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March 19, 2023

Jeff Walz

Mykasa Robinson

Hailey Van Lith

Austin, Texas, USA

Moody Center

Louisville Cardinals

Media Conference

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Louisville student-athletes Mykasa Robinson and Hailey Van Lith and head coach Jeff Walz.

COACH WALZ: Excited, obviously, to have the opportunity to be here today knowing that we're going to get a chance to play tomorrow. Expecting a great basketball game between two very, very good teams. We've got the utmost respect for what they've done throughout their entire season. And I've got a ton of respect for Vic.

Q. Hailey, curious, talk about this rematch with Texas. You met them earlier in the year but they didn't have Rori in the lineup. How much did they change with her and how much of a challenge is it for you in the back court to deal with her this time around?

HAILEY VAN LITH: I think Rori changes a team a little bit in the fact that she has elite court vision. She gets the ball to their posts really well. Their strength in scoring is in the post. She gets them the ball a lot.

I think picking her up early, not letting her have a bunch of free-thinking time to make decisions will be important for us. And, yeah, just wearing her out in the back court. I think full court defense is going to be big for us.

Q. Obviously Texas isn't the same team you guys saw in November. I imagine this exact same thing could be said about your team. How have you all changed in these four months?

HAILEY VAN LITH: I mean, simply put, like we're just a lot better in every facet of the game. We're a lot better at defense. Our offense is a lot more efficient. We play a lot harder. I think on every cylinder we've improved and made big strides. But most importantly, I think our defense has come a long way.

And we played pretty well defensively against them in the Bahamas, but I'm excited to see with that improvement we've made what we can bring tomorrow.

Q. When scouting yesterday or watching that game last night, how much can you take from that in what Texas is going to do to you guys maybe tomorrow?

MYKASA ROBINSON: Personally, I think they're very big. I think we just have to work on boxing out, getting the ball out, get out in transition, keeping them off the glass will be a big part of the game for us.

HAILEY VAN LITH: I can see them trying to crash on us, get second-chance points. They're going to try and beat it in the post beat us down low. Maybe get us in foul trouble in our bigs a little bit. But we're going to do the same thing.

Q. Drake was really getting after you guys with some backdoor cuts and different cuts in that game last night. What did you take away defensively that you think you could do a little bit better against Texas?

MYKASA ROBINSON: Drake was a great team. They had a great game plan. I think for us it's just communication. Being more aggressive with our cuts, when we come foot to foot, talking, being more communicative.

HAILEY VAN LITH: I think our scout was to heat 'em up and pressure them. And I think after they made that first backdoor read we didn't adjust to the fact that they were continuing to make that read. And I think our scout was fine. We did come out and heat 'em up. But once we got the feel of that they were trying to backdoor us we didn't do a good job of adjusting to that.

I think tomorrow, no matter what our scout is, we're going to have to adjust to the speed and how the other team is making reads against us.

Q. You played them even on rebounding in the first meeting. But what problems do their bigs present?

HAILEY VAN LITH: I think they have a lot of rim protectors. And mostly they're just going to clean the glass on us. I think we're going to have to keep them off the boards on the second-chance points. Even a lot of their posts if they miss their first shot they get a second shot on the block again.

Those are high-percentage shots. We can't be giving up second-chance points in the paint like that. That's going to be a difficult task for us. But we worked on it in practice today, and I think that we're going to be disciplined enough tomorrow to keep them to one shot.

MYKASA ROBINSON: Same thing Hailey said, we have to start the game early. Let them know we're here. We're not going to give up many offensive rebounds and we're just going to box them out.

Q. You talked about how you like to play physical games, how much are you all preparing for that tomorrow?

MYKASA ROBINSON: I think we've prepared all season. I don't think it's something that we are just now starting to do. I think that's one thing about Louisville, we play that all year long. I think we're prepared and I think our coaches and our players are ready to go.

Q. Vic was mentioning that he has watched the film from November because there's certain things he can glean from it. I'm just wondering from your perspective how much are you watching that film, or are you getting more out of like Texas's recent film?

COACH WALZ: You go back and you watch the game, of course. I would have been shocked if Vic said he didn't watch the game. I've watched it. My staff's watched it.

There are just things you can take from it of a player's quickness. In terms of you watching play against someone else, like, man, okay, she's not very quick but you don't know who's guarding them. You're able to at least have some comparisons, of okay, when we tried to match up with this, here's what she did. Here's how strong she is in the post. Here's the move they tried to make. Some things like that.

But in terms of basketball scheme and where they've evolved to, a lot has changed. It's the same thing with us. So you're going from as many recent films as you can. And we'll sit down now and you watch about all the games. The great thing about it is it's so easy. It's not the old days where it's the VHS tape and you're FedExing them or UPSing them from school to school. You've got it instantly.

Yes, we'll look at the first game but we're also looking at the entire conference schedule.

Q. You mentioned quickness. I'll ask you about Rori and what she brings to this lineup and how difficult of a matchup is she? How much are they a different team with her?

COACH WALZ: She's a great on-ball defender. Defensive Player of the Year I believe in the league. She causes as much chaos as she possibly can.

Offensively, she does a great job of getting to the basket. She has a nice pull-up jump shot. I mean, you add someone like that to your team, and of course you're going to be better. So we're not foolish enough to think that you're just adding another player. She's high quality.

Q. You mentioned the respect you have for Vic. You faced him a number of times between his time in Texas and Mississippi State. What do you enjoy about coaching against him and what kind of stands out about his teams, typically?

