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March 28, 2019
Albany, New York
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. We've been joined by Oregon State coach, Scott Rueck. As a reminder, please raise your hand. We'll have the microphones brought to you for questions.
Prior to that, Coach, if you could please supply an opening statement with the outlook on your team, how you got here, and forecast, if you will.
SCOTT RUECK: Sure. I hear rain. I hear rain, which will just be similar to what we left actually. It was beautiful right when we left. We had a little rain this week. Feels like home, to be honest, the temperature and everything.
Everything was smooth travel-wise. It's great to be in Albany. Appreciate Siena and the MAAC for hosting. Everything has been real easy. Travel was as easy as it could be to get here.
We always talk about any place, any time. So it doesn't matter the time zone or whatever, we're excited to compete.
As far as our team goes, this has been an incredible group to coach. Just a resilient, tough -- I don't know. Just another really special Oregon State team full of high character individuals. We've had some adversity this year, a little more than we ever had before. We had our first season-ending injury this year in Kat Tudor to open up Pac-12 play opening night actually in the first half. So when you lose a dynamic scorer like that, such a big part of what we do, someone who brings a swagger and a confidence to the court, other people have to really step up.
That's what everybody who's watched us all year has seen, is the team just continue to rise. Now, this week, for the first time, I can really say this conference is the best one in the country. We've got five teams remaining out of 16, and I don't think any of us are surprised by that. I'm not. And we're all battle-tested. So what a pleasure to be a part of a conference that is coached as well as it is and to compete every night with your back to the wall, and that's what life in the Pac-12 has been.
So I'm really happy for the other four schools to get to this point and excited about all the challenges that we face.
Q. Scott, it's usually said in March it's survive and advance, and you guys live that, it seems. I mean, Boise State and then the Zags. What's it been like for you as a Coach? Is it more fun in the games like that, or would you rather have an easier road to get here?
SCOTT RUECK: That's a great question because we're learning to love these grind it out, crazy finishes that we've been part of. It's almost become a habit, it seems like. I can tell you this coming off -- you were at the Pac-12 tournament. That didn't end the way we had hoped for us, of course. That was a lot to overcome, and to live with those feelings for 15 days before we got to play again, you know, where it's by far the worst loss of the season for us. Everybody else we've lost to is still playing, by the way, this year.
I thought it took us a while just to remember how to play. Then you're playing a team as good as Boise State. And anybody who watched that game can see how dangerous that team is, how gritty and tough and well-coached they are and how skilled they are. So literally, to survive that game, to come from four down with 17 seconds to go and find a way to win it in overtime speaks to the things I said earlier. And that's just the toughness and resilience of this group and their will to win with their backs to the wall and come through and make plays.
Then to turn around and face a Gonzaga team who beat Stanford this year, another 28-4 team, only lost to two teams all season long, that expects to be here, and is so well coached and good. So I thought those were just two great wins. I thought they were signature performances for this team because that's what we've been doing all year. I think it just reiterated who we are, to be honest.
So now we're ready for the next one. But I did think we played more like ourselves against Gonzaga. There was an intensity on both ends of the floor, and I liked seeing how many different people rose in that game. Maddie Washington had one of her best games of the year, and that was something that we couldn't have predicted necessarily before. We'd hoped but couldn't have predicted. So it's a good sign going forward.
Q. Scott, what do you think Louisville's strengths are? And do you guys go into this game considering yourself the underdog?
SCOTT RUECK: Well, I think they have a lot of strengths, actually. Everything points to us being the underdog going into the game, so I'd have to say yes to that.
Asia's unreal. I've been watching her since she was in high school on the circuit. We didn't recruit her, but we were in the same gyms watching. Just a remarkable talent, remarkable competitor, does everything right. I mean, she's what it is. She's what it's about, in my opinion. I love her game, always have. So when you've got a player who has that level of ability, she makes everybody else get better. And she gives so much confidence to that team -- well, everybody else is good too. So it's just a team that can play at different tempos. It's a team that's very versatile. It's a team that can hurt you inside and outside. So they are a 1 seed for a reason.
They're very dangerous. They're outstanding in the open court, and yet they execute well in the quarter court. When you take everything away and there's three seconds on the shot clock, they can throw it to one of the best players in the game, and it's really difficult to keep her from getting a good shot off. So they're extremely dangerous in a lot of ways.
So a great team and a great challenge.
Q. Hey, Scott, last year you go into Knoxville, beat Tennessee. Then you go home, then you go back across the country to Lexington, and you beat Baylor. Can you kind of take us through that Louisville game, your thoughts about what happened in that game.
SCOTT RUECK: Yeah, it was a heck of a journey. This year it's kind of nice that finals were a week earlier, in comparison, or as it relates to the NCAA Tournament. So we didn't have finals this past week. We were on spring break. So we were able to focus a little bit more.
What that team accomplished in those two highly emotional games was incredible. And then we go into Louisville, in Lexington, in front of 6,000, 7,000 people wearing red and going crazy. So it was a home environment for them without a doubt. I thought they rode that emotion very well, and we could not get settled. They did a really nice job on Marie in that game. They were very physical with her, kept her off her spots, and that skewed us just enough to put us on our heels.
Louisville does a great job with pressure. They sense weakness, and any time you demonstrate that, they came after us. They turned us over, got in the open court. We were -- I actually felt good at halftime down eight in that game. I didn't feel like we played great, but then they came out and had just an incredible third quarter. I think they scored 28 points in the third quarter just to separate, and that was the deciding factor. Marie fouled out for the first time in her career on her last game. So it was just one of those days.
Looking back at that film and even this week reflecting on it, I don't think I did a very good job in putting us in position to be successful in that second half, in particular, and it was just one of those games that got away from us. But it's a grind from a 6 seed, I can tell you that, to get to that point with all the travel and just how emotional and draining all those things were. But they were a great team. That's the way that game went.
Q. You mentioned the Pac-12. The Pac-12 has an 11-1 record. UCLA is here. Can you talk about competing, not just for Oregon State, but on behalf of the Pac-12 and the camaraderie maybe you have with Coach Close and some of the other coaches in the Pac-12.
SCOTT RUECK: It's a great group. That's something that's been fun to watch. When I came in -- this is my ninth year at Oregon State. It was the Pac-10 when I first got there. We were known as Tara and the rest basically, so Stanford and everybody else. And I think now this conference is obviously not that. You've had a different champion the last five years. She had won it 14 straight until we won it in '13/'14 -- or '14/'15, I guess was our first.
So to watch everybody elevate and everybody see themselves differently and everybody see that it's possible, not necessarily to win the conference, but to compete nationally. The Pac-12 network came in. Women's basketball, nearly every game, is on TV. Everybody started paying attention to it. And if you weren't really working, you quickly fell to the bottom, and there was a change made.
Now you look across the board, the conference has hired proven head coaches with very few exceptions, and everyone's doing a fantastic job. We're scheduling much better as a conference. We're recruiting much better. We're able to keep West Coast players west. That was not happening a decade ago. And now it doesn't always happen, of course. People have their preferences. But a large majority are staying now because there's so many great options which has just increased the talent level. So you've got a combination of great players and great coaches. And then we beat each other up, like I mentioned a little bit ago, over and over, and there's really nothing we haven't seen to this point. We've seen great players. We've seen great schemes. And so now we're all battle-tested going into the NCAA Tournament.
So I mentioned it at the tournament actually, anybody who is able to get to the postseason is going to be ready, and that's proven true.
Q. Is a 9:30 start helpful to you? I mean, an earlier game would be all right, but the fact is you're still in your natural West Coast working deal, and it could be later if the game goes into overtime.
SCOTT RUECK: 6:30? I'm teasing. It's 6:30 our time when we tip. I mentioned before, I don't put much on those things. I think those become distractions if you give it any kind of credence. So any time, any place. We have to play 11:00 a.m. games sometimes at home. We had to play 8:00 p.m. time. Sometimes we play 8:00 p.m. on a Friday and a noon game on Sunday in the conference with travel in between. So we don't pay much attention to those things.
My goal is, I can tell you, to keep our team on West Coast time this weekend.
Q. Scott, as somebody who's such a great defensive coach, can you evaluate Louisville from that aspect for us? They led the ACC in defense the last two years. A lot of people pay attention to Asia being a great offensive player, but defensively they've been tough, and you can compare them from even last year to this year.
SCOTT RUECK: I think -- I mentioned the word versatile earlier, and I think that's what makes their defense what it is. They can play different styles. They'll give you different looks to keep you off balance. And so you just have to play the game, and you have to be ready for anything. Nothing can throw you off. Maybe they're going to trap you this time. Maybe they'll play position next time. Maybe they'll go to their zone. Maybe they'll pick up in a zone press. Maybe they'll man, full. Maybe they'll trap out of that.
So I think they do a great job of adjusting on the fly, and their defense in general, their mindset is zonish. But like I mentioned, if they sense weakness, the pressure will come. So they have an identity that's defensive, even though they're an outstanding offensive team as well, which is a sign of a great team, my feeling. You've got to identify on both ends of the floor and play multiple ways, and they do a great job of that.
Q. Scott, I know you probably figure control what you can control and not worry about things that are out of your control, but I'll ask this anyway. The NCAA changed this rule a couple years ago that you couldn't have two teams in the same conference play in the same region until a certain point. Texas A&M and Baylor game in 2012, I think was the fourth time they met. With a regional in Portland, would you have minded playing there, potentially seeing Oregon again in the regional finals or semis versus traveling across the country? I would think Portland is pretty close to you guys geographically than flying cross-country.
SCOTT RUECK: Yeah, we're the closest.
I honestly felt that might happen. I thought we'd see Gonzaga in Corvallis if we were able to host, and I wouldn't be surprised to see that at all. I thought maybe we'd both be there. Whatever. It is what it is, and like you said, I can't control it. So wherever we go, we play. So here we are, and so Louisville is next. The next 40 minutes are all I care about.
THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with our student-athletes from Oregon State. I'd like to introduce Katie McWilliams, Destiny Slocum, and Mikayla Pivec.
Q. For all three of you, obviously, the Pac-12 Tournament did not go the way you wanted. Coach said it took you a couple days -- or I think he said 15 days until you played again. How long did it take you guys to sort of get over that and say, okay, you know what, we're still playing. We still have goals to meet. How long did it take you to get over that loss to sort of refocus and get ready for what you've done so far in this tournament?
MIKAYLA PIVEC: It was a disappointing Pac-12 Tournament for us, very short stay. We tried to get over that as quickly as possible because our season wasn't over. At that point, we knew we'd be playing in the NCAA Tournament. We weren't sure if we'd be hosting or if we'd be traveling, but we knew we got to play another game. We were excited about the opportunity.
Obviously, we were, the first couple days after watching the other teams play in the Pac-12 Tournament, disappointed about that, but it was time to refocus on the next step. So we had a couple of days off to kind of refresh, give our bodies a little bit of time off, and then we had a couple of practices together as a team, just our players while our coaches were out recruiting. And then we came in the next week and started full blown into our practices on that Monday.
So it was trying to forget about it as quickly as possible, but then learning from those mistakes we made and getting ready for the next step.
THE MODERATOR: Katie, how long did it take you to regroup?
KATIE MCWILLIAMS: I mean, Mik said most of it, but I will say I thought the Boise State game we were -- we started off well, and then I felt like there was still kind of that rust there, like we weren't maybe the best team that we could have been. And then I felt like we were back together again in that Gonzaga game. We had a great overall game in terms of executing offensively and defensively. I feel like we're that team back again.
