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March 28, 2019
Albany, New York
THE MODERATOR: Coach Walz, thank you for joining us. Congratulations. Welcome to Albany.
JEFF WALZ: I appreciate it.
THE MODERATOR: As is customary, we'll ask that you please open with a statement as far as your team, how you got here, and your expectations, and then we'll open it up to members of the media to ask questions.
JEFF WALZ: First off, I just want to start off by saying I'm the head coach at the University of Louisville. I think Geno would be a wonderful candidate for that position that is open. So before the questions start coming, I'm the head coach at the University of Louisville. I've loved it, enjoy it, it's been great. So now I'll start talking about our team so we can focus on that.
It's been a great year for us. Really, really been impressed with how these young women have figured out some new roles, have taken on new responsibilities. I think with the graduation of Myisha Hines-Allen, I think a lot of people were questioning how are we going to replace her? It's what I said when Angel graduated, Shoni graduated. You're not going to replace them. You've just got to find players that can do similar things, and that might take four or five of them. That's what we've been able to do.
I thought Bionca Dunham has had a great year for us. Kylee Shook has started to come on very well. Sam Fuehring has been very consistent. And then you've got players like Dana Evans, who's sixth man of the year for us, who had a really good freshman year but has gotten better as the year has gone on. Arica Carter, Jazmine Jones, you just go through -- everybody's just given us a little bit more. So it's not that we replaced Myisha. We're just getting more from everybody on the team, and that's what you have to do.
We're really excited for the opportunity to still be playing. Only 16 teams left practicing. It's not easy. It's difficult. And it's something that we're really proud of. Oregon State, a great basketball team. I've got the utmost respect for Scott. I've had the opportunity to be out at USA Basketball with him, and I've watched him coach. He's just a great tactician. Really enjoy watching his teams play, and I know tomorrow night it should be a great basketball game.
Q. Jeff, first part of the question is did Magic Johnson call you yet?
JEFF WALZ: Not yet.
Q. And the second part is we joke about it, but is it distracting?
JEFF WALZ: No.
Q. This time and all that stuff going on out there?
JEFF WALZ: It happens every March. It's the same thing -- Samantha Williams was just named the head coach at Eastern Kentucky, and I can't tell you how excited I am for her. Our players are excited for her. And I'm getting e-mails and text messages. Our fan base is fantastic. We have some very passionate fans. They're like why are you doing this now? It's distracting the team.
And I joke with our players all the time. I'm like, guys, you can solve this if you just suck. If you don't win games, nobody will hire any of my assistants, and you won't ever have to worry about my name coming up for anything. If we're 3-21, I promise you this is not a discussion. So I tell them, even when Cam Newbauer was here with us for one year in 2013, we make that Final Four round and get to the championship, and Cam gets a job at Belmont. The kids were sad. He was only with us for a year. As an assistant, I wanted a chance to be a head coach one day. That's what I wanted to do, and I've told everybody on my staff, if that's your goal, we're going to do everything we can to get you that job.
You know, Cam was one, I'll tell you, after a year, he's like, gosh, I just don't feel like it's right. I'm like, Cam, if we can get you the job you want, let's get it. With Eastern Kentucky, when that opportunity came up, Sam Williams was like, okay, let's go after it. Why are they announcing it now? Well, they had an opening, and Sam is the one they wanted. It's not a distraction to our team. Our players were excited for her.
And this comes up every March. Names are thrown out. Cori's name is in the mix. Scott Rueck's name is in the mix. You might as well put Geno's name in it, and have all four from this region. It's just what happens.
So, no, our kids are fired up. They're excited to play. We know what's at stake. We've been through this. We know everybody playing right now is really good. You've got to give them your full attention, and you've got to be dialed in, and I know these young women are.
Q. When you watch video of Oregon State, what do you see from Mikayla Pivec, and specifically, the intangibles?
JEFF WALZ: She's really good. She plays so hard. She's one of those players that, as you continue to watch on film, you know, her stats are good. But I think it's everything that you don't see on the stat sheet is what she does. She's diving on the floor after loose balls. She's getting her hand on a pass. She's always in there mixing it up for a rebound. She comes up with big plays. That's what really impresses me about her. We've talked about her as a staff as well as everybody on that team. She is one for sure that really stands out just because of the energy level that she plays with.
Coaching the game, the Xs and Os part, everybody, I think, can do that with players, but finding players that will just play hard and have a motor that doesn't stop is what's really hard to find. And she is one of those. I've really, really been impressed with her.
Q. UConn's been the No. 1 seed for 12 years in the East. And here you are, you're the No. 1 seed. Are you surprised that you're the No. 1 seed?
JEFF WALZ: I mean, no. Should I be? We're 31 and whatever going into it. I thought our kids have worked extremely hard, have played well. I'm not even sure we were the fourth number 1. If you look at what everybody had done, I thought we were right there. And at the same time, we got beat pretty handily in the ACC Championship game. There's no question about it. When you're without two starters, your starting point guard, we find out a half hour before the game she's not going to play, and then Sam Fuehring plays for 12 minutes. I can promise you, when you're playing Notre Dame, you'd better be at full strength. You aren't going to beat them with two or three starters out. They score the basketball too well.
