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March 12, 2011

Toni Kokenis

Nnemkadi Ogwumike

Kayla Pedersen

Tara VanDerveer


UCLA - 55

THE MODERATOR: All right, we've got the Stanford Cardinals. Coach, an opening statement, and then questions.
COACH VANDERVEER: There was a gentleman yesterday that asked, do we need a close game? I worried about that. This was a great game. I just want to first of all congratulate UCLA for a great season. They had us on the ropes and, you know, we had to really battle to come back. I'm really proud of our team's second half.
I think that our first half we weren't in any kind of rhythm offensively. We weren't aggressive enough defensively. We weren't doing a good enough job really in any phase of the game. We were definitely out of sync.
At halftime we just talked about what we needed to do, and we have veteran players with Jeanette and Kayla, and Nnemkadi, and they led the way. And we had some freshmen like Toni and Chiney step up and play for us. I really think this game will help us a lot, and I hope it helps UCLA too.

Q. Tara, can you talk about Toni's run of ten straight points there? It seemed to turn things in your direction pretty solidly?
COACH VANDERVEER: Yeah, I mean, Toni stepped up really big for us. She's played really well against UCLA last time. I really had confidence that she could come out with our team in the second half and recognizing what was open. Toni helped us defensively, her speed, getting out, and getting those lay-ups, getting to the free-throw line and making those threes. The one three kind of bounced all around and dropped in for her.
But she's a big-time player, and she was aggressive. This was a great game for Toni and for other players on our team.

Q. Did you have a chance to send a few text messages while you were waiting for that three-point shot to decide to go in? And Coach VanDerveer, how did you change the defensive structure for the second half?
TONI KOKENIS: That definitely bounced around like five or six times. It felt like forever, and I was waiting for it to roll out. But it was kind of nice to get a friendly roll every now and then.
COACH VANDERVEER: I think in the second half it helped me to see our offense in front of us to see what was open a little bit more. We got in different and better alignments for our team. But I really think it was our defense. I think people stepped up and got more aggressive.
We were not handling their pick-and-roll very well in the first half. In fact, we were handling it horribly. But we started switching more and got our hands on the ball. You know, this game was kind of an A-typical game for us for some people for us. It was not a great game for Jeanette, but other people stepped up. I was really happy to see that.

Q. Could you talk about that run by Toni when she had ten straight points or something like that? What was it like from your vantage point?
NNEMKADI OGWUMIKE: I was on defense whenever she'd get a steal or making a cut on offense whenever she'd get some sort of pass. She had those two threes in the corner and was being really aggressive on the ball, which produced those, I guess I want to say maybe four plays. I was really excited, because Toni's quick and she focuses and listens to what Coach always tells her to do. She really knows how to help us when she's out on the court.
I was really proud of her. We definitely needed that run, because they were taking away a lot of the things that we're good at. They were packing it inside and she opened things up for us, as well as Jeanette and Kayla. And I was really excited to see how much she was bringing to the court.

Q. And one other thing, when you talk about packing it inside, they're obviously a very quick team. But how frustrating was it for you personally down low when you had all those people around you?
NNEMKADI OGWUMIKE: It wasn't really frustrating for me at all except in the fact that we were really trying to figure out what we needed to do on offense. One thing about our team is we're very versatile. When one thing doesn't work, we look for another thing. But at the same time we try to get everything that we're good at to work at the same time.
Once we started to get the ball inside the way we did that was by O-boarding. And we did a good job of O-boarding in the second half. It was definitely frustrating because I felt like there were two people on me at all times, but at the same time our guards opened things up on the perimeter, and things kind of spread out from there.

Q. When you were having that scoring run, did you have enough time to think? Was it just more on instinct? Did nerves creep in at any point?
TONI KOKENIS: Not really. It was on instinct and just giving whatever I could to the team and being aggressive. It all started on defense. Great plays by my teammates who tipped the ball out, and I was just in the right place at the right time and was able to finish.
Then just we passed the ball really well on offense, and I got some open shots and was able to knock them down.

Q. Can you talk about being down at the half like that? I think it was double digits at one point. What were you thinking because you haven't been in that spot for a few months?
KAYLA PEDERSEN: Yeah, I think it's very unusual that we are in that spot. I don't think that any of us panicked though going into the half. We knew we were down, we knew we had dug ourselves a hole. It was more of a challenge how are we going to get out of it, how are we going to fight back, you know? In the fact half you saw a team that will always continue to fight no matter what the score is.
That just increased our aggression. We got a lot of steals. We got our hands on the ball. We got loose balls. I just think that that fight in us really brought us through.

Q. In the first half did you feel like your team was impatient and just settling for threes and not finding a way to get the ball inside against their zone? Or did you think the ball would eventually just start going down?
COACH VANDERVEER: Well, one of the things is I think that they were really clogging things up in there. Almost like Lindy hit a three right off the bat. But I thought we were not necessarily taking shots in good rhythm.
But I think that's what they were giving us. I think they had seen Nnemkadi and Chiney, and Sarah Boothe going five for six, and they said all right, we're going to pick our poison and live with them, kind of taking perimeter shots.
Now they weren't just flat out leaving people, but I really feel like we need people really recognizing that they are open and shooting in rhythm. Maybe even right off the bat.
I don't feel we were impatient as much as not shooting in rhythm and not recognizing what we need to do. I also think that as the coach I didn't do a good job enough giving them good alignments to be in. They're a very athletic, quick team. And you know, we do want to keep working the ball and get it in. But we didn't do a good job in the first half.

Q. Can you talk about as you move into the tournament how you see it playing out as kind of a perception that no one can beat the top four seeds? Do you kind of see it that way?
COACH VANDERVEER: Are we one of the top four seeds? Okay, yeah, good. I really hope that on Monday we are given a No. 1 seed. I think we have earned it in this game. I think UCLA deserves a 2 seed. They really have improved a lot and they're playing really well.
I think you just look at the tough game we had. Baylor had a tough game. Connecticut had a tough game. When you play teams in your league anything can happen, and they just get you better.
I don't know that, but I hope that we are able to improve and really play well in the tournament. But you've got to come out ready to play every single game, and that is a lesson for our team to learn today, which I think we did.

Q. Was there any point in the game where you saw that No. 1 seed slipping away?
COACH VANDERVEER: I wasn't thinking about that at all. I think Kayla kind of addressed this a little bit. We probably had the absolute worst half, although I think maybe DePaul, I think we could say that they were head in head going for the worst half.
But I think really our team did not panic. They really kept working hard, talking to each other. I think the run when we came out in the second half, to me -- to me the first half we boggled. I take responsibility for how we played. We didn't do a good job. I didn't help them enough.
The second half we got aggressive defensively. We got the ball inside better, knocked down some shots. Jeanette hit a couple of shots, and Toni had a big play for us. I was never thinking about that.
The seed is not critical anyway. It's more important that you have players that are healthy and want to play with each other. And what I think you saw with this game was our players showing a lot of heart. When you beat teams by 20 and 30, a lot of people get in. But we had to dig down and see what kind of character we had, and I'm really proud of them.
This is a real big win for our program, and four in a row for Kayla and Jeanette, and Toni's got the hang of it here. Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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