March 3, 2023
Greensboro, North Carolina, USA
Postgame Press Conference
Louisville 74, Wake Forest 48
JEFF WALZ: You know, first off, I'd just like to congratulate Megan, her staff and Wake Forest. Coming into this, they're 14-15, and your backs are against the wall because you want to get into postseason play, and normally you're trying to get to be .500 or better. And pretty impressive what they did in those first two ball games.
We knew coming into it that, especially after playing them there, how hard they compete, they don't quit, that we were going to have to try to continue to keep the pressure up and not let them get comfortable so we could wear them down. I thought we did a really good job. But you've got to give them credit. We get up 20 something in the first half and then it's an 8-0 run in 48 seconds because they're not going to quit, and I kept telling them that. This team will not quit.
Just really impressed. Jewel Spear is a heck of a basketball player. Her and Williams, I thought, just played exceptional today, and it wasn't that we didn't know they were good. They made tough shots and competed and just want to make sure I congratulate them.
On our side, I thought for the most part, it was one of the most complete games we've played. Take that last five minutes -- well, last four and a half minutes of the first half out, I thought we got much better. We ended up turning the ball over only 11 times, but I think two or three of them were in that stretch where we let them get back in the game.
If we can eliminate those and just eliminate the bonehead decisions -- I like to say, just remove your head from your rear end. And if we can do that, then I think we have a chance no matter who we play.
I just enjoyed seeing the joy they had for each other. We started that second half, and Olivia Cochran goes on a 6-0 run herself, but Hailey sets an unbelievable screen on the sixth point that gets her open, that gets O. open. And it's fun to watch when they have joy for each other. Hailey was shooting lights-out there in the first half, and everybody was trying to get her the ball. That's what you do. That's when you realize you've got a team that they care about each other, and they understand different games are going to present different opportunities. When someone is hot, get them the ball.
It's not real difficult, but sometimes we make it harder than what it is when we try to overthink things. But just really, really proud of them.
Q. Coach, was it a concerted part of your game plan to shut down Jewel Spear? Looked like you guys were face guarding her to open the game, just trying to shut her down.
JEFF WALZ: Well, personally, and I'm not attacking anybody because I think it's great, but I think we've got the best defensive player in this league. I've never coached a kid like Mykasa here that can guard the 1 through the 5. It does not matter. Her sophomore year we're playing in the Elite 8 game against Stanford and she's guarding their 5 players. It just doesn't matter.
We knew hey, she's our best defender, we're going to have to put her on Spear. And I thought she did a really good job of trying frustrate her, trying to make her work, and she made a few tough shots. But I think it eventually wore her down, and that's what we had to do. Because at their place she kicked our rear. She's a special player, and she absolutely took it to us, and we were just like, okay, if they're going to beat us, we can't let her do it.
Q. Just curious, the result in Winston-Salem earlier this year, was that something that motivated and kept your team focused heading into the game?
JEFF WALZ: Well, obviously it's something you look back on and you're like, man, it was a tough loss. But it's March now, and that's something that we've taken pride in here in this program is the energy turned up. My intensity gets turned up. Our practices -- like I say, the last few days if I coached like that the entire year, I might not have anybody on the team. Times have changed. You can't just go at them, go at them the entire season.
We work really hard on building relationships with all of the young ladies so they know basketball is basketball. But off the court, I'm going to treat them like they're my own kids, and I can promise you my own kids don't like me all the time. It's called parenting.
So the intensity is turned up. I told this one here after our home finale that if she didn't practice with a purpose and energy on Tuesday and Wednesday, she was not getting on the airplane to come here because I wasn't going to coach that crap. Because her performance and effort was -- bad is an understatement.
But the difference is I have relationships where when I screw up -- last year here at this tournament, I screwed up. I subbed too early. It was my fault. It wasn't on the kids, it was on me. And I've got no problem admitting it. But we're going to hold each other accountable, players and coaches, and when you can do that, it's amazing what can get done.
I'm just very appreciative of all of them. It was a fun three days of practice, and then we played like we practiced.
Q. I thought your ball pressure and ball denial was incredible today. How does that get you guys going on the defensive end?
MYKASA ROBINSON: Yeah, for us personally, I think we play our best basketball in transition, so us just being aggressive, starting the game out hot, I think it really set the tone for us.
CHRISLYN CARR: Same thing Mykasa said. I think just being aggressive from the start really set the tone for us and we just kept it going throughout all four quarters.
JEFF WALZ: Everything they said, ditto. Just make me sound smarter.
Q. You mentioned this being the most complete game of the season that you guys have had so far. Knowing some of those inconsistencies with maybe letting up in the third quarter, things like that, how rewarding was it to see that they really stepped up today and didn't let those little lulls kick in?
JEFF WALZ: That was great. I mean, except for that little stretch there in the second quarter, the way we came out in that third quarter is exactly the way you have to play. We scored on the first play. It wasn't perfect. It's not like it came off the first option. Mykasa made a great pass to O. and those are the shots I talk to Olivia about all the time. When she can make that free-throw line jump shot, then it changes everything for her, because now she's got a pretty quick first step, she can get to the rim. But if they don't guard you up there, then it's harder to score.
I thought when that one went in to start the half, the second half, I was like, okay, this is going to be a good sign, and it was.
Q. Coach, I missed the name, but who did you say you assigned to Jewel Spear?
JEFF WALZ: Mykasa.
Q. Mykasa, what was your personal strategy in stopping Spear, because yesterday she went 0 for 8 and then caught fire in the second half. Today she was somewhere in that range but never got that spark. Talk about how you approached covering her and how it came out.
MYKASA ROBINSON: Really just playing hard. I'm going to be physical, I'm going to be aggressive, but I think the biggest thing was just that I knew my teammates had my back. We communicated, talked through the whole game, through screens, through back doors, back cuts. Just knowing I could rely on my teammates.
Q. Mykasa, knowing what happened last year in the first round and also the last time you played Wake Forest, how motivated were you to make sure neither of those two losses would happen again?
MYKASA ROBINSON: Yeah, we definitely came in like okay, we don't want that to happen again. So I think it's the mentality. We've been waiting for a game like this all year, just to put it all together. It's exciting to see that happen for us, and I'm ready for it to carry over.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports