Watch: UCF at NCAA Tournament - First Round Postgame Presser


UCF head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson, senior guard Diamond Battles, and senior forward Brittney Smith spoke to the media Saturday following UCF's 69-52 win over Florida in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Watch the full press conference above or below. Find the full transcript below.

Media Conference  UCF 69, Florida 52
KATIE ABRAHAMSON-HENDERSON: So excited. My heart is just pounding still. It's just so -- I'm sweating. Just so, so proud of these women.

I mean, I think they have made history this year for many things, not just this game, but winning the regular season conference championship, conference tournament.

I mean, they have set out and they have made some goals, and they've attained a lot of them. I mean, probably every single one except -- sorry, you guys are going to be like, don't say it, losing one game in our conference. That's it.

Every other goal they've set, they've attained. We're very blessed that we had some really good super seniors. Obviously these two are seniors, too, and hopefully they'll both come back and play.
But I think it really helps to have a veteran team like that out, and last year at this time -- and now let's talk about this game -- last year at this time we played Northwestern in the NCAA tournament, and I -- and Diamond went down. Not with an injury that was going to limit her too much, but we all felt that.

We all felt like we didn't score, so I really challenged these ladies this year to be a balanced scoring team and step up. Obviously Brittney really stepped up this game. Masseny really stepped up this game. Diamond stepped up this game. Shania Meertens stepped up this game. She hit some really big shots for us.

We talk about balanced scoring all the time, and I think that really helped us. Obviously our defense holding this team to 52 point is great, too. So I just felt like we did a good job playing defense, but scoring for us, that is a big deal.

So I'm very proud of them. I feel very blessed and my heart is still racing. I'm going to calm down now.

Q. Congratulations. Brittney, two for you, if I could. The first is this is a career high for you. You've set what was previously your season high on March 8th. What is clicking for you offensively?
BRITTNEY SMITH: I mean, I'm just going out there and doing what I do best. I don't know, I just want to score. I just want to bring my team up in any way possible.
Just going to go out and shoot what's open, so...

Q. And just a technical question: Do you know what your wingspan is by any chance?

Q. It seems enormous.
KATIE ABRAHAMSON-HENDERSON: You're right, it is. She does not know that.

Q. What does it feel like to be -- like your coach was saying you've been part of history all season, but to be able to really take part in this effort to give your program it first NCAA tournament win, how much was that on your mind going into the game, but also to be able to do that today and finish the deal?
BRITTNEY SMITH: This is a goal that we've set for a few years now that we been trying to achieve. We've come short the last few years obviously, so like we're just really, really, really going to enjoy this win for the rest of today.
BRITTNEY SMITH: It's just a really good feeling.
DIAMOND BATTLES: Like Abe said, when I went down last year it was like everybody kind of like got sad, so going into this game I didn't want my teammates feeling or thinking about that game.
We knew what we had to come out and do. Like most people say we set goals and most people don't achieve your goals, but to finally achieve the goal after years of coming to go the NCAA tournament is big for us.
We are definitely going to soak in this win.

Q. This question is for Diamond. Today you seemed to -- I've watched some of your games, not all of them. Today you seem look you came with a swag, I don't know, just on another level. I felt like you took it to another level. Not to say you don't take it at a high level before, but this I felt like you were taking it to the next level at that point.
DIAMOND BATTLES: After I got named player of the year and defensive player of the year I gained a lot more confidence and I knew that I could play with a little bit more swag because, I mean, now people look at me as the player of the year, so why not bring a little swag to it?
I know that people are going to look at me to score and look at me to lead this team, so, I mean, I know when I bring the intensity my teammates are going to back me up no matter what.
When I play with intensity and swag, it makes the game a little bit more fun.

Q. My question is for Diamond. You looked comfortable from the start to finish, you got anywhere you wanted on the court. Talk about how important it was for you to be aggressive and set the tone of the offense from the time the ball tipped up.
DIAMOND BATTLES: Like I said before, being the leading scorer on a team sometimes my teammates look to me to get it started basically, so when I hit the first shot I knew the momentum was very high.
Doing what I do best, I attack very well, get people open shots, create for my teammates. Once that first shot went in I knew that the momentum was very high for us, and we were just very comfortable here.