COACH WALZ: His teams play hard. They're always going to come out and compete, defend and rebound the basketball. But Vic and I have gotten to know each other over the past 15, 16 years. And just appreciate the way he does things. He's a good person. And that's one thing you always look for when you're out there. You're talking to coaches is finding a good person. It's not all about the wins and losses. But I've got a lot of respect for the person that Vic is.

Q. You guys were in a track meet last night. But it was still a physical game. Texas kind of bludgeoned their inexperienced tournament opponent. Do you expect an up-and-down game, or is this just going to be a slobberknocker?

COACH WALZ: I think it will be a little bit of both. I think both teams, when the opportunity presents itself, will push the basketball.

At the same time, I think you'll see a physical basketball game. Depending on how the game's called also. And that's what you have to adjust to. Because you're not sure one night to the next what you might get. And that's okay. That's what players have to do. You've got to adjust to how the game is being called.

So I think that will have an impact on the game itself. But then you just have to figure out, all right, that's a foul now. That wasn't a foul before. It is in this game. And it's the way it rolls. But I'm expecting a physical game, but when the opportunity presents itself, I would expect to see both teams get out and run when the opportunity is there.

Q. Rori is the game-changer, having her back in their lineup. But from November to now, where do you see -- outside of getting Rori, of course -- where do you see Texas being the most improved or most changed?

COACH WALZ: They pound the ball inside when it presents itself. But they do have some shooters that are going to spread the floor. So you have to know your personnel.

I think that's going to be an important part for us is making sure you know who you're guarding because we will switch at times. And you're not always on the same person.

So all of a sudden, if I'm switching on to a shooter, I've got to know it's a shooter. If it's a driver, I've got to know it's a driver. They're a good basketball team. And you don't get to this point in the season if you're not good. There's 32 teams left. So everybody can play.

Q. Obviously Alexis is familiar with her, everyone in Louisville knows what she can do, but for those in Austin, is Hailey always as cold-blooded as last night, or what kind of player --

COACH WALZ: She loves to compete. It's who she is. You never have to worry about your effort that you're going to get from her. She's played big throughout our entire season. She's played big in the tournament in the past as well.

So I'm not expecting anything less. And the amount of work that she's put in on her game, it's not an accident. It's the one thing about this game, sports in general, if you don't work on it, it will expose you.

If you don't work on your shot, they won't guard you. If you can't handle the basketball, they'll pressure you. You can't hide. At this time of the year it's hard to hide. So Hailey is who she is because of the amount of work she puts in on her game. She loves to be in the gym. She loves to compete. She's got a mindset of, if you tell her she can't do it, she's going to prove to you she can.

And that's what makes her as special as she is. I think the kid's an All-American. There's no question in my mind. So I'd be shocked tomorrow if she doesn't come out and perform.

Q. Mykasa and Hailey talked about what they could have done better on defense last night on some of the cuts in general, but what would you like to see better on the defensive end of the floor?

COACH WALZ: The good thing is we won't be playing Drake tomorrow. What I mean by that, it's how they play. There's nobody that we played this entire year -- you might look at a Belmont that was a little similar. But Drake is five out. I was very impressed from watching them on film, watching them in person as well. You've got five kids that can step out and shoot the 3. They just back cut you, flip -- but you've got to know where all of them are. You can't just say, okay, this one's not a shooter. It's just a completely different scout.

So the way we played Drake will be nowhere what we try to do on Monday night. And it's just different. And that's what makes this time of year so much fun is, you prepare for one team, that game's over, you throw that scout completely out the door because there's nothing that's even close to being similar about the way Drake plays and Texas plays. And that's not a knock on either one. They both play great basketball. It's just different styles.

I mean, I was tired from watching all the cuts and trying to make sure our kids were jumping to the ball every single time. It was fun to watch. So it's just different style of play.

Q. True home court visiting -- playing on a true home court (inaudible) speak to the confidence your players have to be able to handle that environment. I know it's not an inexperienced team, but it's a tournament run and you're going to be playing in front of a crowd.

COACH WALZ: The question was about -- I think the mic was out there. So the question was about playing on the home court. It's definitely a home court advantage. That's what they've earned. That's our tournament. That's the way it is. And how you perform throughout your season is a big impact because it does give you the opportunity to play if you're a top 4 seed at home. We've been fortunate enough to be able to do that the past six or seven years.

We know going into this -- and I've said it -- you're playing one road game throughout the entire NCAA Tournament. If you don't host, you play one potential road game, true road game. And this is our one potential road game. It should be a great environment tomorrow night. It's what you want.

I'd rather come out here and play in front of 8,000 fans than in front of 300. And our kids want that as well. Both teams do.

For our home games, we average close to 9,000. I've said it here before, we're number one in the ACC in average home attendance. We're number six in the ACC when you include men. We outdraw 10 men's teams in the ACC.

When teams come in, kids are excited, even from the opposing teams, they have the opportunity to play in front of people.

So I hope it's a packed house. You want that environment. You want that excitement, as a player and as a coach, and we're going to come out here. I think we'll use a women's ball. It's the same ball. You know, right? I mean, we had our drama with that, which, golly, it was a women's ball I feel pretty confident about that. If my players played a whole half and weren't sure what the ball was, I'd be concerned with my players.

I'm sure the goals are the same height. The floor's the same length. I'm colorblind so I can't tell what color the floor is. So it looks the same to me. I'm all in.

It's going to be fun. Nobody wants to roll out here in a second-round game in front of a thousand people. It's not what anybody wants. That's why we do what we do here in women's basketball. Until we can get to a point where you can play your first and second round on neutral sites, you're better off keeping them at a home court because you know you're going to get the crowd support.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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