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April 3, 2011
Texas A&M Â– 63
Stanford - 62
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Stanford student-athletes Kayla Pedersen, Melanie Murphy, Nneka Ogwumike, and Coach Tara VanDerveer.
We'll take an opening statement from Coach VanDerveer and then questions for the student-athletes.
COACH VANDERVEER: First, I want to congratulate Texas A&M. They really battled. We had them down, and we didn't knock them out. Their defense was extremely disruptive. They worked very hard. But I also want to compliment our team and how hard they played. And especially I thought Melanie Murphy really came in and did a great job for us, kept us in the game, made great plays. Free throws down the stretch. You know, knocking down her perimeter shot.
And Nneka and Kayla really battled inside. This is really tough for our team. But I'm really -- I'm very proud of everyone in how hard they worked and all the things we've accomplished this year.
So congratulations to Stanford and also good luck to Texas A&M.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. Kayla, why do you think you had them down but couldn't knock them out?
KAYLA PEDERSEN: Well, I think we really jumped on them at the end. We had a few good runs. We finally found our offensive flow, and then we got a couple of calls going their way, a couple of missed charges. And I think they just got the rhythm.
I mean, we did our best. We had our plays set up. But it just didn't work out.
Q. Melanie, as hard as you played, that last foul, looked like two people going for the ball. Was that a tough call to accept?
MELANIE MURPHY: I guess just being my last foul, obviously I didn't want to leave the game, and it's the last game of my career. So I guess they called it how they called it. And fifth foul, you're out of the game.
Q. Kayla, how tough is this, just losing your final game and not being able to win a national championship?
KAYLA PEDERSEN: It's hard. I mean, it's an awful feeling. But I was just telling Nneka that -- I'm going to choke up -- it's not hard -- the hardest part isn't losing the game, it's just leaving these girls.
And I just thank God for every opportunity I've had with these girls over the last weekend, four years, and it's been wonderful. So, I mean, I'm happy to be with them right now and I'm happy to lose with this team, if we did have to lose.
Q. Nneka, A&M made no secret they were going to try to pressure the ball and disrupt as much as they could. Were you surprised at how effective they were?
NNEMKADI OGWUMIKE: Not at all. We watched a lot of video. And we saw that their offense was their defense. They get a lot of steals. They get a lot of turnovers. And they produce by turning the ball over.
And I think that we tried our best to really kind of find our way around it. It became a little bit more disruptive at the end, and I definitely give them kudos for that defense. It was really hard to get open. And we really tried our best.
Q. Kayla, you guys seemed to have a lot of trouble in-bounding the ball. I counted four straight possessions where there was either turnover, you had to burn a time-out, or in one case the ball off the hands of somebody but not very firmly in the hands so that led to a problem. What were they doing that was so different from what you've seen the rest of the year?
KAYLA PEDERSEN: It wasn't necessarily different. Like their defensive alignment, they were fronting and facing us and putting somebody at half court. So off the in-bounder. And we just had a hard time with their pressure. And I think we burned a lot of time-outs doing that and that really hurt us.
But they were just fast and they were aggressive. And they kind of had the momentum going on defense down at that end, and that really hurt us.
Q. Nneka, certainly you've had a fantastic offensive game. What was working for you and then when you got that late basket, you feeling pretty good about your chances at that point?
NNEMKADI OGWUMIKE: Honestly, I just think of the game play-by-play. At the end of the game, honestly, when it comes down to it, whatever my team needs, I'll do. And we ran a play that got me open on the block, and so I knew I had to produce somehow.
In terms of the game that I played, I wasn't even conscious of what was going on. All I know is that we were trying our best to extend the lead. It doesn't matter who put the ball in.
I think one thing that we kind of relied on towards the end of the game was not necessarily going to a certain person, but whoever was open should go.
And I think we really, really relied on each other towards the end but it didn't really work out. And I definitely think that Texas A&M is a really excellent team.
Q. Nneka or Kayla, can you address how much having Chiney in foul trouble most of the game and out of the game at the end hurt your team?
KAYLA PEDERSEN: It definitely hurt us. She gives us that fire and that passion, the offensive skill and defensive stops.
I think all of our fouls, the fouls on Mel, too, and it really hurt us. It took away a good defensive player and an O-boarder. The people that stepped in, Mikaela played great. Everybody that came in, they played great
Q. Nneka, can you talk about the seniors and what it's going to mean to lose them?
NNEMKADI OGWUMIKE: I mean, I could go all day right now. But I'll cut it short. This is definitely one of the greatest group of girls I've played with.
Like Kayla said, losing the game is hard, but losing them is even harder. Not just as teammates but as friends. We spend every waking moment with each other, and it's definitely been a really fun journey.
We talked to the men's volleyball team before we came out to Indianapolis. And they said that the most important thing isn't the end, isn't what -- either what you're striving for or what happens. It's the journey there.
And I wouldn't pick anyone else in the world to spend this journey with, like Kayla said. I'd lose with this team any day over winning with another team.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, ladies. Questions for Coach.
Q. Coach, no doubt with a 3.3 seconds to go, what were you looking for in that last time-out to see if you could pull out a victory here this evening?
COACH VANDERVEER: Well, obviously we got in a problem after we scored. We didn't get back and stop the ball, and then when they were able to score -- we were looking to a pass to Nneka at the free-throw line, and obviously they had two people back on her.
And at that point Mikaela Ruef threw it anyway. But that was the play that we work on, and it didn't run exactly according to plan.
Q. When you were having such problems in-bounding the ball, did you consider throwing a deep pass, trying to break Nneka or somebody else deep?
COACH VANDERVEER: We did. But they were with her. You know, Jeanette went long a couple times, and they were with her. You know, just Nneka went long. And we've run different alignments, where we were looking to do that, but they had either one or two -- they were back on them.
And it was -- it was frustrating not to be able to get the ball in. And then sometimes we'd get it in and then just mishandle it. Their defensive pressure was very disruptive.
But at the same time, you know, I think I was really proud of our team. They really stayed poised. They worked as hard as they could. And we have a lead with how much time -- what was the shot? How much time was left when we scored? You know, we just -- we had it. And then we just really needed one more stop.
And I think their speed and just their quickness, and to their credit, they stayed with things and were able to kind of take the ball right down. We weren't back as fast as we needed to be, and we didn't get that last play.
But we definitely struggled with their pressure. They got down in the first half, and I thought Melanie Murphy was really the key to the game for us. And Nneka, being able to go inside to Nneka.
We made Jeanette a shooter. She hit some big shots for us. You know, I would -- we were going to the basket. When they went -- they kind of -- they got to the free-throw line really well in the second half. And we just, I think, fell short.
Q. What is Jeanette's status? What was the injury? And the follow-up is about Chiney and how much you guys -- what happened with Chiney tonight?
COACH VANDERVEER: I mean, I think Jeanette, I'm not sure exactly, I think she turned her ankle.
She played the whole game. And she was back there and she was in the scrum at the end. So I don't know exactly what happened.
Obviously she and Kayla are especially upset after kind of the end of the game. You know, Chiney struggled. I think that young players, when they kind of get on this stage -- and you look at their team, they're very experienced and their experienced players made plays. And Chiney really struggled.
Nneka, however, was a warrior out there. Made big play after big play. Mel made big play after big play. I think that the physicality of this game was something that we always know it happens in the Final Four.
But you can't -- it was a lot more physical than games leading up to this game.
Q. Texas A&M got their largest lead pretty early in the first half, and it seemed like your team couldn't quite break away. What made them so feisty, so hard to just break away from?
COACH VANDERVEER: Well, first of all, they are extremely athletic. They play extremely hard. They get the loose balls. I thought, you know -- I thought we played very well to get the lead.
We had to do some things that we don't have to do all season long against anyone else. And I thought our team really made -- they worked very hard to do what we asked them to do.
And then I thought we rebounded well in the second half for the most part. And I think it came down to one play. It was unfortunate that they had had two 3-point plays when we were up 10. We had them down and we just couldn't knock them out. And that was when at the same time when Chiney was fouling out, we needed a little more help.
Q. The first ten minutes of the game, my notes show that you were shooting between 16 and 23 percent. You managed to turn it around, finish at over 50 percent shooting. Can you explain what changes you made that allowed you to make that move and get back in action?
COACH VANDERVEER: Well, we had to do something different offensively. First of all, I thought Melanie Murphy came in and handled the pressure very well. Jeanette really struggled with turning it over, not making good decisions.
And the athleticism that Texas brought in their press was very disruptive. We started screening and rolling Nneka inside. And people got her the ball, and we were able to go back door a little more.
A lot of times in the NCAA Tournament, it's about the matchups, and we knew this was going to be a very tough matchup for us. And it proved to be too tough.
But, again, just the determination, I think the way people just stayed with things really well, worked really hard, at the end of the game, I'll have to watch it, maybe Toni should have been in there instead of Lindy, I'm not sure who got beat in the full court, but their overall team speed and athleticism, I think, kind of tipped the balance.
Q. On the last layup by A&M with White, could you walk us through what the breakdown was with that and how big was White for them tonight?
COACH VANDERVEER: She was really big, especially early. It happened pretty fast. We scored, and sometimes you have people on the court that you need offensively to get the ball inside or make plays or know the play or set a screen.
And we didn't have any time-outs at that point. Not that I necessarily would have taken one. But we didn't have Chiney in the game who is faster and quicker than Mikaela Ruef. We didn't have -- maybe I should have put Toni in the game. But Lindy is the one that set the screen to get Nneka open.
And so I just think we just -- we needed just a little more extra effort just to stop the ball and not allow them to get that point-blank shot.
Q. How did you feel like you did against Adams?
COACH VANDERVEER: How what?
Q. How did you feel like you guys did against Adams?
COACH VANDERVEER: She made a lot of free throws down the stretch. She did a nice job at the free-throw line. I don't know that I agree -- I'll have to watch the time they thought we took a charge on her.
I thought people worked hard against her. She's an excellent player, and I thought we neutralized her. And overall I thought people defensively did a very good job.
But we gave them the ball too much. We turned it over too many times, or we missed some free throws. What, they're 10 for 10. And we needed people to make some free throws.
Chiney -- Jeanette is a 90 percent free throw shooter. And so in that kind of game, one-point game, you need every free throw. You need to take care of the ball better. We gave the ball back to them 22 times.
So that was disappointing.
Q. How hard is this just for you? I mean, this is another Final Four loss. Personally, how do you feel?
COACH VANDERVEER: I don't look at it that way at all. There's 332 coaches that wish they were here even if they were to lose in the semifinal game. I'm really proud of our team, to think that this team -- what we've gone through and all the growth this team has had. You know, for me personally, it's not about me. It's about them. They get -- I can have another chance, but this was -- I feel bad for Kayla and Jeanette.
They wanted this. They worked hard. They dedicated themselves and committed themselves to this team and this program. And I can't say enough positive things about them and what they've brought to Stanford and how proud I am of them.
So, I mean, I think coming to the Final Four is an awesome accomplishment. What they've accomplished -- I'm, again, so proud of them. And they're warriors, and I love coaching them, and I love them as people.
And, again, it's not about me at all.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports