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NCAA WOMEN'S REGIONAL SEMIFINALS AND FINALS: LEXINGTON


March 23, 2018


Scott Rueck

Marie G√ľlich

Mikayla Pivec

Kat Tudor


Lexington, Kentucky

Oregon State - 73, Baylor - 68

SCOTT RUECK: Well, what can you say? It's been a heck of a week to this point, and we're excited that it gets to continue. I can't say enough about this team, coming out and coming into another situation and game where you're playing just an unbelievable team in Baylor that has so much ability, so much talent, so much expectation, so well-coached, so efficient. One of the most efficient teams in the country. You look at their numbers, and it takes a lot to keep looking at them because you don't want to believe any of those things because they're overwhelming.

For this team to take the floor and once again know they belong, play like they belong, believe that they should win and play that way the entire time, I couldn't be more proud. It starts with Marie sitting next to me, and it filters through our team, and you saw incredible performances throughout her roster. Hats off to Baylor for just continuing to fight and never going away.

I can think back to the first quarter where it felt like, man, we're in control of this game, and you look up and we're up by two because they seemed to score so easy at times. This game had incredible runs to it, and then when that final three went down, our ninth three of the game, Katie knocked that down in the corner after Mik's pass, man, we might actually get this thing, and then what a great feeling the second that buzzer went off, and I'm so happy for this team.

We go into every week throughout our conference schedule, play Friday-Sunday just like this, and we always talk about there's 80 minutes on the weekend, and you've got 40 down and 40 to go. I'm so thankful that we get to complete that this weekend. So proud of the fight and the courage to get the W today. Excited and honored that I get to coach them again.

And I have to say, so grateful to Beaver Nation for traveling like they did. We had a good crowd here a long ways from home on short notice, and they never disappoint. I always say that, and it's true. Really grateful, and proud of our team.

Q. Marie, going up against Kalani, I know she's finalist for National Player of the Year. What was your mindset going up against her and really being able to dominate the game?
MARIE G√úLICH: I think our scouting report said just attack her, and that was my plan today was just like my quickness, I think I just used my quickness really well against her. She's really tall and she's strong, but I think I could get around her and have the shots over her.

Defensively my goal was just to keep her off the block, to just take away her left hand, and to not make it easy on her. She's a really tough person to guard, and I'm proud that we as a team accomplished that.

Q. Kat, you all made a lot of three-pointers and very efficient, as well. But did you want to take more, or was Baylor's defense a little bit quicker than maybe you thought?
KAT TUDOR: It adjusted as the game went on, but whatever helps our team win, if it's me making threes or not, just going to do whatever is best, and just everybody found shooters so great today, and it just worked out.

Q. Marie, just a quick follow-up on Brown. When she started hitting those mid-range jumpers, how much of an adjustment did you have to make on that down low?
MARIE G√úLICH: Well, our game plan was to like let her -- like make her hit those shots, and she did. So my goal was just to make her think a little bit more about her shot, if she should pass it, drive it or shoot it. I think I just adjusted a little bit by getting a little closer and backing up again, just to make her think.

Q. Kat, can you talk about just how physical this game was and how there were many times I saw you try to go up for that signature hook move and a lot of times bodies would just end up on the ground, but you guys didn't seem to get rattled by it at all.
KAT TUDOR: I mean, the Pac-12 prepares us for this, too. You kind of have to play through it. You get a foul or not, the game is still going on, so you have to play through it.

Q. Marie, key sequence in the game obviously was your three-point play, about seven minutes left to extend the lead to six, and then Kat, your three to go up nine, can you each take us through those plays and what happened? You draw the foul on Lauren, and how important do you think that was to get you guys home?
MARIE G√úLICH: I think it just gave us a little bit more momentum. We were trying to get to the rim all the time. We were trying to draw fouls, too. I was just glad that I was able to just like spin off her and get the ball up and make it, and yeah, got the call. I think it just helped us to get more momentum and get more energy for us to like defend them.

KAT TUDOR: Yeah, there are more comfort points, too, so it gives us that extra lead, but to be honest I didn't really check the scoreboard at the end because I don't like to do that. I like staying present in the moment, not letting myself get ahead or anything.

Q. In the closing seconds there when it was just a two-point game, you had the ball, you were able to find McWilliams there. What did you see out on the court, and was it just that she was the open player, or what was going on out there?
MIKAYLA PIVEC: As the shot clock was winding down, I tried to attack to see whether either I had my shot or whoever helped kick it out, and once I attacked, I saw Natalie helping, and so I just kicked it, and I know Kitty is a great shooter, and I was confident in her ability to hit that, and I was happy she did.

Q. Mikayla, how were you all able to stay so patient against their defense, not forcing -- particularly not forcing shots, and how did that help you all today?
MIKAYLA PIVEC: We knew with patience we could get whatever shot we wanted if we executed well, and at times we didn't execute well, but we know when we did, we would get good shots. So going through our first read, second read, third reads, if that first option wasn't there, just staying with it and going into motion.

Q. Marie, you were in Dallas two years ago for the big win against Baylor. How does this one compare?
MARIE G√úLICH: It's pretty close. I mean, both -- I don't even know, but I think this year it's just more special to me because I heard so much with like the losses we had and the ups and downs we went through as a team, and I'm just so proud of the accomplishment we have had so far, and we're playing so confident right now, and it's just so fun. I'm just really proud, and I think that just makes this win even like bigger and more important to me, and I'm just very excited for the team.

Q. Going up against one of the most potent offenses in the country, second in points per game, second in field goal percentage, you hold them to 20 points below their average and under 40 percent shooting. What was the key to doing that?
SCOTT RUECK: I mean, well, A, it's what we do. I mean, it's by design, the way that we defend, the way we keep people out of transition. I would say it's our signature. We're in the top one, two, three or four in defensive field goal percentage every year, and it's because we like to stay basket side, and you look at this team and their ability to throw lob passes, their ability to rebound offensively. You see teams play top side, which makes sense because it's hard to stop them one-on-one, and it's one of the trade-offs. Are you going to allow Kalani to catch the ball? Some teams say no. We say, well, let her catch it, but let's keep her a little bit further away and let's let her take that shot over the top of you, so at least you have rebounding position. Then you want to give them different looks like that.

Well, this team transitions incredibly well. They're one of the best assist teams in the country. They shoot 52 percent from the field on the season, and they themselves only give up 32. I mean, that's what I was saying. Their numbers are crazy.

And so our game plan was stay basket side and keep this team in front of us. Don't let them get to the spots we know they love to get to and make them work for everything, and then hold your own on the boards. These are two of the top four -- I think we're third or fourth in the country in rebound margin. Baylor is by far No. 1, plus 19.1 a game. I mean, that's incredible numbers.

And so I knew if we can keep it close on the boards, just like two years ago, we're going to have a chance in this game, and we're going to put pressure on their shooters, and that was our goal.

I thought we did a great job keeping them out of transition for the most part. We made their posts work for everything. I didn't want Kalani to be quite as wide open. I think we had a German-English translation issue with Marie maybe. I'm just teasing. But I didn't want her to be that open because I know how good of a shooter she is. I mean, a 77 percent free-throw shooter can make free throws, whether it's a free throw or a jumper. But for the most part, we made them take the shots we wanted, and we knew it was just going to be a war on the boards every time that ball went up.

That was our game plan, and that's what this team has done a great job of, and I said, I think defensive transition is going to be the most important tonight that it's been all year, and that's saying something when you've got UCLA coming at you twice and you've got other teams in the Pac-12 coming at you, including Tennessee the other day. Transition is so important to that team, as well.

Like Marie said, we're playing extremely confidently. We're executing our stuff. They've bought into our scheme, and it's because of Marie. She trusts it. She knows it. She's been a part of it. And she's holding them to that standard within our locker room, and so then our execution is on point. Tonight it had to be.

Q. Can you also address how they were able to stay so patient on offense against Baylor's defense?
SCOTT RUECK: Yeah, and I think that -- again, I don't want to sound like I'm selling our conference, but our conference is good. If you look at who we play against night in and night out and the schemes that you see, it does -- it prepares us. You know, we had Notre Dame early this year. We had Duke early. Those were the painful losses that Marie talked about. Both those games ended in tears for her. She had tears in the locker room. Marie is a winner, and those were hard for her because she's used to dominating, and the last three years we have for the most part, and that was tough for her.

You know, and so when you go through all those tests, then you learn what it takes. We have a rookie point guard in Mikayla Pivec out there, bless her heart, competing like crazy, thrown to the wolves, out of position, but surviving and doing it really gracefully now. And so this team knows that when we need a good shot, they know what it is. They know, okay, even versus this pressure, we've got to manage the clock, and we've got to manage this possession, and we've got to find the right shot.

And so when you play a team like Baylor, part of the tempo issue, you can't turn it over. You can't hand them possessions by either a turnover or taking a quick, poor shot.

I thought we took a couple early ones in the first quarter. They were pretty good looks, but they were quick with no rebounding position. We didn't have good balance, and that led to leak-outs. But overall, they just know how to win. This team knows what it takes to win, and I think that leads to possessions like that against a great defense and a great offense.

Q. Katie's three there with 10 seconds to go, especially given the circumstances, and I think she only had four points after that point and was 0 for 3 until that point from beyond the arc, was that the biggest shot the season for the team?
SCOTT RUECK: Well, this is the biggest win, so -- it's not. There's a couple others where you think about getting into the tournament. I mean, she had a lob lay-up in an overtime win at the buzzer to send it to overtime. That was a win earlier in the year. She had a lob lay-up against UCLA against a baseline out of bounds play. So you look at things like that.

We're up two, certainly didn't want them to have the ball on a two-point game at the end, so it was a huge shot for that reason. But it iced the Sweet 16 game and created the Elite 8 opportunity for us. So it was a huge one.

You know, and that's somebody that hit three threes against UConn in the Final Four a couple years ago as a freshman, so Katie has hit nothing but huge shots for us this year, so it didn't surprise me at all, and it was a great setup by Mikayla, beautiful pass.

Q. You mentioned a lot of the stats, about how good Baylor is offensively. Was there one thing in particular that you all tried to work on in preparation, or was there one specific player you wanted to shut down today?
SCOTT RUECK: Yeah, well, the one thing we wanted to shut down was offensive rebounds. When you look at that team, that's what you fear the most. Their guards are so quick. They create off the dribble. You know, they have side-on ball screens a lot. That's probably the action that they use the most. And that creates -- for good reason. That creates a lot of trouble. So when the guard drives middle, the help comes and they dump off passes to two probably All-Americans, right, how do you defend in a way that keeps those post players out of position to get offensive rebounds.

You know, so that was really the trick. And so like I said earlier, if you keep them behind you -- in front of you. If you keep them away from the rim and you can defend in a way that does that and help in a way that does that, that gives you a chance. And so that was the number one thing. So out of transition, rebounding position, and try to force them out of the middle. Those guards are so good once they get middle. They make great decisions, and that's where they score the best from.

Q. With all that was going on the last five days, the travel, finals, game prep for Baylor, all of that, how did you manage all that? How did you get this team into a routine to be able to be here tonight?
SCOTT RUECK: Yeah, I have no idea. I have no -- it's been hard. You know, today -- I mean, I'll tell you the number one thing is our staff is incredible. That's number one. They, from logistics to thinking every single thing through, helping me with everything I can do, phenomenal. Everybody that I get the chance to work with. And so they've been a calm in this storm, and they've been so -- they're just the best. They're mature, they just get it, and they'd do anything for this team, so our staff is number one. When you have a leader like Marie who approaches everything with a professionalism that her expectations for people being prepared, you don't mess with Marie when it comes to that, nor did you with Gaby or Sydney or Jamie or Ruth. We've invested so much. Take care of yourself. We had finals last week. I mean, there's still a couple, I think, to be taken still. So not only did we travel across the country and back, we took finals, and we prepared for the No. 2 team in the country and all of these things, and played people long minutes, and they didn't seem tired.

So I think it's just -- you know, the will, and it's an expectation of excellence throughout. You know, that's probably the thing I'm happiest about. This team is continuing that legacy of being incredible role models, not just to young girls, not just to young people, to everyone. I mean, they're inspirational, just the way they carry themselves, and it's not a women's basketball thing, it's a life thing. They do everything right, and because of that, they can create experiences like what you just witnessed.

I mean, there's a reason we're supported like we are. This team chooses to operate at an incredibly high level. I would attribute it to the character of the people in our program and their professionalism and their desire to do things right, and it's a joy to be a part of. It's really special.

Q. When you think about women's powerhouse basketball teams, Baylor and Tennessee are right up there on the top. You just took both of them out, and now do you think that Oregon State is maybe on the verge of creating tradition and a powerhouse in women's basketball now?
SCOTT RUECK: Well, somehow we seem to continue to remain a secret. This team is 62-10 in the No. 1 conference in the country the last four years. I know the expectations were low, but I don't know if people expected us to disappear this year. I know we graduated Sydney and Gaby and Bre and Kolbie last year, but do you know who Mikayla Pivec is? Do you know who Marie is? Do you know who Katie McWilliams is? Do you know who Taya Corosdale is? Do you know who these people are? They're winners. We've won -- this is my 22nd year coaching. You know, it's not like by accident that we won the Pac-12 three years in a row and went to a Final Four. You don't luck into that stuff.

You know, and so we have not done it the length of time that Baylor did or has. We have not done it the length of time that Tennessee has, but I don't think anybody that follows our sport is surprised. I don't think our conference is surprised that we competed like we did.

I mean, we're a weird loss to USC and a three-point loss at home to Stanford from winning it again this year. We beat Oregon, we beat UCLA, and now we've beaten Tennessee and Baylor.

So that's the expectation in our program. It's mine. I don't look at this stuff. I just -- we had an opportunity to win a game today, so this was going to be a blast. Let's go figure out how to beat Baylor. Why not? I mean, that's how I live. If you have a chance, why not? If you're going to do it, you might as well win. So that's just the belief that I took this job with eight years ago, and we had one player, and that's probably the reason we're here. It's the reason Pat Casey has built our baseball program up, for the exact same reason, and I don't see that stuff.

I see an opportunity. I get to help these young women find out what they're capable of, and who are we to put restrictions on what you're capable of. So we just speak confidence into them. We work like crazy, and we say why not us, and we don't just say it, we believe it. Why not?

And so that belief -- I'm so happy that this team has embraced that, but you look back, and it started with Jamie Weisner. It started with Ruth Hamblin, and they had the belief first, and now this team has followed suit. Yeah, so it's really awesome, but I can't say I'm surprised any longer. I don't think anybody should be.

Q. Morris goes off for them in the last couple minutes. I was watching you, and you didn't seem too panicked. Is that fair to say? Take us inside the huddle in that last minute after she scored nine points in like 45 seconds.
SCOTT RUECK: They're good. They're good. These are competitors. And she's good. I've watched -- I fear her. I've watched their last several games since Wallace went down, and she's stepped up, and you've got a Texas girl representing Baylor on the biggest stage, and she's embraced it with everything, and she's a phenomenal player. And so I'm just not surprised. I'm a little disappointed that we gave up the last one. I didn't want to give up that one. We just had talked about that. But she hit another deep, tough three, and so as a teacher, you can't allow them to see you panic, you know, and so on the inside -- dang it, nice shot. But we can't do anything about it, so what's next. Next play. Okay, now they're going to press us, let's advance it, whatever, the next thing happened. But now there's no reason to be panicked.

And to be honest, that's kind of the fun of this. It's kind of the fun of it. Let's figure this out now. This is another issue. You know, a big issue. Stop making these tough shots.

But if you think that Baylor is going to go quiet, you're crazy. There's no way that team is going quiet. 30 straight wins. I think six losses ago was our game with them. They haven't lost much the last decade.

And so, you know, they're used to winning just like we are, so of course they're going to make huge plays. There was 10 seconds to go, and we're up five, and I'm like, they've got the ball out of bounds. That's why I called a time-out. I'm like, this is not over. Crazy stuff happens. This is March Madness, and shoot, it's November madness when it's November, too. It's basketball. And so it's not over until that buzzer goes off. So yeah. But me freaking out doesn't help anybody.

Q. Would you rather face Stanford, a team that you've seen before? Or would you rather play Louisville, a team that hasn't seen you?
SCOTT RUECK: I don't care. I mean, it doesn't matter what I think in that. I think in Louisville, they're a phenomenal team. They're a 1 seed. They're the home team basically. You know, so that comes with its challenges. And in Tara, Stanford comes with their challenges. She's an incredible coach, so nothing -- I don't know what's going on out there, but nothing would surprise me in that game, so either way you're facing an elite opponent in the Elite 8, so that's all good.

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