CHAPEL HILL, NC – The University of Tennessee at Martin women’s basketball team officially opened its NCAA Tournament participation this afternoon, taking part in an afternoon press conference followed by a practice at Carmichael Arena.
The No. 14 seed Skyhawks (24-7) will take on No. 4 seed North Carolina Tar Heels (24-9) on Sunday, March 23 at 3 p.m. CT. The game can be seen in its entirety on ESPN, as it has been selected as the national spotlight game for its time slot.
UT Martin will hold a light shootaround tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. before making final preparations to take on the Tar Heels of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Below is a transcript of UT Martin’s press conference today.
Kevin McMillan, UT Martin Head Coach:
“We’re excited to be in the NCAA tournament for a fourth straight time. It’s been a great run for this group of seniors, these two [Heather Butler, Jasmine Newsome] and Megan White. Pleased that we could get a little bit better seed this year. Not real happy playing on Carolina’s home court but we’ll take whatever we can get.”
On size comparison from previous years
“I went and got smaller. We were 6’ 4” and 6’2” last year and we’re 6-foot and 5’ 11” this year. It doesn’t look really smart now to be honest with you. But, we’re a little more potent at those positions. We’ve been the smaller team every game we’ve played this year. I think that their smallest player could play four for us. But that’s just the way it’s been. Everything is just going to have to be team. We’re going to have to team rebound, team defend. They’ve arguably got the best class ever put together. We couldn’t keep Notre Dame off the glass with size. Maybe this year with a little more effort we can keep the rebounding battle a little bit closer. The obvious challenge is they’re 6’2”, 6’3”, 6-foot, 6-foot, and we can keep going. If the rebounding difference gets pretty large, we’ll be in a lot of trouble.
On preparation for the NCAA tournament
“It is the best team that we’ve had. The problem is as a mid-major trying to come up with an upset you hope that you’re not on somebody’s home floor, but you are. But then you hope that your matchup is good. This is not a good match up, because Carolina plays the same way and they average 80+ points a game and they’re doing it with 6’2”, 6’3” All-Americans, and we’re doing it with converted cheerleaders, is what I call [Heather] Butler all the time to make fun of her, and 5-8s and 5-9s. So we’re going to walk out and try to outscore Carolina on their home floor, that’s probably not very wise. Probably the difference is that we’ve talked to our kids more about controlling the game. We’re going to have to control the game, and we’ll run. We’re going to run because that’s when we’ll get our best shots, but we have to be selective about it. Our seniors have been a little more matter-of-fact about things, it’s their fourth time. Our young kids have taken their lead a little bit. Now that doesn’t mean once we throw the ball up, who knows what’s going to happen because we’re starting two freshmen and a sophomore. You’re talking about Carolina’s youth, ours is just as young. I think there’s been a little different mindset in these kids this week or week and a half as they’ve been preparing, but again, I don’t know which direction that’s going to go tomorrow.”
Heather Butler, UT Martin Guard:
On UT Martin’s preparation for UNC’s Diamond DeShields
“Well obviously she’s one of the best players this season. Getting prepared for her, we’ve kind of been thinking of ways to get the ball out of her hands. Obviously we know she’s going to get the ball and she’s going to make plays, no doubt about it. But we just have to contest her shot every time, make her shoot tough shots and that’s what we’ve been trying to tell ourselves.”
On the size disadvantage against North Carolina
“I mean we’ve been kind of handling it all year. Pretty much every game we’re the smallest players on the court. No different, we played Baylor and Stanford last year. We’ve played big teams each year and we’re always the smallest. It kind of really doesn’t faze me, or my teammates, this year at all because we’re kind of used to it. It’s kind of more of a challenge and we love challenges.
On the difference in style of play against North Carolina
“Well, they’re an athletic team – they run the ball pretty much. And we’re kind of more of a slower tempo and I think that we’re going to have to not match up to their game play, but we’re going to have to play how we play, as UT Martin Women’s Skyhawks. Of course they are going to try to run the ball and we’re going to have to try to slow them down a little bit. And, we’re going to have to guard them with five players every possession.
Jasmine Newsome, UT Martin Guard:
On managing North Carolina’s style of play
“I think we just have to control the game and play our style. Make [North Carolina] play our style. If we try to play their style, I don’t think we have a good chance of winning.”
On preparing for the guard matchup against North Carolina
“Try to keep the ball out of their hands, keep them off the glass, keep them out of the paint. Make certain people shoot the ball and not the top players shoot, basically. “
On their game plan to shoot more inside or outside
“I mean we’re an outside shooting team, but we have post players. We’re going to do what we normally do, try to get the ball in the paint and shoot threes. We’re just going to play our style.”