Watch: UCF at NCAA Tournament - Second Round Postgame Presser


UCF head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson, fifth-year guard Tay Sanders and senior guard Diamond Battles spoke to the media Monday following the Knights' 52-47 loss to No. 5 UConn in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Watch the full press conference above or below. Find the full transcript below.

Media ConferenceTHE MODERATOR: We're joined by UCF head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson and student-athletes Tay Sanders and Diamond Battles.

COACH ABRAHAMSON-HENDERSON: This year for us and UCF women's basketball, I mean, we were -- our RPI was a four, our net was a 20-something. I mean, our team is amazing. Our team is amazing. We accomplished so many goals. We set out at the beginning of the year to win a lot of our preseason games. And we really scheduled high-level teams and we accomplished a lot of those goals that we set out in our preseason.

And then we went to conference and we only lost one game in our conference, which is pretty hard to do no matter what league you're in. Obviously our conference is a really strong conference. It always has been, always will be. We set out to win the regular season conference championship. We did that. We set out to win the conference tournament championship. We did that.

We came here to the NCAA Tournament here and had to play a Florida team, which I don't understand why. But we beat -- last year we lost in the NCAA Tournament. This year we got that first win.

So these young women are special. They are special. What we did for this season and what these young women did every single day, I can't even tell you -- I don't even know how basketball coaches, if you're not a basketball coach you don't understand how hard that was to accomplish what we did for this season.

And I always say after we go to the NCAA Tournament, it's just a matter of time, because only one team is going to win. And it's going to be in a small window of time.
I told them keep your head up. You are warriors. You are a great team. You deserved -- sorry, a better place to go play. Why they brought us back up here. And I think this is a great program. I don't know why we had to come back and play them again for the sixth time, seventh time, hundredth time.

Maybe if we were at any different place we could have maybe advanced. I don't think anybody in the country wanted to come here and play in the NCAA Tournament. So, I mean, neither did I. But we fought. And to me it's just as good of a team as they are.

But the biggest point is that I know you're going to ask a lot of questions about them. But I want our questions to be about us, because these young women are amazing and they've done a lot of great things for this program, this school, this university. And UCF is a great place to be.

And I can't say enough for Masseny Kaba. She's been here for five years and she's had a historic career. Obviously Tay has been here only for three years. And we put this program on their backs. And Diamond, fourth year. We're blessed she's coming back to play another year, for sure.

So I'm proud. I'm a proud coach. I'm a proud mom. I'm a proud whatever I am to them. I'm super proud.

Q. You guys were down by 12 with just under five minutes to go. There's a timeout and then you guys went on that run to eventually pull within 3. What was said, on the bench or the court to spur that comeback and to make it a make it a one-possession game?
TAY SANDERS: We've always fought through adversity since last year, so we know what it's like to be down. We know how to fight back. We always know that it takes four minutes a quarter. So that's what we do. We talk to each other. We fight for each other. That's what we did. We fought to the end and we gave it all we had.

Q. Diamond, could you talk about the physicality of the game? It started right from the beginning with what happened in the corner there, like seconds in, and just kept up through the whole game. Was that the kind of game you guys were expecting, that kind of a physical game? And can you just talk about the toughness of your team?
DIAMOND BATTLES: We were expecting to be physical, but I don't think they were expecting us to be as physical. I mean, we came out and did what we do best. The toughness, that's what we are. That's who we are. UCF is a tough, gritty team and we'll always be that way; nothing will change it. From the beginning we knew how we had to play and we played that way for 40 minutes.

Q. Diamond, when I saw you Saturday, you had like a look in your eye like, no, we're not going home, considering what you went through last season. When you guys came on the court today, just probably from the taste you had last season being in the dance, clearly when you come back next season, that's not the goal. The goal is probably to get even further knowing Coach Abrahamson and how she moves. She's always going to go one step further than she did last year. With that being said, what's going to be the goal next year, just with the taste that you have of basically taking the fight to the champs in their own hometown?
DIAMOND BATTLES: I have big shoes to feel with Tay and Mass leaving. It's going to be tough. I've got to get my teammates ready. It's always -- the next year is always about going further than what you did last year. Having this feeling, knowing this feeling is always going to leave a chip on your shoulder. So just getting my teammates ready for next year, of course. We'll want to make history and go further. So just getting my teammates ready and filling the leadership of Tay and Mass.

Q. You said Tay is leaving? This is your last game? So, whenever a seniors, somebody leave, they have earned their right to have the platform and to say, put in the words what the season has been like, everything. I feel like you've earned that right being what you put into this and everything. So if you could please just elaborate just about the season, everything that you contribute to this program and please take your time?
TAY SANDERS: Well, this has been a great year for us all. I mean, we came back for a reason, me and Mass came back for a reason. It's been very successful. We've been very blessed to just have each other and just make so many accomplishments.

Like we wanted this game so bad. But you know what? Everything happens for a reason. And I believe they can get it next year. I love these girls. I love Coach Abe. It's been great being here. I hope the recruits see that we're nothing to play with. We're going to fight to the end. So hopefully that's the school y'all want to go to.

Q. Diamond, what more can you say about Masseny Kaba?
DIAMOND BATTLES: Mass, she's a leader. She's a sister. She just, she does so much for us. So, Mass, when she comes into practice, locker room, games, she set the tone where her leadership, she let us know to lock in, and she leads my example.
When Mass get on the floor, Mass don't see a shot she don't like. Mass, nobody can guard her. It's all a mentality for her. When she leads that way, everybody else just steps up a notch. And, like, I know most people think that I give energy to the team, but Mass gives me a lot of energy when I see Mass going hard and she's getting rebounds. She's getting and-ones, she's yelling, she's on defense, blocking shots. That fuels me just as much as I fuel my team. With Mass leaving, it's going to be heartbreaking but she's always going to be here for me, so that means so much.
TAY SANDERS: What did you call her, Coach Abe? The point guard on defense. The point guard of the defense.

Q. You said, wish we didn't have to come in here. Which makes sense. But I think it's also true from the other side. They didn't want to see you guys because they know from the time in the AAC, and especially that last year, that there wasn't another team in that league that could get to this point and do what you guys did tonight. So what's your reaction to that, that there probably wasn't a whole lot of teams that wanted to see you guys in this tournament either?
COACH ABRAHAMSON-HENDERSON: I hope that's the case, that a lot of teams didn't want to see us. I think obviously I've been around and I've coached at a lot of different places. And I just -- I just think this was one of, it might actually be one of the best teams we'll ever have at UCF, and because of the COVID situation, where the fifth years got to come back, that's a big thing. That's a big thing, because it's the maturity part, it's the experience part, it's just teaching and the growing and the consistency is just, that's a really, really big thing.

So I just, when it came up, I was actually really shocked we had to play -- I was a big advocate for all the Florida teams. We have six teams in the NCAA Tournament and immediately we got two were taken out because they're playing each other. I just don't get it. I don't get it.

And then seeing where we were going, I'm, like, not because I don't think we can win and not because of that, just because I just did that for five years, you know what I mean? I'm sure they felt the same way. Let's play -- this is the NCAA Tournament. We shouldn't be playing teams that are 100 feet up the road and then coming back up until the same situation.

But the positive thing about it was we have been here before. We know what it's like here. We know how to play here. We knew what to expect, just everything, you know what I mean? It is what it is. And we didn't get out of here, but it's just a matter of time. Everybody's going to lose. Only one team is going to win -- in the WNIT. In the WNIT two teams are going to win.

I always tell my team this team was really special, really special. And they did some amazing things. And I mean we got a 7 seed, too. That was the highest in school history. And actually the highest I've ever, as a coach, got is a 7 seed. So that was because of our accomplishments. That's because if we went by RPI, our RPI was like a 4, crazy number. And our net was really good, too. I'm just proud of our team. And it hasn't hit me yet that it's over.

Q. What do you think changed at the end of the fourth quarter when you guys were able to make that comeback, because it's not easy to do that in a game that's a slugfest where points are hard to come by, either Xs and Os-wise or approach mentally?
COACH ABRAHAMSON-HENDERSON: It was me in the timeout just talking to them, telling them to keep fighting. The game's not ever, it's never over. We're that kind of team, we're a dangerous team when you press like the way we do and the way we play. It's really hard. If we would have made ten more free throws, made a couple more free throws, made a couple of layups the game would have been a lot different.

But we did what we did. We held them 52 points. I don't know if anybody else is going to do that in a long time. And obviously I know that he knows that, too. That's the kind of team we are. We're just going to play really good defense.

But like I've been saying for three days, anybody playing in the NCAA Tournament is going to play good defense. Good defensive teams win games. You've got to make some points and do some things.

