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March 21, 2019

Jeff Walz

Louisville, Kentucky

JEFF WALZ: First off, just like to thank everyone for coming out today. Another exciting time here in Louisville with our men playing today and then us getting started with our first practice before starting the tournament tomorrow.

We're just really, really looking forward to this. Really look forward to our crowd for tomorrow, you know, and I challenge them not to be only at the noon game, but stay for the second game also to show everybody what the fan base is all about here at Louisville.

I think both games deserve as many fans as we can get out there cheering them on. It's four really good teams. You don't make it to this time of the year by accident.

Q. First of all, have you chosen a place that you want to watch the games close by?
JEFF WALZ: Still working on that right now.

Q. Okay. And how calm or how emotional do you figure you're going to be during the game being on the outside looking in?
JEFF WALZ: I'm going to be fine. You know, we've had a year to prepare for this. It's not like we just found out three days ago. We went through a dry run during the nonconference season where Steph took care of ever thing, pre-game talk, all the substitutions, play calling, halftime talk. I actually enjoyed it.

It's one of those things when you sit there and you do it, I was able to -- I just sat in the middle of the bench and I was able to sit with the players and give them some insight that I'm not able to normally because you're out there trying to watch the game as a coach and figure out what you're going to do next. To be able to sit down and talk to them about, Hey, that read you made, here is what you should have looked for.

So Steph has been with me for 12 years. I mean, we have a great group of young women who have respect for everybody on the staff. We have a game plan, and I tell everybody, As a coach you put your game plan in before you go play. What has to take place during the game is making adjustments.

I feel completely confident with my staff that they're going to be able to do that.

Q. Can you give us an update status on both Arica and Sam?
JEFF WALZ: Yeah, first on Sam. Sam is doing great. Practiced full-go yesterday. Looked really good. She's taped up but says she feels good.

Arica ran yesterday. 100% body weight. Went back to the doctor today. We'll wait to see what he says about the next step of cutting, planting, but she says she feels good.

If she's cleared, then we're set to go.

Q. There is always talk about the 24-hour rule after a win or loss. How much did you really stress to your team putting the ACC tournament behind them and really looking forward to this, saying this is what's important now?
JEFF WALZ: Well, when you go into that game and were without Arica, and we find out 30 minutes before tip she's not going to play, and then Sam Fuehring goes down with a sprained ankle and plays 12 minutes.

Without those two we aren't good enough to compete with them. It's just a fact. Notre Dame is one the best teams in the country for a reason. We went back and looked at the film and said, Here some things we have to get better at, because doesn't matter who you play.

But we had pieces to a puzzle on this team. We're not always going to have the best five players on the floor, but we think we have possibly the best team when you put all the pieces together.

When you have Arica not out there, we didn't have any time to make any adjustments of how we were going to counter that. That's a big piece of our puzzle not there. Then Sam goes out. It's difficult for us. When everybody is out there doing what they do and doing it well we're a pretty darn good basketball team.

The saying we have with our program, Whatever you do well, do it. Whatever you don't do well, don't let anybody see it. That's one of the things we try and live by. We have done a pretty darn good job of that throughout this season. When you lose two key players it's difficult. We were playing a really good basketball team. They took advantage of that and beat us.

Q. Coach, since the ACC tournament you've had a little extended time off, more than usual, before your next game. What are you working on and what have you practiced on?
JEFF WALZ: We took a little time off just like I think everybody did to try and get the kids fresh. It was really nice for Arica and Sam to be able to have that time to recover with rehab and doctor's appointments and make sure they're set to go.

Then before the draw on Monday, gives you three or four days to just work on yourself. You don't know who you're going to play so you can't start preparing for anybody. Just gave us time to work on things that we needed to improve on. It was a good three or four days of practice. They weren't real long. They were intense. It wasn't a three-, four-hour practice, anything like that.

Then when you find out about the draw on Monday, then all of a sudden things pick up a bit when you know who you're going to play. So now you've got to work on some film, some breakdown, and start preparing a game plan.

Q. What is your impressions of Robert Morris from what you've seen on film?
JEFF WALZ: I'm really impressed with how well they're coached. I'm really impressed with how they defend. They know who they're best players are. I say that as a compliment. You scout and watch teams play and it's like their best player doesn't touch the ball. They're getting it to their go-to player. That's what I like to see when I'm scouting someone. Do the other players on their team know who our best player is?

At Robert Morris there is no doubt they do. You've got the player of the year, defensive player of the year. She's pretty darn impressive. We have watched a lot of film to make sure our kids understand nobody is playing at this time of year by accident. You're good.

I love the way they run their offense. They'll attack you when it's there but make you defend, too. As soon as you fall asleep, it's a layup. You've got to be on your toes. Can't be on your heels allowing them to dictate what Robert Morris wants to do.

Defensively they're the best defensive team in that league. They play good, hard, man-to-man. They'll break things up, do different variations at times on ball screens, things like that.

Overall, I just like how they compete. That's one of the thing when I look at a team on film, I like to see are they competitors. When things get tight, do they keep fighting. That's one of the thing I see in that ball club.

Q. By the same token, you know who your best players are. With injuries, who do you need to really step up or do you find yourself - will you find yourself - looking deeper when you're back on the bench at your bench maybe toward the end?
JEFF WALZ: Well, you know, we'll see what AC's status is going to be. You know, you look at Mykasa. She's been playing extremely well for us. She's a kid that can play 1 through 4 just because of her strengths.

Then you've got Dana who can start in any program. She's just been such a spark for us coming off the bench at 6th man of the year in the ACC. Kylee Shook and Jaz are two that we're going to need to continue to play well and pick things up at both offensive and defensive ends of the floor. Asia is Asia. We all know that. Sam is feeling 100%, so I'm excited for that. Like I've said, our margin for error is thin. It's always been thin. Everybody laughs at me when I say that but it's the truth.

We have to play well in order to advance in this tournament. Doesn't matter who we're playing. We can't go out and assume we're going to beat the defense, beat anybody. We can get beat by anybody. We have to do what we do well and do it and take pride in it.

If what you do is screen, set good screens. If you're a defender, defend. I tell our kids at the beginning of the year every single year: there is only one leading scorer on a team. If your goal is to be the leading scorer, only one of you can do it.

Who wants to be our best screener? Our best defender? That's what we talked about as this year has gone on. Hey, this is what I need from you. Our kids have bought into it, and that's why we've had this success.

Q. Coach, just to kind of --
JEFF WALZ: You interrupted the young man. Can you help him?

Q. Coach, is it true that you purchased a blond wig and fake beard to sneak in here?
JEFF WALZ: (Laughter.) No, that is not true. You know, I'm going to watch this ballgame and I'm not quite sure where yet. Still working on a few things. I'm going to enjoy it. You know, I told my staff it's a great opportunity for them to show everybody that, Hey, we have a good staff here. Not just a head coach, but I've got wonderful assistants that can do the job.

Q. Now, will they let you come back in to watch the second game?
JEFF WALZ: Yes, I'm allowed back in after the completion of our game. I've got to go directly to the scouting seats. I'm not allowed to be a part of any media after the game, which is fine. And then I can watch the second game and scout, if needed, yeah.

If we don't win I'm not coming back. Not sure if Steph will either. I put some pressure on them. I think pressure is good.

But like I said, it's one thing I never take anything for granted in NCAA tournament. You're foolish if you do. There is a reason everybody is still playing at this time of the year, because they're winning basketball games. We are fully dialed in understanding Robert Morris is a really good basketball team.

Q. Along that line, with the nature of this tournament, to be the outside looking in in, I guess have you had a chance to kind of reflect on a possible missed opportunity? Like say if this is your last game with your players, that you might not be there with them because of what happened last spring?
JEFF WALZ: No, I don't -- that's not something that I think about. I mean, it very well could happen, but last spring, you know, I was trying to defend my kids in a ballgame that was a tough one, I think everyone knows that who watched it.

I voiced my displeasure and said some things I probably shouldn't have said and may have used some colorful language. They fined me for it and gave me my one-game suspension, and that's their choice and that's fine.

I understand that. I'm not going to look back and if something happens today, Man, that was bad. No, I was defending my kids and I'll always defend them. Just might not use the same language.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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