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April 5, 2019

Muffet McGraw

Arike Ogunbowale

Jessica Shepard

Brianna Turner

Tampa, Florida

Notre Dame-81, UConn-76

THE MODERATOR: Joining us is Notre Dame. We'll take an opening statement from coach.

MUFFET McGRAW: That was an amazing second half. First half I thought we really struggled to score. The second half really just caught fire. I think we played our normal game in the third quarter.

But I thought Brianna Turner was absolutely outstanding on defense. She now has the blocked shot record at Notre Dame, beating Ruth Riley. So proud of her. She really single-handedly kept us in the game the first half. She had so many key blocked shots.

Arike in the second half did what Arike does. She had some huge screens, made some great plays, and then free throws down the stretch.

Jessica Shepard, what an amazing game. 20 and 13. Bri, 15 and 15. We felt like we needed to rebound in order to win and I thought we did that.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Arike, seems the fourth quarter you take over games. What was your mindset down nine?
ARIKE OGUNBOWALE: I think teammates talking to me. We said we had to get defensive stops. I think we really as a team picked up our defense. We were scoring, but we weren't giving stops. We were trading buckets. Once we started getting stops, started getting scores, that's when we went on a run.

Q. Brianna, you weren't on the floor with your team last year. Being out here this year, what was your mindset heading into the game?
BRIANNA TURNER: I was just really excited and focused, ready to go. I have had injuries in the past. I really kind of put that in the back of my head. Always looking forward.

Really looked forward to this game, being able to compete out there.

Q. Jess, for you to be out there 40 minutes, play every second of this game, to finish strong the way you did, is there an extra bit of significance for that for you given conditioning has been so central to the work you've put in?
JESSICA SHEPARD: I think strength coaches, I think the coaching staff just does a great job of getting us in shape. When it does come March and April we're ready to go out there and play. I think everyone played pretty high minutes today.

Q. Jessica, you come out of the timeout and go down nine, it doesn't look like anybody is panicking.
JESSICA SHEPARD: I think for us as players, that was definitely the feeling. We had coach a little bit stressed (smiling). I think we knew that as long as we kept our composure, we just needed to get stops, we needed to get good offensive shots. I think Bri came up huge in the fourth quarter.

ARIKE OGUNBOWALE: I agree exactly what Jess said.

BRIANNA TURNER: I think the maturity of this team, being mostly upperclassmen playing tonight, just making sure we're staying relaxed, not getting too anxious. We knew against, like last week, coming out versus Stanford, coming out we were down, able to come back. Coach jokes we're a second half team. We knew we had to come back, whatever it took, no matter how many points it took.

THE MODERATOR: Ladies, thank you. We'll continue with questions for coach.

Q. Has this team improved from last year or do you feel it still needs some work?
MUFFET McGRAW: Well, I think Brianna gives us just a totally different look. What she can do defensively, she can switch out and guard the point guard, she can certainly guard the post. She's a shot blocking presence inside. I think it makes us a little more dominant inside, which won't be so dominant against Baylor because they're equally talented in the post.

We've had the advantage I think in a lot of games with our size. I don't expect that we're going to have that tomorrow or Sunday.

Q. The fourth quarter seems to be when Arike shines the brightest. Such a wonderful commentary yesterday about women empowerment. You have two women in the finals first time since 2012. Mean anything to you especially?
MUFFET McGRAW: The same two, I think, right?

I thought it was great to have a chance to say some things. But this weekend is really all about basketball right now. So we want to really focus on that. But I am excited to have two women in the final.

Arike just really got off to a slow start I thought in a lot of ways. She probably feels like she has to carry us because she's our leading scorer. She tries to do a little bit too much early, then sometimes not enough. I thought she really settled in at halftime. I think her teammates really help her. They continue to encourage her. She really came alive in the second half.

Q. Players joke about how stressed you are. Do you ever wonder if the magic isn't going to show up in the fourth quarter?
MUFFET McGRAW: Yeah, that's the cause of my stress (laughter).

I get so frustrated because it just seems so easy. We're man-to-man, they're in zone. It's like they lose their focus, they're not paying attention, Katie Lou is going off for three after three after three, they can't find her. Offensively we call a play, we run something else. We looked a little out of sorts. I worry a lot.

All of a sudden shots start falling, we get a defensive stop, make a layup. We look at the scoreboard, went on an 8-0 run.

Q. You go down 62-55, did you take the timeout because you thought it was slipping away or did you just want to stop Connecticut's momentum?
MUFFET McGRAW: I think that was where we were in the wrong defense, so we felt like we really needed to talk about it again, to talk about we were supposed to be in man-to-man, we needed to find Katie Lou, just to kind of reaffirm what we were talking about at the start of the fourth quarter timeout.

Q. Jess has talked about coming here to win championships. That's the reason she came to Notre Dame. With the way your offense rewards facilitators out of the front court, in some ways it seems like she's kind of the perfect player for Notre Dame. Do you view her that way? Do you view that as an indispensable part of what's gotten you here?
MUFFET McGRAW: Yes, Jess is indispensable to what we do. She fits perfectly into our system. She is someone that loves to pass the ball. She probably wants to be a point guard. She went coast-to-coast on a steal. She is a great facilitator on who the post is. Over a hundred assists throughout the year. She makes our offense go. Bri can go down and be on the block, not worry about anything else because Jess is a great high-post player.

Q. In Philadelphia there is a term called the Philly guard. Your girls epitomize that, don't they?
MUFFET McGRAW: Marina (Mabrey), for sure. She comes by it very naturally. She is so feisty and so competitive, just never, ever quits. She missed a lot of shots in the first half. She was fearless in the second half. Feisty on defense. She's the one in the huddle that's really getting everybody going.

Q. Jess, she can be 6'4", facilitate. How does that translate to the next level? What kind of player do you see her being in the W?
MUFFET McGRAW: I think she'll be a great player at the next level. She can shoot threes. In our system she doesn't get a chance to do that a lot. This year she shot a lot more jumpers from the three-point line. Her free-throw percentage has really improved. I think she's proven she can face up and score in the WNBA.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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