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March 30, 2019

Jeff Walz

Asia Durr

Sam Fuehring

Arica Carter

Kylee Shook

Jazmine Jones

Albany, New York

Q. Asia, Coach said yesterday how the win in January helped give you guys some confidence playing UConn just because you hadn't beaten them before. How much does that win help you guys preparing for tomorrow's game for mentally having confidence knowing you can beat them, and also what you guys did well and what you didn't do well to help for tomorrow?
ASIA DURR: I mean, that was great for us. It kind of gave us some good juice. We played hard, and we had some great stops. We put together some great stops, and we played great as a team. Obviously we held them to 44 points, so I mean, that's huge for us, and that's what we're going to need tomorrow. So we have to bring that.

Q. If you can talk just a little bit about the defense and how important it is at this time of year. You've played great defense all season, but moving forward in tomorrow's game, going to the Final Four, how important the defensive effort you guys bring every night is going to be?
JAZMINE JONES: I think when we're in tune on the defensive end, it creates an easy way for us to get offense. When we get stops, we get out in transition, and I think when we're really focused on defense, we're really good.

KYLEE SHOOK: Yes, defense is very important to Coach Walz and to us. If offense isn't going, we always have defense that we can fall back on.

ARICA CARTER: In order for us to win any games, we have to play defense, and that's what we've been focusing on in practice. That's what we've been talking about as a team. Because you're not always going to make shots. We can't just depend on making big shots. We have to get stops in order to make shots. So we've been working really hard on defense and making sure that we're having each other's back when we're playing defense and communicating a lot.

SAM FUEHRING: Yeah, defense is very important. I mean, without it, the team is going to run up the score. So I mean, it's important in every game just to know that we play hard, and just getting stops, and what Jazz says, running the floor.

ASIA DURR: Yeah, they said some great things. During this time of the year, we're playing great teams who can score really, really well, so we have to play great D throughout the whole game. They said it right.

Q. Both for Jazmine and Asia, I understand the importance of defense and UConn will say the same thing, but you guys really made a difference in that game down there with the three-pointers. How big can they be because they can just give you that little extra bit?
ASIA DURR: Yeah, I mean, they try to force us out wide, especially on hand-offs. They try to mix some things up, so we just tried to make the right read and the right play, so that's what we were trying to do. They were trying to force us to make tough shots, so that's what we were trying to do, too, is just make the right play and the right read.

JAZMINE JONES: Asia was hitting shots that game. Asia was hitting the big threes. Well said, AD.

Q. I want you guys to be perfectly honest, if when you guys were growing up, were you UConn fans watching them on TV, and if so, what's it feel like to be playing them for a spot in the Final Four?
ASIA DURR: I mean, growing up, doesn't matter who the team is. If there's a team that plays really well and they're doing great things, you know, obviously you're going to be a fan. I mean, people are fans of certain teams, certain players. So if you play well, then you're probably going to be a fan. You're not going to hate them. So it doesn't really matter who the team is. If they're playing well, playing great, doing some great things, you're going to be like, wow, that's cool. That's how I feel. I don't know how they feel, but that's what I would say.

SAM FUEHRING: Yeah, I mean, I grew up -- like everyone wants to go to UConn because of how good they are. They're a great program, great team. They are the winningest. And yeah, I feel like everyone -- every young girl would want to go there.

But my junior year I was being recruited by Louisville. I ended up loving it, ended up learning to love Louisville, and I'm a big fan here now. Like I'm all Louisville. It's kind of like at first when you play UConn, you could be scared, but then again, it's like you grow, and you learn that you're just as good as them, and that's something that I've learned here at Louisville.

ARICA CARTER: I mostly agree with Asia. Growing up, I was just a fan of any good basketball, and UConn was a part of watching good basketball. So whatever teams played great, played hard, that was a team I was a fan of, and I watched because that's the type of player I wanted to be. I wanted to be a player who did the little things and played hard, and UConn was one of those teams. So yes, I did watch them, but that doesn't change playing against them. You know, I want to come out and give our best and give them our best shot to know that so they know that we can play with them, too.

KYLEE SHOOK: I mean, I think they summed it all up.

JAZMINE JONES: Yeah, I agree.

ASIA DURR: Wait, one second. I have another joke, okay, guys? This is day two, all right?

Are you all ready? Y'all don't seem excited. All right, hey, hey.

What do you call flying bread?

A plane bagel.

Come on, guys, that was funny. Boom.

THE MODERATOR: If you would please begin with an opening statement, Coach, either based on the performance last night, looking ahead to tomorrow, and then we'll open it up to questions from the media.

