prepared earlier today before we got here a little bit more on how to actually stop or slow down their offense a little bit. We're already excited and we have our focus on the next game."
Jones on Head Coach Gary Blair's emphasis on transition defense in this matchup
Jones: "Coach is right. Transition 'D' will be very crucial in this game. I feel like our momentum and execution against James Madison's transition has prepared us a little bit for this, but we're dealing with a whole new beast in this game because all five of DePaul's players run the floor very well. Either they're cutting to the basket or they're spotting up for three, and their variety just makes it very tough to guard, so this is really a game where all five of our players have to be on the same cylinder, and we just really have to communicate and talk about it with each other."
Gilbert on difficulty of not looking forward to the possible matchup with UConn
Gilbert: I think everybody takes a view of the bracket to see where you are and what you have to come up against in the future, but as of now, we've been focusing on DePaul. We have to play this game and we have to get over this game first before we move on, but other than that, it's always exciting to be able to play the number one seed in the NCAA bracket. We're ready."
On benefit of playing similar teams to DePaul earlier in the season
Walker: "I think it helps a lot knowing that we've already had experience against those types of teams that like to shoot a lot of threes, kind of live off the threes and the layups. We're playing against a shooting team with a lot of range. We got that a lot against Missouri, and I think we've already learned our lesson that standing on the three-point line with your hand up isn’t going to work against these girls. They have deeper range than that, so just getting out and guarding them and being able to move our feet. I think that is what we need to do."
On expectations and concerns on their first NCAA Tournament road trip
Jones: "Ultimately, my expectations are the same as if we're playing a home game. Just come out, have energy, feed off of each other as a team, our bench needs to be lively, and just continue to play like we're right in College Station. There's really no big difference except the crowd, but everybody who has been to College Station knows that the 12th Man is one of the liveliest crowds that you can have, and not having them will be of some restraint, but I believe this team is resilient and we have the willpower within ourselves to do just about anything that we want to when we set our minds to it."
Walker: "I agree with her, and also I'm just excited to be on the road in the NCAA Tournament. It's a fun experience so I think we can just use that to fuel our energy on the court."
Locker Room Quotes
Courtney Williams, Texas A&M Forward/Guard
On making the Sweet 16
“It’s going to feel good. It’s a couple of my teammates first time being in the Sweet 16, so it’s kind of exciting. We’re just trying to focus on getting to the next game, getting to the Elite 8 and the Final Four. We’re just going to play hard.”
On Nebraska’s Facilities
“It’s unique. Our banners are different than [Nebraska’s]. I just like the campus. I really like the balls that light up as you walk down the hallway in the practice gym. I think it’s a good campus.”
About Expectations Playing in the Sweet 16 in Lincoln
“I’m expecting a great crowd, of course. I think you’ll have a great crowd anywhere you go in the Sweet 16. Even [Texas A&M] fans and [Nebraska] fans will make this week special.”
“They are a good transition team that can all shoot the three. They play about four guards and they stretch the floor. They play real hard. That just means we have to come out and play hard, as well.”
Kristen Grant, Texas A&M Guard
On Nebraska’s Facilities
“It’s really nice here. Back at the practice facility I saw the indoor track. The weight room and gym are really nice and bright. This is a really nice arena.”
On Being Back in the Sweet 16
“Expectations are always to win. I come from the National Championship team, just me and Karla [Gilbert], so we have high expectations of our team and we expect a lot from our team. We think that we could easily win this regional and get to the Final Four.”
“They are a good team. They transition offense well. I think we can get them on their defensive side. I think that we are really good both offensively, but I think that we execute a little better, so we’ll have to see how it goes.”