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March 5, 2020

Scott Rueck

Mikayla Pivec

Kat Tudor

Las Vegas, Nevada

Oregon State - 82, Washington State - 55

SCOTT RUECK: Well, it's really awkward to play a team twice so quickly. I want to give Washington State a lot of credit. You know, that's a very well coached basketball team, it is difficult to defend, they proved that the other night at our place beating us at the half. It took a great effort for us to put them away in the second half.

So preparing for this game, we knew it was going to take that same great effort, that same intensity that we played with defensively, that same offensive efficiency we played with in the second half to pull away on Sunday tonight to win this game.

And that's what I was so proud of this team for doing, they brought a great effort against a very well-coached basketball team with a couple fantastic seniors in Chanelle and Bobbi.

So I was really pleased with our focus. I thought this team was as focused as they have been all year. I loved our intensity. Defensively we disrupted them from the start. Offensively we were in attack mode, and this team really moved the ball well.

Kat obviously is the story line today and just the way she shot the ball, the way she stretched the floor. And then Mik had a phenomenal game as well.

This team, when we're firing on all cylinders like we did tonight, is excellent. I was pleased with our effort tonight and to start the tournament off the right way.

Q. This is for you both. As seniors coming in here, having such a strong performance like that, what's that mean to you?
MIKAYLA PIVEC: It is a big momentum game for us. Last two years we have had really short stays, in Seattle my sophomore year and Vegas last year. When you lose, you have one and a half, two weeks of waiting, waiting, waiting. So we wanted to come out and give our best effort today.

Q. Coach, are you aware of ASU's loss? Are you excited to not have to play them?
SCOTT RUECK: That is so funny. I made a small comment after -- the second our Utah game ended, when I was asked about next weekend, you know, I said it is going to be a tough game, ASU plays football. I didn't say they were a football team. I didn't say they were guys. I said they're very physical. I meant it as a compliment.

You know, I have known Charli a long time. I'm the third longest tenured coach in this conference. So we had lost four straight games to them. It was a challenge to my team to be physical. We needed to up it if we were going to beat that team. Fortunately we did, you know, in a great game.

So Arizona State is a great team. There are lots of great teams in our conference. I have respect for everyone. Charli is a phenomenal coach. That team plays as hard as any team in the country night after night.

And that's the challenge of playing ASU. There's -- that was all misinterpreted, in my opinion, and there is no real proper way to address it other than right now. So thank you for that.

Q. For the players, the last two years obviously didn't go well down here. How much did that drive you tonight?
MIKAYLA PIVEC: I think we have those painful memories in our minds. You know, as a competitor you think about next game, next opportunity. That's what we came and did.

KAT TUDOR: I would say it built the fire in us. Yeah. We were ready to fire today. We were focused all day and just laid it on them.

Q. Coach, considering the way that you beat Washington State and played well all around, how do you carry that over to tomorrow and hope that you don't come out flat against a team like Stanford? Because you do everything well, the next day, it is sort of hard to duplicate. How do you -- what do you say to the team or what do you do?
SCOTT RUECK: I just think we played well. I think you have to play well this time of year. You know, I think Washington State, we were able to get out in transition, we were able to move the ball against them, we were able to attack the rim, and that created open shots. We hit them. I don't think there is any more to it than that.

We know our next opponent is Stanford, and if you don't play well against Stanford, you're not winning. Tonight is over. It's on to the next game. And this is what we're going to have to do, we're going to have to play aggressive, we're going to have to play well, we'll have to have another focused great effort to win that game. That's the only option. There's no highs, there's no lows, there's just next play.

Q. Kat, it's been a long season, I know you were waiting for that stroke, looking for it, hitting shots in practice. It just wasn't happening in a game. What did it mean for it finally to happen in a game tonight?
KAT TUDOR: It felt really good. I should be making shots. There are so many more things than go into making shots -- the passes from our point guards or anybody else, the defense giving us momentum for the shot.

Yeah, I should be making shots more. It felt good. It has been a long journey. Yes, felt good.

Q. Mik, on the same note, you've seen how hard she's worked.
MIKAYLA PIVEC: We see it in practice, too, what she's capable of. To see it come to fruition tonight was awesome. Coming together at the right time. We're excited to have Kat Tudor back. A huge weapon for us. And get ready to see a lot more threes the rest of the season.

Q. Coach, two months ago after your back-to-back loss against Oregon, you said that you thought that your team has one of the toughest schedules in the Pac-12 and in general throughout the entire NCAA. Do you think your team is now more prepared to go for a deep run inside of the Pac-12 Tournament and inside of the March Madness tournament after all the struggles and adversity that your team has had to go through?
SCOTT RUECK: No question. I said earlier this year that I think Oregon State this year has the toughest schedule ever in this conference, in the history of it. Nine games against top 20 programs. And then if you look at who we played and when, the turnaround time, the rest, it is as hard -- I can't -- it is not possible to have a tougher one.

What that has done is absolutely prepare us. It has been an absolute grind, you know, the transition of -- you know, Kat coming back, and we have seen Kat, she went off against Missouri State, I don't know if you remember that. That was like November.

So we have seen. You know, Kat has been there all year doing a great job, just working back. That was one transition that we have had, you know, bringing two true freshmen starters into this conference, you know, there's a learning curve there, and losing one of them, which skews our system once again in February.

There's been a lot of transition with this team. This is a very talented basketball team. You saw that tonight. So for us to just have the experiences where we're problem solving together, learning that same language, that we're becoming a mature, veteran team right before your eyes, it has prepared us absolutely for nights like this, beyond this tournament and beyond.

You know, you don't want to say I love every loss we have had, of course, but adversity makes you stronger, if you handle it correctly. And this team has really done a great job with that.

Q. Scott, it was 10-10, first media timeout, you scored 43 points (indiscernible) the first half. Was that as good a stretch of basketball as you have seen this team play this year?
SCOTT RUECK: I mean -- I don't know if we have had more than 50 points in a half. I can't remember if we have or not. We've had some really -- we had a 30-point quarter at Utah.

So we have had some great stretches. So it was just good basketball. It is this team competing. And, honestly, having fun. That's one of the things I loved about tonight. It was all in, and they just had a blast. They executed so well and played so hard.

You know, we have been building towards this, you know. So that's what it takes, you know, to win this time of the year. And their effort was excellent, you know. So I would say it was absolutely one of the best stretches, if not the best. I can't tell you for sure.

Q. Scott, piggyback on your answer about your guys' schedule. Could you make the same argument for the Pac-12 as a whole? This conference is a bear. You're going to have potentially five of the top 16 teams in the tournament right now. Is everybody going to be battle tested come NCAA Tournament time in two weeks from now that you could see two, three, four teams from the Pac-12 advancing to the Final Four and such?
SCOTT RUECK: I feel like we have been doing that for a while now. I think back to four years ago, I think the conference statistically might have been a little stronger throughout that year, 2017.

It is as good -- it is excellent right now, don't get me wrong. 2017 was crazy. I mean, that was the year Oregon finished 6th and went to the Elite Eight when those kids were freshman.

You know, so if you look at what we have done in the tournament -- which is what everybody was waiting for. You know, everybody -- we were talking about how good we are, and then everybody saw it that year and since, that, yes, we're -- there is no question we're prepared.

I think one of the things about it, it is so well coached, but also uniquely coached. We see so many different looks throughout the year that there is really nothing somebody could do that we haven't seen yet.

So anybody that makes the postseason -- you saw it with Arizona last year. Arizona wins the NIT, WNIT championship, they finished 9th in the conference last year. But they were ready.

So, yes, I feel like every one of us is prepared to make a deep run.

Q. Coach, what's up with you and Scholar Athletes of the Year? You have another one in Mikayla. Congratulations to you. Ruth, Syd. I mean, you dominated lately. What's going on?
SCOTT RUECK: Well, you know, my background is academic, as an academic school. For 24 years now I have coached and recruited people way smarter than I am.

So that's just kind of who we're drawn to, that's our expectation, is that you take care of business on and off the court, that you're great citizens. We tend to recruit responsible, mature individual. Those people win in life, and they win on the court. They're fun to be around. They're engaging and interesting people, and they're going places in life.

I know that that's who I'm comfortable -- most comfortable coaching, people that are driven to be elite. And so you look at those individuals and what they have done in the classroom, it goes far beyond them within our roster, you know, but it is something we have had I think 32 Pac-12 scholar athletes the last four, five years, something like that.

I'm very proud of them. You know, our fall GPA was 3.51 as a team. That's the expectation, that's the culture within our program, and I'm very proud of Mik, of Syd and Ruth in the past. They don't just do it with any major, of course, we have to put bio and then whatever other word you can add to bio, and it is all on her resume and in her class schedule. Very proud of them.

Q. Mikayla, you're obviously excellent in the classroom, but you seem to have a thing with 80-feet court shots, half-court shots, another one tonight. What's the key to your magic?
MIKAYLA PIVEC: Just giving it a chance, throwing it up, hope it goes in. Today was a little closer of a shot, so gave me a better chance of making it.

SCOTT RUECK: How do you get it to stop on the rim like that?

MIKAYLA PIVEC: Luck. Don't ask me to do that again.

SCOTT RUECK: It seems like a long time ago. Thank you very much.

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