JEFF WALZ: Yeah, just thrilled to still be playing, and again, would like to thank everyone that comes out and covers women's basketball. Very much appreciated. You know, it's a time of the year that you're just trying to survive and advance, and I thought we came out and played really well last night. Went back and watched the film, and obviously some areas that you still want to see some improvement in, but overall, I thought we defended extremely well. And just looking forward to a good day of practice today, and then the opportunity to play tomorrow.

Q. I saw your tweet, it was tremendous, to the governor. It was just a little -- let him know what's going on.
JEFF WALZ: I was just trying to be helpful. I mean, you know, it's our second year in a row. We went to a Final Four last year, and I'm not sure he knew there was a women's basketball team at Louisville or in the state. He was tweeting at Kentucky men for advancing, and I didn't say anything last year, and that's fine. But I thought, you know what, these young women are pretty impressive, and I think as our governor, if you're going to tweet at a men's basketball team at any school, you should at least have someone hopefully letting you know that, hey, there are women that play, too, and you've got a pretty good program at Louisville that advanced to the Sweet 16.

I saw today he did tweet our president, which was very nice of him, to congratulate us on getting to the Elite 8.

Q. Tomorrow when you guys play, I would imagine it's going to be a pro-UConn crowd because they're so close. How do you try to combat that?
JEFF WALZ: I'm still waiting to see that. I think more of their fans are beginning to like me more than him. (Laughter). I get a lot of emails from them. I can't say they're always, always very nice, but I respond to them all.

No. It's been -- you know what, as I said, I'd rather, and our players would rather, and I think for women's basketball, I'd rather be playing a game like this tomorrow in front of hopefully 12 to 13,000 fans. And if nine-tenths of them are here for UConn, that's great. The ball is the same. The rims are the same. The length of the court is the same. Any player would rather play in a great environment than possibly be playing where there's 1,500 people, 1,000, that show up for a regional final.

You know, as our game continues to grow, hopefully you can get a site where it's not right in someone's backyard. But we had the same thing last year. We played in Lexington, an hour away, to have a chance to go to a Final Four.

You know, I can't sit here and complain knowing I had the same benefit last year. So we're just excited that there's going to be a great crowd in here. I expect it to be a great basketball game between two great teams.

Q. You've talked last night about beating UConn in January and confidence and it's the first time this group has beaten UConn. How important is that? You've played them many times in the Big East and in the NCAA Tournament, but to have a win, how big is that for you guys' confidence tomorrow?
JEFF WALZ: Well, I mean, obviously it's important. But at the same time, it's the next game. You know, I was fortunate enough to work at Maryland for five years, and I think we were 0 and 9 or 0 and 10 against Duke. The only time we ever beat Duke in the five years I was there was in the '06 National Championship game. So it takes one time. So we didn't have any previous experience of beating them and figured out a way to beat them in that game.

And here, yeah, we did win in January, but it's going to be a whole new ball game. We aren't playing at home. You're not going to have your home crowd behind you. But it does give you a little bit of a sense of like, okay, if we play our best, we can win this game. And we know the performance that we had at home in January, we're going to need a better performance. I told our players that this morning. What we did back then, we're going to have to play better than that if you want to expect a chance to get to a Final Four.

Q. Jeff, for those of us that are not around Asia that much, she's pretty entertaining up here, telling jokes. She fist-bumped Kevin on the way out. Can you just talk about her personally and what she brings?
JEFF WALZ: Asia's growth from her freshman year when she first stepped on campus to now, it's really been a joy to watch. Her confidence just in herself outside of basketball -- she's always been a confident basketball player, but getting up here in front of the media, her interaction with our fan base, it's really been fun to watch as she's grown throughout her four years. Her confidence in who she is.

You know, her personality now is starting to show more and more. Now, I heard the joke she told the other day, and I'm not sure that was a very good one. She has some work to do on those. Was it better? Okay, good.

But no, her teammates, she's a great teammate because she's easy to be around, she always credits her teammates. It's never her. And she's genuine. It's what I tell our kids all the time, if you're just genuine, people -- they might not like it, but at least they know, hey, I'm not being fake. And that's something that Asia is remarkable with. What you see is what you get.

You know, when this WNBA draft comes up, I tell people all the time, to me, she's a top pick in the draft. And the reason I say that is she's going to do whatever you ask her to do. If you want her to score 12 a night, 15 a night, she'll go out there and do that. If you want her to get the ball to someone in the post, she'll go out there and do that. It's never been about her. It's been about what she needs to do to help our team win, and I think that's why she's so liked in our locker room.

Q. I know that you have a good relationship with Coach Auriemma. What is it like to go up against him and compete against him and UConn?
JEFF WALZ: I mean, it's been fun. It's been 12 years now, and I think it's only been one or two years that we did not play against each other, and then there were times that we played each other four times in one year.

