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March 26, 2017
Stanford 76, Notre Dame 75
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us for the press conference for the Stanford women's basketball team. We're joined at the podium by head coach Tara VanDerveer and student-athletes Erica McCall, Karlie Samuelson, Brittany McPhee, and Alanna Smith. We'll begin with an opening statement from the head coach.
TARA VANDERVEER: I am so excited that this team battled in the second half and came back. We're so excited to go to Dallas.
First, I wanted to congratulate Notre Dame. They're an excellent team. Obviously, it was a really tough, tough game, a really well-fought game.
I thought our second half -- at halftime, we tried to make some little adjustments, give some people ideas. But really the leadership of our seniors, Bird (McCall) talking, "Stay with it!" I kind of used the analogy a little bit, we're in Kentucky, and this is horse-racing country. What Kentucky Derby winner starts out and goes pole to pole?
It took us a while to get going, but then when we got going, we were charging down that stretch and came across that finish line. Great plays by Karlie knocking down shots. Huge second half defensively and offensively by Brit. Bird rebounding, staying in there and battling. I thought we made some really tough shots. When we needed our defense to step up, we stepped up really well.
These four women, plus I thought Marta (Sniezek) did a really nice job and stayed with things. They're an excellent team and we have to play really well, and we did. So we're going to Dallas.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions for the student-athletes.
Q. There was a moment in the third quarter where you seemed to be almost begging Marta to push the ball up the court, to push, push, push. There was still 16, 17 minutes left at that point. How much did it feel like a race against time at that point?
KARLIE SAMUELSON: I think just pushing on them, being aggressive was what we wanted to do. Push them back on their heels. They were up coming into the second half. I was just trying to get the pace going, and she did a really good job.
Q. Brit, the change in defense on you with Ogunbowale, I know you went against her pretty much the entire game, but what did you do differently in the second half to shut her down?
BRITTANY McPHEE: I think I'm not used to guarding someone who can take it in transition like that. At the beginning, she was getting easy buckets coming down because I was late and looking at other shooters. I think finding her and sticking with her the whole time was helpful.
Q. Bird, can you describe what was going on in the last 2.3 seconds and how you got the block on Arike?
ERICA McCALL: A lot of prayers. I was talking to God the whole time. "Please don't let her make this shot!" She came out and I was like, oh, my goodness, she's about to get the shot up. She took a dribble, and I'm like I'm going for it, whether I got the foul or not. I got a nice clean block off of it. We got the win. Whew, so I'm excited.
Q. Her getting the ball in that situation? It looked like she's their big gun, obviously.
ERICA McCALL: Oh, yeah, we knew she was going to get it. We prepared for it. Brit covered out, and we just had to help her out on the shot. So we got that blocked shot and got the win.
Q. What did Tara say during that timeout? There were two timeouts. One was a 30-second. Do you remember specifically what the instructions were?
ERICA McCALL: Each of us had a specific assignment on each person, like no threes, no fouls, don't let the ball go in. Me, it was just make sure my player doesn't get the ball. Just really chased out and just it really showed itself out.
Q. Brittany, I guess considering how the team shot in the second quarter, did it kind of surprise you, or maybe do you think that was why Notre Dame kind of let off on you and maybe some of the other shooters in the third quarter when you all got it going?
BRITTANY McPHEE: Yeah, it was a little bit different. We thought they were just going to come out in the triangle-and-2 again. The biggest thing about the second quarter is Karlie wasn't out there. She really draws a lot of attention. When she was back in, I had a little more space to attack.
Q. We expected what we saw from the three ladies next to you, but you were a very key ingredient, Alanna, at the end. Can you talk about your game in the second half?
ALANNA SMITH: Yeah, I was just trying to play my part, play my role on the court. And whether that's playing good defense and helping up or staying on a shootout or posting up big and taking an open shot, then that's what I'll do. I'll play my role.
I think that pass from Marta was very smart. I had a huge height advantage inside, and I was able to get it. I think that was a really good play for us.
Q. For Karlie and Erica, how does it feel to be going back to the Final Four? First time since 2014. What are your thoughts and emotions? What are you going to tell your teammates about it?
KARLIE SAMUELSON: Going our freshman year was pretty amazing. I thought about that since then. I thought about it my sophomore year, junior year. We wanted to get it this year for sure.
I mean, after the game, I started crying, just the emotions. It's an amazing feeling to be back, and we're ready to play.
ERICA McCALL: Yeah, I've been trying to get back to the Final Four ever since my freshman year. One thing I really wanted to make the seniors we went with proud, Chiney (Ogwumike) and Mikaela (Ruef), and show them that the people you played with, trained us and brought us up. Hopefully, we're making them proud. It's a really exciting moment. I'm exciting I get to share with my teammates. It's just amazing.
Q. Karlie, your dad has put in a whole lot of frequent flyer miles. I guess he was saying earlier -- I don't think he's even really seen the inside of the hotel room. Obviously, with that finish, that rewarded him coming back. What were you kind of thinking there at halftime when you all were down?
I guess, how does it really feel to give him that kind of reward for him coming in here and sticking with it?
KARLIE SAMUELSON: I went to hug him after a little bit of celebration. He said I made him cry too. I'm just so thankful that he's coming out here and my mom is supporting me at home with the dogs and Bonnie.
Yeah, he hasn't slept. He went from my game to Lou's game to our game back to Lou's game. I'm just really thankful to have so much support from my family.
THE MODERATOR: Any other questions for the student-athletes?
Q. Are you folks all done with finals now?
ERICA McCALL: Yes.
BRITTANY McPHEE: Yes.
KARLIE SAMUELSON: Yes.
ALANNA SMITH: Yes.
Q. When was the last final?
BRITTANY McPHEE: Thursday night.
TARA VANDERVEER: Spring break.
THE MODERATOR: Any other questions for the student-athletes? If not, they can be dismissed. Thank you.
We'll open it up with questions for the head coach.
Q. Coach, elaborate on what turned the game around in the third quarter.
TARA VANDERVEER: You know, I just think that in the locker room -- you know, we've been down before. Our team just said, "We've been down more. We've come back. Just keep fighting, keep battling. Believe in yourself."
We had that great third quarter. We got right back in it. And one of the things our whole team -- like the whole bench was so excited -- screaming, cheering, running out on the floor to bring everybody in -- played with tremendous energy.
In the beginning, I don't think we played the defense that we needed to or wanted to, but I thought we played much better defense in the third quarter. I think that that really contributed too. And people knocked down some shots. They just said, heck, we don't want to go home. I think more than anything this is a group of people that really love playing with each other.
It's a long season, and you can always try to find a time to take a play off and people really stayed focused the whole game as much as they could.
Q. Tara, what was the strategy in the final 2.3 seconds? Obviously, you got a big block. Did anybody take her off the flare? What was her strategy?
TARA VANDERVEER: I think, first of all, Kate Paye scouted the team. She did a great job. She knew what they were running. We went over it with the team. We wanted a big presence on the ball so they couldn't lob in. We knew they were going to lob. We thought it was going to go to 24. We had a big presence on the ball. We were switching off screens, getting out and contesting each shot.
I think, as people really -- they just focused as much as you could and understood it just came down to this one play. If you want it, you've got to make this one play.
So we had used -- we had no more fouls to give. We had another time-out in case they scored. So if they had scored, we were taking a time-out and advancing it. Obviously, they didn't. So we didn't have to go there.
Q. Now, Ogunbowale only had four points in the second half.
TARA VANDERVEER: Right.
Q. Was it strictly McPhee, or what was going on?
TARA VANDERVEER: She worked really hard on her. She told me in the locker room, she goes, "I want to guard her in the second half." Because I just -- I'm like, well, do we need to change up on her? No, I understand what she's doing. Brit had a big game on both sides of the floor -- I mean, both ends of the floor, playing great defense, and also knocking down her shots.
I think that in the beginning sometimes it takes us a while to figure out what combinations look good. Marta made some big plays, made some great passes. Karlie shot, Brit shot, Alanna hit a shot, and we were off to the races.
Q. In the first half when things wasn't going well, Notre Dame was in a zone.
TARA VANDERVEER: Yeah, Triangle-and-two. They were Diamond-and-one on Karlie, when Karlie came out, they were zone mostly. When Karlie and Brit started going, they put two people on them. Notre Dame is a fantastic offensive team, but we knew we had to work really hard at defense. I was not pleased with our defense. I was kind of on people about it.
The first shot of the game, I'm like, "Bri, where are you? You're a defender." I didn't want Karlie getting another foul either. So I just said, "Second half, you got to let it go and be real aggressive." I thought we got more aggressive.
Alanna had a big steal, and we got that three in transition that Brit hit. When we got to six -- I think when you're down sometimes a lot and then you're only down like six, it looks like nothing. Then you're up, and you're like whoa. We just had tremendous energy in that second half.
I think also playing against the teams we played, playing in Washington -- at halftime too, I told our team, Ogunbowale had 21. Well, she's on track. She only had 42, not 44 like Kelsey Plum did. So keep playing hard.
Q. Coach, I mean, with all the comebacks this team has made, obviously, this one means the most. What about this did you kind of see in their resolve that maybe was different from some of the other ones? Maybe just one you had two days ago.
TARA VANDERVEER: We've been on the road for 11 days. We had mixed success here. We kept keeping things really positive and talking to each other. We joke about omens, that we wore black last time we played Notre Dame. This was the hotel that Washington was in. Just little things to kind of -- there's another good omen.
And just I think the fact, again, that this team, no one cares who gets the credit. They just want to win. And everyone's excited for everyone else. And they're a very close team. I think that sometimes, when you get a one-point win, it's just that one rebound. It's just that one free throw. It's just that one stop when you need it. They just were able to, I think, stay very focused and really want it for each other.
THE MODERATOR: Any other questions for the head coach?
TARA VANDERVEER: All right. Thank you very much.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports