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March 26, 2023

Jeff Walz

Mykasa Robinson

Hailey Van Lith

Olivia Cochran

Seattle, Washington, USA

Climate Pledge Arena

Louisville Cardinals

Elite 8 Postgame Media Conference

Iowa - 97, Louisville - 83

THE MODERATOR: All right. We can start with questions for Coach.

Q. You seemed to try to throw everything you could at Caitlin. Talk about the form she had tonight.

JEFF WALZ: She played great. She made some big shots. She passed the ball well. We turned her over at times. I thought we did a good job. We just had some opportunities that -- you know, we give 'em 18 fast break points and that's what we had talked about. We got to make 'em earn everything. She's going to make tough shots. She takes tough shots. You just can't let 'em get in transition and score easy. And it's a 14-point game and you lose the battle by nine on fast break opportunities. And we had a couple in the first half that we just we didn't convert, and you can't do that.

But I was really proud of our kids. I thought we just kept grinding, kept fighting. We came out in the second half, threw some stuff at 'em, scored four straight, and then just had a rebound slip through our hands and it gets kicked out and it turns into a three, and then all of a sudden it's an 8-0 run. It's part of basketball. But I love these kids. They played their tails off and there was definitely no quit in 'em.

Q. You talked about throwing junk at them. It seemed like they threw a triangle and two and a box and one at you guys and it bothered you a little bit there in that second quarter when they created some space. Did you feel like that was something you guys had worked on expecting them to throw at you and you were ready for it or was it not something you guys were expecting?

JEFF WALZ: I mean, they outscored us one in the second quarter. It was 23-22. I mean, I don't -- we scored 83 points. It wasn't the offense. I promise you that. We actually converted, we just missed some shots. We had some good looks and just couldn't put the ball in the basket.

So we had talked about it. We knew that they were going to come out and play some triangle and two. But it wasn't the offensive end. Like I said, we scored 83 point. I thought we had to score in the 80s. But you just got to tip your hat to them. They scored more.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.

Q. For all you guys, yesterday, Jeff talked about how you just took some time to really develop and gel and how you guys have just played, especially during the post-season. What was it that kept you all together in those tough moments that you were able to see the results of that in this run?

MYKASA ROBINSON: Here at Louisville we're a family. We do everything for each other. So even though we didn't get the outcome we wanted tonight, we've had a hell of a season. And people can say we didn't, but we know what it is here at Louisville, so I'm just super proud of this team.

Q. I know it's tough to think about right now, but you had an outstanding career. What has this run meant to you through it all?

MYKASA ROBINSON: Yeah, I've been very blessed to be a part of an elite program. This run here with this team it's been -- it's going to be very memorable for me. The games, they mean a lot, yeah, but this team, the coaches, these are people I'll never forget and I'm going to cherish for the rest of my life.

So it's been a hell of a season, hell of career. I've enjoyed every moment of it, and I'm just thankful for this team.

Q. Hailey, talk about Olivia's performance down low. She was just battling all night long.

HAILEY VAN LITH: Yeah, I'm really proud of Olivia. She's one of my best friends on the team. We're in the same class. This is our third year together. I've just seen her grow every single year and she is a fighter. Whatever obstacle in regular life and basketball world comes her way, like, she's just always on top. She's been challenged this ACC tournament and this NCAA tournament with elite post matchups and she's a dog, man, like, she's a competitor. She went out and fought. Every matchup she got she went out and fought. I can't ask any more of her. You just want to play with people who have heart and I couldn't ask for a better person that has heart than Olivia.

Q. Last year you guys talked about getting to the Final Four and how coming up short motivated you in the off-season. What does coming up short of making it back to the Final Four do for you guys now as you move into another off-season?

HAILEY VAN LITH: I'll be completely honest, I'm not motivated by external factors. I'm motivated by myself, and I always have been. If we would have won the National Championship this year, I would have had the same amount of motivation in me. That's just who I am. I'm not motivated at all by the fact that they named me honorable mention. I know who I am and I know what God thinks I am and God doesn't think I'm an honorable mention, I'll tell you that right now. So I have it no -- I don't need external motivation. I'm internally motivated.

OLIVIA COCHRAN: Um, yeah, what she said. I'm just trying to get better every day. My teammates helped me a lot this year do that. I was fighting demons all year and they kept my head high, very high, even when I was low, and I thank them for that. And I appreciate y'all.

Q. You talked about how it was going to be a team effort defending Caitlin and it seems like all of you guys had a chance to guard her at some point. What was that like and how did she get the better of you?

MYKASA ROBINSON: She played a good game. Yeah, hit some -- she hit shots. Good job. Yeah.

JEFF WALZ: I'm not sure what you want her to say. She played well. She played great. What do you -- I mean, yeah.


JEFF WALZ: Hat's off, exactly right. You tip your hat, and that's -- I'm a huge Caitlin fan. I'm a huge Hailey fan. She played really well. So I don't know what you want 'em to say besides that.

Q. You guys basically played them dead even except for in the third quarter. What kind of stood out from your guys' perspective in that quarter?

HAILEY VAN LITH: I think the game plan that we went with there was supporting cast made shots in that quarter, and that's basically what it comes down to. We stuck with the game plan pretty much all game, and the one thing that they had to do to win the game is what they were able to do in the third quarter. Those role players hit some shots. And, I mean, that's all we could do about it, and it's all right.

THE MODERATOR: All right. We'll excuse the student-athletes and take questions for Coach.

Q. You had a transcendent talent few years ago in Shoni Schimmel and you used to tell people, Come to our games. I guarantee you you will be entertained. How important is it that we have players like Caitlin, like Hailey, who had like a tremendous start, bring more fans to the game with the way they play?

JEFF WALZ: Well, I think it's important. It's always been important. We've had Asia Durr here and Dana Evans, Myisha Hines-Allen. I mean, Angel McCoughtry. I can go through a list of 'em. And there's a reason for the past, I think, 13 or 14 years we've been in the top 5 in attendance in the country. I mean, we outdraw 10 of the men's teams in the ACC on average. I mean, it's just a fact. I mean, it's numbers.

So I mean, it's something that we have done here at Louisville and what I'm proud of is we've been able to sustain it. It's not just through when Angel graduated and then everything drops off. And that's the challenge, that's the fun part, is, like, okay, can you continue to sustain the fan base, because it's a challenge. I mean, it really is. Getting 'em to come back, to continue to come back, especially now with the TV's as good as they are, the bathroom's normally cleaner at home, the drinks are less expensive.

But it's getting 'em to come back. And we take great pride in the fact that after every single home game, we sign autographs. For 10 to 12 minutes we put on the clock we send three or four of our players to the same exact location after every single game. And it's easy when you win. I mean, everybody's in a good mood. But when you lose, as I tell our kids, that's when your character comes out. That's when my 7-year-old is coming down and wants your autograph, Lindsay, and she's like, Lindsay, great game. And you're 1-10 and missed the free throw to win the game and you want to go, What the hell were you watching? But you can't. You got to put that smile on.

And I tell 'em -- I don't talk to my kids after a game, a home game. I meet 'em at half court. It's about two minutes and then they go. And I'm like, Hey, your character is going to show right now, because you just battled for two hours in the heat of a ball game and you're upset, you're frustrated if you lost, which we're fortunate we don't lose a whole bunch at home, but we've lost some, and you got to go put that smile on that face. And that's what I love about our kids. We just battled our tail off tonight and it sucks. I hate losing. But they're going to hold their head high and when they go out, they're going to be extremely respectful, complimentary, because that's what you do in women's basketball, in women's sports. And I'm an advocate. I've been doing this for 28 years. I'm back in the old days of the restricted earnings case and we used to make $12,000. It was never about the money. And I have been an advocate for women, for women's basketball, for women's sports, because it's important to me. I have three daughters and if we want to continue to grow this and continue to get people to watch and support it, we all have to do a better job. We have to value our games.

I'm watching that LSU-Miami game and it's 24-20, and I'm impressed at the defense that Miami's playing. I mean, LSU was the third, I think, highest offensive team in the country. They held 'em to 20-something points at the half. But instead of complimenting that, we talk, oh, it's a terrible offensive game. No, it's not. It's a great defensive game. I've watched men's games. They're in the 20s. But every time I listen to an announcer on a men's game in the 20s, they talk about what an unbelievable defensive game it is.

We kill ourselves. We have to do better. It's mind-boggling to me that we as people who are trying to push and advocate for women's basketball we hurt ourselves. It's got to stop. The stupidity has to end. It's ignorance. I can't figure it out. Because I'm telling you, I watched Miami and -- I mean, I texted Katie when I get here and I was just so proud of their team. They put an unbelievable game plan together and they worked and you got to tip your hat to Kim and their players as well. But what a great -- I thought it was a great game.

And then this game on our side's a complete opposite because it's 97-83. So if you enjoy it, it's like, okay, that worked there, and we knew we were going to have to score a lot because they score. So you just appreciate both sides of it. But, man, we have to just continue to do a better job of being supportive of women's athletics and women's basketball. I tell my players all the time, because this is something that's important to me, when someone asks one of my players, who is your favorite professional player, I surely hope we say a WNBA player, because if we don't, if you're an advertiser and women's basketball players are saying their favorite professional player is a men's player, why would you advertise in women's sports? You're telling everyone, I prefer the men's players.

That, to me, I can't figure out either. We have an unbelievable game, we have an unbelievable product, and we need to keep telling people and showing people that we do, but it starts with us. All of you in this room, thank you for coming out, because you're here to support women's sports. I tip my hat to Geno and UConn for what they have been able to do, and we're going to talk about it. It's a good thing. It's over. No, I thought it was an unbelievable thing that he was able to continue to do it.

You know, I didn't know until I talked to Rebecca Lobo that -- and if I would have known this, believe me, I would have texted Geno, that the last time they lost back-to-back games, I think, was 1983. Was that right? I think it was. '93. And you know who it was to? Louisville. Dammit. And if I would have known that when they lost that second game, I would have been like, yup, you remember when the Cardinals beat you. You know?

Guys, I hope you understand how crazy that is. And don't tell me he played in a bad league because we play in the Big East, and I was a part of it when you had Notre Dame, you had Rutgers, you had West Virginia, you had Villanova, you had -- I mean, it was just a list every night. It was like, God, here comes the next. And to not lose back-to-back games? That should be something that's talked about of like what an unbelievable run.

But we always want to try to find ways to cut things down to make it not sound, oh, that -- oh, no, it's good that things are over. No, it's not. I think it's amazing. You know, I'm cheering -- you know, like, I would love to see Virginia Tech win tomorrow night and have a chance to compete for a National Championship, but what Dawn's doing at South Carolina now, trying to have an undefeated season, you know, it's great. But we don't need to put others down to build others up. I can't figure it out. Do I got more time? I'm not stuttering much. I stuttered on Rebecca and I do every time. I was like, God, they should have named her different.

Q. You had that nice moment, good long moment with Lisa, in the handshake line. Just what did you share with her? And she's been chasing the Final Four for a good long time. How good did you feel for her even though you were disappointed?

JEFF WALZ: I felt like shit. I didn't feel good for her. No, I just -- I congratulate Lisa. I did. I told her, I go, This is a lot harder to accomplish than a lot of people think it is. And I told her to make sure she enjoys every second of it, enjoys the moment, make sure you take time to actually take a step back and look at what you've done because it's hard. It is really, really hard.

And when you get down there, you watch your film, you do your prep, but I told her, go out. Everybody will buy you a drink. You're coaching in the Final Four. See, I got that advice back in 2006 from Linden Weese and Roger Reding, who were assistants at Texas Tech, and I said it the other day. They called me, and they're like, Walz, make sure you enjoy this moment because nobody likes you, but it's the only time they will buy you drinks. And you know what, they were right. And we prepped and we prepared and we went out and we had a nice time talking to coaches. We went to the coaches social and did everything. Or you can sit in your room and watch the same film you've just watched the past four days. So I told her, enjoy it. You deserve it, Lisa, your staff, go out there, enjoy it and I wish you the best of luck. Because I think she's an outstanding person and her staff is great as well.

Q. When you talk about just what this team has been able to overcome to get to this point, how would you describe from your perspective how they were able to stay together in those moments and be able to reap the reward of getting to this point?

JEFF WALZ: I think it's what Kas said and Hailey said. We're a family. They just, they gutted it out for each other. We made a few changes in lineups and did a few things, but it's what the kids do. I mean, I say it all the time, I haven't scored a point. We try to put 'em in positions to be successful, but they're the ones that do it. I'm just blessed to be able to do what I've done for 28 years and 16 years as the head coach here at Louisville. And I've had just wonderful people, they're not just great basketball players, they're wonderful young women. And I told 'em that I couldn't be prouder of what they have done because the impact they have even had on my own kids. I've got a nine year old and a seven year old, girls, that just admire my entire team. And they take time to play with 'em and hug 'em and talk to 'em. And you just can't put a price tag on it. You can't. So I'm proud of 'em and I appreciate you all. Thank you again for being out here and covering our sport. I think it's so important. Take care, everybody.

THE MODERATOR: All right. Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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