I've got the utmost respect for Geno, his program, the way he does things. If you can't have -- just appreciation for what he's been able to do year in and year out, it's pretty remarkable. You know, he gets everybody's best shot every night, and it's not very often that they're not giving their best shot to everybody. And it doesn't matter who they play. That's the one thing I talk to our players about.

When you go see them sometimes play, and if they're supposed to beat someone by 60, they actually beat them by 70. And it's not running up the score, it's just how they play. And that's what impresses me. They play the same way no matter who they're playing. And that's one of the things that we have tried to set a standard within our program, and we're just really excited to have this opportunity to play tomorrow.

And we know going into it, we're going to be the underdog, and that's fine. I know we're the 1 seed, but everybody has got -- we're going to be the first 1 seed to lose. The big talk about why in the world was Louisville a 1 seed and UConn not. So we're okay with that. We know you've got to show up and play, and tomorrow at noon, I expect a great, great basketball game.

Q. It's been two months since the first meeting against UConn. Can you talk about what went well in that game and would you expect a similar game, or have things changed a lot in those two months?
JEFF WALZ: No, I don't think a lot has changed. What went well is we scored the basketball. It's the one thing I've always said. If you want to have a chance to beat UConn, you've got to score. Their defense does so well because I think their offense is so good. You go on a three- or four-minute drought and a 2- or 4-point game can go to 10. I can go back -- we were, I think, 0 and 17 before that last game in January. And you know, there is a few games where they kicked our butt, but there's a few that I can go back and say, look, here's six minutes, five minutes. That's all it was. It's a 4-point game and then they go on a 16-0 run over four minutes, it's 20, and it ends up at 20. That's what -- they can score so quick. And if you want to have a chance to beat them, you've got to be able to score the basketball. You have to execute. You can't have empty possessions at this time of the year. And then you've got to rebound the basketball.

I don't see a whole bunch changing in what they're trying to do, what we're trying to do, so I just -- it should be fun. I mean, I'm expecting a great basketball game.

Q. You were talking about you being the underdog despite being the No. 1 seed. Do you think your team is getting the respect they should be getting?
JEFF WALZ: Yes, for sure. I mean, we're a back-to-back 1 seed, played in the Final Four last year, 30 whatever and 3. Yes, I think we're getting the respect that we should. I think the kids have earned it. I mean, you go back and look at our schedule, I mean, we've had a very competitive schedule. We went on the road in the non-conference early and did what a lot of BCS schools won't do: We went and played at Boise State, we went and played at Central Michigan. I talked to Sue at Central Michigan and she's just shocked. She's like, I can't believe you'll come up and play. I'm like, Sue, I think it's great. The environment up there, it's a great test for our team. We played at Western Kentucky, at Chattanooga. I mean, places where a lot of BCS schools won't go play. We played at Middle in the past. It's a great place to play.

I think it's great for our team. I always tell everybody when we schedule -- when I talk about it, I go, I want to know where we are. If we go to Boise State and we get beat, then I'm like, guys, they're a really good basketball team, there's no question about that. But what are we going to do when we go to Duke, what are we going to do when we go to NC State?

So I thought we played a great non-conference schedule, and then we've been getting a lot of respect. I think our players have earned that, and I think it's going to be fun. It's going to be fun tomorrow. There's no doubt.

Q. Going a different direction for you, as a coach when you get this far and you have a bunch of talented seniors, more so this round than the next couple, there are extra things you've got to watch out for because this is the time seniors might start thinking about if I lose my last game, et cetera, et cetera, even if they've had a great year. You think about Holdsclaw, that game against Duke in '99. Just wonder if there's something that stays on your radar as an extra thing.
JEFF WALZ: No, I don't even worry about that. We don't even talk about that. Our team has known since we started this tournament -- well, actually the start of the ACC Tournament, we talked, it's one-and-done now, guys. The "my bads," the "hey, I'm sorry," it's not good enough. I tell them right now if I've got to spend any energy on trying to get you excited, I'm just going to take you out. Your teammates should not have to spend any energy on trying to get you focused because your head is down because you missed a shot or you're frustrated. Everybody on that floor has got to spend the energy on the opponent, on themselves.

Guys, this is the best time of the year, it's the most exciting part of college basketball. So I truly believe our seniors are dialed in. They're looking forward to the opportunity tomorrow. And I don't worry about that at all.

Q. Jeff, you've done an amazing job at Louisville getting them to the Final Four and championship games in your twelve years a few times. Can you appreciate what UConn's done making it 11 straight Final Fours.
JEFF WALZ: Oh, yes.

Q. Just how tough that is for any team to do year after year and the expectations when you don't win it all for them and it's like, well, they had a terrible year? Well, you made the Final Four.
JEFF WALZ: No, it's -- you know, I can just talk from our end of it. 12 years ago, the goal was just to get to a Sweet 16. I can remember like, hey, we just want to have the opportunity to get to a Sweet 16, and now we've gone to nine in 12 years. This is our fifth Elite 8. And we've been in three Final Fours. And I've got my fans, which I love them, that before the ACC Tournament started, we have our tickets to Tampa. I'm like, that's great. Now we've got a few ballgames to play before then.

But your expectations change, and that's what Geno has created here at UConn. It's amazing, 11 straight Final Fours. You're not having a bad night. I mean, it's -- for those 11 straight, you've got -- that's 44 games that you've played in the NCAA Tournament, and you really have not had a bad night. That's pretty darned impressive.

I've got the utmost respect for it. It doesn't -- I know everybody would say, hey, he's always got better players, he's got this, he's got that. We all have some good players. It's just impressive that two or three of them have not had a bad night on the same night. I mean, they've won 44 straight to get to the Final Four. So we know we have our hands full tomorrow.

But no, we take great pride in what we've been able to do here at Louisville. My SID has in our game notes the 32 previous years Louisville had never been to a Sweet 16. In 12, we've been to nine now. So I think it speaks volumes for my staff, our ability to go out and recruit, and then our ability to motivate players.

You've got to figure out a way to get kids to do more than they think they can, and then as soon as they start to do that, then they start to buy into each other. And I say it all the time, I know when we've got a special group when they really aren't concerned about me during a game. They aren't concerned if I'm getting on them, you've got to box out. When I see them talking to each other, going that's my fault on the box out, I'll get the next one. Instead you have teams that are like, if somebody gets beat on a back door cut, it's like, I hope Coach didn't see that. It's like, did he see it or not.

The great teams are the ones, they're holding each other accountable and they don't want to let each other down, and that's what we've built here the past few years, and that's why we've been able to have our success.

Q. Your players were just talking about being an underdog legitimately as if they believe that. Do you like them to play with a chip on their shoulder or do you like them to be realistic that you have a pretty big chore in front of them?
JEFF WALZ: No, I mean, it's what we just talked about here. We're predicted as the first 1 seed to get beat by ESPN. Everybody was upset that we got the 1 seed here. So I mean, I would say we are the underdog.

But at the end of the day, it really doesn't matter. You have to show up and play. We always step on the floor respecting whoever we're playing. We know, and I've said it for two years now, our margin for error is thin. If you look at the rankings of these players as they come out of high school, you know, you've got No. 1, No. 1, No. 3, No. 5. It's pretty remarkable on that team we're playing tomorrow. And then I've got a young lady by the name of Bionca Dunham who wasn't even a top 300 on anybody's scouting service.

We try to take pieces and put them into a puzzle that works for us. And then if everybody does their job, we're pretty darned good. We're not going to win tomorrow by playing one-on-one. We're not going to beat them with just a one-on-one basketball game, okay, I'm better than you. We have to play within ourselves.

As I tell them, and I said it the other night, whatever you do well, do it, and whatever you don't do well, don't let anybody see it, and that's our motto right now. If you're not a good one-on-one player taking somebody to the basket, don't do it. If you're a screener, screen. You can only have one leading scorer on a team, and I always ask at the beginning of every year, what do you want to do. I want to be the leading scorer. I said, well, there's eight of you that have said that. Not one of you have said you want to be the best defender.

So you know, everybody on our team now has kind of bought into their role. I thought what Dana Evans did last night and Arica Carter on their point guards, Destiny Slocum, I think she may have woken up last night with a nightmare that Dana Evans was by her because she just hounded her the entire time. It's not that she stole it every time, but she put pressure on her. Well, that's what she does great.

Kylee is doing a really nice job now of finishing in the paint and rebounding. She's a post presence for us. Arica Carter -- I say all the time, Arica Carter is the YMCA 50 and over men's league player. She just spots up, she knocks down spot up threes, she's in the right spot at the right time, she gets the ball to the right people, but she's not blowing by you and making some and-one mix tape move.

But that's who we are. And then we've always had a player like Asia, you know, somebody that, you know what, shot clock is running down, I can get her the ball and she'll get her shot. She can get something up on the rim for us and a lot of times it goes in. There were a few times in last night's game where we isolated and went flat with her, and she makes that little step back off her back foot, and I turned to the bench and I go, when you've got that, it makes it nice.

But everybody else believes in what they're doing. They've accepted their role. So for us tomorrow everybody has got to play their role and do it well.

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