Q. This question is for Brittney. It seems like people always are going to sway to Diamond. Do you look at it when they're not making you the focal point, do you look at it as a sign of disrespect and you embrace it to show them you're also a problem on the court?
BRITTNEY SMITH: I don't need to be the focal point. I am just going to go out there and do what I do and help my team get a win.
I care about all my teammates, so anybody can be the star. Diamond is our star and that don't bother me as all. I'm so happy for you and for everybody on my team.
DIAMOND BATTLES: Oh, you're so cute. (Laughter.)

Q. Diamond, this one is for you: You guys had six turnovers today. What's allowing you guys to limit your mistakes to such an extent, and how big a part does that play in what's been arising offensive efficiency over your entire season?
DIAMOND BATTLES: I'm definitely controlling tempo. When we get sped up we make a lot of mistake. When we control the tempo we assess what's going on and we're not like too dribble happy or nothing like that, just follow the game plan, just execute sets. That's when we're at our best.
We turn the ball over less. Today we definitely controlled the tempo a lot. That's why we had six turnovers.

Q. Coach, good to see you again. In terms of the evolution of this team, your teams have been top 20 defensive efficiency from the moment you stepped on campus, just like they were at UAlbany. Where and how far along is this offensive evolution, and do you feel like this team has got to the point where you need to be to be a true national contender?
KATIE ABRAHAMSON-HENDERSON: Yeah, absolutely. I think a lot of people talk about our defense all the time only because it's very different. You know, I think winning teams play defense, period.

I mean, I played -- I always say this, I played. Nobody cares. But when I was playing for Andy Landers and Vivian Stringer, it was defense. You're playing defense. If you're not playing defense, you're not playing.

I learned that very early when I was a player, that that was super important, and then I was blessed to work for some people that it was very important for them, too.

So that's just kind of innate in me. I just know that in order to get to that level you got to play really good defense. Our defense is really good because it's consistent.

You know, we don't change. We don't go zone, man, we don't mix it up. We stay in our press. We tweak stuff a little bit, but they're super confident in it, and I love that.

They love it. They're confident in it. They have swag with it. The press, they love pressing. Some teams beat it pretty well and they did a good job beating it today. It just gets us going. You know, so that's big with defense.

Offense, I mean, this year really is our best offensive team for sure. Everybody is scoring. Nobody cares who gets credit. Like Brittney just said, she doesn't care. Brittney is just so happy to win. So when you go in our locker room and we have -- like we look at these production points and we'll say, you are beast mode today, Brittney, or you were beast -- it's always somebody in our room.
So offensively it's been great because a lot of people have scored a lot of points this year for us, so it's balanced scoring for us.

Q. Thank you.

Q. I got in a little late, so if you've already answered, just say you answered it. But you guys are really familiar with this building. The last time you played here -- well, you played twice in the season and you were eight points and eleven points behind at the end. That's as close as most teams get to UConn, and some of your players were part of that team. How do you approach that? How do you approach UConn, which has never lost in the second round?
KATIE ABRAHAMSON-HENDERSON: I don't know. I'm trying to enjoy this win right now, so I'm not approaching them yet, honestly. Honest to God, I'm not. Like I'm not. I'll go back to the hotel and I'll grind and watch film. My coaches have already watched film on them. I do know they're a different team. They're not the same team we've played in the past. This is a two year out thing. We haven't played them.

I have to really kind of study them and see a lot of things. Obviously they're a historically great team. I know that. For this game I felt we were comfortable in the gym because of what you're talking about, you know. We've been here before; the other teams haven't been here before.

I feel like the UConn fans are great. Probably cheering a little bit for us, too. They are just great basketball people. So I haven't really thought about moving forward, about playing UConn yet. Now that you put my head there, now I'm thinking about it.

Q. Question I was going to ask is what do you think -- being from New Albany, this is not unfamiliar what you're doing right now. Maybe people see it as UCF is doing it new, but this is your normal track record. You take things to the next level wherever you go. You've done that with UCF. What do you do this year to come back from last year when you lost the tournament, came back, won the tournament, slayed the dragon like you did with Maine in the other conference, and then now come back and win this game? Even though you are the top ranked team, that's still an SEC team you just beat. What did you do this season to take it to the next level?
KATIE ABRAHAMSON-HENDERSON: Well, I really think it wasn't all me. I think a lot of it has to do with our captains, which is Diamond, Mass, and Tay. I mean, they just made a decision that this was what they were going to do.

You know, they all came back and didn't have to come back. Mass and Tay did not have to come back. They did not.

They could have gone and played somewhere, right? So they made a decision because of that feeling they had of losing in the NCAA tournament. The feeling they had of losing to USF in the conference championship. The feeling they had of not getting their regular season conference championship.

You know, when you're a great player, that burns you for a whole year. What they did is came back and went to work immediately. Especially Diamond, Tay. Tay is in the gym all the time. They started. I don't think Diamond took two days off since that game. She was in the gym shooting.

Her biggest thing was they don't think she's a three point shooter, so now she's going to start working on her three. It was a whole summer thing. Masseny can't shoot outside shots, back off on her, so now she's working on shooting her outside shot. They hear how people guard them and the way people guard them. Tay, she couldn't shoot either. She's only a driver. So they all really got in the gym and worked on that, and we talked about when the season started that we had to be a balanced scoring team.

We have to. We cannot rely on Kay Kay Wright when we were in the NCAA tournament. Kay Kay is scoring is 26 points. It's just you can't win that way, right? So we talked about it all the time. Balanced scoring, balanced scoring.

We've just been really -- everybody says, Coach Abe is a defense coach, but actually I'm an offensive coach. We just really worked on our offense again and just celebrated every time somebody took a shot or made a shot, different people, right? So they got super confident in it, and that's why you see when Brittney shoots, she's just super confident.

Q. Coach, you mentioned in your initial comments Shania hit some pretty big shots. They made it a four point game in the third quarter and then she hit back to back. How big was that for her confidence?
KATIE ABRAHAMSON-HENDERSON: We recruited her for a purpose, because we couldn't -- what would happen if Diamond or Lish, something happened. We wanted someone that's a backup guard. She's a senior. We recruited her because she had a lot of experience.

We knew that she could handle big games. I said that in the locker room to her. Like they were cutting it and she hit two big jumpers, not guarding her, and she just as a super senior stepped up and hit those shots.

Those are big shots, and I told her that in the locker room.

Q. Just to follow up on the offensive part of the equation, you guys are north of 45% from the field, I think seven of the last nine games. Like you said, this is your best offensive team by the numbers. Especially over the last month plus, it's especially been so. What's allowed for that to happen, especially this evolution over the last month?
KATIE ABRAHAMSON-HENDERSON: Well, Diamond is going to laugh, but I think we -- in practice some days we'll just go do offense and they're like yay, we don't have to play defense.
So we been really working on that, working on our sets. We put a new one in for this tournament too, offensive set. So we've just been working on a lot more. When you got the defense down and you have a stabilizer like Diamond, Mass and Destiny and Britt, they all know the defense, and you can take your time and work on the offense.

We just had to get Shania familiar with the defense. That's really it. So these guys know the defense like the back of their hands, so now we're able to work on offense a little bit more.

Q. Just wanted to talk about Brittney a little more. I was asking about wingspan. This is obviously someone you're hoping is coming back next year, but whenever the WNBA is calling, how does she project at the next level and what's allowed her to have the kind of breakout she has where she's found another level in terms of her efficiency and scoring at the same time?
KATIE ABRAHAMSON-HENDERSON: Well, Brittney is scary because she doesn't know that she's that good. Brittney doesn't know she's that athletic. Brittney doesn't know she has that wingspan. Brittney is the sweetest, caring, wonderful young woman that wants to be a nurse, you know, and help people, right?

So she's not a dog like Diamond. She's not. She's just like -- but it's okay. You need some of those people on your team.

So she knows when she catches it on the low block, and we watch a lot of film, that she's a bucket. I mean, I think they call her bucket now, and so they have been hyping up a lot and complimenting her. She's super confident right now in scoring. If you don't double her, she is a bucket, right?

So I don't know what she was tonight, something -- yeah, 11 for 15? But, you know, that's Diamond getting her the ball, Lish getting her the ball, Shania getting her the ball, Mass getting her the ball. People are getting her the ball.

They also know she's going to shoot it unless they double her. She's shooting that thing. So she's got some low post moves, got some step-out, like nice touch. She's got nice touch. So that's a blessing, Brittney. She has no idea that she's that special.