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April 6, 2015
THE MODERATOR:Â We're joined by Notre Dame.Â Joining us from Notre Dame we have head coach Muffet McGraw and the five student‑athlete starters, Brianna Turner, Taya Reimer, Lindsay Allen, Michaela Mabrey and Jewell Loyd.
Q.Â Coach, is this year more special in a sense they're all special making the Final Four and championship, but because you guys were not expected to be here maybe as in past seasons?
COACH MCGRAW:Â This one is definitely different.Â I think when we started the season and looked at what we lost last year and were wondering where all the offense is going to come from, to say that we've come a long way, I think it's a little bit of an understatement.
I'm just proud of where we've gotten to and how this team has just been resilient and continued to pursue their goals this year.
Q.Â Can you just give us a quick thought about how long you are still living off of what happened last night, how long it took you to come back to earth after the way that game ended?
JEWELL LOYD:Â We're still talking about that on the ride over here.Â Just everything that kind of went into that game and the emotions and everything.
So I think that's a game you actually can't forget.Â Great game for women's basketball and we're all excited how we played and how we fought back.
TAYA REIMER:Â I mean, yeah, same thing as what Jewell said.Â We were still talking about everything just on the way over here and there were a lot of emotions in that game and it was a great game.Â It was a battle, and I think at this point now we're trying to come down from that and focus on what we need to do now.
LINDSAY ALLEN:Â Like Taya and Jewell just said, a lot of emotions and a lot of highs and a lot of lows in that game.Â Just very proud of how this team responded and how we stayed tough throughout the game.
Q.Â Coach, Breanna Stewart is a great challenge.Â How do you plan on defending her?
COACH MCGRAW:Â Well, she is a difficult matchup because of her size and her ability to play on the perimeter and on the inside.Â So we've got a couple of ideas that we're going to try.
I don't think anybody's been very successful with her this year.Â She didn't have a great game against us last time, but I would say that was more her than our defense.
Q.Â Probably not by you guys, because she had such a good game against you guys last time, but Morgan Tuck had another big game last night.Â Is she somehow ‑‑ which would seem kind of impossible for you, but is she somehow overlooked on that team?
COACH MCGRAW:Â I was asked that the other day in the conference.Â It's disappointing that the media decides ahead of the season who the best players are going to be.Â Because I think she's their second best player.Â I thought the game that we had with them she was the best player on their team.Â She really did so many great things.Â She's incredibly overlooked on that team.
Q.Â For any of the players who haven't played UConn, how much do you enjoy playing them or do you not enjoy playing them and why?
JEWELL LOYD:Â I like playing UConn.Â It's definitely a learning experience.Â Winning and losing against them, whatever it is, you learn so much and it really‑‑ I think it's good.Â Every time we've played them, it's always been a good battle.Â That's what you want for women's sports.
Q.Â Coach, what impresses you the most about Morgan Tuck of all her abilities?
COACH MCGRAW:Â You know, I think it's her versatility.Â Because she can go inside and out.Â She's really worked on her perimeter game.Â She's tough to defend around the basket.Â But you've got to guard her at the 3‑point line.
But they have so many weapons you want to try to find somebody that you don't have to guard, and she would be the wrong choice if you decided not to guard her.
Q.Â Coach, can you talk about growing this team, especially since the UConn game and just what have you done to replace the All‑Americans you lost and get them back to the Final Four?
COACH MCGRAW:Â I think we've had two big areas of growth.Â The first would be in our leadership.Â I think that Jewell has really done a great job of taking over a lot of the leadership.Â And I think Lindsay Allen has really grown as a point guard who is much more vocal this year than she was in the past.Â She's really done a good job of talking to the team.Â And I think Jewell has taken the time, when we needed somebody to kind of rally us, she's gotten them all together.
And I think the second area is Taya and her leadership with the post.Â She's become a mentor to the post.Â She's only a sophomore and we're expecting so much from her.Â And she just continues to deliver.Â She's been our steadiest player all year long, and I think it's because of her that our whole post game has really improved.
Q.Â Michaela, you played UConn a lot.Â And your impressions of the last game that you played back in December, and also to Bri, you didn't play in that game but you were on the bench, and tell me what you saw from that game?
MICHAELA MABREY:Â Well, we're definitely able to compete with them.Â And I mean able to compete with them.Â And tomorrow night, playing defense, definitely.
BRIANNA TURNER:Â I think I remember in the beginning of the first half I thought we played really well.Â I think that the second half I think we let players get off, especially Morgan Tuck.Â And in that game we weren't really focused on her, and she really made us pay for that.
But I think our offense kind of disintegrated and we're not playing well on offense, I don't think it translated well to our defense.Â So that's what I think about the game.
Q.Â Muffet, Brianna obviously didn't play in the first UConn game.Â How different is this team with her in the lineup?
COACH MCGRAW:Â She's our leading rebounder and one of our top three scorers.Â So I think she makes a difference in our team at the defensive end, with her rebounding, her presence of shot blocking and the way she can run the floor.Â I think that she adds a lot to our team.
I think that we are a much better team with her on the floor.
Q.Â Jewell, can you talk about embracing the challenge of leadership, what were the important lessons you had to learn and how do you think you've grown and developed into that role since the Connecticut game?
JEWELL LOYD:Â It makes it easy when you have great teammates and great coaches and everyone kind of believes in you.Â I've been learning from them as well.Â We've been learning from each other and it's easy when you have unselfish players that want to learn and are able to just help you out when you need it.
So I give credit to my teammates and coaches for that.
Q.Â Lindsay, this is an intense rivalry, maybe the most intense in the women's game.Â When you're on the court, how much talking is there between the two teams?
LINDSAY ALLEN:Â There isn't much talking.Â We both have tremendous respect for each of our programs.Â And they don't talk much and we don't talk much and we just go out there, let the game speak for itself.
Q.Â Muffet, does it feel good that a player like Madison Cable, who has contributed a lot over these four years without getting big numbers, a lot of recognition, now is part of Notre Dame legend forever?
COACH MCGRAW:Â I thought the greatest thing about the game last night was that the two people that really were stars for us down the stretch were Madison and Hannah, and two that have come off the bench all year and given us a great lift, brought a lot of energy, did so many great things.
So I think for them to have that feel‑good moment, I don't think any of us up here could be happier for them.
Q.Â Jewell, you and Brianna are generally considered right now the two best players in the game.Â Do you feel any individual rivalry with her, even though your games are different and your positions are different?
JEWELL LOYD:Â Not at all.Â Like you said, our positions are different.Â I have a lot of respect for her.Â We're friends off the court.Â It's not about a one‑on‑one matchup.Â It's about team basketball.Â It's Notre Dame versus UConn.
Q.Â Taya, can you talk about having to be a mentor and a leader of a sophomore for two freshmen posts and what has helped you develop yourself and them to become a Final Four team?
TAYA REIMER:Â I think I was lucky to have two amazing senior leaders last year like Ace and Ariel, and I learned so much from them.Â And I think being in the experience that I was in last season, playing in the Final Four and having to contribute as a freshman, I think that I learned a lot from that.
And I was kind of forced to grow up, and I think that I really tried to embrace that role.Â Even though I'm still really young, just being able to use those experiences and help them out, Bri and Kathryn, it's just something that I've had to do for the betterment of the team.Â And I'm just happy that I can help them out any way that I can.
Q.Â Jewell, how much has last year's loss in this spot to UConn provided motivation for this team and is there a sense of unfinished business going into tomorrow night's game?
JEWELL LOYD:Â Anytime you lose in a game you're always motivated to win and try to figure out what steps you need to take to finish the goal.Â But that's last year.Â It's a whole different season, different team.Â We're just really lucky and blessed to have the opportunity that we have to fight for another National Championship.
Q.Â Brianna and Lindsay, can you explain the emotions of walking off the court after fouling out and watching what transpired the last couple minutes of the game when you can't do anything about it?
LINDSAY ALLEN:Â There's just a range of emotions, a lot of highs, lot of lows, and I think we were both pretty disappointed when we fouled out.Â The call could have gone either way.Â We were just really disappointed, but our teammates kept telling us they believed in us, they were fine, they were going to close the deal for us.
We have really unselfish and passionate teammates and eases the nervousness that much more.Â We're fortunate to be in the position we are in.
BRIANNA TURNER:Â I agree with what L.A. said.Â Our teammates just fought out there, like we'll get you to the Tuesday game.Â They were so encouraging.Â On the bench I was cheering so loud for Madi and Huff.Â It was good.
Q.Â You've played them so many times.Â When you're scouting and evaluating them, is it different than another opponent because you have so much familiarity with them?Â And if it is different, specifically how is it different?
COACH MCGRAW:Â I think it's a little different just in that we don't have to worry about learning the numbers and the names.Â We know them so well and I think our offenses are pretty similar so we run a lot of the same stuff.Â So it does make it easier to understand the scouting report.
At the same time it doesn't make the game easier, but the familiarity, I think, helps us in a lot of ways.Â I don't think we have the intimidation a lot of teams face when they play UConn.
Q.Â Lindsay, after the weekend you had last week in Oklahoma City, how did you get through the frustration?Â Looked like everything was ‑‑ just nothing flowed last night.Â How hard was it to just try to get in the flow of the game?
LINDSAY ALLEN:Â I think it was really tough.Â I think South Carolina did a great job of making us uncomfortable and not letting us get into our offense and get into the flow of the game.
But I just put trust in my teammates.Â They kept believing in me no matter what happened.Â When I fouled out, they just told me everything is going to be fine and we're going to get the win.
And I'm blessed and fortunate to be able to make it to the National Championship.
Q.Â Brianna, I know it was an early season game against UConn, but how difficult was it for you to miss that game and how excited are you to play against them tomorrow night?
BRIANNA TURNER:Â It was definitely difficult to miss that game, and along with the other two games missing my team.Â I'm excited to be out there tomorrow night and be out there with my teammates as well.
Q.Â Jewell, the runs in last night's game with your game, UConn has their runs.Â How do you avoid that when UConn might be up against team 10 where it tilts to 20 or goes back the other way, how do you prevent those runs?
JEWELL LOYD:Â Basketball is a game of runs.Â Comes down to who wants it more.Â The 50/50 balls, rebounding, I'm playing with passion, and that's what you're going to see tomorrow night.
Q.Â Coach, can you elaborate a little bit how you grow leaders?Â Is it within them, you wait and see it emerge, or do you do things to speed up the process?
COACH MCGRAW:Â I think it's a little bit of both.Â I definitely think there's leadership traits that some players have that others don't have as much.Â I think the willingness to put yourself out there, to be vocal, to say what needs to be said, not just to go with the popular opinion.Â Sometimes people really need to hear an honest answer.
And we do a lot of things.Â We have a great leadership workshop at Notre Dame, Rosenthal Leadership Academy, that our players go through separate from basketball that a lot of our student‑athletes do and we do a lot of things just to encourage the way they talk to each other and we listen really hard how they talk to each other and kind of give them some different scenarios of how that could have gone.
Q.Â Jewell, you weren't aware of it at the time during the game, I'm sure, Tom Cruise was in the house, the star of Mission Impossible.Â Do you think it was kind of appropriate the way the game ended last night?
JEWELL LOYD:Â Yeah, we didn't find out until after the game that he was there.Â Obviously having someone of that caliber at your game is pretty cool.Â That was a great ending to a really great game.Â So it was awesome.
Q.Â Muffet, throughout the season you're essentially the favorite in every game.Â This is one game where you'll be considered the underdog and a lot of people will pick your opposing team.Â What is it like to basically be a favorite, to be the team that everybody goes for, you're the biggest game for everybody all year, but in this game your team does sort of a reversal here?
COACH MCGRAW:Â I love being the underdog.Â Always have.Â I think it's a great position to be in.Â The pressure is not on us; it's on UConn.Â We can go out, relax, play our game.Â Nobody expects us to win, nobody's picked us to win.
So we can really have a very loose attitude going into the game in terms of being relaxed.
Q.Â (Off microphone)?
STUDENT-ATHLETE:Â We like to have fun.Â I think we play our best game when we're loose and we're smiling and just having fun.Â That's how you play when you're at the parks with your friends, you're smiling, enjoying the game, enjoying the moment.
We're definitely just excited to be here.
Q.Â Early this morning, Geno described himself as being nauseous playing against you guys Tuesday night because you're so hard to play against.Â How would you describe the way you feel?
COACH MCGRAW:Â I agree.Â We have so many similarities.Â We've played each other so much.Â And I think it's become such a great rivalry that it's a game that I really enjoy because it's the two best teams right now going at it and battling and they're a very difficult team to match up with.
They do present a lot of problems for us defensively.Â And you have to be able to withstand their runs and try to make some of your own.Â But overall I think it's a great game for women's basketball.
Q.Â Not to take away anything from defense because I think both these teams are very strong defensively, but is this game, being the championship game again and the fact that both of you guys have been in this position so much, really a sign of how great your offenses are in terms of execution, and is that something you feel like other teams really need to look to aspire to?
COACH MCGRAW:Â Yes, I agree with that.Â I think offensively we both generally are 1 and 2 in the country in field goal percentage.Â I think shot selection is a big factor with both of our teams.
The shots that we get are the shots that we get all year long that the same people are taking the same shots I think in every game.Â So I do, I think for us this team is a lot about offense.Â Because I don't know that you can stop them.
I think they're going to score.Â And so the question is can you keep up with them by scoring as much.
Q.Â You won the National Championship a while back.Â This will be four times in the title game in five years.Â You haven't won it again.Â Is it frustrating?Â Is there some feeling, well, I have won this or does it drive you crazy that I've been one game away three previous times and we weren't able to get over the hump?
COACH MCGRAW:Â You know, I think getting here is a great achievement for any program.Â I think that there's probably 350 schools in the country that would love to trade places with us.
So I think being here has been just a great achievement for all of us.Â I think probably because we did win one that maybe I don't feel that sort of pressure.Â But I want this for this team.Â I want to win for this team so they can have that feeling of looking up in the rafters and seeing another banner.
Q.Â You said how this group has relished the underdog and a loose team right now.Â How different is that from last year when it seems there was so much different mentality going into this game, the pressure of two undefeated and such, whereas now you're the underdog and just the difference last year and this year?
COACH MCGRAW:Â Last year was a business‑like approach.Â We had a really good team coming in undefeated, which was an amazing, amazing feat for us to accomplish.
We lost Natalie Achonwa so it immediately put us back in the underdog role.Â I think we came into the game with an underdog mentality.Â But I think that team was different because we were so experienced.Â We had so many players that could score.Â Kayla McBride has had so much success against Connecticut in the past.
I think it's a lot different in that way just because our experience last year and this year.Â We're still a little giddy.
Q.Â Have you gone through the last eight minutes of last night's game yet and figured out what went wrong at that time and how to fix that?
COACH MCGRAW:Â You know, honestly I thought we got really good shots.Â We missed a couple of point‑blank layups.Â We missed a couple of shots we normally make and we didn't rebound.Â I think it was a little bit of both ends.
When we were making our runs, we were holding them to one shot, scoring in transition.Â Then when we were missing shots and not getting rebounds, I think that was the difference in the game.Â So I still felt pretty good because execution‑wise I thought we were still getting the shots we wanted.Â Our problem at that point I thought was at the defensive end.
Q.Â You talked about not having the same intimidation factor.Â Is there any of that with Stewart also that she's not just a two‑time National Player of the Year, that they've been on the court with her?
COACH MCGRAW:Â No, because I think we've had that kind of player ourselves.Â I think we feel like Jewell was a Player of the Year also, and I think she's a great player.Â But I don't think that we have any intimidation factor going against us.
Q.Â Connecticut's in a position to win a tenth title.Â Is there some common denominator among these UConn teams that they're able to put themselves in this position?Â Are there two or three things they do consistently that allow them to be in this spot?
COACH MCGRAW:Â I think they have a great coach, and I think they have a lot of the best players in the country.Â So I would say there were two really good reasons for that.
Q.Â You played UConn so much.Â You've gone up against Geno so much.Â I'm sure this thing has evolved.Â You've been on top.Â He's been on top, all kinds of things happened.Â What are the myths and the realities of your relationship with him and all the times you guys have gone up against each other?
COACH MCGRAW:Â You know, we have a really good relationship.Â I think we see each other out recruiting.Â We talk on the road.Â I think he's the kind of guy that if you‑‑ if I wanted to talk offense and I called him, I think we would sit down and talk about offense, recruiting or really anything that we wanted to.
I think that both being from Philly, we just share some sort of a bond.Â Jim Foster is kind of best friends with both of us, and so we've got a lot of common threads running through our relationship.Â But I think a lot of respect on both sides.
Q.Â The offense that you run, how has it evolved?Â And who taught you?
COACH MCGRAW:Â Well, it's still evolving.Â We run the Princeton offense which Pete Carril started at Princeton and one of my former players, Liz Feeley, was the women's coach there at the time.Â So she did a lot of the work for me.
We went out to a lot of different people.Â We went up to Northwestern and Bill Carmody was an assistant with Pete Carril, so we watched his practice and talked to him a lot.Â UC Davis runs it.Â I sent my assistants out to different places.Â Went out to Air Force and Coach Scott was out there.
We've been to a lot of places to see people, and it constantly evolves because we have different players.Â This year we're still evolving.Â I don't think we've run it nearly as well as we have in the past.Â Natalie Achonwa was really special in that.Â We put our own wrinkles in to fit our team.
That's what I like the most about offenses, tinkering with it and changing it up to see what fits us.
Q.Â Did you catch yourselves last night after the game going back and saying all the things that have occurred this season and saying to yourself I still can't believe we've gotten this far with this young of a team?
COACH MCGRAW:Â Yeah, we had some really bad practices this year.Â And the coaches were kind of going:Â Remember that time at Mohegan Sun, it was the absolute worst practice of the year.Â Not just of the year but of my 30 years.Â We had some awful practices at times during the year.
And I remember telling the team we were pressing like an NIT team.Â And, I mean, we just had so much that we should have forgotten, but just drawing back on some of those things and we had some games, too, where we didn't play well.
But I think it's fun to look back now and say look where we've come.
Q.Â You've been around the game for a while, and for so long it used to be Old Dominion and Louisiana Tech, UConn and Tennessee, and now you guys and UConn.Â Is it nice for a sport that's still growing that the two teams that people really know more than anybody else are playing for a championship tomorrow night?
COACH MCGRAW:Â I think it's a rivalry people want to see.Â I think that it's two well‑known teams and the games ‑‑ we've had some good games in the past, so I think it's one that people want to tune into.
THE MODERATOR:Â Thank you, Coach.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports