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2009 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament
First and Second Rounds
Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

Ohio State Press Conference Transcript
March 20, 2009

                        REPORTER:  This Sacred Heart team was — a Sacred Heart team was in Columbus a couple years ago.  Are they a lot different than the team three years ago?
                        COACH FOSTER:  Yeah.  I think we
              played earlier in the season and this team has
              won 21 games in a row.  The make-up of the
              personnel will be different, and the players
              that were on that team were very young in their
              development.  I believe there’s maybe three or
              four of them that were there at that time, so
              different.  But the experiences, they’ve grown a
              lot, whether it’s regular season, and they —
              they’ve been a lot of places in that season or
              the next — I think they were in the NCAA
              Tournament.  So, obviously, the environment is
              something that they’re used to.
                        REPORTER:  What is it that concerns
              you the most about what they do?
                        COACH FOSTER:  I think they’re a very
              good offensive team.  I think they have a bunch
              of players that can shoot the 3.  Their post
              player runs very well.  And I think they’re a
              very aggressive basketball team.
                        REPORTER:  Jim, how’s the preparation
              any different this year than other years?  I
              mean, do you try to switch things up?  Do you
              try to just do the same thing every year going
              into this tournament in terms of what you tell
              them?
                        COACH FOSTER:  Well, it depends on
              what kind of semester we’ve had academically, or
              quarter.  See, we just finished finals, so we
              had the last week of class and finals week.  So
              when I looked at our grades, I realized that we
              could be — now, give them a couple days off
              after the conference tournament and then go into
              a mode of sort of aggressiveness, did some
              fundamentals, but our academics looked to be in
              great shape and looked like our players had
              taken care of their business during the quarter.
                        That’s a big deal at this time of
              year.  If you want the excuse of finals, you
              have it.  But this team doesn’t think that way
              and prepared, did a good job through the course
              of the quarter.  So we had a very spirited
              couple weeks of practice, a lot of fun, in
              reality.
                        REPORTER:  And I also want to ask
              Jantel this same question.  You motioned their
              post player.  Who does she remind you of, if
              anyone, that you guys have seen recently?  And
              I’d like you ask you, Jantel, what you think of
              her.
                        COACH FOSTER:  Is there anybody
              working at the Dispatch?
                        REPORTER:  In the office?  No.
                        COACH FOSTER:  Well, I think Jantel
              runs better than any post player that I’ve
              coached, and I always said I think she runs as
              well as any post player in the country.  I sort
              of told her the other day that this kid really,
              really gets up and down the floor, and it’s
              going to be a great challenge because you’re
              going to have to run both ways very hard.  I
              think that our post kids run very well, all four
              of them, and looking forward to watching that
              mini game within the game, which is sometimes a
              lot of fun.
                        JANTEL LAVENDER:   I can only go by
              what Coach tells me and film, what I see on
              film.  She is a solid post player.  She can
              score in the low block and she can run, too.  I
              think my main focus for the game is to get her
              out of her comfort zone, which is the low
              blocking, and just run with her, like Coach
              tells me and play post seasons like I have.
                        REPORTER:  Is there someone that
              you’ve played with that she reminds you of at
              all?
                        JANTEL LAVENDER:   Not per se.  I
              don’t know anybody.
                        COACH FOSTER:  Kid from Minnesota runs
              hard, but there’s a difference in size.
                        REPORTER:  For the players, the last
              eight games, there’s been sort of a different
              mindset for this team right now.  Coach has
              talked about from the second half of the Iowa
              game on.  Just talk about that, the different
              mindset you’ve had those last eight games.
              What’s tipped that off for you guys?
                        JANTEL LAVENDER:   I think once
              everybody realized how much fun it is to play
              hard and how fun it is to get steals and be
              ferocious on defense, I think our team has grown
              on so many levels.  I think the Iowa game we
              played in the tournament was like the separation
              of how our team can be great and how our team
              can be good.  And I think everybody realized
              what they have to contribute to the team in
              order for us to be that great team.
                        REPORTER:  Shavelle?
                        SHAVELLE LITTLE:  Going to the team
              and the Big Ten tournament, our main focus is to
              be ferocious, and we did that.  We came out.
              Everyone was playing really well on defense.  It
              just shows that defense can win the games.  A
              lot of the teams turned the ball over, so it
              helped us out a lot.
                        REPORTER:  I’ll ask the loaded
              question, I guess.  Do you feel that you have
              something to prove after the last couple of
              first round failures the first couple of years?
              How about the players?  Do you feel that you
              have something to prove after the last two
              years?
                        STAR ALLEN:  No.
                        COACH FOSTER:  First of all, you don’t
              dwell on the past.  Secondly, I’ve been doing
              this for 31 years and I’ve seen some terrific
              coaches go through the same situation.  And
              every team is different.  This year’s team has
              nothing to do with last year’s team, nothing to
              do with the year before.  There’s a different
              mentality.  It’s a different group and different
              burn.  They got a little fire in their belly,
              maybe a lot.
                        REPORTER:  Jantel, this is your second
              one of these, second NCAA Tournament.  Was it
              what you thought it was going to be last year or
              was it a little bit different, and how does it
              help you having been through it one time before?
                        JANTEL LAVENDER:   I think it was what
              I expected it to be last year, but — I don’t
              know.  I just think that we came out not as
              focused as we needed to be to win that first
              round game.  I think our team, like Coach said,
              is different this year and we’re not dwelling on
              the past.  We’re just going to take this Sacred
              Heart game and take one game at a time and just
              play from there.
                        REPORTER:  Coach had just talked about
              how you guys have gotten back on the court since
              the Big Ten tournament and he used the word
              spirited.  For the players, how would you
              describe what these practices getting ready for
              this game have been like?
                        STAR ALLEN:  I would agree with Coach.
              It has been a lot of fun practicing.  It’s been
              hard, but it’s fun at the same time.  And it is
              spirited.  Everybody’s loud and talking.
                        REPORTER:  Is that what’s made it fun?
                        STAR ALLEN:  Yeah, I think that is
              what makes it fun, when we talk.  We talk to
              each other as far as, like, on defense and
              everything.
                        REPORTER:  For Samantha, I think
              you’re up there — yeah.  What do you anticipate
              it’s going to be like when the ball goes up
              tomorrow?  Do you have any idea?  You’ve been in
              hostile environments, you’ve been in big crowds.
              I’m just wondering, what do you think it’s going
              to be like?
                        SAMANTHA PRAHALIS:  It’s going to be
              like a regular game, I think, but there’s a lot
              more at stake with going home.  But I think it’s
              just going to be a lot of fun, actually.  It’s
              going to be exciting.
                        REPORTER:  Jim, again, you’re home,
              but this really isn’t your home court.
                        COACH FOSTER:  Huh-uh.
                        REPORTER:  Does that make a difference
              in any way?  Maybe with the tournament, when
              teams are in, like, New Jersey, they shouldn’t
              be at Piscataway or Rutgers, at other arenas.
                        COACH FOSTER:  This game is so young
              in its growth that you can’t have the ideal
              scenario.  Would we rather be at the Schott?  Of
              course, we would.  That’s where we are every
              other day and we would consider ourselves home.
              But as long as attendance is going to be part of
              the equation for success and crowd environment
              is going to be part of the equation for
              television success, we have to go through these
              growing pains.
                        I mean, this game — if you take the
              men’s game back — it started, what, 1938? —
              and you add about 25 years, that’s about how old
              we are, maybe 26 or 7.  What was the men’s game
              like in 1960?  I don’t think anything like it is
              today.
                        And that’s where we are, and we have
              to do certain things as a result of that.
              Hopefully we’ve grown to the point that big
              crowds don’t affect you, because if we play in
              front of them more often so that when you go
              into an environment like that, you don’t have
              the problems that used to exist way back when,
              when we first started this thing.
                        So I think the game is growing.  I
              think it has grown in certain dimensions.  But
              as we continue to grow, these situations are
              going to be there, and you just have to deal
              with them.  And mature teams handle it and the
              pretenders don’t.
                        REPORTER:  Sammi, you guys did play
              here one time and Cleveland State at one time.
              How’s the shooting background here as opposed to
              the Schott, which you see every day?
                        SAMANTHA PRAHALIS:  It’s a little
              different, but, I mean, it’s not too much of a
              difference where it would affect the game or
              anything.  We’ve just got to get used to it.  I
              think playing those two games helped us out.
              But, yes, it’s not that big of a difference.
                        REPORTER:  Do you have an advantage
              being right here in Columbus, do you think, over
              the other teams?
                        SAMANTHA PRAHALIS:  Yes and no.  I
              mean, we have a fan base here, so that would
              kind of be an advantage, if there was, but not
              too much, because when you go out and play, it’s
              not really about the — it’s just the teams
              playing.  So yes and no.
                        REPORTER:  This is for Star.  Last
              year, you came back as the team got into the
              tournament after missing the Big Ten portion of
              the season.  How different is this playing for
              you now after last year?
                        STAR ALLEN:  Like the Coach said, it’s
              two different teams from this year and last
              year.  Like, this team is better to work with
              and everything.
                        REPORTER:  Jim, how much is the fire
              that you speak of attributed to being a
              relatively young team?  Have you found through
              your career that maybe more enthusiasm for a
              younger team because they’re not sort of jaded?
                        COACH FOSTER:  I understand your
              question.  I understand where it’s coming from.
              But Star is not a senior — I mean, is a senior,
              is not a young player.  I would think that the
              team would tell you that her enthusiasm and her
              energy the last couple weeks has been right
              there with, you know, the youngsters.  Now,
              Sammi loves being on the floor.  It’s very
              obvious that she loves being on the floor.  But
              Star loves being on the floor.  That’s obvious,
              too, to our team.
                        And the person — if Shavelle didn’t
              come to practice for some reason, it would be a
              quiet gym, because she just never shuts up, and
              in a very positive way.  So, no, it’s not the
              young players; it’s the whole group.
                        REPORTER:  Shavelle, how ready are you
              guys for tomorrow to come, and how eager are you
              for tomorrow’s game?
                        SHAVELLE LITTLE:  I think we’re
              really, really focused.  All the big games we
              had this year, it just feels the same way.  We
              feel like would have a lot of composure and
              we’re really loose.  I think we just have to do
              what we have to do in order to be successful in
              the tournament.
                        REPORTER:  And just with Jantel, a
              different feel than last year than altogether
              and in every aspect of the game, is it different
              from last year’s first game?
                        JANTEL LAVENDER:   I think I can say
              yes because overall this team has a different
              mindset about winning.  Not that last year’s
              team didn’t, but I think that everybody’s just a
              little bit more passionate this year, because
              Sammi’s passion is floating over to everybody
              else.  Different people’s passions are starting
              to come out because we have the leadership at
              the guard position.  I would say yes, because
              it’s fun to be on this team and I think
              everybody wants to win, and you can’t help for
              that environment to be fun.