Janiah McKay (above) is shown in the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
Auburn, Ala.--Katie Frerking said she believes a 15-day layoff between games will be beneficial for her Auburn team as the Tigers open play in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament on Friday.
“I think for us it is a good thing,” noted Frerking, Auburn’s top scorer, top rebounder and a member of the All-SEC Defensive Team. “We have people, myself included, who have played a lot of minutes this year.
“We are beat up, especially with the way we play. We play at such a high level of intensity that I think our bodies needed that rest. I think you are going to see a team that comes out with kind of a renewed level of energy.”
Katie Frerking is a second team All-SEC pick as a senior.
Auburn will take on North Carolina State in a game that will tip off at 11 a.m. CDT in Austin on the campus of the University of Texas. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
Asked if she believes the break is good for her team, Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said, “I don’t know. We had the same thing last year because we are one of the teams that finished extremely early in the (SEC) Tournament. It can go either way. I have seen it go either way when the team gets the rest it needs. For us with the way we play it gives us the rest we need, especially after a grueling SEC (schedule) you almost need the rest.
“I have seen it go the other way when you see at the start of the game you can tell they haven’t played in a while,” she added.
Auburn is an 11th seed as it makes a second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance and the 20th in school history. The Tigers have a 17-14 record while No. 6 seed North Carolina State is 22-8.
The Wolfpack is led in scoring by 5-8 senior guard Dominque Wilson, who is averaging 13.2 points per game. Another 5-8 senior guard, Miah Spencer, is averaging 12 points per contest.
Chelsea Nelson, a 6-2 junior foward, is averaging 11.1 points and leads the Wolfpack in rebounding with 6.4 per game.
Frerking, a 6-0 guard, leads Auburn in scoring at 15.9 points per game and rebounding at 6.4 per contest.
Senior guard Brandy Montgomery is averaging 13.7 points per game for the Tigers.
Williams-Flournoy’s squad struggled down the stretch and were a bubble team to make the NCAA Tournament this year after going in as a No. 8 seed a season earlier. “Our kids would have been very disappointed if had we not gone to the NCAA Tournament this year,” the coach said. “Now it becomes something we know we need to do every year.”
The Tigers looked to be headed for a five or six seed for the event midway through the SEC schedule, but slumped in February, winning just two of eight games.
“At this point, and I think Brandy (senior guard Brandy Montgomery) probably said it the best, you can’t go back and live in the past,” Williams-Flournoy declared. “We have got a new opportunity. This is a new season. We have to continue to do what we do and realize that it’s a whole new season right now.
“We can’t look at what happened before because then you start to question yourself and second-guess yourself,” the coach added. “This is a whole new season. It’s the NCAA Tournament. Everybody at this point is 0-0.”
The following are comments from Auburn players Brandy Montgomery, Katie Frerking and Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy from Thursday's NCAA press conference in Austin, Tex.
Q. Brandy, could you describe the defensive style of play that you guys have?
BRANDY MONTGOMERY: We like to pressure for 40 minutes, full-court press, all in people's face, trapping them, trying to get turnovers, to go in transition and score on the other end. We're relentless. We're not going to get out of it. It's what we do. That's how we play.
Q. Katie, you guys have come in here losing nine of your last 12; do you feel like you're coming in here with no momentum at all, or did the break after your conference tournament reenergize you guys?
KATIE FRERKING: Yeah, I think it does. It gives us time to rest, and actually gives us a lot of time to practice and kind of work on some of those things that I think a little bit contributed to those losses.
But I also think just making the tournament in and of itself and kind of getting that news is just kind of a little extra energy and motivation. But I mean, we're not thinking about those losses at this point. We're looking at this as kind of a whole new season, so we're ready.
Q. Brandy, I assume you guys have looked at some NC State tape; what are the challenges you think that you have when you see them?
BRANDY MONTGOMERY: I mean, we play in the SEC so it's really not nothing that we haven't seen before. They have scorers. They have an inside presence. We're just preparing as if how we've been preparing our whole season, especially during conference where there's threats on the outside, threats on the inside, but we're just going do what we do regardless.
