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NCAA WOMEN'S BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP: SECOND ROUND - GONZAGA VS LOUISVILLE


March 19, 2022


Jeff Walz

Chelsie Hall

Olivia Cochran

MYKASA ROBINSON


Louisville, Kentucky, USA

Louisville Cardinals

Media Conference


Q. For you, Chelsie. Just that was your first NCAA tournament game, just what was that like and how were the nerves going into that game?

CHELSIE HALL: Yeah, can you guys hear me? Okay. I was really excited, really grateful to be here with this group. It was a fun atmosphere, it's fun playing in front of our fans, so I really enjoyed it. And the nerves, they were kicking in a little bit before the game, but good nerves. So yeah, I was just really excited. I'm excited to play for tomorrow, too.

Q. For all three of you, but I will start with you, Chelsie. Just it seemed like that second quarter they cut it to five and your guys' pressure really threw them off. And you guys press a lot, and you like to speed teams up. How much does that help you guys not only defensively but help you guys get into a rhythm on offense you think?

CHELSIE HALL: Yeah, I think we like to feed our offense from our defense. So I think the press kind of helped us get a kick start in our offense. And just pushing it in transition, we like to thrive on our transition, so I think that helps as well.

OLIVIA COCHRAN: Just going off of what Chelsie said, the intensity of our press just helps us get into that mode, so we just keep that mode on and just keep going forward.

MYKASA ROBINSON: Yeah, I think our defense just brings a different energy to our team. You know, just a lot of momentum, and we just, like O said, we go with it. And Coach Walz likes our trapping, pressing, get after it. So whatever he says, we do.

Q. Olivia, as the post on the back end of that press, what's that like? What kind of -- what is your responsibility there? And then what is it like when you see all the guards kind of just wreaking havoc in front of you?

OLIVIA COCHRAN: I guess my like role in the back of the press is just like seeing everything just letting them know. And I guess I'm good at it because like I get to talk a lot so my guards can like know what's going on and stuff like that, so yeah.

Q. For all three of you. I know it's still early in the tournament but comparing and contrasting last year's experience for O and Kas who were there I guess to this year's experience. And what it's -- what it's like?

OLIVIA COCHRAN: I feel like the chemistry is like way better. Everybody just want everybody to eat, even though like somebody is not having their game like the team like our teammates just pushing each other to just like get better like because we're trying to get to the next level so.

Q. What about playing back home and not being stuck in (away from mic)?

OLIVIA COCHRAN: Oh, it's wonderful, I swear. Yeah, it's great to have like fans and stuff like that. It's awesome.

MYKASA ROBINSON: Yeah, a huge blessing, you know, get to play in front of our crowd. We have the best fans in the country. We say that every game, but no, I think it's just a huge thing that we get to do. And it's a special moment for all of my teammates and me that we get to play here and continue to build and grow and get to the national championship.

Q. For the three of you, no team in this program's history has gone the regular season and the postseason undefeated at home. A win on Sunday would do that for you guys. What would that mean to you to be able to do that and finish off a full season without a loss at the Elm Center?

MYKASA ROBINSON: You know, I think it would just be a lot of words not only to my teammates but to the coaching staff as well. We put a lot of pride and energy and effort into making sure that we are prepared for each game and every situation. So I think it would just speak a lot of words to the team and our coaches. OLIVIA COCHRAN: Going off of what Kasa said, I just feel like the volume like you said is like we work hard every day in practice. We compete, we make each other better. So I just feel like that's a step towards.

CHELSIE HALL: No, I was just going to say going off what they said, yeah, like we've all put in a lot of work, a lot of hard work, even. Us, coaches, the staff, I mean we just want to do it for our fans, we want to do it for each other, and I think it would be really important.

Q. For all three players. Any impressions of Gonzaga at this point, or have you had a chance to look at what they are all about yet?

CHELSIE HALL: Yeah, they're a great team. They can really shoot the ball well. They have presence in the post, presence in the guard spot. One of my former teammates actually is Sierra Walker so it will be fun playing against her so.

Q. Oh, really?

CHELSIE HALL: Um-h'm.

MYKASA ROBINSON: Yeah, just like what Chelsie said, they're a great team and we are just super excited to play them.

OLIVIA COCHRAN: Yeah, going off what both of my teammates said, we just going to follow the scout and see what they bring.

Q. Going off of that, they really pride themselves on defense. They held Nebraska to their second lowest scoring output of the season. How do you attack a defensive team like that? A defensive-minded team like that and try and get a win if they are going to slow the game down?

MYKASA ROBINSON: Yeah, I think just for us, we just have to do what we have to do. We put a lot of time and a lot of effort into practices. We just have to execute. We put -- we play games against our scout guys, you know, first one to 10 wins. So I think just executing and following our game plan and trusting each other and we'll be fine.

OLIVIA COCHRAN: Going off of what Kasa said, like our practice players, like they put in a lot of effort to like be like the other team. So I feel like that help us a lot. And they get us prepared for who we are playing against.

CHELSIE HALL: I think going off what they said, just playing our role and everyone has their job to do so just bringing it. Bringing the hard work, the intensity that we always do and just play within ourselves I think will help us.

Q. Thank you, ladies.

COACH WALZ: Just want to thank everyone again for coming out today. Looking forward to the opportunity to compete tomorrow night against a very, very talented Gonzaga team. I was very impressed with watching them play last night. Just a really talented team. We've got close to five players in double figures.

You have got to guard the three-point line. You've got to be able to guard in the post. Lisa's done a really good job with them. I mean you watch film on them, and we have a ton of respect. So we'll get to work today. We showed some clips last night to our kids. We'll show some more today. And then just get ready for what should be a very, very good college basketball game tomorrow.

Q. Jeff, you mentioned Gonzaga has five players in double digits. Very balanced, similar to you guys. How do you go about scouting or going at a team like Gonzaga that has that balance offensively?

COACH WALZ: Well, we're still working on that. That's one of the things that we're still trying to break down some film and figure out what is the best way to try to stop them. What is the best way to try to attack 'em. So the good thing about it is we've got a few more hours. We've got a little extra time with the 7:00 p.m. tip tomorrow to really be able to dive in and try and figure out what we're going to do. Because they are a very balanced team. They have got three or four kids that can really shoot the three. They have got great post play.

So, I mean they're a very balanced team. When -- I mean they are 27-6 for a reason and playing in the second round. Like I said all year, I mean once you get to this point, everybody playing has probably been in the top 25 at one point in time during the year, they've received votes. You're down to about the final 10%, I think, if my math is correct, with 32. Nick, that's right, isn't it? See, my NKU degree, people. Proud of it. Thank you.

Q. Jeff, you have done this for a long time now, this NCAA tournament stuff. How -- has your approach like evolved? Have major things changed about how you handle each round as you go? What have you learned maybe over the years that changed?

COACH WALZ: You know what, we have not changed one bit. I mean we're approaching this game tomorrow night like it's the national championship game. Because if you -- if you don't win, you're done. So there is no, okay, save something for the next round. We are breaking film down. We're going to break personnel down. We're going to break, you know, what they like to do offensively, what they're going to try do defensively and then we're going to put a plan in place.

I've said it throughout my career, if we lose a game, I just want to be able to say we missed shots. You know, that's part of it. If we missed shots but we defend well, we rebound well, we execute but the ball just does not go in the basket, well, it's going to happen. But I don't want it to be because we had a bad scouting report, we left a three-point shooter open who we knew could shoot threes. We left a post player drive left who we knew that's what she wanted to do. Our goal is to try and make players go to their second or third move if they're going to beat us.

Q. Does it happen sometimes in especially these quick turnaround games where you might see something at 11:00 the night before that plays into the next game or anything like that? Especially, you know, second round elite eight where you don't have a lot of time to prep. How far does that run?

COACH WALZ: Oh, for sure. I mean we had an opportunity to see a few things in yesterday's game that I hadn't seen before, that I was really impressed with some adjustments that Gonzaga made. So and then that's my job, you know. Once we start at 7:00 tomorrow night when they start to make some adjustments and we start to make some, that's when it becomes fun. That's when the chess match begins where we try to make an adjustment, we try to surprise them with something. They're going to try to surprise us. It's who is going to handle it. I mean who is going to handle when someone comes out with a zone when you're expecting a man. And that's what we talk to our players about all the time. When the game gets into what we call the gray area where it's not black or white. Now it's gray area. You know, are you switching the ball screen? Are you going to hedge it? And whoever handles those situations the best is the team that's going to win tomorrow night.

Q. Jeff, Hailey just seems to have such a short memory when she's missing shots. You mentioned struggling earlier in the year. But even in -- she struggled in warmups yesterday, and then struggled in the first quarter, and then just seemed to turn it on in the second quarter. What allows her to just put that behind her so quickly and act like nothing happened you think?

COACH WALZ: Well, I've been trying to teach them my philosophy on shooting. You know, back in the days, I always -- I tell them, when it's warm-ups and you are not shooting it well in warm-ups that's a good sign because you're getting all your misses out. So now when the game starts up, it's your time. Then when you're making them all in warm-ups, it's your time because you're hot. You know, I'm trying to teach them exactly that's what a shooter has to believe.

And I thought even in yesterday's game, I think she ended up 8-15 from the field. And she was I think two lay-ups. You know, so she easily could have been 10-15 from the field. If you put the work in, and she's put the work in. Kianna is the same way. Kianna's put the work in. If they miss a few, as long as they are taking good shots with their feet balanced, I feel good about it.

And we've been passing the ball well, getting opportunities to get players shots in areas that they score the ball. And Hailey especially has been playing really well the past two months.

Q. Coach, Hailey's obviously a great player but she's also pretty famous now off the court. How has she handled that fame in the context of playing basketball at the same time?

COACH WALZ: She's really a humble kid. It's really refreshing to see how she's handled all of it. You know, she never really talks about it, you know. I joke with her all the time she's got all these followers on social media and she'll never ask them to follow me. I'm like I'm trying to up my game, too, and she won't help me. But it is just -- it is really pretty amazing. You look at her Instagram and I think she has 700-something thousand followers and she's posted 41 times. So it's not like she's out here posting every five minutes. And she's just a hard worker. Nothing's really phased her. Everything that's come across with the NIL things, I don't really hear about 'em. She's got a team that kind of takes care of all that and it's -- it's remarkable. I mean she is fun to coach. She's got her head on straight. She's got a great family. And, you know, it's the way -- it's the way you're brought up.

You know, and I think her parents have done a remarkable job of making sure she stays grounded, she stays humble, it's a hard working family. And it's not hard to tell. And there's a lot of our kids on our team that, you know, we have good kids. And it's fun to watch because you know what they're getting at home. Thank you.

Q. Coach, just early scouting Gonzaga, they are a team that likes to, you know, slow the game down and really lock in defensively. What have you noticed that they do well defensively on that side of the ball?

COACH WALZ: Well, they do a really nice job of staying between the ball and the basket. As a team, you might say they try to slow the game down but they are averaging close to 70 points a game, which is pretty impressive. So I don't necessarily think that they're trying to just slow it down. They just take opportunities when they present themselves. If you let them run, they're going to run. I mean I watched the conference finals. They got four or five breakaways to their post players for some lay-ups. You can't get relaxed after you take a shot because if you don't sprint the floor they're going to push it. So it's just going to be a great game. I mean I'm really looking for a great college basketball game tomorrow night between two really good teams.

Q. Jeff, if you guys do play well and win on Sunday, you would be the first team in program history to not lose a game at home both regular season and postseason. What would --

COACH WALZ: (Knocking on the table).

Q. Exactly.

COACH WALZ: Golly, you're a jinx.

Q. I said if.

COACH WALZ: Who invited him?

Q. What would that mean if that happens for you guys?

COACH WALZ: I mean, it's special. But at the same time I promise you we've never even talked about it. For us, it's one game at a time. And I know that's an old coach cliche, we take it one game at a time. But you can't get ahead of yourself. I mean you just look at our women's tournament, the men's tournaments, the upsets that have happened, you just can't. It's not a best of seven. It's one game and anything can happen. That's why it's March Madness. You know, now that we're allowed to use that, you know, it's pretty awesome. It's what it is. I promise you, we haven't even talked about being undefeated at home. We know right now tomorrow night at 7:00 it's 0-0. We're 0-0. We have to figure out a way to win a game to advance.

