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March 24, 2017

Erica McCall

Karlie Samuelson

Tara VanDerveer

Lexington, Kentucky

Stanford 77, Texas 66

THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us for the press conference for the Stanford women's basketball team. We're joined by Tara VanDerveer and student-athletes Erica McCall and Karlie Samuelson. We'll begin with an opening statement from the head coach.

TARA VANDERVEER: We're really excited to be playing in the Sunday championship game. I'm really proud of our team's second half effort. First, I want to congratulate Texas on a great game and a great season, and just an awesome job that Karen (Aston) is doing with her team.

We really had to battle, and I'm really proud of the two young women next to me and everyone in the locker room. Our staff did a great job scouting, working really hard to get ready for Texas and we are absolutely thrilled to be playing Notre Dame on Sunday.

THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up with questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Erica, 23 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists -- not a bad game. Do you feel that you saved your best games for the big stage?
ERICA McCALL: I certainly don't try to (laughter). It just happened to be this game. Me and Tara talked about how well I played last year. I just feel really comfortable in this gym. My teammates got me the ball, and I'm happy with how I finished down low.

Q. What was it like facing Joyner Holmes in this game? I mean, they obviously had Kelsey Lang had 12 rebounds, but what was it like specifically with Joyner Holmes?
ERICA McCALL: She's really fast, aggressive. She's really impressive how she's playing as a freshman. We knew it was going to be a battle, and we knew we had to get her on the boards and box her out, because she was going to be a beast on the boards. We knew, if we did that job, it was going to be easier for us to push the ball in and make shots.

Q. Karlie, Coach Aston was saying that your team's quick start in the second half really kind of rattled their players. And those two threes you hit obviously were a big part of that. Did you have any difference in mindset? What got you going in the second half? Was it just you hit your shots and simple as that? What was it like for you?
KARLIE SAMUELSON: I think we talked about coming out with more energy in the second half. In the second quarter, our energy was a little bit low. Coach Kate tells me to keep shooting no matter what. But threes get people going. Brit (McPhee) hit one right after, and that was a good six-point play we had.

Q. Erica, second time so far this tournament you guys have erased a seven-point deficit at the half. What does that do confidence-wise knowing that this team is never out of it?
ERICA McCALL: That just shows our heart. I definitely feel confident going into the next game knowing that we're just a fighting team. No matter how far down we get, we're going to come back and fight with every rebound, every shot.

I was really proud of how we performed. Definitely going to give us a big boost going into the next game.

Q. For both players, obviously, you beat Notre Dame here last year. You're going to get another shot at them. They're obviously going to be out for revenge. How exciting is it or how strange is it for you two to be going back into the same place against the same opponent in almost identical circumstances as last year except that this is the finals rather than the semifinals?
KARLIE SAMUELSON: I think it's exciting. We're here in Lexington again, playing Notre Dame. It is the next game this time, so it is a little bit different. But we're excited. They're a great team. I think it's going to be a really good game.

ERICA McCALL: I think it's going to be a lot of fun. I think they have really great players that we can match up well with. It's going to be fun, and I'm really excited.

THE MODERATOR: Any other questions for the student-athletes? If not, then they can be dismissed. Thank you.

We'll open it up with questions for the head coach.

Q. Following up on what you said earlier about their second-half fight, what things did you talk to them about at halftime? Particularly with that second quarter, where they went ahead and seemed to have the momentum at that point.
TARA VANDERVEER: I don't know that it's anything that I'm telling them at halftime, to be honest with you. I think you have great senior leaders with Karlie Samuelson, Bri Roberson and Erica McCall. This is a team that really is a very close team and they want to keep playing together. They know that there was 20 minutes they had to play better to keep playing because that's the only way you keep playing.

Obviously, hitting those two threes at the beginning of the second half helped a lot because then it erased the lead. But we have been down -- we've been down 18 and come back, and our team really has confidence in their ability. I feel like we are a second-half team, and we played a lot better in the second half, moved the ball better. You know, we were able to get a lot of different people in and try to keep people fresh, and I think that's going to be real key for us on Sunday.

Q. Tara, Karen was saying that she thought your team just executed better, and part of that was just because of better, more experience. Would you see it that way too?
TARA VANDERVEER: Well, I think that they have -- I think they have some real experienced players too. I think that our team buys in to what we have said. These are the things we're looking for, and they don't go rogue. They don't just go do their own thing.

I think that we really ask our team to focus and execute, and I think this team is executing really well, but a lot of it is people are willing to do the dirty work. Somebody like Kaylee (Johnson) is setting great screens, or someone like Marta (Sniezek) is very unselfish making passes and getting assists.

Just the leadership on this team, the cohesiveness is why we're in the position we're in as far as I'm concerned.

Q. Tara, can you talk a little bit about the job Briana Roberson did on Brooke McCarty. It was, I guess, partly Marta Sniezek too.
TARA VANDERVEER: It was both Marta and Bri. Brooke is a terrific player. She's a leading scorer. You cannot leave her open for threes. How many did she get? She got one off, but she did not score a lot of threes on us. People worked very hard on her.

Other people -- you know, we played against such great players in our conference, Kelsey Plum, Jordin Canada. I think this gave our team confidence. Bri hangs her hat on her defense, and she really worked it, and Marta knows we need her to play defense too, and she really stepped up tonight.

I think Brooke is a tremendous player. So we knew we had to work hard on her.

Q. Coach, there was a stretch late in the fourth quarter where they had gotten within four, and then you all started a parade to the foul line. I think you made 7 of 8 at one stretch. How did you tell them to really kind of attack? What kind of vulnerability did you see with Texas inside where you can attack them and draw those fouls, even if they don't make the basket?
TARA VANDERVEER: I think that that is something that we identified, spreading out and looking to take people off the dribble a little bit. But they're a very, very good defensive team. I think that we tried to get out in transition. I thought we ran some good sets. I thought Bri's three was one of the biggest baskets of the game, and I think that's when it was a four-point game. Bri hit that three and put it up to seven. You can double-check that.

But we need people -- Marta had some good looks. We need more contributions defensively, and I thought we got some from -- obviously, Bird (Erica McCall) played well, Brit, and Alanna (Smith), and that spurt we got going with other people. And we rebounded well. We didn't give them second shots.

Q. Just your memories of last year's game with Notre Dame and how big of a victory that was for your squad.
TARA VANDERVEER: You know, it was a big victory. We were the four seed, and they were the one seed, and they have a terrific team. I was just feeling, just coming in here, I think the fact that we played the late game and it was so emotional -- I think our team felt so high that we had a hard time turning it around.

We're excited, obviously, that we beat Texas, and we're excited to be playing on Sunday, but we know the big game is on Sunday, and I know that our team will be ready.

It's kind of the rubber match. We beat them last year. They beat us the year before. I'm a bridge player, so here we go. A bad bridge player. A bad one.

Q. Is it kind of crazy it's in the same place? I know it's a different round, but the same place, same court?
TARA VANDERVEER: You know, I think that -- I don't try to second-guess kind of where we're playing or what we're playing. I'm excited to be playing on Sunday. Would we rather be playing them in Stockton? Probably, with our fans there. But I'm excited to be playing, and we're looking forward to the game.

We want to play better than we did tonight. I know our team is extremely motivated, as their team will be. We will have to play very well.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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