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March 6, 2009

Aisha Jefferson

Lykendra Johnson

Suzy Merchant


Wisconsin – 56
Michigan State - 50

THE MODERATOR: We will open with a statement from Coach Suzy Merchant, then go to the student-athletes. Coach.
COACH MERCHANT: Gotta give Wisconsin a lot of credit. I thought they did a great job of pressuring us, and we didn't handle it. And I think that was the story of the game.
I certainly felt like we had our opportunities. But I mean they rattled every guard we put out there, which caused our inability to get the ball inside as well. And they did a nice job of bothering us, bringing the ball up the court in the quarter court, denial of our wings, and we didn't have anybody that kept eyes on the pressure at all in terms of taking it to the basket.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Aisha, did they do anything differently down there in the second half that kept you guys from scoring in the paint?
AISHA JEFFERSON: No, not really. I think us as post players, we weren't showing. They were very physical. And in the second half, I think we kind of let down in the second half, especially on their two post players. We let them loose. I felt we attacked them in the first half which caused them to get in foul trouble, and we just went away from that.

Q. Lykendra, what happened on that technical that you got hit with?
LYKENDRA JOHNSON: Our arms got tangled up. I tried to get myself off of her, and she ended up calling it a dead ball tech.

Q. You guys brought it pretty close there at the end. Either one of you -- what was going through your mind? Were you guys just trying to attack a little bit more?
AISHA JEFFERSON: Definitely, started in the second half. That late, because we were running out of time, were just trying to turn it up at the end, just because we were running out of time. We should have started like that the second half, and we were just thinking about trying to score at that time. And that's only the reason we had a little more intensity.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, ladies.
We'll continue with Coach Merchant.

Q. Were you surprised with so many offensive fouls in your half court sets that you had?
COACH MERCHANT: We haven't had that all year. I mean, that's a world record for offensive fouls, calls against Michigan State.

Q. Did Wisconsin do anything differently in the second half?
COACH MERCHANT: No. They played the same game. The thing they did was they got into our grille a little bit and we didn't respond. We needed composure.
We had some inconsistency from that in our guard play. It was the other end. Sometimes you get real good effort and focus and composure. And sometimes you don't. And today was one of those. We didn't.
And we talked a lot about turnovers. And I thought Rae Lin D'Alie, give her a lot of credit, but I thought she embarrassed us out there today. We just threw it to her and we gave it to her and she took it from us. You look at the 17 points off turnovers and it makes it pretty difficult to defend.

Q. You guys have dealt with turnovers all year. But was that just something that --
COACH MERCHANT: These were turnovers for touchdowns again. That's the difference. We've been turning it over. But they haven't been as severe. And then obviously today, I mean, it was -- give it to them. We didn't want any part of stepping up, and we couldn't get into scoring pocket to run our offense. And that starts with the point guard position.
And we didn't have wings that could get open. And we tried everything. We tried ball screening. We tried high post entries. We tried screening in. We did everything we possibly could that we had. And it came down to stepping up and being a player and handling that pressure. And we just did not do it. And you have to give them a lot of credit.

Q. Coach, how good are they defensively? How much better are they than they have been in the past?
COACH MERCHANT: I definitely think they're a lot better than they have been in the past. No question. They're very physical. I thought that played a major factor. They were very physical off the ball. We couldn't cut. We couldn't even go to set a screen at times to free our people up.
Normally I think they really blast you off the ball. And on the ball obviously they really get up into you and when you pass away, it makes it difficult. I do think they definitely have improved that part of their game.

Q. Despite the loss, do you feel you've done enough --
COACH MERCHANT: I do. I don't know why we wouldn't. I certainly believe that, yes.

Q. This was your third different starting point guard against Wisconsin. If you're fortunate enough to reach the tournament, where are you at with your point guard situation?
COACH MERCHANT: Obviously losing Brittney was detrimental. But we went 4-2 in those games beating Ohio State and Purdue and Indiana. We've done it with a couple different people.
We tried [Kalisa] Keane there. We tried Mia Johnson there. And, of course, we could use Porsche Poole a little bit, but I try to use her off the ball a little bit because she's better off the ball. I don't know how you want to answer that except where am I at with it? It is what it is. And we only have a handful of options.
But they've been pretty good to this point. They just did not step up to the challenge.

Q. This has kind of been the game plan that other teams have brought against you the last two games. Is there anything you guys can do differently to kind of keep those turnovers down or try to --
COACH MERCHANT: We've tried. We had the four-man bring it up. To me, I just feel you have to be able to pass and dribble. You have to get the ball from one end to the other to run offense. That simple. However we do it.
We've done it with four-man bringing it down and point guard, makeshift point guard bringing it down, our off guard bringing it down.
I mean, we have 100 different options really. But at some point you have to dribble the ball down the floor and get into an offense, however you do it. I feel we have enough options, we just did not do a very good job of it today.

Q. Could you reflect on Allyssa's milestone with the block buster?
COACH MERCHANT: Obviously she's a force in there. Certainly feel like it's nice to have her back, if we do get beat on dribble drives, that she's back there to do a good job of going after shots.
And that's something that plays -- doesn't matter where we put her: If she ends up getting switched out on a perimeter guy, that 6'9" frame does bother people. Give her a lot of credit for that. That's a great feat. She still has one more year to go.

Q. Lastly, do you think having that lack of 3-point shooting, that lack of outside presence in the game, has been hurting you because the last two teams have just been packing almost five people in the paint.
COACH MERCHANT: I think tonight's game was more about them getting into us than packing it in. I thought we did a good job of when it went in there of making extra passes and getting some looks.
But certainly that's something that -- it's nothing new. We knew that they were going to get up into us, and I think the story of the game was more us turning it over against pressure than it was getting double teamed on the low post. We couldn't even get it into a position to get the ball into a low post.
That just hasn't been the case. We've done a very good job up until this point. You look at our last six games without Brittney, and we've done a very good job of that. So tonight we did a very, very bad job today, and obviously it cost us the game.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.

End of FastScripts

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