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March 6, 2021

Jeff Walz

Greensboro, North Carolina, USA

Louisville Cardinals

Postgame Press Conference

Louisville 72, Syracuse 59

Q. Jeff, Norika, she has such a unique game, does so many things right. When she's playing like she did today, it seems like her confidence just continues to grow as the year goes on. She brings something that you kind of don't have, a different kind of a game, doesn't she?

JEFF WALZ: No, she does. Honestly, it's exactly what you said. It's all about her confidence. I keep telling her, I believe in her more than she believes in herself. She's got a very, very high basketball IQ. She's not the fastest on the floor, but she knows how to change pace. She knows how to use her body.

That lay-up she makes getting to the other side of the rim on 3 was a big-time take. She's able to shield the defender off and still flip it up with enough English on it to get it to go in.

And then defensively there were one or two possessions she got switched up on Cardoso and did a great job of not allowing her to get the rebound. Now, Rike did not get it, but she made sure that Cardoso did not.

Q. I know we hold Dana to a higher standard and you always expect her to be dropping somewhere in the 20s or scoring consistently. What does it say about the team the last two games that they've been able to pick up when she hasn't been on with her shooting stroke?

JEFF WALZ: Well, I've said it from day one: Dana can take games over. These past two games she hasn't shot the ball as well as she normally does. Today she gets three assists and one turnover, and then the rest of them stepped up and played big.

We've got a very good team. I know some of us at our ACC network might not agree with that because they say it's Dana and then a bunch of scrubs, but that's where they're wrong. That's where they don't know enough about our team to be able to realize we've got a good team. When Dana doesn't play well, we're still able to win. There are just games when she takes over that she can dominate a game. When she's on, it's pretty darned impressive.

Q. She seemed today -- I thought yesterday when you took her out for a couple minutes she maybe got a little frustrated yesterday and made a couple bad passes. She seemed like today, even though she wasn't shooting it, she was Dana like we all know, where she's going to get it and not get frustrated. Did you talk with her at all after yesterday?

JEFF WALZ: Yeah, we just talked about making sure you let the game come to you. She wants to do so well. That's the one thing I love about her. She just wants to be the best she can be every night.

Some nights the shot is just not going to go in. The crazy thing for her is, through about 23 games, 22 games, the shots went in. She knocked down open shots. Like the one tonight in the corner in the fourth quarter that she missed, very seldom does she miss that shot.

But she's maturing. She's growing. She understands, Hey, I can still impact the game on the defensive end. I can impact it by getting my teammates involved, and I thought she did a really good job of that.

Q. You mentioned just the rebounding for you all, you out-rebounded a team that's much bigger than you and longer than you. This is something you guys have grown into this year. How much growth are you seeing from this group from where they were earlier in the year until now?

JEFF WALZ: It's pretty impressive. For our game against Wake, if you look at the game at Wake when we played them, Wake had 20 offensive rebounds and we only had 18 defensive boards. Wake got more of their own misses than we got when we played at Wake. We came around yesterday, did a much better job of that.

Today we end up giving up 13 second-chance points, but we got 12 ourselves.

If you're able to neutralize Syracuse on the boards, because it's about impossible to keep them off the glass, but we did a great job of scrambling and getting some second-chance opportunities ourselves.

Q. Has that just been emphasizing it all season for you?

JEFF WALZ: No, it's been emphasizing it and me wearing them out day in and day out. I think they're tired of hearing from me.

Q. To me it's just big every game watching Hailey come up with rebounds. You don't look at her and say, she's going to get six or seven, and Mykasa finds rebounds and how they have a nose for it is pretty impressive. That's a big part of it, I guess.

JEFF WALZ: No, it's a desire. Rebounding is hard. Rebounding is effort. Sure, it takes some talent. You can't be a stiff and try to go out there and think you're going to get seven, eight rebounds. But you've got to have a nose for the ball. You've got to be willing to embrace contact, because when you're going for it, somebody else is going for it, too, and Mykasa and Hailey just are fearless. They come up with big plays.

I think Mykasa threw the one pass to Kianna late in the second half that, she took a three and really didn't hit much but the backboard, but Mykasa sprinted for the rebound and gets the O board and the stick back. Those are plays that are daggers. When you're trying to come back and all of a sudden something like that happens, it's deflating because you just got outworked.

Q. How important that you could go back to this tournament at any point and find just about something every player on this team has done that's really good heading into the NCAA Tournament. You need 10 or 11 people to win it all and you've got 10 or 11 doing some good things right now.

