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March 31, 2019

Muffet McGraw

Marina Mabrey

Jackie Young

Arike Ogunbowale

Brianna Turner

Jessica Shepard

Chicago, Illinois

Q. Some of you have played against Stanford in the past. The two programs have met four of the last five years, at least at the regional level. I know, Arike, you played against them at the end of the 2017 game. Talk about playing a program like that, good athletes that you're familiar with.
ARIKE OGUNBOWALE: I think they're a great program. They have a great coaching staff, and they really are pretty good at scouting. And like you said, we played each other a lot, so they know our players and they know what we like to do and vice versa. So it's definitely going to be a game of discipline and runs. We're both good teams, so who can execute the game plan better.

BRIANNA TURNER: Yeah, they're obviously such a great team coming from a really good Pac-12 Conference. Tara VanDerveer, over a thousand wins, so yeah, we know we're facing another phenomenal coach. So we know we have to just come in and play hard, make sure we get stops and play our game.

MARINA MABREY: Like both of them already said, they're just really a great team. They execute really well. We run a lot of the same stuff. We have a lot of the same tendencies. It'll be key for us to play really good defense.

Q. Jessica, when you were looking at transferring, what appealed to you about Notre Dame, how did you see yourself fitting in, and does it feel like now as a senior everything went according to plan? And Brianna and Jackie, if you could discuss what it's like to have her on your team, what she's added.
JESSICA SHEPARD: I think when I transferred I was looking for a place just to grow as a person and as a player and a chance to compete for championships. Obviously choosing Notre Dame, I had prior relationships with three of the four people up here with me, so I think that helped a lot, and just definitely the coaches, it's just a family feel and they're just real with you, and I think it was a great fit for me.

BRIANNA TURNER: Jessica is such a phenomenal player inside and out. She's the strongest player I've ever played against or with, so that just speaks for itself. Her ability to like chase down rebounds and just offensively, as well, just her strength is really one of her great assets.

JACKIE YOUNG: Yeah, like Bri said, Jess is a great player, and she's a huge post presence for us, definitely one of the best post players I've ever played with. She's also great at passing the ball, and so it's just nice whenever we're getting to go out in transition because of Jess's rebounding and passing abilities.

Q. Arike, what do you remember about that game two years ago and the lay-up and how that unfolded, and can you just describe how different it was going from that experience two years ago to last year where you were the one hitting the big shots in the Final Four?
ARIKE OGUNBOWALE: I mean, that was a tough shot. They played well in the second half. They came back. We played well the first half, but second half not so much. So it came down to a shot which is not really -- we don't really want that. Stuff happens. You grow and you learn. I guess it's better to be on the opposite side my junior year of making the shot rather than missing it.

Like I said, you just grow. You've got to kind of forget about those things, use it to make you stronger, motivation. You always remember how you felt in that moment and you don't want to feel like that again.

Q. I want to follow up to what you said about her strength. You have some certain examples or stories that come to mind of either plays or even working out, things that really stand out?
BRIANNA TURNER: For instance, in the weight room, I'll grab like a 30-pound dumbbell, and Jess will grab like 60. So just simple instances like that.

But yeah, just like just playing and how she can just literally move players without fouling, is one of her strengths. So yeah, definitely the weight room.

ARIKE OGUNBOWALE: She beat me in arm wrestling once. (Laughter).

Q. Was there any player you modeled yourself after, and if you could talk about just your development even through high school and how you learned to use that as an asset?
JESSICA SHEPARD: I don't think I necessarily like modeled my game after anyone growing up. I think I watched a lot of basketball, obviously, but growing up I played a guard pretty much all the way up through high school, so I think that definitely helped in just court vision and just being able to pass the ball ahead. But yeah.

THE MODERATOR: Let's welcome head coach Muffet McGraw. We'll go ahead and start with questions for Coach this afternoon.

Q. How was Jackie today physically after taking that shot, and how is Marina physically at this point?
MUFFET McGRAW: Yeah, everybody came out of the game fine. Got a lot of treatment, and they are ready to go.