And then after that game, I figured we'd be coming here to Albany as a 1 or a 2, and what's it really matter? It really has no bearing on anything. But I did feel pretty confident, I think my staff can tell you, that we were coming up here. Now you've just got to show up and play. It doesn't matter what seed you are. When you get to this time of year, when you get to the Sweet 16 -- I've said it since my first year. When you get to the Sweet 16, anything can happen. It's not the best team that's always going to win, it's the team that plays the best that night. And then a few breaks here and there. Ball goes off of your foot out of bounds, but they give the ball back to you. You know, anything. It's what it comes down to.
I go back to '13. If we played Baylor 100 times, that may have been the one time we beat them. All you've got to do is beat somebody one night, one game. So the 1 and 2 seed to me really doesn't matter, but, no, I was not surprised. Michelle may have been, but I wasn't (laughter).
Q. Oregon State's played a couple of the tournament games really close down to the wire, a couple ones later in the season. What have you noticed they've done to be able to kind of pull those out?
JEFF WALZ: They scored more points. And it's one thing -- we talk about it as a staff on film. It's one thing, they don't panic, they just continue to do what they do. It's really impressive because they have had a few ball games, and I think everybody was like, oh, look, they're about to get upset, and then when the clock expires, they've won. I think they went on a 20-0 run against Utah earlier this year to win the game. They just continue to do what they do. Scott's done a remarkable job with them the past several years, and they believe in what they're doing. That's what good teams do.
He's just got a great group that believes in what they do as individuals and as a team.
Q. I do want to go on the record saying I think you guys would have beaten Baylor more than once if you played them a hundred times in 2013. But you beat them the time that counted, right?
JEFF WALZ: That's right.
Q. I don't think any of your teams were on the all-ACC Defensive Team, and yet this is, I think, one of the better defensive teams you've had, and we saw this in the first couple rounds. Do you think that's because you play such good team defense that not one person stands out?
JEFF WALZ: This is back-to-back years we've led the ACC in defense and points allowed per game in either year. Neither have we had a player on the All-Defensive Team. I think that's because we do play such good defense. There's not one person that's leading the conference in steals.
Now, Sam Fuehring, last year I was a little bit surprised. She might have led the country in charges taken. I think she had 70-something throughout a season. It's pretty remarkable. I think she had 8 in our first game when we played at Ohio State. But, yeah, it's a group that takes pride in it. Like it was really neat because we're sitting there playing in that second round game, and our goal is to try to hold people under 50, and we gave up a 50 towards the end, and the kids were like, oh, gosh. And I'm going, you know what, it's pretty nice when you've got a group of players that, even though you're going to win the game, you know you're up, they still are taking pride in trying to get stops.
Q. What's Carter's health status right now for you guys? And in your beginning statement, you talked about everyone, I think, getting better. The one name you didn't mention is Asia, and obviously she's very good.
JEFF WALZ: She's been bad all year (laughter).
Q. I figured as much. But what she's brought to you guys in the season and her career so far?
JEFF WALZ: Arica's a competitor. I don't even ask her half the time because I know what the answer is I'm going to get -- I'm fine. I'm fine. She'll go today. I asked her, hey, are you practicing today? She's like yeah. I said okay. And then she'll play tomorrow. Is she 100 percent? I don't know if she's at 100 percent, but she'll never tell me.
The one thing that we have a good enough relationship is like, hey, you just have to tell me if you can't go. I'm not going to put you out there if there's any chance that you're going to get injured. So you've got to be up front and honest with me on that. That's one -- she came to me in ACC finals, and she was like, Coach, I can't do. And I knew that, okay, if she's telling me that, she's really hurting. And then she could have played in the first round game, but I thought, if we could afford to give her an extra day and a half rest, it would only benefit her, and it did. She says she's ready to go for tomorrow night.
And then Asia, you know, it speaks for itself. She just -- she's fun to coach. She's fun to work with. She's just a kid that gets in the gym and loves what she does. There's a handful that you can truly say, hey, this is what they want to do. Asia wants to be a professional basketball player. On top of that, she was our ACC Scholar-Athlete of the Year. So not only does she want to be a professional basketball player, but she's taking care of business in the classroom as well. She's the last one out of the gym. She's in the gym before practice. She just loves -- she loves the game.
Q. Real quick, just wanted to ask you a little bit more about Asia. This time of year, we've talked a lot this season about how much she helps her teammates, but what does she do to help her teammates this year especially?
JEFF WALZ: Well, I think you just go back to that second round matchup against Michigan. She's got the first two assists in the game. She's really developed. She's gotten better and better through her four years. And what I challenged her with last year in the off-season was becoming that player that can read when you're getting doubled or someone that's sending the blitz at you, being able to get off the ball at the right time. And I thought that Michigan game -- you know, she came off two ball screens, and they attacked her, and she makes the right read. Now all of a sudden, it's two assists. As a coach, if you're on the other side, it's like, God, what do I do now?