Q. Will you guys have any time to look at the city, see the sights or do anything besides just play basketball for a weekend?
KATIE FRERKING: I don't know. I mean, right now we're just focused on our first game. That's kind of all we're thinking about right now. Hopefully if we can get a win, we'll see if we have some extra time, but we haven't really talked about that.
Q. Being an 11 seed suggests that you were one of the last teams in. Were you guys nervous about that, and what was that moment like?
BRANDY MONTGOMERY: I think, yeah, we were pretty nervous about it, sitting there waiting to see if our name would be called. But like you said, when you asked the question, does that give us momentum coming into the tournament, I think just us receiving another opportunity to get to the NCAA Tournament and play, I think that's a lot of motivation by itself. I know as soon as I saw our name up on the TV, me and Katie were like, oh, it's go time. We've got another chance to play and get in the tournament, so that's enough motivation by itself.
Q. Katie, I would ask you about the defensive style you guys play. One thing when you're in the SEC, maybe teams have seen you do it before. This is an opponent who may not have seen anything like that. How disruptive do you try to make it, and what do you hope to be able to do?
KATIE FRERKING: Yeah, I think that's kind of our goal every game is to just really take teams out of what they do. It's hard whether or not you've gone against this press before or not to play against this style for 40 minutes, because like Brandy said, we don't come out of it. That's what we do; that's who we are; that's all we know. So, I mean, we think it's an advantage, of course, when we are playing a team who we haven't played before and they haven't seen it, and so we're just going to use that to our advantage, and we think that's our biggest strength.
Q. What did you learn from being in the tournament last year that you guys can use and that you can tell the young ones that have never been to the tournament?
BRANDY MONTGOMERY: I mean, it's one-and-done, so you have to give all you've got for 40 minutes. You have to play hard. You have to play like you don't want to go home. And it's a big stage to play on, especially for those who may want to play on the next level. It's a chance for you to show who you are as a player, and a team. Just us having experience and talking to the younger girls, I think that helps them a lot just knowing that we've been here before, so I think that helps the team.
KATIE FRERKING: Yeah, and I think the biggest thing that those of us who were here last year can share with the younger kids is just that it's still just basketball. It's the NCAA Tournament. It's a lot of bright lights, you're on a big stage, but at the end of the day, you're just playing a basketball game, and when that game starts, it's 40 minutes of the same thing we've been doing all season.
Q. Katie, you guys are in a traditionally tough conference, Mississippi State, Tennessee, got you guys, Georgia. Does that toughen you up in a way where once the big dance starts that you guys have been through the fires and it's prepared you?
KATIE FRERKING: I mean, it does, yeah, absolutely. Playing in the SEC, you literally don't have an off-night. You're playing a good team, and I mean even the teams who are at the bottom of the conference are still great teams. So I think then when you come into the NCAA Tournament and you're playing the best of the best, I mean, we feel like we play the best of the best night in and night out in our conference.
I think it's a confidence thing, but I think it's also just feeling like we're really prepared for anything.
Q. Going back to when Coach first started recruiting you and you were part of one of the first classes, you've now started 216 combined games, scored almost 3,000 combined points. What was the buy-in like then to join the program and try to change where the program was at that stage to where it is now? Any interesting stories as far as that goes in?
BRANDY MONTGOMERY: I know personally Coach Flo really sold it to me as being her first recruiting class to set the foundation for Auburn and where she wants to take this program. You could have went to the schools that already have big names attached to that school, and I just wanted to come here and do exactly what we're doing, help change this program around and set the foundation and the culture of this program of being an NCAA team, and I think that's exactly what we did. We believed in her, we believed in the program, we believed in what she wanted to do, and that's really sold me to come to Auburn, and now I think it's expected.
KATIE FRERKING: Yeah, and I think it's interesting you use the word buy-in because that's what I think we've all done. We committed to Auburn, and when we committed to Coach Flo it was very clear to us that we committed to a program and we committed to a culture and a style of play, and we weren't going to come here and be a bunch of individual players. If you've watched us play at all, you know we don't have superstars, we don't have people going out and scoring 30 points a game, but we play together and we all contribute and we play our role and we do what we do, and I think that's why we're successful.
