March 5, 2021
Greensboro, North Carolina, USA
Postgame Press Conference
Louisville 65, Wake Forest 53
JEFF WALZ: I was expecting this for sure. Wake is a really good basketball team. They've got Conti and Raca and Spear the way she's been playing. Their whole team. Jen has done a great job with that group. I said it a few weeks ago, they are, without a doubt, an NCAA Tournament team, and I think it's a team that's going to win some games in the tournament.
You know, I was really pleased. Had some kids step up, and that's what you've got to do in March. I thought Ramani Parker gave us 15 phenomenal minutes, and I hope it can be a springboard for her because, I promise you, I have not seen that one day in practice the last two months.
I'm just not -- I will be honest; I am not a big believer of this, I'm a gamer, I show up in games, I don't play practice well. Now, what you do each day in practice is normally what you're going to get in the game, so I'm hoping that this is a springboard because I thought her length really gave Wake some problems at both ends of the floor.
Q. She played incredibly well in a spot where you needed her with the foul trouble of Liz and Olivia and obviously Hailey Van Lith was amazing offensively and a big lift on that end of the floor.
JEFF WALZ: Yeah, Hailey played really, really well for us. She's been really grinding day in and day out, and I was excited that she was able to get her feet set and knock down some shots.
At the defensive end she comes up with four steals. I thought she played all around a really, really good basketball game. And then of course Mykasa, the kid is everywhere. She went 1-5 today and the one lay-up in the fourth quarter, late third, is the one she's got to finish and she knows that. But eight rebounds, four assists, two steals, just a remarkable performance.
There's a lot of plus -- when she's in the game we're plus 16.
Q. Everywhere so many times you'd see her on the perimeter and sprinting down in the mix for a rebound. She was every single spot on the floor today. How important was your team -- went on that big run, 13-0 in the fourth quarter and a lot of that was with Dana on the bench and that has to be a good thing to see that if she is not in the mix or in foul trouble or whatever the case may be you're able to do that with her out.
JEFF WALZ: Yeah, we have shown that throughout the year in different stretches. You know, and Dana just struggled tonight shooting the basketball. But she comes up with seven assists. These are the ball games that she'll continue to learn from and grow in to where, hey, if my shot is not going in, then I've got to figure out a way to get others involved because she's got such a quick first step that she's hard -- she's going to get by you, and now at the end of this game I thought she had two beautiful passes, one to Hailey in transition for the big three and then a dump pass to Ramani for a lay-up.
So really, really pleased with some of her decision making.
At the end of the day it's not always a bad thing. She only played 28 minutes, which is probably close to a season low, Olivia Cochran got in foul trouble for us and then with the Ramani was playing -- O only played eight minutes -- Liz Dixon played 16. So I think we're going to have some fresh kids for tomorrow, which is important.
Q. You talked about at pregame, obviously rebounding was tough there in Winston-Salem in the meeting earlier this year, they dominated, they had 24 offensive rebounds in this game. Today offensive rebounds were even at nine, you out-rebounded them by one. Had to be much happier with that effort.
JEFF WALZ: Yeah, there's no question about that. I was really pleased with the way we were committed to try to keep them off the glass. They still came up with eight second-chance points, but much, much better than the performance we had in Winston-Salem.
I was really pleased at the fact that we had 20 assists to 11 turnovers, and they only converted those 11 into eight points. Against Carolina yesterday they had 20 points off of Carolina's turnovers.
Now, what we've got to figure out a way to do is get to the free-throw line. That's poor coaching on my part because, I mean, we take two free throws and they take 23.
I've got to do a much better job on coaching how to get fouled.
Q. Tomorrow you will take on either Syracuse or Florida State. Either way you've got a big challenge coming tomorrow.
JEFF WALZ: They're all big challenges right now. Our league is way better than what people are saying it is. I've said, just because of this crazy year with COVID, we only had three teams preseason top 25, and because of that when you start playing each other you can't play yourself into the top 25 unless you beat one of those three.
You know, other leagues have five, six teams in the top 25 preseason. Well, you play each other, you win, you drop a spot, you move up two, spots, you drop a spot, like you're never going to get out of the top 25.
I think our league is really good. Wake without a doubt is going to go win some ball games. I really believe that, in the NCAA Tournament. You know, just want to also congratulate Jen on becoming the all-time winningest coach at Wake Forest. She's put her heart and soul into that program as a player and as a coach, and it's well deserving.
Q. Coach, Hailey had struggled a little bit shooting the ball in recent weeks. I know how she is with the grinding and the practice. Did you ever have to talk to her about how all freshmen do go through that at some point, through some kind of a little bit of a slump?
JEFF WALZ: We talked about that. We talked about the grind of the season and we also talked about putting a smile on your face. You know, the kid wants to be a perfectionist, wants to do everything exactly right. I've told her, sometimes you've got to laugh at yourself. When you hit the side of a backboard on a shot, if you can't laugh, I don't know what to tell you. I'm like, it's important -- like I love what I do, believe me. I take it seriously, because it's how I feed my family, okay. If you lose too many, you're going to end up getting fired.
