March 17, 2023
Durham, North Carolina, USA
Cameron Indoor Stadium
THE MODERATOR: Sitting next to me are Quay Miller and Jaylyn Sherrod.
We'll start with questions for the student-athletes today.
Q. Can both of you talk about the excitement of being back in this spot.
JAYLYN SHERROD: Yeah, it's just another opportunity to keep playing and keep showcasing this team and how good we really are. I think, like, over my career I just have a lot of gratitude because it's been like a work up to this point.
I would think four years ago a lot of people wouldn't be able to say Colorado would be in this position. So I'm just thankful for the opportunity.
QUAY MILLER: Just going off of what Jay said, it's just exciting. Like I say, when I first started playing college basketball, I never thought I'd be going this far with it. Just to be going this far with a really good program, it's just exciting.
Q. Why do you think it's surprising Colorado is in this position? You said you didn't think people would think you would be here before.
JAYLYN SHERROD: When I first got here, I think it was just like a rebuilding of the program. But I think now it's more so, I don't know too much about people outside of the program, but it's almost an expectation to be here.
I think that just goes to show, like, the responsibility that we put on ourselves as a team and as a coaching staff to have the expectations to be here at the end of every season.
Q. What do you think you learned from last year's experience that maybe will help you tomorrow night or throughout the weekend, if you're here?
QUAY MILLER: I would say last year's experience just for me, like, you have to literally play every game like it's your last entering March. I think that for me, that just means, like, literally I have to play like that's probably going to be my last game, and I can't take any steps off. Every possession counts. Every mistake is going to count. You just have to prioritize every decision.
Q. How have you used the off week since the loss to Washington State to refocus and reset as a team?
JAYLYN SHERROD: I would say we took time out to make sure our bodies feel good, for one. Two, just focusing on what we can do leading up to this, other than Sunday we didn't know who we were going to play. It was focusing on what we need to execute offensively and defensively and get better on us.
I think that's just been our focus this whole time, like, just worried about what we have to do as a team more so than worrying about our opponent.
QUAY MILLER: I would say I took that week really to focus on my mental, just my game, yeah.
Q. On Sunday both of you expressed some excitement about facing somebody new that you'd never seen before. What have you learned about Middle Tennessee since Sunday?
QUAY MILLER: I think we learned that they're a scrappy team, definitely not to be taken lightly. We heard their coach said they have one of the best one-on-one players or something like that. I think we're just excited for the challenge, yeah.
JAYLYN SHERROD: Yeah, I mean, they're a good team. They won their conference. Teams don't win their conference by accident. I think, like, Quay said, we highly respect them and we're very excited to get out there and play against a team that, like, we've never seen 'em and we've never played against 'em before. But I think the PAC also has built us up for this experience, so...
Q. One of the more historic venues in college basketball. Have you thought about that? Excited about playing in this arena?
JAYLYN SHERROD: I don't think I really thought about it. I mean, yeah, we're playing at Duke. That's all you hear growing up as a kid, more so men's side. I mean, yeah, it's just another opportunity to get out here, so yeah.
QUAY MILLER: Yeah, I mean, like Jaylyn said, you always hear about Duke, this arena. But I've never played here. I'm excited to play in a new gym.
Q. On paper their numbers defensively are really strong. You guys excel offensively. What have you seen from them on the defensive end of the floor that you'll have to execute well to be successful?
JAYLYN SHERROD: I think it just goes back to what I said earlier: We just got to focus on us. It's not really anything defensively that I guess we've seen that hinders what we can do. We just have to execute and maintain, like, our foundation of what we do offensively.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you both.
We have Coach JR Payne. We'll open it up for questions for coach.
Q. Second year in a row. How important is it to win a game and get to that next step?
JR PAYNE: Yeah, I mean, our goal every single time we take the floor is to play great basketball. Tomorrow will be no different. Today's practice will be no different. Shootaround tomorrow.
I think we've done a great job in our program of striving for excellence every single day. So that will be the goal tomorrow when we play. Hopefully that will end in a victory.
But the goal isn't we need X amount of wins. We just want to play great. We feel if we do play great, we give ourselves a great chance.
Q. You've had a few days now to learn about Middle Tennessee. This tournament is so much about matchups. How do you feel you match up with this team?
JR PAYNE: Yeah, I mean, I think two great teams. Four great teams. But two tomorrow for us. We'll match up. Two defensive-minded programs that thrive on playing great defense, be able to create opportunities in that way.
Middle Tennessee is a really great team. I think they're probably the best mid-major team in the country. They play hard, they're tough, fearless, everything you want in a basketball team.
It's definitely a challenging matchup I think for both teams and it will be a great game.
Q. Looks like you had a pretty successful February. Have you been trending in the right direction? Is that something you have seen continue in the last couple weeks?
JR PAYNE: The past 10 days or so we've had since our last game have been really good for us. It's kind of nice to have a few days of practice where you don't necessarily know who you're playing so you don't prioritize anything other than how can we be better by the time we roll 'em out again for a game. It's been a great couple weeks.
We feel like we've improved in some areas that we wanted to improve. Yeah, we definitely feel like we're playing well at this time of year.
Q. Can you compare this year compared to last year, this experience? You have a couple players with tournament experience under their belt now. How that helps going forward.
JR PAYNE: Yeah, I mean, a lot of people have asked that, how is this year going to be different or how is it different.
I think most of us that were part of last year's team have been fueled by last year's result for most of the season and have worked really hard to make sure that we're not just physically prepared but also mentally prepared for a game or a moment like this.
The last week or so we've really just tried to, again, focus on ourselves, focus on shutting out any outside noise, put on blinders, just focus on what has allowed us to get to this point in the season to where we're playing great basketball. We are a very unselfish ballclub where we continue to celebrate each other and each other's success. So that's where our focus has been.
Q. How big is this for the program? Years ago you used to go to this tournament all the time. Before you got here it had been a while. Laying a foundation you hope continues for years to come.
JR PAYNE: Yeah, I mean, it's huge. Every team in the country wants to be in the NCAA tournament. Everyone wants to be playing in March. It's really difficult to do. We play in a really tough conference, that it's also difficult to win in, the Pac-12. To be able to put ourselves in this position we're in is huge for our program.
This is where we want to be. This is our expectation. Every year as we're training in the spring, summer, fall, pre-season, through Pac-12 play, this is the goal, to be here and compete for victories in March.
Q. Can you talk about Aaronette, what she's brought to the team this year, maybe a presence you were missing last year that is big for you this year.
JR PAYNE: Yeah, it's been really, really fun to watch Aaronette blossom throughout the year. We recruited her in high school, as most of you know. She spent her first year at Arizona, we were really fortunate to be able to get her after she transferred from Arizona.
She's incredible. She's a great teammate. She works hard. She's one of the most athletic players I've probably ever coached as far as having the rare combination of size and skill and mobility, things like that.
Definitely Aaronette has had a great year, continues to get better and better. I think her best basketball is going to continue to be ahead of her and continue to grow.
Being part of this tournament is going to help her in that development. We're excited to see where she's going to be throughout her career.
Q. At this time of year every conference likes to say they're the toughest conference. How is the Pac-12 in preparing you?
JR PAYNE: Yeah, I agree. There's lots of people that say that. I love the Pac-12. I think I could go through every single team in our conference and talk about why they've helped us be a better team this year.
There's size we've played against, there's athleticism. Every single team is extremely well-coached. You have to be adaptable as coaches, as players.
I just think that we've seen a lot of different things throughout conference play, whether that's zone defenses, zone offenses, press defenses, press offenses, all the different types of things you want to see prior to getting to this point, I think we've seen it.
I think our team is a mature group that is adaptable. Tomorrow's game might look different, might not, as far as what they throw at us offensively and defensively. I do think we've seen a lot of different things and we'll work to be adaptable.
Q. Two weeks since your last game. What as a head coach were you looking for in that two-week break? What were you looking to accomplish?
JR PAYNE: I think our biggest goal is to just become more efficient at what we were doing on both sides of the floor. Execution has been a big priority for us the last two weeks. Attention to detail has been a big priority.
I think in the end at this time of year you've got to be able to do those things, you've got to be able to execute, you've got to be able to be precise in what you're trying to do. That's been our mission and I think we've grown in that area.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports