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March 23, 2019

Jeff Walz

Louisville, Kentucky

COACH JEFF WALZ: You know, looking forward to a great ballgame tomorrow. Kim does a fantastic job with that ballclub. I was fortunate enough to work with Kim as assistants with USA Basketball, and you know, have the utmost respect for her. We used to compete against each other when we were both in the BIG EAST, so I'm fully aware that she will have that team ready to play, and I'm expecting a great ballgame tomorrow.

Q. I know you have some experience coaching Naz Hillmon. Can you talk about what's impressed you about her game this season and going back to last summer?
COACH JEFF WALZ: Sure. Naz is a tireless worker. That's always what's impressed me back when we watched her in high school. She's not the tallest player, but she's got a huge heart. Her motor never stops, and that's what impresses me. When she's on the floor, she gives it 100 percent every second she's out there.

You just look at what she's done this year, I mean, a remarkable freshman year. Her efficiency, once she's in the game -- she's playing 22, 23 minutes in the game scoring about 12, 13 points. When she's out there, she's getting things done. She does not waste any movement or any effort, so it's really impressive. I'm not surprised. She's a great kid, great family, so you know, she has had a wonderful freshman year. I just hope tomorrow is not a very good game for her.

Q. I guess two questions. One, how soon were you back in the arena after that game, and, in fact, how close, where were you for those that don't know, for to you get back and scout?
COACH JEFF WALZ: Well, I was just right across the street at the restaurant, Sidebar. You know, went over there, got a bite to eat. Watched the game with some friends. In some ways, I told my staff, it was actually -- I enjoyed it in some ways because of the fact what you're out there coaching, you're always trying to prepare for next play.

When you call something and you're waiting to see if you execute, you don't always watch your team. You're watching the opposing team to see how they are guarding things, so you know, hey, if we run it again this might be adjustment we have to make.

So you don't always get a chance to watch your game as it's going on when you're there because you're always preparing for the next thing to happen, the next call to make. And yesterday, I was actually able to sit there and just watched it and took some notes and really saw some things that if I was an opposing coach, this is how I would try to attack us and this is what I would try and do to stop us.

After the ballgame, Lauren Rust, our sports supervisor here that's covering us today, you know, she escorted me back in because you have to go sit in a certain spot and all that good stuff. We got here for with about 25 minutes on the clock for tip and I just watched the second game.

Q. How much more whole do you all feel you're going to be tomorrow with you back on the sideline and Arica, is she pretty good to go?
COACH JEFF WALZ: Arica practiced today. She looked great. I think if you ask my staff, they would tell me to go back to the Sidebar for tomorrow's game. I mean, Steph's 1-0 and she just doesn't understand why this stuff is very hard, you know, (laughter) so I'm not sure they want me there, and I'm not even going to ask the players because I'm afraid I know what the answer there will be.

I mean, that's the one thing, when you have someone that's been on your staff for 12 years, it's the same thing. You know, we think the same. We speak the same. My delivery just might be a little different. But what we are trying to get our kids to do is the same.

So there was not a disruption of any type for our players and for our program because we're fortunate enough to have a continuity within it that it doesn't matter if I was there or not; they knew what was expected of them. For the most part, I was really impressed with how they played.

Q. One of the things you've been harping on this whole year is your team's interior defense. Going up against Michigan and their length, how do you plan to combat that?
COACH JEFF WALZ: Well, it's going to be difficult. They have tremendous interior play, but then -- but then they have got guards that can score, too. They are well rounded. They aren't just one player. I'm really impressed with their depth. I think everybody on the team knows their role, and then you take pride in doing it.

We're going to have to do multiple things. It's not going to be one, which it's been like that all year. We're not always the biggest in the post, so we have to mix some things up, throw some different looks at kids, and then make sure we are on point with knowing scouting report.

Q. One follow-up question about Sidebar. How was the milkshake?
COACH JEFF WALZ: The milkshake was fantastic. It's their special, the mint chocolate chip, right now. I highly recommend it. It's not low-cal, though, I will say that.

Q. Obviously you played Michigan last year. You watched them yesterday in person. How different are they from the team that you saw last year in the preseason WNIT?
COACH JEFF WALZ: Well, Naz brings a completely different look just with what she brings off the bench. You know, they are pressing more than they did last year. They played a lot of zone when we played them here in the preseason NIT. Playing majority man right now, but will mix it up at times.

So some of the personnel is the same but the players have gotten better. You know, it's the same thing with our kids. You give them a year to work on their game and off-season to focus, and all of a sudden you start seeing improvement.

I'm not taking anything from last year's game, at all. We were down five at the half, and then held them I think to ten or 12 points in the entire second half. So we need to have that type of a defensive effort for four quarters, but I'm not expecting, you know, us to hold them to 12 points at the half tomorrow.

Q. Back in the day at U of L, Scotty Davenport was the coach that made sure the players were in the class at the right times, was the disciplinarian. Was Scotty there to make sure you got to the right place?
COACH JEFF WALZ: Scotty is a good friend of mine. I watch his games and he comes and watches our. He just asked me what I was doing for the ballgame and I told him I was going across the street to watch it, and he said, "I'll meet you there."

It was good, because we shared some basketball ideas. Talked ball. It's the one great thing about it: Basketball is basketball. It truly does not matter if you coach on the men's side, the women's side. It's basketball. So you can share ideas and go back and forth.

I really enjoyed it that he came over. We just sat here and watched the second game for a little bit before he had to leave.

Q. Sam said she feels like she's a tournament player. She couldn't describe it but last year her numbers went up in the NCAA Tournament and obviously yesterday, effort. What is it about her this time of year?
COACH JEFF WALZ: Well, I hope she understands the urgency. You know, I told them today, we watched -- we talked a little bit about the Tom Izzo press conference and about "my bad." You can't have "my bads" at this time of the year and he's exactly right. "My bads" are what finishes your season.

I really think Sam understands that. She's out there, I thought she was very efficient in the game yesterday, and that's what we're going to need from her tomorrow. She's going to have a tough job with their post players, trying to make sure she keeps them off the glass.

She's by far our best defensive rebounder on the team and we're going to need her to do a great job of defensive rebounding. I mean, I'm sure y'all saw the rebounding advantage in yesterday's game. When you outrebound somebody 50-19, it's not by accident, you know, so I was very impressed by that.

Q. If you do have Arica back, what does that give you as a team? Obviously more depth, but just her leadership?
COACH JEFF WALZ: Well, Arica understands the game at the point guard spot. She's not going to blow by you. I say it all the time, and it's a huge complement to her: She's the ideal 50-and-over men's YMCA league player. She is old school punk fake. Gets you in the air, one, two dribbles. When you watch, it there's nothing that you're going, wow, wow. She just understands the game. She knows how to play, and because of that she brings confidence to our team.

She's also a 40 percent three-point shooter. All of a sudden when I'm able to put Dana on the floor, AC on the floor and Asia on the floor, all three of those kids are shooting close to 40 percent from the three-point line, it gives Sam a lot more room, Bionca room to work, and it givers those three, when they drive, more space, because it's hard to collapse in.

She practiced today and looked really good, so I was really happy for her. We will not put her on the floor unless she's 100 percent confident that she feels good, and that's all that's going to be said.

I've told her, she has complete control over if she plays tomorrow. If the doctor says she can -- it doesn't matter. If she's not 100 percent confident, I will not put her on the floor. But she practiced well today and seems excited, so we'll see how she feels tomorrow.

Q. Did you see the starting lineup with Mykasa and Kylee? Did you have any say in that, and thoughts afterwards?
COACH JEFF WALZ: No, we had talked about it. You know, I put Mykasa in the game. I started her just for the fact, that's what I should have done in the ACC finals, just because of the fact, Dana brings so much to our team coming off the bench. She changes our tempo. She's a scorer. She can shoot the ball. She can create for others.

When I started her in the ACC Championship game, well, then I don't have that coming off the bench, and as a coach, it's nice to have someone that can give you a scoring punch if needed.

So that's one of those things when we found out about a half hour before the tip of our Conference Championship game that AC wasn't going to play, it was just, okay, just throw Dana out there.

Since I've had time to think about it, I thought that was going to be the best way to go, and then Bionca and Kylee, we're just trying to switch some things up.

They are all going to play. I keep telling them -- everybody wants to be a starter because they get to do some crazy handshake. They go out there, do all this stuff, jump up and down. I go -- at the end of the day I always ask them: Do you want to start or be in the game at the end? That's the game you should ask yourself. And you know, they all say, "I'd rather be in the game at the end."

So you've got to have mature players, though, that can accept that. That's what I think has helped us get to where we are as a program is the fact that we have players that they are okay doing their job no matter what their job is.

Q. You continue to get kind of the short end of the stick on game times. The noon yesterday on a Friday, what did you think? I know you weren't here, and then unfortunately another noon tip tomorrow. What do you expect from the fans?
COACH JEFF WALZ: I thought the crowd was great, what I could see from the TV. I thought being a noon tip on a Friday, I was really, really pleased.

And then tomorrow, it's a noon tip again. If you can skip communion at the end and come on over, it would be great. Because that's the hard part, we do have a lot of fans that are going to church on Sundays.

We talk about it at our house. It's so hard for us to be able to go to church on Sundays because we play, and if it's two o'clock game, it's right in the middle of getting prepared to play, and you know, we have no control over the game time, we have none. But it is frustrating some because I know if it was a two o'clock tip, we'd probably have 8,000 in here and I think it looks good on TV.

I think it's important when people turn on the TV and all of a sudden you see a women's basketball game with 8,000 people, you're like, hey, let's keep it on. It's the casual viewer that I always talk about that we're trying to catch in women's basketball, somebody that might not be, per se, a women's basketball fan, but they have never really taken the time to really watch it.

It's just like our fan base here. We've gone from about 2,500 12 years ago to close to 10,000, and part of that is because we've really worked hard on getting people who have never really been to women's basketball games to come out and when they do, they are shocked. Some of them are like, I can't believe how talented these young women are, and then I tell them, that's kind of the way it's been for the past 20 years. You've just missed out.

So it's one of those, I have no doubt that we'll have a great crowd tomorrow and I'm just hoping it doesn't have much of an impact on what it could be.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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