At the same time it's not going to ruin my day. If we would have come out on the opposite end of this, sure, I'm upset, I'm pissed. But I'm not going to let that ruin the rest of my day because it happens. Now you've got to move forward, figure out what to do better, and that's what I've talked to Hailey about is, okay, don't let one game dictate how you're going to react, how you're going to visualize and move into the next day. I think she's gotten much better at that, and she played really, really big for us tonight.
Q. You mentioned Ramani, but how important is it when you have Ramani Parker and even Ahlana Smith when you have so much foul trouble, Dana is not playing great, how important is it to get those experiences and see them play well?
JEFF WALZ: Well, it's really important. Again, I was just really impressed with how Ramani handled the physicality of the game. Morra is a big, strong post player and was really trying to bang us, and she held her own. And then on the one where she got beat for the offensive rebound, she gave a second effort and just tapped the ball out of bounds. Knowing she couldn't get it, instead of just allowing her to get it and put it in, she knocks it out of bounds, which then gives us a chance to get back and get set up and play some defense on an out of bounds play, and I think that also led to a shot-clock violation for them, and we get the ball back.
Q. What did you do better on defense in the fourth quarter. They only had nine points, didn't shoot it well, you got defensive rebounds.
JEFF WALZ: Well, we played much more physically. Did a really good job of not letting them just get the ball where they wanted. Mykasa Robinson was a big part of that. She battled for all 38 minutes.
But because of the fact we made them start their offense a little higher out, it made it more difficult for them to get where they wanted, and then we had some great drops in our half court defense where the guard dropped to cover up the post, boxed out on that end, I don't think we gave them any second chance points in the fourth quarter.
And then we did anticipate and we got out in the passing lane and came up with a couple big steals, which led to baskets.
Q. That was probably the most important stretch that Ahlana Smith had played in a long time, maybe all season. She made a contribution tonight, too. Maybe not big points, but was this the best she's played for a while.
JEFF WALZ: No, it sure is. She struggled some in the first half by not knowing her defensive assignments, and at this time of the year when you have a defensive breakdown, teams are going to score on you. And then we had a nice conversation the one time she came out of the game, and then I think she got a little bit more focused and went out and had a great, great second half for us, did a nice job defensively, knocked down a huge three for us, I think that shot put it to 10. So really, really happy for her, as well.
Q. To have any kind of tournament success, I guess this is what teams have to have. You have to have people coming in contributing that maybe haven't all season or better than they have all season and it's not just your stars, it's everybody. Is this a good kind of teaching moment for you from that standpoint?
JEFF WALZ: Oh, gosh, yes, it is. And again, I told them before we came down here, I said a lot of people are going to get a chance to play because you can't just play six or seven 40 minutes, three days in a row. It's impossible. And then I said, I don't care if I give you 30 seconds, two minutes, four minutes, you've got to make a positive impact. It might not be by scoring, but you can't go in and then give up a no board and get scored on and then foul somebody. You've got to give us positive.
I thought for the most part Ramani Parker, we're plus 9 when she's in the game. When Ahlana Smith was in the game for her 13 minutes we're plus 11. Those are the things that I look at. Like, okay, what are you helping our team do, not necessarily what your numbers are, but how is our team performing.
Q. You've talked this year how you have a talented team, a deep team but not the most experienced team. What does it say about Hailey to have the type of game she had today?
JEFF WALZ: You know, really impressed with her, and to be honest with you, if you go back and look at every game that's been played so far in this tournament, it's amazing what freshmen have done. I think it shows you how talented our freshman class is in this league. You have Jewel Spear yesterday versus Carolina getting like 27 or 29, Maddy Westbeld last night for Notre Dame, Gabby Elliott for Clemson. We have some very talented freshmen in our league.
The great thing for us is Hailey gets 24 tonight, tomorrow it very well could be Olivia Cochran's night because she's got that talent in her, too. Like I told her after the game, she's fresh. She played eight minutes. So she is fresh and ready to go, but I've got to -- what I've got to do with our two post players is we can't be picking up two fouls in the first half. It really puts us in a bad spot.
Q. You're going to play Florida State, who you played a couple weeks ago down in Tallahassee. What is going to need to be different tomorrow from stopping Florida State from having another big win?
JEFF WALZ: I like your optimism -- you must be a Florida State fan because they still have to play Syracuse right now. Florida State and Syracuse are going to be battling each other here right now. I think it may have just started. I think it's going to be a heck of a ball game. Either one of these two teams we're going to have to play with the defensive intensity for four quarters like we had, in the fourth quarter especially, but overall we held Wake to 53 points. I mean, it really wasn't our defense. Our offense is what was not up to par.
I think we had like 15 points in the first quarter, in the first like four or five minutes and then it got ugly in a hurry. We just couldn't hit the broad side of a barn.
Offensively is where we've got to continue to work because defensively, to hold them to 10 in the first quarter, nine in the fourth, 53 points, you can win a lot of basketball games when you can do that.
Q. Also stopping them from three-point land, that's pretty good, as well, if you control somebody from having a lot of three-pointers.
JEFF WALZ: Yeah, it was. Jewel Spear was fantastic in their game against Carolina and I thought we did a pretty good job of making sure we were there on the catch. The fourth quarter she hit, she hit one because we went under the screen instead of going over it, some simple things like that that we can adjust.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports