SDSU Women's Basketball-Air Force Postgame Quotes

March 7, 2012

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LAS VEGAS -

San Diego State Postgame Quotes

COACH BURNS: First of all, I'd like to congratulate Air Force. We've played two relatively tight games with them. We knew what to expect. With that said, saying it and doing it and stopping it is another thing.

I give them a lot of credit for how they came out, competed, gave us more than we could handle early and feel fortunate we were able to get ourselves righted.

With that, I'm really proud of our team. I think the uniqueness about this Mountain West Conference season is, maybe other than UNLV, which has a lot of core, experienced athletes back, just about all of us have new people, freshmen, people in positions they've never been before. I tell our team a lot, no one has been in the championship end zone before. There's an adjustment to that.

I really felt that we had a little bit of nerves early, then I thought we conquered our nerves by being determined to fix it by ourselves early. We were down about 10 at that point. I thought that that wasn't a good strategy either.

I think we got ourselves regrouped. We got some help off the bench, got some putbacks. Unleash Chelsea a little bit, make them stop her in the paint because she's a catalyst for everything we want to do.

After halftime we regrouped, talked a little bit about what we wanted to do, was real pleased with the way we came back and finished the game, the energy we played with.

Q. Courtney, what was the message at halftime? What were you able to do coming out of the half that made you successful?
Courtney Clements: We just knew we needed to focus on defense. That's our biggest thing, been our big thing all year, is playing great defense.

You win on defense, especially in games where you can't knock shots down, it's a grind, it's a grind, it's a grind. If you don't play good defense, you don't win. Championship teams always play good defense. That was our main focus, coming in, getting stops so when we do score, we can get back in the game.

Q. Chelsea, you were able to get in the lane more in the second half. What adjustments did you make at the half and why were you so successful in the second half?
Chelsea Hopkins: I just feel like in the first half I wasn't being too aggressive. In the second half I knew I wanted to utilize the pick and roll, the ball screens. I knew that the switch was coming, so I was trying to be aggressive and attack. My posts were slipping to the basket, me getting in the lane and trying to create for my teammates. That was the biggest thing.

Q. Chelsea, how surprised were you guys how many different defenses they ran at you?
Chelsea Hopkins: Not surprised at all. Air Force is a unique team. They've been doing that to us the first two times we played. Not really a surprise their game plan. We know they're going to be aggressive, up tempo, keep us on our toes.

At first that's what kind of led to our hesitation. We didn't know what they were doing in the second half. Once we finally settled down, especially on the defensive end, like Courtney said, that's when our offense came together and we were able to read and play off each other and make plays.

Q. Courtney, what was the difference for you in the second half?
Courtney Clements: I just played as hard as I could. I just did whatever I could do, I did it. Fortunately for me I was able to get some O boards. The opportunity presented itself. I took the opportunity.

Sometimes when shots aren't falling, you have to find other ways. A lot of games where you can't knock it down, can't get touches. You got to find a way to win. I just saw an opportunity by going to the offensive boards. Luckily I was getting putbacks and getting and ones, get us going a little bit.

Q. Coach talked about the fact that no one really has been in that championship end zone before. You worked with the same group of girls all year long, yet you come into a situation like this, conference tournament, is there any sense of nerves in the first round that you got to get that out of the way, first half, then get back to the game you know and play well?
Courtney Clements: I think we'd be lying if we sat up here and said we weren't nervous at all.

COACH BURNS: I thought they were going to lie. That's impressive. I know coaches aren't supposed to interject.

Good job, Courtney.

Courtney Clements: Last year we came in this tournament and lost first round to a team we had beat two times prior. So having kind of that monkey on your back, you know it's possible to lose to a team that you beat before that on paper you should beat. Anything can happen in March. We're very well aware of that.

So you are nervous. Yeah, maybe this game was kind of us getting our nerves out of the way. At the same time it's something you have to work through. Fortunately for us, we were able to do that.

Q. Beth, do you ever let yourself think what this team might be like without those two players?
COACH BURNS: No (smiling), because I've had that before. People say, Why are you good? You cannot look at a stat sheet to figure out our team. I knew we were nervous, because we're a very good free throw shooting team. We're at good, gosh, 76% in conference. We try to get the right people in the right spots, get them to the line. We're a good offensive rebounding team. We did neither of those things today.

But our question mark coming into the season wasn't the backcourt because what Courtney had done in the off season to change herself, and Chelsea was in practice with us crushing us on a daily basis a year ago, it was how to integrate it all and how are we going to facilitate a system that we can help these young ones along.

It goes back to the old coaching adage of, You're going to know what we're going to do, but fortunately for 23 times people haven't been able to stop it.

Q. You're not going to be surprised with anyone coming out with a great effort in conference tournament. Nuts and bolts wise anything you need to adjust to?
COACH BURNS: I don't think so. Because I think really by this point, that's why conference tournament games are usually so ugly. You can't change what you do. They have a weakness there, let's shoot a 38 if you can't shoot the three. You can't change what your strengths are, nor can they.

They've done a terrific job all season and I say this with respect by trying to play ugly basketball. They're going to foul or steal it from you. Put their head down, take it to the hole. They're going to give us matchup problems because we'll keep our bigs on the floor, but we're not a good zone team. We're too young, don't communicate well enough.

I wasn't really surprised. I think we were a little bit nervous. But I didn't expect any 80 40. I think what was atypical for both team, both teams are pretty good defensive teams. 53 46, usually this is a final for us, we had 11 minutes to go. I think for both of us, it showed on both ends. Neither of us were probably as good as we normally are because of the moment. Fortunately for us, it's behind us.

Air Force Postgame Quotes

COACH WILLIAMS: We had a focused game plan. My team and kids gave everything that they had, great energy and focus. We had been in that spot before, up at halftime by two. Knew we need to come out and make big plays, had a little spurt where they were able to get back to back offensive putbacks. That broke the camel's back, but then we battled back and brought it within two possessions.

We were disappointed. We thought it was a team we could beat, even though they're No. 1 in the league. Just proud of the way my team came back and focused for the third time seeing them.

Q. Katie, at the half, you seemed to have Courtney Clements pretty well under control. How big of a key was that? If you could have carried that out, do you think you could have been successful?
KATIE HILBIG: Well, Courtney Clements is a very good player in the conference. So it was pretty key to try to keep her scoring under her average.

We were doing a good job at halftime. Then in the second half, we kind of got lost a couple times. That definitely affected it.

Q. Katie, could you talk about what you did? Usually you ended up against Courtney. What did you do well against her, especially in the first half?
KATIE HILBIG: I don't know. It was just part of the game plan. In practice, probably over half of our practices we all focus on defense. I had a team behind me that I could rely on if I ever lost her a couple times just communicating 'cause I wasn't on her the whole time. We were switching a lot.

My teammates, they picked it up. They did a tremendous job helping me out with her.

Q. How many different defenses did you run today? Switching possession by possession.
COACH WILLIAMS: That was one of our plans. We put in half our game plan for New Mexico. The kids responded well. You want their point guard to think every time they come down the floor. One of the surprises we have.

We went with five different switching defenses, what we wanted to do out of them. We went back to a couple staple zones that we did. We brought back 22, just to slow them up, do some things, so they were never really comfortable. I think that kept them off kilter in the first half.

Our kids have been working on that game plan for a week and a half, close to two weeks, with New Mexico. You had our leading defender going to go on Courtney, trying to slow her down, we'll switch J. on her, a smaller defender Austyn on her, try to keep track of her in that zone.

Q. Dymond, what was the difference between the first and second half, in your opinion?
DYMOND JAMES: Let's see. I'll have to say a little bit of focus and energy. We had a good 5 or 10 minute period where we lost it, let Courtney Clements get two offensive rebounds, putbacks. The focus dropped off for one of the media timeouts, so...

Q. When you look at this season, obviously you played very, very hard today, the regular season finale win over the Lobos, how does this shape up where you can bring a little bit of momentum into next year? Was this season a disappointment in some respects? Does this bode well, this energy, for next season?
DYMOND JAMES: Well, let's see. I think we can take some momentum out of this. End of the season we lost two players. Katie and I both went through ankle injuries for a long time. I don't know, we've been through a lot of ups and downs and we still came out 6 24.

There's nothing to be disappointed about here. We definitely should have gotten this win today. Going against the No. 1 team, they're going to find a way to win. We're coming back with everyone except for our lone senior J. Can't do anything but get better from this.

KATIE HILBIG: I think we're a much better team than our record shows. We just went out and we were beating the No. 1 seed at halftime. That clearly shows our record isn't necessarily you have to look at more than our record there. We've been very close with almost every team in the conference. We're getting better and we're going to find a way to win next year.

Q. The fact that you were up on this team, you played them really well, what does that say about this team, maybe where it's going, what you could have accomplished this year?
COACH WILLIAMS: We think we're going in the right direction. Again, we want to be competitive in every game. We've had to manufacture some shots. We struggle when people go into zone. That's one of the things we worked on the last two weeks.

We knew when we lost three shooters, one to graduation, transfer, one didn't want to play, that that hurt us tremendously. Again, a team with a lot of people who played roles last year, they knew their role in that limited amount, but did it very well, meaning minutes, defender, we knew what we could do on the offensive end with them. Now they had to play both ends of the floor.

That's us going out and recruiting, adding to the pieces. The greatest thing we had going for us, we definitely believed we could win this game, didn't mind our seeding, who we were playing. Our kids have been focused and fired up.

Again, it's a good building block from where we are. No way are we done. We want to turn those close losses to wins in the future.

Q. What were you thinking at halftime when you were up?
COACH WILLIAMS: That we were up (laughter). We had been in that position before at our place. I was very happy we were hitting shots. That's usually been our nemesis, not being able to hit shots. We couldn't trade baskets with them in the past.

Our defenses were working, taking them out of what they wanted to do, at least tempo wise. Then concerned we needed to maintain that. You knew they were going to come back fired up, focused, regrouped, we're the No. 1 seed, we're playing for something even more. Our job was to knock them off and have a perfect game plan, things go flawless. You can't have two minutes, two missed offensive board putbacks.

We stuck with the game plan plan. Our kids knew it. The scout limited them 1 for 9 from three point range. That's a huge bonus, helps us stay in games.

Q. What happened in the second half? What did they do differently or better?
COACH WILLIAMS: It's called the Player of the Year in the conference got a little ticked off and said, I'm Player of the Year. Chelsea started driving in the middle, dumping to who was going to be open. We need to bounce back from, that change up our defenses.

When you have Player of the Year and point guard of the year, you're going to go to your bread and butter. I was proud of how our kids responded. Second half, we were able to spread them and do some things. Again, it's a veteran team, but our kids, we had those lulls. The putback rebounds, that hurt us from Courtney.

Q. You touched on this a little bit with the defensive switches. Can you go into a little bit more not why just this matchups but your previous matchups, you've been able to match up against them. Why do you think that is?
COACH WILLIAMS: Our kids just really love that challenge. It's the No. 1 team, it's a top team. If you're going to beat somebody, let's do that.

Again, we're going to play a lot of man. That helps us quite a bit. We're successful against man. We knew where we might be able to get some shots. That's where some of our kids were a little gun shy in the beginning.

It's been a good matchup, good rivalry. You want to get them up at the mountain, run at 7,000 feet, then go down there at sea level.

We show great halves with them, and our kids don't back down. It's one of the teams we have beaten in the past. That's always lurking in the back of their minds, which helps. It's a good, fun matchup. You want to start building that rivalry.

Q. Back to your point about the confidence you had coming into a game like this against a top seed. Could you have said that about this team a year ago? Are you maybe a little further ahead of the curve than you thought you might be right now?
COACH WILLIAMS: Year two was tough. I don't know if we're ahead of the curve. The one thing we did have is confidence. It's weird, because we won last year in the first round. That's all we knew. Come first round, no matter who we play, we win. Playing Colorado State was tremendous for belief in the locker room.

Talking about New Mexico, knocking them off senior night, leading in the conference tournament. We had been playing our best ball. It takes us about a year, but you want to be playing your best ball the end of the year.

So the confidence level was there, which is great to have. If you just take our record and go 6 24, you're the AC, our kids are fired up. If it's a man to man matchup, we're going to go to a slugfest with them and then we don't quit. We're going to need a couple more possessions, again, make layups, run a flawless offense a little bit.

I'm glad we weren't rattled. I'm glad we were fired up. We're moving in the right direction. It's always better when your team believes. We're like, Okay, got San Diego State, a great matchup.