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NCAA WOMEN'S REGIONAL SEMIFINALS AND FINALS: LEXINGTON


March 24, 2018


Scott Rueck

Taya Corosdale

Marie G√ľlich

Kat Tudor

Katie McWilliams

Mikayla Pivec


Lexington, Kentucky

SCOTT RUECK: Well, it's nice to be working again today and out on the court. Again, just really pleased with the way we performed last night and the victory, and it was a short night with a lot of work and a good, quick practice today, and excited for the challenge tomorrow against a great team in Louisville. Really pleased with University of Kentucky for being excellent hosts. Everything has gone very well, and they've taken good care of us. So we're excited for the challenge tomorrow.

Q. Marie, Louisville's two inside players are fairly physical, and they anticipate that your size is going to cause them some issues. Can you give me a sense for what kind of physical play you're accustomed to in your conference and what you experience as a fairly skilled and tall player?
MARIE G√úLICH: I think overall, like the past season or like the last three seasons have me prepared for like everything physical. I think getting like pushed around in the post a lot this season especially. I'm just excited to be on the floor again, to play, and I know it'll be tough and it'll be like a really tough challenge to play against a quick team like that, but we as a team, we prepared really well today, so I'm excited.

Q. Katie, if you can kind of sum up your team's composure, particularly last night, you all just kind of stayed patient and poised when you were down, and then when you got up by nine and they made the run, you all just kind of stuck with your offense until they got the pass to you for the three. When you look at games like that, how do you really assess how well you all are able to kind of stay within the game plan and not really panic?
KATIE McWILLIAMS: You know, in just about every game, you're going to face some kind of adversity, so we've been used to that this whole season. No matter we're up or down, we've just got to keep our pace and keep executing as well as possible. I thought yesterday we did that. We were getting stops on defense down the stretch, and we were able to execute offense to get the ball inside as well as shooting really well outside, Taya and Kat were shooting well from the three, and credit to Mik for making that great drive to kick it out to me for that wide open three at the end, but just execution.

Q. Marie, how do you play such disciplined defense where you can still get a bunch of blocked shots but without sending them to the free-throw line on every possession?
MARIE G√úLICH: I think that's what our program is about. Like we're built on defense. That gives us momentum, and we talk about this a lot, just to like play defense, getting stops, because that keeps us in the game overall. It gives us like all the possessions we have on offense. It just like leads us to a good offensive possession. I think the discipline comes from that, knowing that good defense gives us good offense.

Q. Marie, Sam Fuehring says she's learned a few curse words in German. Do you encounter much trash talk when you're playing back home, or is that an American phenomenon?
MARIE G√úLICH: I was never really a person of trash talk, to be honest. Playing the game, if somebody says something to me, I'd probably be like, oh, just caught off guard. But yeah.

Q. Marie, you have some great abilities, but the four players to your left are all adept three-point shooters, and they all have unique styles. Maybe talk about how you admire the fact that they have this long-distance ability, and which one of these players do you think has the most unusual three-point shot?
SCOTT RUECK: Well, first of all, it's amazing how good they can shoot the ball. It opens up a lot for me, gives me a lot of opportunities, and they're not just good shooters, they're amazing passers, too, so they give me a lot of opportunities the way they set screens and pass the ball to me, otherwise I wouldn't be that successful. And then obviously if somebody doubles me or anything else, I know I always have somebody outside who can knock down a shot, which is amazing. And Kat Tudor over here, I don't know, she gets shots up where I'm even like, whoa, Kat. Even yesterday there was one where she fell backwards and she made it. That was really cool. And then Katie, you can count on Katie for everything. And Mik is like an amazing driver, and she's just great, too. I'm just really proud of all of them. Taya, I can count on her for every shot. She's amazing for like a 4. So yeah.

Q. Katie, what is it about baseline that allows you to hit the three?
KATIE McWILLIAMS: I don't know, I feel like the past three years I've gotten a lot of shots from that baseline running the 2 and the 3, so I shoot a lot of those in practice, so it's just my money shot, I guess.

Q. You have a European style of play; how much of an advantage has there been for you playing here in the States, and how much of an advantage do you think it'll be going forward looking at the next game and possibly the games after?
MARIE G√úLICH: Well, I think -- the year we played the 5s and 4s, they play more faster, we run more, so I guess that helped me a lot being able to run the floor like this, just like doing that early on from like the beginning when I started playing. I think that's the biggest advantage.

And then just skill-wise, I think that helped me a lot being able to play inside-out. But overall, I think the American game has developed my basketball game more than the European, so I'm really thankful for that.

Q. Kat, looking at this run that you all have been on, you beat No. 3 Tennessee, then you beat No. 2 Baylor, now you face No. 1 Louisville; how have you all approached this gauntlet, so to speak, in terms of just one game at a time and really just kind of moving from one game and then preparing differently for another opponent?
KAT TUDOR: For us, I know for me, I don't really care who we play or who I play. It's just do our job, get our job done and play Oregon State basketball. That usually does it.

Q. As a player, what has really kind of impressed you about how your team has made it through these two rounds?
KAT TUDOR: Well, we have every part of the game on our team. We have inside presence. Marie runs the floor faster than half the guards in basketball, I swear. Again, we have shooters all around. It's just complete. It's just hard to guard.

Q. What about this run has really impressed you about this team in terms of how they've responded to each challenge?
SCOTT RUECK: Yeah, it was interesting coming off our loss to Arizona State in the Pac-12 tournament, there was questions going into it. That clearly was not our best performance that night, and we were beaten up. We didn't bring great energy to that game, and so I was curious how we would approach the tournament. I knew the character of this team. I know they're going to give it everything, but could we get it going and could they play confident.

I think all year long, I said, we have further to go from where we are today in November -- October and November to the end than maybe anybody in the country. I felt like we had all the character pieces, we had the leadership piece, but we have so much experience to gain that we don't have.

So we stayed with that. So our best basketball is still ahead. And I still believe that. Our best basketball is ahead.

So that being said, the character of this team, with the leadership of Marie and now all the experience of the gauntlet of the Pac-12, a few really painful losses that inspire growth and make the other stuff all so awesome, like last night's game, you know, has been this perfect combination. And so this team is so competitive, and now they know what they're doing, and they know how.

Down the stretch of our season, with the exception of that tournament game in Seattle, we've played championship basketball for the last month and a half, you know, where it was just evident.

This team is preparing. They're so coachable, and they have this confidence about them, and I think everybody saw that down the stretch of our season, and we've just continued it now into March.

Q. As a follow-up, earlier you had talked about the Baylor win a couple years ago as being a breakthrough for the program and telling this team that they can win those kind of games. Did you see that more against Tennessee or more yesterday in terms of how they handled it, and just kind of looking like they knew they could win this game no matter what?
SCOTT RUECK: Yeah, I think Tennessee. I would say I think Tennessee led into last night. Tennessee was probably -- I mean, that was our best road win of the year, of course. You know, and we'd been looking for a signature road -- we won at ASU the last game of the regular season, which was our best road win to date.

To go in there and play with that level of confidence, it comes from, okay, we can do this, and we know how to do this, and now we have some experience. Well, the foundation, all of that, the pinnacle moment before it was Baylor. So Marie is operating from a leadership standpoint from that experience and knowing this program can do that. All of these recruits watched that, or they were freshmen on that team and watched that and were part of it. So I think it all works together.

But I think the Tennessee game was so significant for this group because they went in and did something there against an elite team on their home floor that was special. I mean, that was new. That was a new part of our legacy. We hadn't achieved something like that before.

You know, and then that led to last night. So it would have been silly to think this team would enter last night's game not believing they could win based upon all those experiences.

Q. How did you find Marie over there in Europe, and how much of a joy and how much of a challenge has she been to coach knowing that she's come over here from playing in Europe and having that style of play?
SCOTT RUECK: Yeah, joy is a great word. Joy describes Marie and our relationship with her as coaches and who she is to be around every day.

Marie came over and actually played in a tournament in July before her senior year in the U.S. on the West Coast, and so we got to see her over here. Obviously fell in love from minute one. There's not many of those out there.

So that's where we first saw her, and then we built that relationship with her.

She came in, you know, operating so professionally and so mature. What you're witnessing -- I know Kim last night commented on how old -- she plays like a pro, and she has this professionalism and maturity that you heard -- the first time I talked to her, I could hear it in her voice. I said, you're going to love our program, you're going to love the people we recruit and we'll surround you with, and she'll flourish. That's what I felt. The first time I got to watch her play with Ruth Hamblin, I watched her run just like everybody watches her run, and it's just beautiful to watch somebody that competes at that level of intensity and speed because it's rare.

I watched her run, and she ran right past Ruth Hamblin, who's coming off this amazing sophomore year, and Ruth is like, wow, like oh, I've got competition in the gym now, and it was on from that moment.

She had no clue how to defend. None. Zero. Bad feet, everything. I couldn't play her some of her freshman year because of that reason. Her offensive game was face-up at the time, and it was a little bit frustrating to get her so comfortable with her back to the basket because she had the skill to do it, she just didn't want to. She was like, okay, I'm a fish out of water with my back to the hoop, but certainly she's embraced that, and now she's turned herself into, like everybody is saying, one of the best post players in the country and basically is unguardable.

Then you put the character part with that and her understanding of what this demands and her belief and her confidence to challenge her teammates, set the bar high -- even today we're in a shooting drill, and she's like, let's go. She's pushing them in a practice day between games that a lot of people would think, it's just a shooting drill, who cares. No, there's a level of excellence that she has lifted this team to, and so as a coach, that's absolutely beautiful, because I know if I'm the leader, we're in trouble. I can't be the leader. I inspire leaders as a coach. If the leadership is on the inside of your team, interior leadership, that's where the magic happens. And at this point if you're still playing, this month in particular but the last two weeks, you've got something on the inside of your team that is pushing or maybe even pulling that team, and it's not the head coach. It's not. We can direct.

And so Marie has been nothing but a joy. I mean, she's one of the best I've ever coached, with all those things combined, and I've coached some incredible people throughout my career, and Marie is right up there.

Q. Coaches commonly will tell you you can't look past a game. With the short turnaround did you cheat a little and look at Louisville before yesterday, and what's the biggest match-up concern that you have?
SCOTT RUECK: I didn't look at one down, not one play. Nope. Baylor was plenty. You know, to that point. Now, our staff did, of course, but I stayed singularly focused and I did the same last week on Western Kentucky. They're a great team. You know, and so it's one game at a time.

You know, the greatest match -- I mean, Louisville hits you in a lot of different ways, and so it's not just one match-up. It's a collective force that they play with, and it's intensity that they play with, the speed they play with. That's why they've done what they've done this year. Within that, they certainly have some really special talent. Asia is incredible and Hines is unbelievable. You just go on down the roster.

And so they can hurt you in a variety of ways, but I think it's just like our team; they've got five pieces at all times that are working together, and so that's what allows those All-American types to be All-American types. They've got great complementary pieces.

They play a team game just like we do, and so they're formidable. Not a lot of sleep last night.

Q. Along that line, how would you describe your passing, just how well you all pass the ball around and work deep into the clock and really -- I don't want to say wear down defenses but really just stay so deliberate?
SCOTT RUECK: Yeah, I don't know if it's deliberate. I just think it's -- because I always tell people, my perfect score would be 95 to 55. I'm a little point guard. I don't want to play half-court basketball. I don't want to be around those big people. I want open court and space and get to the rim fast. That's how I view the game.

And so what I do think, we play with a discipline that's necessary to maintain momentum as often as possible. You don't want to give that up. We didn't want to let Baylor leak up and get in the open court, nor Tennessee, and we certainly cannot tomorrow.

So we've got to take great shots, and against great teams that play great defense, that shot is going to be hard to come by, and you might only get one in a 30-second span, and it might happen at 25.

We work really hard at shot selection. We work really hard at understanding where we're trying to go, what they do, and sometimes it appears deliberate. I think it's just disciplined. I think we're disciplined in understanding what it takes to win and maintain momentum.

Q. Talk about the experiences of being a point guard; you could notice yesterday obviously that the Baylor pressure in the fourth quarter, there were some turnovers, and I'm curious with -- if that's going to be a concern tomorrow in a hostile environment, getting the ball up court. Certainly seems you can expect some more pressure tomorrow night. Is that a concern?
SCOTT RUECK: Yeah, for sure. It's always a concern. You're playing against a great team that has lots of athletes and that have the ability to pressure you. You look at the experiences that we've had, I mean, we went down to LA in the second week of conference and turned it over 47 times in two games at UCLA, then USC, and lost both of them because of it.

That's been a constant evolution with this team is learning how to handle those things. And the next time we saw UCLA, we turned it over nine times.

We've made so much progress. Tennessee pressed us like crazy to start the game, and then we handled it, and we were able to turn it into some offensive opportunities, and so I would anticipate -- you know, I know Louisville enough to know that they switch things up all the time, and you need to be ready for anything against them, and they will roll the dice and try different things and see if it works and then try something different, and I know that.

I think at this point we've seen everything, and so turnovers clearly are something that we have to manage, no question. You know, and I like the way that -- I like the way that we've adapted to it and handled it, and I like the confidence that we've shown.

At the same time, I think that we've done a great job, if we do make a mistake, of letting it go. I think earlier in the year, it would have lingered, a mistake lingered two possessions. Now it's like, hey, you made a mistake, get back on defense, get a stop, and let's go have a great possession. Last night didn't really surprise me much. I thought we stopped moving a little bit down the stretch when they amped up their pressure. I didn't think we executed very well against it, which led to maybe a -- I don't know how many turnovers we had. I haven't got a chance to watch that yet. I don't know, so I think that is absolutely a factor in this game. We have to take care of the ball.

Q. You were talking about confidence; with this run that you all are on, do you see your team kind of developing a swagger, for lack of a better word?
SCOTT RUECK: I hope so, yeah. I think so. They're great people. They're high-character people. So it's not a -- we're talking trash talk earlier, the German thing. That would be fascinating, by the way. She didn't answer your question, though, do they talk trash in Germany. I don't know. I still want to know. I'm going to ask her later.

But the swagger, I think it's just a healthy confidence, and knowing that you believe and you belong and that you can do it. And I think that's evident. This team is full of people that have won a lot in their career at every level.

You look at Kat, Kat won a National Championship in high school, she won the UIVL championship in the summer. She's done nothing but win, and so it's no surprise she plays big last night. She's been competing against those people and winning for years. Same with Marie, massive success; Katie McWilliams, state champion; Mikayla Pivec, state champion; Aleah Goodman, state champion; and as you go through our roster, you just see so many examples of success.

Well, they had to learn to speak the language, and so there is a language that champions speak, and it's doing all the right things and being willing to and knowing how to handle adversity, knowing how to prepare each day, knowing how to take care of yourself, knowing how to communicate on the court, which was our number one issue earlier in the year. I would call a play, and Mik might not see it, might not tell somebody, and Kat would be standing in the corner over there and we'd be running something different and we'd have a disjointed possession, and that might happen three times in a row, and then all of a sudden towards the end of January, this team started speaking the language of a champion, and now because of that, that consistency and that togetherness has allowed them to play extremely confidently. It just feels good. Everybody is on the same page.

It's been neat to see. That's what every teacher or coach would want with their group is that they are reaching their potential, and that's what I thought this year. That's my goal every year is I want my group to reach their potential, and I think this group is approaching that, and it's because of that continued, sustained success that allows them to be confident.

Q. Jeff Walz said last night that if he wins the Powerball he will not be there tomorrow. Can you commit to coaching tomorrow?
SCOTT RUECK: I'm going to be there, and I know Jeff would, too. That guy is a competitor; are you kidding? If he wins Powerball, he'll just have a bigger smile on his face than he normally does.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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