But I think if we would have made a couple more layups, Mass' missed layup kind of going down the stretch would have put us down by one. She missed that, and we missed some crucial free throws. So, to me the game was definitely even.

Q. What do you have to do, do you think, to take that next step? You basically had the game like right there. And not in your opinion because I don't want to get you in trouble, there was clearly some acting on the floor earlier. So that also played a part -- and you losing the lead. But what do you think you need to do to take the next step to get into the Sweet 16 to a Final Four?
COACH ABRAHAMSON-HENDERSON: Well, when I was everywhere, Albany or Missouri State, when I was coaching them and getting into the NCAA Tournament in those places, I always said you've got to be really good and you gotta get really lucky. Get really lucky.

These neutral, I really think neutral sites would really help in women's basketball because every year I was at Missouri State, we were going to people's home courts. The only time that we didn't do that, I can't even remember, when I was at Albany, we got a neutral site -- I can't even remember where it was. But that's really helpful, because if you went to South Carolina, if you go to Iowa State -- I definitely didn't want to go to Iowa State. I coached Iowa State for years. I didn't want to go there. The home court advantage is big time for anybody. And obviously they earned that right.

But moving forward, you're asking, I think it's going to really help having Diamond back next year for sure. And we've got a lot of people in that locker room that are going to be really hungry and ready to go. We signed some really good players too coming in. And we've got some really good bigs coming in. Obviously we're going to kind of wait on the portal a little bit, maybe get some good transfers and hopefully they watched.

Q. At what point during maybe the course of the game, you and your coaching staff started to recognize that what you were doing was, at least your defense, what it was doing was really frustrating them and giving them fits?
COACH ABRAHAMSON-HENDERSON: The start of the game, at the very beginning of the game. And to play against us, you've got to have veterans to know how to play against us. You can't mimic what we do in practice. I say that all the time.

Even in our league, you've got to -- a day's not going to cut it. So I felt it right at the beginning. I felt like our defense was good. Our press -- we didn't get a lot of traps, but it still kind of slowed them down a little bit. And I just knew right away, I kept saying in timeouts, we're not going away, we're going to keep playing and doing what we're doing. And we're right where we need to be, except in that run where they got those 12 points, and then we kind of came back again.

Q. The other question would be, all season long your team hadn't had any sort of foul trouble and then the two games in this tournament. And how much did that somewhat change your game plan? And then also the perseverance for your ladies being able to fight through that and still be where you were at?
COACH ABRAHAMSON-HENDERSON: I'm not going to get in trouble, but I don't understand why two of the referees have never done either of our leagues, either. Not in Big East. Not in our league, two of them. I'm confused about that. That probably didn't help either of our teams.

Because no matter what anybody says, we both play physical. South Carolina plays physical. Iowa State plays physical. Any good team is going to play physical. And so you need to have all the cards right and all the people -- I think there's one official does both of our leagues, she definitely does one. So she knows how we play, know how we play. You know what I'm saying? I think it was like, whew -- his whole team was in foul trouble too. In the NCAA Tournament you don't want to see all the best players sitting on the bench. I'll probably get in trouble for saying that.

But both teams were in foul trouble, both. It wasn't just us. I'm just glad that we found a way to persevere. And obviously he found a way to persevere through that, too, because that's hard. That's hard.

I thought Neila did a good job for her -- I don't know how many minutes she played, came in and played, and had to fight through that, too. But I don't know if I answered your question, did I? Fight through. Playing with some fouls. Dest had four, Mass had four. Lish fouled out. Lish never fouls out. Oh, my gosh.

Q. On a scale of 1 to 10, without you saying it, I'm going to say it, it seemed like UConn was doing, as I stated before, good flop acting. On a scale of 1 to 10 how frustrating was it to see fouls that maybe you didn't think you should have received on your team?
COACH ABRAHAMSON-HENDERSON: I always think that when it gets to this level, and you say it in the NBA and all this stuff, too, like you want to see the best players out there and compete against each other. I didn't feel like either team had that opportunity to do that. You know what I mean?

Their best players were sitting, too, and so were ours. But we all came through it. I always tell our players, you've got to play through it. You've got to play through it. And then you've got to adjust. You definitely have to adjust. Both teams had to figure out a way to adjust.

And good teams can kind of play through that. And I thought Mass did a good job of playing through that because she had a bunch. And Lish is probably shocked because the kid never fouls out ever in her life.

So I just think we just had to weather the storm pretty much through the rest of the game.