THE MODERATOR: Anything to add, Destiny?
DESTINY SLOCUM: Yeah, I just think that the Washington game was over after it happened. There wasn't much we could do about it. There wasn't much we could change. As a team, we talked after, just moving on, and that we had an opportunity, and we still have an opportunity to do something uncommon and continue in the NCAA Tournament, something that not a lot of teams get to do. So I think right away we had to be on to the next. There's not an option, and it's what's carried us through the last two games.
Q. Katie, I'll ask you this. To lose Kat so early, right there at the start of the Pac-12 season, you guys kind of had to just regroup emotionally. Could you just go through how you guys dealt with it and then just what sort of an inspiration she's been just being on the bench and helping you.
KATIE MCWILLIAMS: You know, that's something you never want to happen to any player, but we've all had to step up in our roles. And that's what Coach Scott said right away, the next day after it happened, that just everyone's going to have to rise for this team.
Obviously, Kat was such a big part of our team. I mean, one of our top scorers and lights out from the three-point line. So even though she's been hurt and been going through that recovery process, she's been such an energy booster off the bench. I mean, you can see her on the sidelines just going crazy after we make shots. She's just very competitive. So she kind of brings her competitive spirit into us.
So just a great teammate and someone that -- I see her doing her recovery routines, and I just know she's working really hard, and I just know she's going to be back better than she was.
Q. A question for Mik and Katie, and then a question for you, Destiny. The question for you guys, what's it going to be like to have this rematch with Louisville? And for you, Destiny, what's it going to be like to play in your first Sweet 16 with Oregon State?
MIKAYLA PIVEC: We're excited about this opportunity against Louisville that we'll be playing tomorrow. They ended our season last year, ended Marie Gulich's career. They're a very talented team, we know that, and we'll be excited for the opportunity tomorrow.
KATIE MCWILLIAMS: I just know I'm happy to still be playing. Just to be here at the Sweet 16 and to get another try against Louisville is just an exciting opportunity for us.
DESTINY SLOCUM: I'm excited to be a part of the journey this time. Last time I was watching from home. Everything that they were doing was awesome. I'm happy that I can be here with them and continue the journey.
THE MODERATOR: Mik, your coach talked about the competitiveness of the Pac-12. Could you speak to that and how it's prepared you for this tournament?
MIKAYLA PIVEC: Shout out to the Pac-12, five teams in the Sweet 16. It's awesome. We're always rooting for the Pac-12 teams when we're not playing them ourselves. Pac-12 play has really prepared us well for this tournament, seeing a whole bunch of different styles of play, seeing teams that are super athletic and disciplined, teams that can really shoot it, teams that are super athletic. So it's prepared us pretty much for any team we'll see in this tournament, and we're excited for the next step.
Q. Along those lines, do you guys text other players like on the other Pac-12 teams and say, hey, great job. Congrats on advancing and still playing. I'm sure you have friends on other teams. Is that something that goes along with it? The coaches have all been saying, it's great. We all tell each other we support each other in that way. I see you support the other schools. Is it just rah rah, or do you have friends and you say great job. Maybe we'll see you guys in the Final Four?
KATIE MCWILLIAMS: I don't really necessarily talk to anybody specifically on a personal level in the Pac-12. But I know that on Twitter we've just been congratulating them as a whole, just as a Pac-12, as the conference as being so tough and for all those teams making it this far.
DESTINY SLOCUM: Yeah, same.
MIKAYLA PIVEC: I don't personally text other people on other teams. I know when I watching their game, I'm rooting for them. We played a game at Gill Coliseum and they were showing the highlights on the board of updates of the scores, and UCLA beat Maryland, and all of the Gill fans started clapping and cheering for each other.
THE MODERATOR: Ladies, thank you. Good luck to you tomorrow.
MIKAYLA PIVEC: Thank you. Go Beavs!
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports