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March 18, 2023

Jeff Walz

Hailey Van Lith

Mykasa Robinson

Austin, Texas, USA

Moody Center

Louisville Cardinals

Media Conference

Louisville 83, Drake 81

JEFF WALZ: First like to start off and congratulate Drake. What a great season they had, winning their league. And then what an unbelievable performance. We knew going into the game that Drake was a very, very good basketball team, had five players, six or seven, that could stand behind the three-point line and spread you out. But they cut so hard without the ball.

And we just -- they abused us. It was a situation where we were just fortunate to be able to score more. So we're going to have to get that fixed. But really thought Drake played a great basketball game.

Then for our team, we made some plays at the end. I think about the last five of the last six or seven possessions, they scored, we scored. We'd get up five, they would hit a three. You have to give them credit for being able to counter every time we tried to get on a little bit of a run to score. Our largest lead of the night was six, and there's was a seven-point lead in the first quarter.

I think all around, a really, really good basketball game.

Q. It looked like you were just "not going to let us lose," you just kept going.

HAILEY VAN LITH: You know, I had a nice break there in the first half. I got in foul trouble, and my team did a great job of keeping us in the game while I wasn't on the court. So that's the only reason it was possible for us to win that game in the end because I had to take a break in the first half.

But I was fully rested and I worked on keeping it simple leading up to this game, and that's what I was able to do. My teammates got me the ball. Yeah, I just made shots. They did the rest.

Q. Did they frustrate you in the first half just with all the back door stuff and all the cuts? Seemed like they got a lot of layups?

MYKASA ROBINSON: Yeah, Drake did a great job just like Coach Walz said. They really executed their offense well. I think that's a big us problem. I think we just need to communicate more and just be more engaged. I think they did a great job, like I said, but yeah.

Q. And can you talk about the end, you fouled with three seconds to go and when the ball came off it looked like it came off pretty hard and you got it. Talk about grabbing that rebound and getting out of the way so the clock could run out.

MYKASA ROBINSON: Those moments, I saw it come off and I was like, let's get away. Yeah, three seconds left, let's run the clock out. That was really it, yeah.

Q. And then Hailey, what was kind of going through your mind down the stretch when you had a couple of shots and then you guys took the time-out and then you had to take another time-out and Coach looked like he switched up the play and you broke to the basket. That was one of the bigger plays in the game. Can you just talk about what you guys talked about in that time-out?

HAILEY VAN LITH: Yeah, we were trying to execute a play the first time-out, and they guarded it pretty well but we noticed that they were being very aggressive on me to deny me the ball.

So Coach is really good at that, at the end-game adjustments. We just ran a little backdoor action, and Kas threw me a great pass. Yeah, it was really just the coaches recognizing that, but yeah.

Q. What did you change to slow them down a little? Didn't seem as easy for them in the second half.

JEFF WALZ: We tried to change a lot but not much changed. They scored 81 points. They pretty much scored at will. They scored 27 in the fourth quarter.

You've got to give them credit. Unfortunately we didn't make the adjustments that we had hoped we would make, but you know we started the game by trying to press up and deny and create as many turnovers as we could, and I thought we did a pretty good job of that but then they started getting some easy layups. So we tried to adjust. The time-out was like, guys, don't worry about getting steals. Just keep them in front of you, jump to the basketball, make them throw a skip pass instead of hugging up to your man on the weak side.

We just didn't do it. We just continued to press up, and it was layup after layup. It was a layup clinic. I mean, it was pretty impressive because they just went one layup after another after another.

I thought the second half, if you go back and watch it, they just missed them. I thought we wore them out some by being as aggressive as we were trying to press full court and trying to get some traps, and they missed some that they normally make. But I think a lot of that was because of us.

Q. You've always said at some point in the tournament, you have to score some points against good teams and that point came early in this tournament. But Hailey had 13 points in the last Final 4. Is 16, from a competitive standpoint and being in a tight situation in a tournament standpoint, you did make a lot of big plays and execute in a lot of ways in the end game in this and how good was that to see from your team?

JEFF WALZ: I was really proud. Offensively, for 90 percent of the game, I thought we did some really good things. We executed throughout the entire fourth quarter. We ran a little action for Liz and she gets a great little baseline jumper and knocks it down. We ran through the offense and got into situations where Hailey was able to drive it. We set some really good on-ball screens. I was proud of them. It was a great basketball game.

As soon as it looked like we were going to try to pull away, they would come back and make a huge shot. It was just, they weren't going to quit and we knew that. But was really, really pleased with how Hailey played. I thought, obviously, I would have liked to have had her out there more in the first half but with those two fouls; and then her teammates did a great job. We hung in there and kept fighting and go into the half tied, and she had made I think seven minutes in that first half.

Overall, just really pleased with how we played at the offensive end. In the defensive end we just squeaked by.