Q. Coach, Gonzaga is a very strong rebounding team. Obviously Emily has been a force on the boards for you guys. And talk about that matchup a little bit and what Emily has meant to the program this year?

COACH WALZ: Well, Emily has been a big lift for us, there is no question about it. And it was pretty neat the way it all took place was, you know, when she went into the portal we got a phone call that she would be interested in coming here. I talked to my team about it. You know, first person I talked to was Mykasa because that's whose minutes she was going to impact the most. And the first thing out of Mykasa's mouth was I'm tired of guarding her. Because she had to guard her for three years at Syracuse. She's like I would prefer her to be on our team. And our kids like to win. And I think that's what speaks volumes about not only Mykasa but our program. Because we bring in Chelsie and Emily and both go right into the starting lineup. I never promised either of them to start, but they just worked their way into it. And our kids never batted an eye. It was like hey, this is fine because we like to win.

So she -- she's brought a lot to this program and the fact of how hard she plays. She competes. She rebounds. She'll defend. You know, I just saw where it is her and Breonna Stewart are the only players in NCAA tournament history who have had seven steals and multiple blocks. That's pretty good company there.

So she just -- she causes a lot of chaos at times for us. And then her willingness to throw her body all over the floor especially rebounding wise is what separates her. It is not like she boxes out on every play, but what she does is she pursues the ball. And I tell her if you pursue the ball, that's fine. But if you're not going to, then you have to box out. So it's going to be important for her to really be dialed in for us. And Gonzaga does a great job of rebounding. And the thing about it, when you look at their stats, their leading rebounder is at 6.3 but then all of their guards rebound the ball as well. I think that's what separates them is their guards are willing to get in there and mix it up also. And that's the challenge that we put in front of our kids that we need everybody to buy in to putting a body on somebody. We have to keep them off the offensive glass. And then we've got to give multiple efforts to try to get some offensive rebounds ourselves.

Q. Jeff, you talked about the gray area a little bit. Sometimes you just have to have your players playing their best or playing really well.

COACH WALZ: Yep.

Q. And you've got some players of a caliber that if they're playing their best they can cover a lot of stuff and do a lot of things. How close do you think you are to that? Emily's playing really well, Hailey's getting it, Kiana. You know you can go down the list. But are you getting close to that where you think you've got a little bit of upside, a lot of upside still?

COACH WALZ: Oh, yeah. I mean we are playing some pretty good basketball right now. It -- we are a team, I mean you go back -- again, you go back to the Miami game and the A.C.C. tournament, that's my fault. You look at the 35 minutes that we played up 'til that point, I thought we played really well. I thought the kids followed the game plan and did exactly what we wanted to do. Our goal against Miami was to not put them at the free-throw line. This is a Miami team that rebounded the ball extremely well. They get to the free-throw line close to 18-20 times. They only shot five free throws against us. We outrebounded them. It was the first time all year that we had outrebounded somebody and then shot more free throws and hit not one. So I think we're playing some great basketball. What we have got to be able to continue to do, if there is a two to three minute lull at the offensive end, we've got to defend. We can't get emotional about not scoring the basketball and give up easy scoring opportunities. And I thought we did a good job of that yesterday. You know, god, when I looked at the stat sheet I think at the end of the first quarter, from what I think I can remember is Albany's last field goal was with seven minutes to go in the first quarter. But the problem is we didn't score the last three and a half either. But because we defended, you're still able to go into the end of the quarter with a nice lead. And that's what we're going to have to have tomorrow night. Because Gonzaga, they -- they defend well. They execute their stuff offensively. And I'm expecting a -- just a dog fight tomorrow night. It's going to be physical. It's going to be a really, really good basketball game.

Q. Jeff --

COACH WALZ: Cut it off? What's the problem? These time limits, I'm telling you. Waiting for somebody else to come in? They're practicing still. Cam, what's your question? I'll will answer as I'm walking out.

Q. The press, how important is Olivia (away from mic) directing everything?

COACH WALZ: They're really important for us tomorrow night. They were important last night, too, protecting the basket.

Q. All right.

COACH WALZ: They're going to have to be head on the swivel and seeing exactly what is coming from both sides of the floor. Very important. Thank you, guys.

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