Q. How would you describe the defense you play and how disruptive it can be to your opponents?
TERRI WILLIAMS-FLOURNOY: Probably the word that you just said, disruptive. You know, it's disruptive. It's relentless. It's pressure, pressure, pressure, trap, trap, trap, and that's pretty much what we do. A lot of times people see it as just -- we just run around the floor trapping the ball. We actually have so many defensive goes out of our pressure defense, you know, whether it's a certain number that we want on the shot clock once a team comes over half court. It's not just the steals, it's not just forcing the turnovers. And then you look into the time and preparation that teams have to put in to prepare for us. The girls don't understand that, but as a coaching staff we understand that.
It's a lot -- we have a lot of defensive goes out of our pressure defense.
Q. Are there coaches that you studied earlier to pick up this style of play, people that influenced you?
TERRI WILLIAMS-FLOURNOY: Yeah, I actually started coaching at Georgetown, so watching John Thompson, Jr., and the pressure that he applied to teams and the way he just wreaked havoc, as well as the coach at Arkansas. Actually it's funny, I just watched this clip the other day of 40 Minutes of Hell, you know, just watching that type of defense, and it's always been a way that I wanted to play. When I first got my first head coaching job, I couldn't play that way. You kind of have to go with what you have. But then into my head coaching job at Georgetown, we changed probably going into my fifth year. It was just like, this just isn't working. I'm trying to teach a 2-3 zone; I'm reading books on 2-3 Zone For Dummies. It just wasn't something that I was used to doing.
At the end of the day, you say, you know what, just go with what you know, and we had our kids to buy into it. And for young kids, once they see success, then it becomes a little easier because it's tough, we practice hard, just like Katie and Brandy said, we practice hard. It's a lot of conditioning involved in it. So it's really something that not only do you have to buy into, you have to believe it, as well.
Q. Coach, you guys have lost nine out of 12; do you worry that your team is coming in here completely with no momentum, or did the last 10 days of having a break do something for you?
TERRI WILLIAMS-FLOURNOY: You know, I think we look at those losses, and it wasn't really anything that was bad. You know, we just -- a lot of times we couldn't score, but we're still doing everything that we needed to do. The majority of those games I believe we lost by six points or less, so it's like we're right there.
At this point, and I think Brandy probably said it the best, you can't go back and live in the past. We've got a new opportunity. This is a new season. We have to continue to do what we do and realize that it's a whole new season right now. We can't look at what happened before because then you start to question yourself and second-guess yourself. This is a whole new season. It's the NCAA Tournament. Everybody at this point is 0-0.
Q. I know a lot of coaches at this stage kind of turn inwardly to make sure that they have their base and their fundamentals all squared away. You do have four common opponents over the course of the year with K-State and Tulane and Indiana and Virginia Tech. Have you spent a lot of time, a little time on comparing your games with those teams versus NC State's games with those teams?
TERRI WILLIAMS-FLOURNOY: Not really. I mean, I think we're two very different teams, so it would be crazy to compare my team to an NC State team when we're two very different teams. We've watched those games, but I think you really look more at what you've done lately, especially in the ACC. We've watched them. We've taken note. But I wouldn't say that it's a huge comparison to see what they did versus what we did.
Q. Is there a team that NC State emulates in the SEC from what you've seen?
TERRI WILLIAMS-FLOURNOY: I think they're a little mixture of both. Their defense reminds us a lot of Missouri. It's very much scout report oriented as well as very good shooters. I mean, you can put five scorers on the floor at any time, and then the athleticism compares to a lot of teams in the SEC. So it's kind of -- I can't say it's really one opponent in particular. It's kind of a combination of some.
Q. Katie said that even the teams in the bottom of your conference are really good. Can you say how the SEC as a whole has prepared you for this tournament?
TERRI WILLIAMS-FLOURNOY: Oh, yeah. I mean, it'll be a fight to the end because I think the SEC is one of the best conferences in the country. I think we're the top. It's 14 teams, and from top to bottom on any given night, anybody can be beat, and especially when you talk about going and playing on the road. It's one of the toughest conferences that we're in, and that's really why we get so many teams into the NCAA Tournament, because it's a very tough conference, and we've got really, really good players. When we're trying to choose the top players at the end of the season, it's tough because it's a lot of players to choose from. You're trying to just pick -- I think it's eight on the first and eight on the second. That's really not enough for the number of players that we have in this conference.
Q. You mentioned Nolan and 40 Minutes of Hell. Seems like back at that time a lot of teams played that style and not so many anymore. Do you know why? Do you ever discuss that with coaches?
TERRI WILLIAMS-FLOURNOY: I haven't really. I think it's a type of mindset. You've got to get tough kids. You've got to get tough players. I think the game has changed to allow us to play the way both Coach Richardson and Coach Thompson were allowed to play back then. There wasn't as many fouls called back then as there are now. So a lot of teams probably see that, as well.
Q. Is it tougher on the road? Nolan used to sometimes stop pressing on the road because you do get more fouls --
TERRI WILLIAMS-FLOURNOY: No, we get called fouls at home, so no, it doesn't really matter. No, we're never going to stop doing what we're doing, no matter whether it's home, on the road, neutral site. We do what we do.
Q. Just talk about the three seniors that really made up your first full recruiting class and what they've meant to the foundation of the program.
TERRI WILLIAMS-FLOURNOY: Yeah, both K.T., as we call it, because we have a K.D., also, and then Brandy, they've just been three seniors that came into a program that wasn't that great when they decided to come here. But they bought into how we wanted to play. They bought into the future of our program. They bought into understanding the culture that needed to be changed and the work ethic that needed to be done to get to that level that we wanted to be, which is right here playing in the NCAA Tournament, and for them to go back to back, it really speaks to them as leaders and as players and understanding that not only did we do what we wanted, what we said we wanted to do, but we also brought some people along the way, as well.
Q. There's a player on your team who I think the previous coaching staff from NC State took at look at with Jessica Jones --
TERRI WILLIAMS-FLOURNOY: There's two of them. They're a set of twins.
Q. Focusing on just her specifically, you brought up fouls, NC State has a foul-prone player in Chelsea Nelson, and you clearly have a foul-prone player in Jones --
TERRI WILLIAMS-FLOURNOY: No (chuckling).
Q. First off, what kind of plays give her difficulty in terms of fouls? What is she not doing as well as what you would like, and then when she's off the floor, how does that change the way that you guys are able to play your defense?
TERRI WILLIAMS-FLOURNOY: I don't know if it's one play in particular that causes her to foul. Jess will foul any play. She's just that type of aggressive player.
Honestly, just to even have Jessica there, it's no big secret, we're not a huge team, so then when she does get in foul trouble, then her twin comes right back in, and her twin hacks, also, so between the both of them, they have 10 fouls to give, which is great when you think about how we play. It's not really any particular thing that she does to get in foul trouble, and then bringing Jaz in, her sister -- actually bringing Jaz in at the 5 actually makes it a little quicker and a little more athletic. They're twins, but they're very different in their play, different positions. We kind of ask Jaz to play backup at the 5, but she's really our 3 player.
Q. Flournoy is not a very common name --
TERRI WILLIAMS-FLOURNOY: And it's not spelled right, also.
Q. Are you related to Harry Flournoy in any way?
TERRI WILLIAMS-FLOURNOY: From the movie?
TERRI WILLIAMS-FLOURNOY: Yes, he's my cousin. No, I don't know. I tell everybody that. I don't know. First of all, let's start with this: I married into that name, okay. I am Williams, the first one. But it's not very common at all. I do think he's somewhere related down the line, but if you know my husband, he tells a lot of stories, so I can't really get the true story out of that. But it is a very uncommon name, and there's not many out there, and it's usually spelled know and we get Flourey, Fauntleroy one time, which is why I just go with Coach Flo.