Q. Besides Hailey, Kas looked aggressive, and they didn't score a ton but Olivia and Nyla got enough done and seemed to get enough, just enough stops in the post on the other end to make it work. Anybody other than Hailey you would like to talk about?

JEFF WALZ: I think all of them. You're looking at -- Nyla goes 3 of 7, 2; Nyla goes 3 of 2, 4. She gets 8. So 3 of 7 -- 1 of 1 gets 7. Liz goes 3 of 5 with 6. You've got Merissah that comes up with nine. You know, obviously Hailey got 26. Kas, 14, but you've got to guard everybody. That's the one thing at this point in time: If we can get to the point where you're a threat at the offensive end of the floor, then all of the sudden, it really makes it difficult on the defense.

And I thought we competed. We played hard, and we had some -- I thought nerves were a factor but now they have got one game under their belt, and hopefully we'll see some huge improvements Monday night.

Q. That shot by Liz at the end, how much momentum did that give you guys? It was tied and you took the lead.

JEFF WALZ: It was big. Those are the shots Liz makes. Liz is great at facing up. You know, she's 6-5 but she's not really a traditional back to the basket, going to back you down and score over you that way. She loves to face up, and she's got a really, really nice touch, and I thought she -- it was a huge shot for us.

I mean, there's no question. It was a huge shot at the end of the half that she made for us. We executed at times. We sat there, we went flat. I was trying to go flat for Kas at the end of the half, for ten seconds, they switched the zone and I call a quick play and we got into it without having to go, oh, what are we running now.

Then we get the ball to Liz in an area where she can score and it was a huge basket. It was momentum going into the locker room.

Q. It's been a long time since you guys have lost in the first round --

JEFF WALZ: We've never done that since I've been here.

Q. It's been I think 2006.

JEFF WALZ: I wasn't around.

Q. How much do you rely on that tradition?

JEFF WALZ: We take pride in that. For CC, it's the first NCAA Tournament game she's ever played in. That's really what's encouraging for me. Last season it was Chelsie Hall, she had never played in an NCAA Tournament game, and the excitement for her, the excitement for CC to be a part of it.

For Morgan, she played four years at Florida State. They won one game in the first round and now she's done that and now it's can we get to a second game. You know, trying to give these players experiences for some of them that they have never had before. And we're just going to have to come out and play better on Monday night. I told them in the locker room after the game, we need a little more from every single one of you and we can do it. I thought Merissah Russell did some really good things.

But in the defensive end, she would fall asleep on us at times, and she's so good because she can score offensively that we need to have her out there. They took the lead in the third quarter, got up three and she hits a three to tie it. That was a huge shot. Merissah is important. Josie out there for only two minutes but we run a is he set play for her and she knocks it down.

Excited for all of them and now we've just got to continue to do a little bit more.

Q. Hailey, obviously the 13 points were huge in the fourth quarter, and she made assists; talk about having the ball in her hands, you've mentioned it all year long about how she wants it late in games. Two big passes and some big shots late.

JEFF WALZ: We are trying to put the ball in Hailey's hand and Kas's hands at the end of a ballgame. I mean, Kas in that fourth quarter has three assists, zero turnovers. Hailey with two assists, zero turnovers, and Nyla had a huge pass for an assist. And that's what you have to do.

You want the ball in your play-makers' hands. Offensively we were fantastic. We were 10 for 15 from the field in the fourth, 1 of 2 from three, and now 6 of 10 at line. I'm still not sure on the one free throw what was going on and I won't go into that because obviously I'm not sure anybody knew what was going on because the ball never should have been thrown to the shooter if someone is below the free throw -- it was just bad.

It was a situation where Morgan Jones, they should have said, hey, it's two free throws, boom. Unfortunately that's not what took place and we're 6 of 10. Really, if you say it that way, really we're 6 of 11 in that fourth quarter because it's really 0 for 2 because we didn't get a chance to shoot the second one.

Q. Can you go over your thought process on the play, the in-bounds to Hailey, you guys drew something up -- JP drew it up --

JEFF WALZ: She's just being nice to JP. We tried to go line and the big thing is sprinting to the backcourt, throw it to Hailey, and then hopefully they foul which they would have fouled if we got the ball inbounds. I saw how aggressive they were trying to stop her from getting it. Told the other three and Hailey, take one step to halfcourt hard, and then Hailey, cut to the basket. I did tell her, you're going to get a wide open layup but if you don't feel comfortable, dribble it out and then they will foul you and you'll make two free throws.

She made a great cut, Kas makes a great pass and it couldn't have been better for us because it's one -- she steps up and knocks down her free throw. We executed some things. We really did a great job executing. I told them, I enjoy it. That's one part of the game I really love is trying to be strategic of when you're watching something, what can you take advantage of. And they allowed me to coach a few times tonight and I thanked them for it.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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