JEFF WALZ: Yeah, we really do. It's fun to watch them come off the bench and watch them produce the way they have, and it gives me more confidence. I've got more confidence in them to put them in the game because they're doing right things, especially with the scouting report. I'm not telling them they've got to score. It's like, you don't have to go out there and score, but you've got to be able to not hurt us at the defensive end.

Even Ramani tonight, she went 0 for 4, but she comes up with three boards. She drew two fouls and then has an assist and only one turnover. Even though she didn't score, I thought she played a really, really good game and gave us some big minutes when Olivia and Elizabeth Dixon are on the bench.

Q. You kind of mentioned it there when Olivia and Liz were in foul trouble early. No matter who you play, whether it's NC State or Georgia Tech, they have talented posts inside. How important will it be for both Liz and Olivia to stay out of foul trouble tomorrow?

JEFF WALZ: No, it's going to be really important. We're going to have to do a great job of trying to make whichever team we play, Cubaj or Cunane, catch the ball outside the paint, not right in their comfort zone. We've got to make them score over us and not around us.

Both of those teams have very talented post players and very good guards. It's going to be a battle. We're going to have to play really, really well. I know that, and our kids are also aware of that.

We're able to do it. When we played at our place, it's a five-point game going into the fourth quarter, so we've got to go back, look at that, see the things we did well, see the things we did bad, and then we've got to make some adjustments.

Q. What do you think you need to do better or differently to beat a team like NC State that did beat you on your home floor?

JEFF WALZ: Well, NC State or Tech, we've got to do a good job of boxing out. We have to limit them to one shot. Both teams like to drive the basketball. Our guards are going to have to do a really good job of staying between their man and the basket, because we can't always come over with our posts to help. You know, that's the thing, in the past two games our posts have gotten into some foul trouble because our guards have gotten beat, and now they get stuck rotating over to try to help them. I've got to get our guards to really, really dial it up tomorrow, and whoever we play, keep people in front of them.

Q. Did you talk at all about the NC State game before this tournament started?

JEFF WALZ: No. No. I mean, I've got too much respect for Wake Forest. And then once we found out we won that, then we knew we were playing Syracuse. There's no way I was even going to worry about anybody else, because our league is way better than what people think it is. I've got that much respect for what Jen has done at Wake, what Q has done at Syracuse. Again, both of those teams are going to be in the NCAA Tournament.

Q. How do you see yourself, like you talked about defending Cunane. What's going to be the key there, other than keeping her out of the block as much as possible?

JEFF WALZ: Well, that's what you've got to try to do. You've got to try to push her out of the block. You've got to try to hold your ground. Same thing with Cubaj if it's Georgia Tech. If they get you two feet in the paint, both of those posts are going to score on you. So we've got to do everything we can to stop -- I thought Ramani Parker took a huge charge on Cardoso in the first half by stepping over and saying, You're not going to get where you want to get. And she ran her over. Those are the plays we're going to have to make tomorrow.

Q. What was your pregame plan to shut down Kamilla Cardoso, and how well was that plan executed during the game in your mind?

JEFF WALZ: Well, our goal for Kamilla was, like I said, trying to get her to catch the ball further out in the paint and then to really give emphasis, every time a shot was taken, to put a body on her and box her out.

Overall we forced her into 3 of 9 shooting. We fouled her a little bit too much, and I've got to give her credit, she's a really, really good free-throw shooter, goes 4 for 5. But as many touches as she was able to get, to hold her to 10 points, I was really proud of this group. Emily Engstler is the one that really gave us fits rebounding and scoring.

Q. You referenced that NC State game and I know you can play either them or Tech, but I remember after that game you had mentioned that the pieces surrounding who hadn't had the experience in big games like that kind of needed a little more chops for the resolve, the toughness, knowing what it takes to battle through in games like that. How much have you seen this team grow, considering what it's shown the past two games, to be able to respond in situations and be ready for a final game?

JEFF WALZ: Well, it's been nice. It's been nice to see some players coming off the bench and really stepping up in crunch time for us and making some shots. That's what we're going to need. We're going to -- you've got to make open shots. If you want to win big games, you've got to be able to make open shots.

We missed some wide-open shots today, but we were able to defend and get enough possessions back to be able to come out on top.

You've got to limit your contested shots. I thought we took too many contested shots today. And then you've got to be able to get your feet set when you get it and knock the thing down.

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