Syracuse Media Opportunity

March 23, 2014

Quentin Hillsman, Syracuse, Head Coach:

On the status of Brittany Sykes …

“We don’t know the extent of the injury, so we are in the assuming state of that. But, she is not playing tomorrow. She is out for the game. We are going to get her evaluated when we get back to Syracuse on Saturday.”

On the treatment that Brittany Sykes underwent …

“I don’t know exactly what will happen on the back end of the whole situation. Obviously, I do know that our team doctor traveled with us and we have our team doctor here and obviously we have a very experienced training staff, so yes, she did get treatment last night on her injury. They have been the typical steps that we have gone through with every athlete that we’ve had that has gone through this situation.”

On how to replace Brittany Sykes …

“I think the reality of the matter is that she is who she is. She does a lot of things for us. She leads the team in scoring, she does a lot of things for us on the offensive end of the floor, but when you go into these situations, the unfortunate part of our sport sometimes, athletes are going to get hurt. You don’t want to see any athlete get hurt on either team and that’s my prayer before every game, that no one on either team gets hurt because that becomes bigger than the game and the sport. For us, we have players. We’re a very deep basketball team. We have good guards, we have La’Shay Taft who is a good guard and can come in and make some shots for us. Cornelia Fondren who started for us last year is now coming off the bench. So, we have some players that are very serviceable in that area, they are just different players. Brittany (Sykes) is a unique player for us, and she has been for the last two years now. It’s going to be tough to replace her. We’re not going to sit here and fool ourselves like we have someone who can step right in and do the things that she did. But, La’Shay Taft has a 25-point game, she has some 20-point games, she has an 18-point game, so La’Shay Taft is definitely capable of picking up her scoring. Hopefully La’Shay can come in and do that for us.”

On La’Shay Taft starting in Sykes’ place tomorrow …

“Probably so. We will probably be starting La’Shay Taft in that spot. But, obviously when you take a player like that, who plays 30 minutes, and take her out of the rotation, more importantly it’s not just bringing Brittany (Sykes) off the court, it’s those minutes you have to try and find to give them between two and three other players. That’s a tough situation.”

On Kentucky …

“They play very fast. I think you really have to limit the live-ball turnovers against them and you have to play your offense and be very efficient. You can’t stop doing what you do. You can try to slow the game down to where you’re not playing. Obviously, we don’t want to have an 80- possession game. We want to have an efficient offensive game on our end of the floor and not give them live-ball turnovers. We have to make sure that they get one shot and we rebound the basketball.”

On who Kentucky reminds him of …

“They remind me of Texas A&M a lot. I think that they have the same mentality where they really get out and pressure you and they really get out in the passing lanes and they change their defenses up. One thing that Matthew (Mitchell) does a very good job of is staying in the same defense, but playing it three different ways where they pressure the ball and they pressure the passing lanes and then they’ll sag in the passing lanes and the next time you come down the court, they’ll go double the post. They do a lot of things that keeps you off balance. For us, we have to keep the floor space and try and take advantage of opportunities as he’s changing their defense from his man-to-man.”

On what they did well against Texas A&M and how that compares to UK …

“Yeah, we did. We did a very good job of spreading the floor. In that game, La’Shay Taft had like 18 points. It’s different teams, thought. Kentucky is a very good basketball team, and we know that. That’s why we’re sitting here and that’s why they’re hosting. They knew last year that they were going to be in the tournament. They don’t normally give you a hosting site if they think you’re not going to be playing in the second day. We understand that. Texas A&M is a very good basketball team, too. But, they’re different. I think that what Matthew (Mitchell) has done here is special. When they came here – Kentucky has always been a really good basketball team. Even when Mickie (DeMoss) was here, they were a solid team. I think that he’s just picked it up and done a great job here.”

On if he is philosophical after winning yesterday but only shooting 32 percent…

“I’m not philosophical about that at all because I just really believe in two things on the offensive end. Actually just one thing to be honest, just get a shot. Don’t turn the ball over, get the ball up on the glass and go rebound. You can get into these mind games and you can really just turn this whole thing into a horrible, horrible shooting day just by over-emphasizing it. We talk about getting a shot, so because our emphasis is getting a shot I can’t be mad when you miss a shot. You have to take the next one, so for us the focus is on taking the next shot and we have to continue to shoot the ball, continue to get solid shots. We have to make them, that’s it.”

On if they concentrate on a certain shooter like Jennifer O’Neill when playing zone defense…

“Absolutely. Jen is a special player and the funny thing about Jen O’Neill is her high school AAU coach is one of my best friends, so I’ve been seeing Jen O’Neill since she was 12 years old. I’m not trying to be funny, but I probably know Jen better than Jen knows herself. I’m the one that told her, if you don’t start defending, you’re never going to play at Kentucky. In her freshman year, I said if you don’t start guarding you’re not going to be able to play there and then she started doing that. She became a special player. I said Jen, you have to make shots, so I’ve known Jen since she was a baby almost. She’s a tremendous player and she’s getting better and better for them every year. She’s very explosive. She plays off the bounce. She can shoot the ball. She’s going to take two dribbles and pull up. She’s going to guard you for two steps and run up on you. I know Jen’s game and I’m not playing. That’s the only thing, I’m not guarding Jen and she’s a special player. I’m really proud of her. She’s like one of my kids, who is really doing well at this level. She’s a special kid, special player and she’s really come a long way. It’s just fun to watch her grow up and become a woman and she’s done a great job.”

On if he would like to see O’Neill have her worst game against Syracuse on Monday…

“I want to see her have zero points.”

On if he would like to have O’Neill on his team…

“There’s no question. Jennifer was a great high school player, but you know, honestly this is a great system for her to come to. I knew she would come here and do well and that’s one of the things you have to be sometimes as a coach. There are a lot of great players in the country and you have to get players that fit into your system and that play well. Jen would have been great in our system, but obviously she’s great here, so I’m really happy for her.”

On if the rest of the team is healthy…

“Yeah, everyone is healthy. We’re doing good. It’s one of those things where, like our players said, we prepare for this moment. We don’t talk about injuries, we talk about somebody fouling out. It’s one of those situations where we do this in practice. We take a player off the floor and play with different lineups to try to see what we do well or what we don’t do well. It’s one of those things where I said, treat it as a drill. This is our foul-out drill. Let’s play our drill on Monday.”

On whether Brittney Sykes will be on the bench for the game…

“I have no idea where she’s going to be. She’s here and she’s traveling. She was still allowed on the bus. She was doing the same thing she’s been doing, so we know she’s here and she’s in good spirits and that’s the most important thing for us that she’s doing well spiritually because coming back from injury like this, it’s your mind. It really is. You can do everything properly and the doctor can you tell you that you’re 100 percent in your knee, but if your mind is 30 percent you’re going to be unsuccessful.”

On the challenges Kentucky’s frontcourt poses…

“It’s a serious challenge. They’re a very strong team and they do a very good job. Against a zone, a lot of rebounding is about your position for the ball. You’re not going to get position after the ball is in the air and I think they put their players in proper spots in any zone to get offensive rebounds. They cover both blocks much of the time and have someone at high post when the shot goes up, then they get somebody diving down the middle of the floor and you have Samarie (Walker) on the backside sealing, so it’s tough. It’s going to be challenging, but we’ve been in these situations before. We’ve played against big teams that are very good rebounding teams. Some we’ve had very good success against and some we haven’t. Hopefully this is one of those days we have very good success against a good rebounding team.”

Rachel Coffey, Syracuse, Guard

On her poor shooting performance in the game yesterday…

“I feel like that shots don’t fall sometimes and coming into this next game it’s a different game, we need to improve on rebounding we need to make shots, stop them in transition. Basically we just go to go over their scout and do better.”

On worrying about the performance…

“You worry about it but we came out with the win. Basically we just have to move onto the next game and worry about Kentucky.”

On celebrating the victory in Syracuse History…

“Yeah we had time to but we’re all really excited after the game, everyone texting you, but after that, we kind of all sat back and we need to get the next win. It could be more than one game in NCAA history.”

Brianna Butler, Syracuse, Guard

On the possible pressure on her because Brittney Sykes being out…

“Well basketball is a team sport, so I’m not really feeling pressure as to having to step up. I think everyone is going to play with a higher intensity and in practice we definitely emphasize on if someone were to foul out in a game or anyone were to be missing. I think we definitely have preparations for situations such as this.”

On what the team should pay attention to the most in scouting them…

“Kentucky is a well-rounded team, they play great defense, they execute with great offense so we just have to come in with the same mind set of doing what we do and just play as hard as we can and play like we want it more than they do.”

On playing in a tough environment against Kentucky…

“I think that we just have to play as a team and focus on what we do. If we don’t get rattled in the outside of environment, we’re used to playing against. We have played teams like Notre Dame and UConn so I think we’re kind of used to the home court advantage for teams but we just have to capitalize on what we do in the game.”