Q. The players were talking about Jessica's strength, and each one of them kind of had a funny, maybe made-up story about how strong she is. But what does -- how unusual or rare or unique is the strength she has, and what are some examples of that? And then on top of that, to be a good passer, as well as scoring, rebounding? Kind of seems like she does a lot of things for you.
MUFFET McGRAW: She's incredibly versatile, but she's tough to move when she gets her spot down on the block. But she is such a great passer. She can put it on the floor. She can read the defense. She's a really willing passer, also. But I love her strength. When she gets the ball down low, she's pretty hard to stop.

Q. What have you learned about going up against Tara these last few years, and did it surprise you that Notre Dame and Stanford went so long without playing each other before that?
MUFFET McGRAW: Yeah, no, we've played them, I think, maybe three of the last four or four of the last five, whatever. She's a great coach. She is somebody that just is a consistent winner. She gets pretty good players, but she makes them better. I think she's a great strategist and just has a great mind for the game.

Q. What was that like over the years to battle on the recruiting circuit with Stanford? And then the Fran pursuit in particular, how did that unfold? What was that like?
MUFFET McGRAW: Yeah, that was a battle. The thing you know when you go against Stanford, there's not going to be any negative talk in the recruiting process. So it's always a good, clean fight.

Fran was somebody that we went after hard, and we were disappointed when she chose Stanford, but certainly couldn't make a bad decision between the two schools.

Q. Just another follow-up about Jessica, when you knew she was transferring, what did you see in her, and how did you think she could develop in your program?
MUFFET McGRAW: Well, we heard that she was going to transfer, and a couple of our players had played with her in USA Basketball. You know, they talked to me about her, but my first conversation with Jess, all she talked about was "I just want to win. I want to come someplace where we can win a National Championship. I don't care how many points I score, I don't care about any of the stats. I just want to win."

I just immediately -- I hung up the phone and said to my husband, "That's somebody I would love to coach." But I knew she could make an immediate impact.

At Nebraska she got to shoot a lot of threes and she got to play away from the basket, and we kind of forced her down on the block a little bit more than probably -- I mean, her game is able to go out on the perimeter, but we really needed her on the inside, and she played so well, had such a great year. Finding out she was eligible the first day of our exhibition game was like a gift, an early Christmas present, and she has been so important to our team.

Q. You guys I think are the highest scoring team in the country. Stanford is unbeaten when they hold people under 70 points. How important is it -- I think you're going to get runs on both sides, but how important is it to kind of dictate that tempo and play your style as opposed to letting somebody else dictate it?
MUFFET McGRAW: Well, you always want to control the tempo. We do like to run. We're a transition-type team. I think our offense feeds our defense, which is kind of the opposite of the way it's supposed to go. But we can get out and run. We enjoy playing the game a lot more. We can play half court, and we certainly have some pretty good weapons on offense. But they are a very good defensive team. That'll be a battle.

Q. I know it's probably like an annual conversation about how to get more attention on the women's game, the women's tournament. I know there's been talk this year, too, about the NCAA doing more to promote it. Do you have thoughts on that, or ideas of what can be done, and do you see improvement there?
MUFFET McGRAW: Well, I thought last year was one of the most exciting Final Fours ever, and I thought it transcended the women's basketball community and really just went throughout the country. I thought everybody was watching, maybe because it was Easter Sunday or the games were so close, it was so exciting.

I think that went a long way to building a lot more fans. I thought it went over to the WNBA. We had a huge uptick in their attendance. I think ESPN was really happy with the numbers. I think first time maybe we were in the black in the tournament. Columbus did a great job. So I think we're heading in the right direction.

I think probably the regionals this year, this venue was fantastic. Everything about it, it's a great building to be in, everything is first class, and the fans were phenomenal. So it was great to see because the regionals are where the problem is in women's basketball. It's really not the first and second round, and it's not the Final Four. So I think we need another plan for the regionals.

Q. Any ideas on --
MUFFET McGRAW: I think we should come to Chicago every year. I think that would be great. (Laughter).

A lot of people are floating the all 16 to one site, eight to two sites. We've got to do something, I think.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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