So she's been doing a great job of getting her teammates involved. She knows the pass to make. She knows where they're supposed to be. But then at the same time, she understands when she's got to put the ball in the basket. She's got to be aggressive for us tomorrow night. She was aggressive against Michigan. That's what we're going to need in order for us to continue to have a chance to win.
THE MODERATOR: Ladies, first of all, welcome. Thank you for being here.
Q. Asia, Coach said that it's not distracting to you guys when rumors come out about coaches. Obviously, Sam got the new job at a school already. Is he right? You guys see social media, I'm sure. Is it distracting when you see your coach being listed as potential candidates for other coaches, and in the past other coaches from Louisville getting offers from other colleges?
ASIA DURR: He's right, yeah. That's not really a distraction for us. I don't know why. People ask like why don't you let it bother you? I'm just like we just don't. We're here to play ball. We're not really worried about what's on Twitter, Snapchat, all that type of stuff. We're here to play ball.
Q. For Asia and Sam, you guys played Oregon State last year, and I know it was a tough first half. What were you able to do in that second half to pull away from them. And do you expect a similar type of game in the first half against them this year?
ASIA DURR: It's going to be a dogfight. It sure will be. They're going to come out on fire. They're going to come out with a bad taste in their mouth from last year. So it's going to be a challenge for us. We're going to get their best shot, so we have to be prepared for that and play our game as well.
SAM FUEHRING: I think they're going to be fired up because of last year's game, but, yeah, we're just going to attack them like we did last year. And to add on to what Asia said, we had a fire start. We were all together with that, and we're going to try that again and hopefully keep that throughout the entire game.
Q. This is for Sam and for Arica. Obviously, the ACC final was kind of tough. Arica, you weren't able to play, and, Sam, you got hurt during that game. Jeff said afterwards, we kind of just need to regroup a little, get people healthy. Can you just talk about what those two weeks were like and how well you were able to play in the first round and just getting that bouncing back after that ACC final.
SAM FUEHRING: I feel like those two weeks -- well, a week because I took a week off. But I mean, the trainers and the staff, they were all hitting my phone, all calling me. It was like treatment in the morning and like treatment after practice and then treatment later that night. So it was like three times a day type of treatment. There was times -- I mean, A.C. was in the training room with me, and I was like, I have to do treatment again? It was just so much. But I understand it now because of how fast I got back, so I'm appreciative of that.
ARICA CARTER: I think we just did a great job of focusing on making sure that we were doing everything right to get healthy. I mean, me and Sam were sharing a Game Ready at home to make sure we were continuing to ice our areas.
SAM FUEHRING: And not to mention she stole the ice from my freezer to use it.
ARICA CARTER: It's okay. We're a team. We did it together (laughter). We just made -- our staff and our teammates were making sure we're okay and doing the things we need to do to get back because, when we're a complete team, we're hard to stop.
Q. Sort of piggy-backing on Michelle's question, Arica, Coach said that discussing whether you want to play or not, whether you're healthy or not, and your answer is usually I'm fine, I'm fine, I'm fine. But he said before the ACC Tournament final game, you said, I can't go now. I can't. How do you feel now, having a little time off, where you are physically for this weekend?
ARICA CARTER: I'm excited. Like I said before, I've been doing everything with treatment that I can do to make sure I'm ready for today. I'm not 100 percent, but I'm going to find a way to go. My teammates are always there for me, and my coaches know, if I can't go, then I really can't go. But I'm doing treatment every day, like Sam said, three times a day. So I feel like I'm going to be ready for the tournament.
Q. Sam, I asked Jeff about this. I think he said you guys the last two years haven't had an all-ACC defender or on the All-ACC Defensive Team, and yet you've been the best defensive team. He credits that a lot to just the team defense. Can you talk about that and also talk about your personal fearlessness in terms of taking charges?
SAM FUEHRING: I mean, I'm willing to give my body up for the team no matter what. As for the defensive stuff, I don't really care about the awards. I don't know if you guys do.
ASIA DURR: No, not at all.
SAM FUEHRING: We work together well as a defensive team, offensive too. But like, say somebody gets beat, we're having their back, and we're going to help them too. That's what makes us a great defensive team. They can't give a single award to everybody on the team. So that's not going to happen. But I think we're the best defensive team, so we don't need an award to show that.
THE MODERATOR: Asia, do you have anything to add on the team's defense?
ASIA DURR: Sam hit that all. She hit the jackpot on that.
SAM FUEHRING: Money, money.
ASIA DURR: Y'all like that, huh?
THE MODERATOR: Any questions for your teammates?
ASIA DURR: I have a joke to tell. Mykasa, my teammate, told me to tell you. What does a blanket falling say?
THE MODERATOR: With that, we'll thank our student-athletes, thank them for their time, and wish them good luck.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports