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March 17, 2023

Lisa Fortier

Kaylynne Truong

Yvonne Ejim

Stanford, California, USA

Maples Pavilion

Gonzaga Bulldogs

Media Conference

Ole Miss 71, Gonzaga 48

LISA FORTIER: What a bummer. You know, we think that we are good enough to compete with that team. I know that we are.

My team is tough but we're only good enough to compete on today if it was played under our terms and the game was definitely played under Ole Miss's terms. They were the ones who dictated the pace and tempo of the game; and the rebounding was an issue that was an emphasis; and they won the glass.

And nothing to take away from -- our team has had an amazing season and most people don't know, besides maybe Jim and our administrators in here, like, what we've gone through.

And so proud of them. They battled. These two battled, and their teammates, and it's been fun to coach them.

It's one thing their physicality on film but what was it like getting up close?

YVONNE EJIM: I feel like if anything it was definitely felt on the boards, especially, just having to compete with them, I feel like that's where most of their physicality was that we were not able to overcome a lot of the time. And I feel like that bled into, like, once they got those rebounds, like they felt that they could be more physical on offense, on defense, like, pressuring us.

So I feel like a lot of it started with like the rebounds and then obviously brought them energy and carried into the rest of their game.

Q. It seemed like every time you guys caught the ball in the perimeter they were there touching and you being physical. How much does not having played a team who plays like this consistently, how difficult did that make it, and when did you feel like you first really felt it? Was it the first possession or built up over the game?

KAYLYNNE TRUONG: Personally it I feel like it built up over the game and also adding, like, fatigue, and just trying to do everything I can for the team.

And so you know, kudos to them. They guarded the three-point well, and going into the game, we knew that. But yeah, I kind of struggled here. I feel like I could have done better. I got some open shots but they just weren't falling today.

Q. When the shots weren't falling, did it get in your head at all? Usually that's not been a problem for you guys but it just seemed to know ball a little bit.

KAYLYNNE TRUONG: For me throughout the whole season, the coaches have told me, like, I don't care if you shoot three; I don't care if you shoot 50, you know, get my shots up. It didn't really bother me. I can't speak for the team but yeah, I just, again, I just tried to do whatever for the team and it just wasn't enough.

Q. For both players, you've been through a lot this season and you have the entire roster coming back. What can you learn from this experience and the way the season ended both here and the conference tournament to take into next year with a team that brings every single player back that won so many games and went through so much adversity?

YVONNE EJIM: I feel like if anything, like, when we start to actually like focus on what we need to focus on, I feel like having this whole team back. Like, we realize, like, what we've gone through this year, what it took, like what it takes sometimes to win games like this. Like, if people have that feeling, then it just matters, like, when you're going to start to work on all of that stuff that you need to.

So I feel like that's something having all of these players back, we can already start, like, tomorrow or whenever we get back on the court or getting your body right, getting your mental right, like, whatever that matters, like, in your life, whatever it takes to get better as a basketball player in order to contribute to this team. Like, it just depends, like, when you're going to say, like, let's start right now.

Q. Both you players, Stanford played against you guys and now guys just played against Ole Miss and now Ole Miss will be playing Stanford. What did you learn from either team, and then how do you think the team that you just played will do against Stanford two days from now?


YVONNE EJIM: I feel like if anything, not like settling, and not, like, letting the wave come towards you, but actually, like, putting pressure on other people. I feel like if anything, we were one step behind the line and let Ole Miss cross that a little bit.

Whereas for us, like, moving forward, learning from both teams, like, even Stanford when we played them with seven, like, we have to put our foot across the line first and be the aggressors, kind of, in the game.

So I feel like if anything, if Ole Miss, like, does take that to Stanford, then they obviously have a chance. I mean, it's March. Anybody has a chance.

So, like, I feel like if they take that into their game, obviously, like, it will be a good game. And same thing for Stanford. If they are, like, the aggressors in the game, then it's going to be a good game for them.

But knowing you have to start the way you want to finish, the way you want to play 40 minutes, like, that's going to change a lot of, like, your mindset and how you play, like, throughout the game, too.

Q. Can you talk about the conference schedule, and do you feel like it's adequately prepared this team for March Madness?

LISA FORTIER: I don't think, I don't think you have any control over that. We schedule outside of conference the best we can so that we are prepared for March Madness. There's a little bit of a lull in the middle sometimes. But the one thing about conference play is it doesn't matter what conference you're in. What you do get tested is teams know you and they try to take you out of what you're good at.

Other teams tried to pressure us and take away the three-point shot. They just weren't as good as Ole Miss was at doing it.

So you know, we have other strengths. We worked a lot on, they are going to switch us on ball screens and we are going to go high-low. Vonnie was limited with her minutes today with a couple of those fouls in the first half, and I think that that took us away from what we were trying to do there. So we are automatically in scramble mode again.

I think, you know, conference prepares you for certain things. I don't know that it necessarily prepares us for the NCAA Tournament; if that's a more concise way to answer your question.

