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March 6, 2020

Teri Moren

Aleksa Gulbe

Ali Patberg

Indianapolis, Indiana

Indiana - 78, Rutgers - 60

TERI MOREN: Well, we're excited about the opportunity to move forward and advance in what I think is going to be a really great tournament. Really happy with our guys and just how we came out. The double bye is sometimes a blessing and a curse in the sense that you want to get your kids out there on the floor as quickly as you can, and get that first game under your belt because I just think that that's the most important game in any kind of a tournament format, and so I was a little bit -- not worried, but as I said to these guys, we've got to get off to a quick, a fast start, a good start, and if your shots don't fall at the beginning, just settle in because sooner or later they will.

But I thought our guys, especially this one to my right, Ali, she came out just being super aggressive. I've said it here probably in the last month over and over again, when Ali Patberg is aggressive the way she was this afternoon, the entire team gains a lot of confidence, and because of that, everybody else is scoring steps up and feels confident.

So we're going to need Ali to remain not just confident but aggressive as we move forward until tomorrow, but I thought Lex came in in the second half and just did a tremendous job just battling, not just scoring the ball, but I thought she battled on the boards and I thought she did a tremendous job defensively, and we needed an X factor today.

Grace Waggoner struggled a little bit from the outside, obviously Jaelynn went down there in the second half with that ankle. So we needed somebody else to step up, and I thought Lex just -- she did a tremendous job.

Q. Ali, it was a physical game, and as Coach has alluded to, the and-ones that Aleksa had in the fourth quarter, how big were those?
ALI PATBERG: Yeah, they were huge, as Coach said. She was the X factor. She brought a lot of energy. She battled on every board, even if she didn't get it. I thought she was making plays at the ball, and a couple times I told her because I think I threw her the ball a couple times and she shot a jumper, and I told her, I said, you've got to just attack her, be aggressive, and she finally did, and she was awesome. She was huge in the second half for us.

Q. For Aleksa, just kind of looking at it the other way, when Ali gets off to a like that, what's going through your guys' mind to try feed her? She had 20 points in the first half, keep going at her and letting her attack?
ALEKSA GULBE: I mean, we know what she's capable of doing, and when she is hot like that, we just give her the ball, and she does her job, and we were all confident in her, and we believe in her that she's going to score and she's going to do all the things that matter.

Q. With Ali having a great first half with 20 points, the rest of the team only had 18. Were you anticipating Rutgers to start helping out on Ali and trying to force the ball to other people and how did you game plan for that?
TERI MOREN: You know, I don't know that we anticipated them just solely worried about AP. I think we were worried about their press, that we felt like they were going to come out in the second half and be aggressive on both sides of the ball. We anticipated that we were going to have to handle the press after made baskets, after free throws, dead balls, in which we had to do that. And so, you know, I think -- again, the one great thing about this team is that we have proven night in and night out that we are balanced, and we have other players that can step up, and I thought we got to see that today.

Everybody is a threat out there, and I think AP would allude to that and she would agree with that. She has a tremendous amount of confidence, but like I said, we anticipated that second half being more fast paced. They obviously went small and just started putting their head down and going right at us and attacking us off the bounce, and so we put them at the free-throw line too much. That's the one disappointing thing I think about this game this afternoon if I have to find something that we can't do tomorrow, and that's put Maryland at the free-throw line.

Q. For Ali or Aleksa, at the start of the fourth quarter, things really got chippy between the two teams, really physical play by Rutgers. What do you do to tune that out and just focus on your game, just keep trying to get to the hoop and keep trying to score?
ALI PATBERG: Yeah, we knew Rutgers was not going to go away in the second half as Coach said. They were going to come out aggressive. They're a super competitive team. They have a lot of heart and a lot of toughness, and we knew they were going to come out with that energy, and we just had to weather the storm. When they would make a tough play or they would get an offensive rebound, we just tried to stay calm or if we made a foul -- we came together and again, like I said, we stayed calm, just knowing that they were going to make runs at us, and we just had to stay solid.

Q. Coach Teri, it's been mentioned time and time again that things got chippy in the second half, but you guys were able defensively to force Rutgers to shoot 30 percent from the field. How is that going to be able to translate for you guys to have success tomorrow against Maryland?
TERI MOREN: Well, you know, one of the things we talked about before we came out is we were going to have to win the effort points, right, we're going to have to win the toughness game. And I've got a tough group, and we all believe and they believe in each other, and our staff believes in our players.

And so one of the things that has rung true, I think, with this group time and time again, the reason why we've had the success that we've had so far has been a lot to do with the fact that, yeah, we're balanced, we guard hard, but we're tough. You know, this group, I can promise you, will not go away quietly, and that's one of the intangible things that I love about them is that they're connected but they're tough women.

Q. Ali, looking at the turnover numbers, you guys are pretty even, but in terms of points off of turnovers, you guys outscored them by 15. How much was that something you emphasized going into this week and pushing the ball like that?
ALI PATBERG: Yeah, you know, Coach just kept telling us stay aggressive, stay aggressive. I think defensively we were in our spots. We were in our spots where the coaches prepared us to be in, and we just made plays, and then once we made plays defensively, we kept pushing it in transition.

Q. Ali, you've been on a tear like the last four or five games, averaging over 20 points per game. Is that a conscious decision or are things just opening up for you better?
ALI PATBERG: You know, I just think coaches and my teammates have been telling me to be aggressive, and I'm just going to do whatever it takes to win, and like I said, they've been telling me to be aggressive, and I want to win, so that's what I do.

Q. What's been the propensity this year? You've been better in neutral sites, on the road than you've been at home. You haven't been bad at home, but you've had like three losses all year on the road versus at home. Is it the fans? Is it more pressure at home? How come you've been stronger on the road and on neutral sites this year and even controlled the game more?
TERI MOREN: You know, I don't know that I have the answer for that. What I can say is what I said earlier; I have a tough bunch of women that are focused and are driven and want to be successful.

You know, I used to think, and I still do think, that being at home is a good thing in front of our fans. I think that our fans have been terrific and have been there for us, and there's this idea of staying on a schedule and going to class and not getting out of routine.

But with that being said, I think that once we've gone on the road with these guys, we sort of eliminate some of the distractions that they may have at home or back in their dorm rooms and apartments with friends and families and whatnot, and I can kind of keep them contained a little bit more, and I think we've proven that we can go on the road.

But as we've moved forward with our program, that's one of the things that has sort of been an Achilles heel for us. We've been right there, we've won a lot of games at home, and we love being in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. But as we always tell our guys, championship teams, teams that move on, teams that play in the NCAA Tournament figure out how to win away from home, as well, and we've got great leadership with Ali Patberg and Brenna Wise. They've just been tremendous and have been tremendous in that locker room and tremendous in the hotels and everywhere and just leading these guys in the right way.

Q. When you see Grace Waggoner take those two charges, what does that say about her hard work to be able to go from not being in the rotation at the start of the year to playing these valuable minutes?
TERI MOREN: Well, it says she's paying attention, and we value those kids that can get into the game and have an impact, and we watch that in practice, and she's a young lady that doesn't get a lot of reps, but she pays attention, and she's focused. And she's athletic. She's long and lanky, and the more we watch her in practice and against our practice guys, she has been determined to want to have an impact on this basketball team, and she's just kind of stuck with it.

She's a great story. For her to come up big with those charges in the first half says a lot about just the kind of tough kid she is, that Indiana kid, that when her number is called, she responds, and I thought she did a great job.

Q. Looking ahead to tomorrow, obviously Maryland is a very balanced team. The two times you faced them this year, they beat you guys by double digits. What do you see as the key to changing the result this time around, making the third time a charm?
TERI MOREN: Well, you know, I don't -- we were so much better at home, right, the second time we played them. You know, one of the things you've got to battle is their athleticism. They're very balanced, as well. They have young ladies that come off the bench and provide scoring for them, and so I think, one, it's staying disciplined like we did this afternoon defensively. On the offensive side you can't turn it over. Possessions matter tomorrow, and we've got to deal with their press, much like we had to do tonight or this afternoon with Rutgers.

But I do think that I have a group in that locker room that really believes that they can win, that they can beat them, and hopefully one of the things right now that's concerning for us is Jaelynn has a pretty significant ankle sprain, and so tomorrow hopefully we'll have some time to get her feeling better.

But if she's not ready to go, we have to rely on that bench. But like I said, I like our chances with this group, and we'll have to obviously play almost perfect. We realize that.

Q. Just to follow up on what you said about Jaelynn, she went down but came back in and hit the three but looked a little hobbled the rest of the game. How determined was she to stay in the game?
TERI MOREN: It's funny that we were in that press attack and she didn't want to be in a spot where you have to move. She wanted to -- she was dead set on taking the ball out of bounds, but then we get it across the timeline and she gets settled outside the three-point line and she's not afraid to take that three.

You know, again, what does that say about her, is that she's -- again, like the other 12, 13 guys I've got in that locker room. She's going to do what she has to do for her team, and if that's playing through pain, she'll do that. But that big three that she hit down the stretch, that was huge.

Q. Your 24th win today, school record, most ever in a season. I'm curious, do you ever have time during the season, during the grind where you can reflect on an accomplishment like that? Do you put it aside completely until the end of the year? How do you handle those?
TERI MOREN: Yeah, I think right now it's -- usually we have a 24-hour rule, whether we win or we lose. We either celebrate or we evaluate, and then the next day we've got to turn around and get ready to move forward. And so this is 24 hours after a win, we're going to celebrate, we're going to get ready for a good Maryland team. But we don't even -- it's great, but right now that's something that we will reflect back, I think, after the season when we do our end-of-the-year banquet and talk about all those great moments that we had.

As for now, I hope this season is long from being over, just because I have such a great group. So thank you.

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