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March 24, 2016

Tara VanDerveer

Karlie Samuelson

Erica McCall

Lili Thompson

Lexington, Kentucky

THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us for the press conference for the Stanford women's basketball team. I'm joined by head coach Tara VanDerveer.

Q. I'm just wondering, the way that South Dakota State game ended, winning the way you all did, what's it done for the attitude of this team? You actually saw your life flash before your eyes and you live to tell about it?
COACH VANDERVEER: Playing (with) house money. We know that very easily we could be home. We know that there are a lot of great teams that would be -- not only did obviously we came very close, but there are a lot of great teams that would give their eyetooth to be sitting up here and to be playing here. So we are very excited to be here and really looking forward to playing Notre Dame.

Q. What has changed or improved for the rest of the Pac-12 for there to be four teams in the conference in the Sweet 16?
COACH VANDERVEER: I think honestly that the Pac-12 this year, more than any year, it feels like it's not the four teams or the five teams that's were in the tournament, it's really the rest of the Pac-12 that is much, much stronger. There's not three or four teams here and then two or three teams down here. Every game was really a competitive game, I think as evidenced by Arizona State getting beaten by Cal at the Pac-12 Tournament. The close games that Washington State had or even for us playing Colorado at home is a tough game.

So I think it's really a deep conference from top to bottom, and I'm so excited that the teams -- we've had five teams win and four teams move on. Up until last night we were like 13-1 in all games, including WNIT games. But one of the things that I think precipitated a change I think is Pac-12 Network. That's a big game changer for us where more West Coast kids, even East Coast kids see the Pac-12. I think we have more games on than any other conference, and Pac-12 Network gives us great visibility. In the past maybe there's a couple games on and people didn't know about our teams or our players. But I think now they do. They get a chance to see not just the games, but they see the beautiful universities, the great academics, and it's just more visible.

Q. In general how do you think about the way you've played the first two rounds in this tournament and what are you going to need to do better to get past Notre Dame?
COACH VANDERVEER: I think we've been doing some really good things, but I really believe our best games are ahead. We will have to play better than we have played. We'll have to take care of the ball better against Notre Dame. I think we'll have to lock in defensively quicker against Notre Dame. We're going to need more and different people contributing. We've had different people play well for us all season long, but someone like Alanna Smith I think will have to step up. Marta (Sniezek) had a really good game against USF. But we're counting on some young players and we're going to need them to step up. But we're confident that they can. Brittany McPhee, Kailee Johnson, different players just coming out and really working hard and knocking down shots. I think the big part of being successful against Notre Dame is defending, obviously rebounding, taking care of the ball, and you have to knock down open shots.

I think one other thing in answer to your other question, the kind of survive and move on, that was a great -- our game was a great example of that. We very easily could be at home, but our team demonstrated, I think, some really great grit and resilience, and we got down and didn't give up. People just had a lot of confidence and kept making big plays.

Q. What did you learn from last year's game with Notre Dame specifically in terms of how to handle Lindsay Allen? She obviously had a big game against y'all last year. What did you learn about playing Notre Dame and what is it about her specifically that's tough to defend?
COACH VANDERVEER: I think Notre Dame is an excellent team, and it starts at the top. Muffet (McGraw) does an exceptional job. She is an outstanding coach. Her staff, everything. They just work extremely hard. I think their team is an extremely skilled team. Lindsay Allen is -- I don't know that there's really very many point guards that are better than her. She scores when they need her to score. She passes. She's a floor leader. She defends. And at every position I think they have real quality skilled players. They play very well together. You can see that they're very well -- they come down and play with a purpose and they're an excellent team just through and through.

What did we learn? We knew that last year, but we saw it firsthand. You have to match their -- you have to be aggressive. You have to match their efficiency. They're an extremely efficient team. If you turn the ball over, if you take bad shots, which we did a little bit of both, I think you have to kind of really plan. You have to really defend people really well, try to take away their favorite things. But you can't take away everything because they have a lot of weapons inside and out.

I'm really glad we did play them last year because that helps our team in terms of familiarity, and it might help them, too, so hope for a better game.

Q. To follow up on that, what is different in the Bri(anna) Turner that you see on film now compared to the freshman that you faced?
COACH VANDERVEER: She's kind of the anchor to their team. When you have that kind of -- we've had it, and I love it. Jayne Appel, Nnemkadi Ogwumike, and it goes back to Val Whiting. When you have that go-to player on the block that can basically score one-on-one, that kind of sets the table for everything else that you can do. So then that opens things up for a (Madison) Cable or (Marina) Mabrey or that opens up things for Lindsay Allen. But she scores, she passes. She runs the floor really well. She has great hands. She's just a more mature player. I think she does a lot of little things that maybe helps their team a lot. Her screening, just her -- they played really a great pace. They don't rush, but they're playing with really good pace.

I mean, she's -- I don't think there is any doubt she's All-American. She's an All-American player because she's shoots a great percentage, touches the ball, takes care of the ball, rebounds, blocks shots, does it all.

Q. Coach, Erica McCall, one of the nation's leaders in double-doubles. What makes her so effective around the basket?
COACH VANDERVEER: If I were to look through women's basketball, if there was a Most Improved Player award it would go to Erica McCall. She has taken her game -- as a freshman she played behind maybe Chiney and didn't play that much, but her scoring, her rebounding, she has improved so much. Obviously we love it. But her 3-point shot, her rebounding, and I think mostly her scoring. She's working on improving her passing and just her understanding of the game. But her development has been probably maybe the highest correlation between her development and our success. She has improved just tremendously. She then allows other people like Karlie Samuelson to get good shots because she finishes so well.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us for the press conference for the Stanford women's basketball team. We're joined by Erica McCall, Karlie Samuelson and Lili Thompson.

Q. Lili, the last few days after the South Dakota State game, what was it like for you in terms of phone messages or anything that stuck out or anything you heard from fans or former players or anything like that?
LILI THOMPSON: Yeah, in terms of my family contacting me, that always happens. Everybody tells you good job or next time you'll get them. But in terms of fans, got a lot of followers, so that's on awesome. And former players like Chiney, obviously who watched the game, just saying great job, keep playing. So it was pretty cool. Just glad we're still playing. I'm going to say I got like maybe 100 to 200 more followers.

Q. Stanford is second in the nation in field-goal percentage defense. What makes you so efficient on defense if you each could answer that?
Lili Thompson: A lot of blocks. I mean, she's a great paint presence, so I think that deters people from going too deep into the paint, and the guards try to do our job on the perimeter.

And we have a great counter for it. Every game, Tempie (Brown) and Kate (Paye) and Tara and Amy (Tucker) all come up with great plans on how we're going to defend each team. And I think our team is great at executing our defensive plan. It really helps us.

Q. Lili, what do you remember about last year's game with Notre Dame and how eager are you to kind of have a rematch to get another chance after what happened last season, or was that in your mind at all?
LILI THOMPSON: Not really looking at it so much as a rematch. Both teams are very different. Both teams have had different years this year. We want to continue playing and go far in this tournament. While obviously it's the same teams as last year, I think both teams are in a different spot, so it will be about this game right here.

Q. For the first time in 13 years Stanford is without any seniors in the starting lineup. I know each of you are juniors. Do you feel any responsibility to step up regarding leadership?
Karlie Samuelson: Yeah, I mean, I think we're a big part of the team as far as who is starting right now. But I think we take that challenge. I don't see us as being young. We're still upperclassmen. I think we do a good job of that, and we're excited for the next game, but we know we have another year left, but we're seen as the leaders of the team so we've got to step up.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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