Q. Have you played a team as physical as Ole Miss was tonight all season, and do you think your kids were as prepared when they stepped on the floor for the physicality as it actually was, or is it just hard to replicate that in practice leading up to this game?

LISA FORTIER: Yeah, we've played some pretty physical teams. But I think it is different.

I also think it's tough to -- when you get to -- I don't think there's a line when it says it's going to be officiated in postseason or this league does it a different way, but you're watching game film and it's different. The physicality and what you can do on the court, what you're allowed to do is different.

We get called all the time for wrapping our hands around people when we switch, and I mean, that's normal. That's what they do every single time. So that was not a foul today and so we had to figure out how play through that.

So I think, you know, we have played other physical teams. You know, San Diego is physical. BYU is physical. Portland is physical. There's different people who do different things. Obviously that's just in the league. We played Tennessee and Louisville and Marquette played physical against us and there's those kind of things as well.

I do think it's different. The physicality is different or when you have a team full of it and a bench full of it, football field players on the floor full of it versus the first wave of starters who do that well and then you sub, and there's a letdown. There wasn't a real letdown in that part of the game today at all for them.

Q. You mentioned that other teams have tried to press you and take away the three-point shot, but what Ole Miss was able to do was better than what those teams did. What made it that way in your opinion and what did you see that made that so?

LISA FORTIER: Well, we shot 17 of them, so I think a couple of them were late clock, just trying to get something up. So it wasn't that they took us away entirely. I think we were rushed. I don't know which one of the players answered the question; if the nature of the game, I don't know who you asked that question to.

But I do think that we were pressing on defense. You know, like, a little bit trying to get stops and then on offense it wasn't easy. So then when you did have an open look, you felt like you were rushing.

Still so I don't think that Brynna shot five, Eliza shot two, Lynne shot three, Kayly shot three, KK shot two. Those are -- it wasn't like we had a bunch of our non-shooters shooting them. I just think the nature of the game with the switching and then the pressure that they were applying everywhere else, when you were open, you felt a little bit rushed.

And they are a really good defensive team. That's our lowest three-point percentage of the season. So they are just pretty darned good at their defense.

Q. When you were talking about the ups and downs that you went through this season, you started to sort of choke up. This year, you had all these --

LISA FORTIER: You trying to make me cry again?

Q. No.


Q. This is a team, with everybody coming back, just how much this season has meant to you and how much you guys can grow from this experience of the postseason.

LISA FORTIER: Yeah, so I mean, the people would don't know, we played Stanford down here with seven players. We had four of our top seven -- or four our top six for a lot of the season and we were without some of the others for a lot of the season. Played Stanford with seven. Played Queens with seven. We played multiple games with eight. We had COVID, mono, torn ligaments, other torn ligaments, long concussions, short concussions, whatever flu people had; we had it all, and kind of all at the same time for a while.

And our team did great. We beat Tennessee in that scenario where we didn't have our starting point guard. We beat all those other teams, everyone else who we played, we played on the road in Texas and won against Stephen F. Austin who is good, we played them with eight. And we came down here and battled Stanford, we didn't win but we battled these guys with seven.

So they just kept showing up and they had a good attitude and they were fun to close. Esther little was a guard until there was seven and then she all of a sudden became a post. Calli Stokes was a guard until there wasn't any. Destiny Burton had not played much. Payton Muma was our backup point guard. Kaylynne is playing 37 minutes. KK playing 37 minutes.

It was just -- people go through that stuff. We haven't. My second year as a head coach, we went through some of that, and we were wildly unsuccessful, actually, by our terms. We finished fourth in the conference and lost a bunch of games at the buzzer; it was heartbreaking.

This team was the opposite of heartbreaking. We won a bunch of games that nobody thought we were going to win. We batted. They didn't balk at the fact that we were coming down here to play Stanford with seven players or anything else that we tried to do.

So they were just really fun in that regard because it was just show up and tell us what we're going to do and how we're going to do it and then we'll do the best we can to do that.

Even today it didn't work out as well but I think we were out matched physically. They are athletic, they are bigger, and I know they are not overly big inside minus one or two. But across the board, they are bigger and they just kind of have the attitude of show up, tell us what we're going to do and we're going to try our best to do it.

All the while, everyone has some stuff. So we went through a couple of things where it was a little bit rocky on the relationship piece here and there. It was really unique for Lynne who started the season starting with her sister, which you know Lynne was the backup point guard, those that don't know, and she was the Player of the Year. She was AP on Honorable Mention All-American and she just led us.

Vonnie just flourished as a player this year and they just stepped into stuff that they were all in roles that were knew to them except Kayly. Kayly was the only player on our team that had the same role, and she sat out for almost the entire season.

So I just think all of that makes me really proud of the way -- I hope that every team that we coach is going to show up like that, and they are all back, right. So we'll see what that looks like and we'll see how we can motivate them different.

We are talking about a lot of things that we can try to build on from this year. I think that it's on-the-court stuff, it's off the court stuff, it's leadership stuff. It's so many things. We have so many options, and I think if they have the same attitude they took this year going into next season, which there will be different challenges, then we are going to again be a hard out. We weren't really a hard out today, unfortunately.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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