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NCAA WOMEN'S FINAL FOUR


April 3, 2012


Natalie Achonwa

Skylar Diggins

Muffet McGraw


DENVER, COLORADO

Baylor 80
Notre Dame 61


THE MODERATOR: Joining us at the podium are Head Coach Muffet McGraw and student‑athletes Skylar Diggins and Natalie Achonwa.
We'll start with the student‑athletes.

Q. Skylar, can you talk about, seemed like you had to come back and come back and come back, and just what happened that second half that it got away from you.
SKYLAR DIGGINS: Yeah, in the first half we had foul troubles and things like that. We had to go deep into our bench early, and we had to make adjustments and things like that.
And they made a couple of baskets and got up 7, 9, and then we just kept digging ourselves in the hole by not taking our shots. I don't think that we were taking the shots that we had. And when we were, we weren't shooting it confidently. And so that dug us in a hole a little bit. So we were chasing, chasing. I think we spent a lot of energy chasing.
And I think in the second half we‑‑ we hit some shots in the first half to kind of cushion the blow. In the second half those shots just weren't falling. And they were hitting a lot of theirs.

Q. Skylar, is there any point in the game that you would say was the turning point for you?
SKYLAR DIGGINS: They went on the run there, and I just remember we had cut it down to 5 or 3, and then they went on a run. And I saw 10, 12, 14, 16, 19. They just went on a run. We couldn't get stops.
We couldn't get rebounds when we did make them miss shots.

Q. Natalie, seemed at times tonight you and your teammates were in perfect defensive position, arms up, and you just couldn't stop Brittney. How frustrating was that?
NATALIE ACHONWA: Very frustrating. I think Brittney Griner had a great game, and she was hitting those shots.
And I think personally I could have done a better job on executing our game plan. I think I gave her the baseline a couple times.
But as far as that, she had a great game. She was making her shots.

Q. Skylar, can you talk a little bit about the legacy the four seniors leave?
SKYLAR DIGGINS: This is a great senior class. And I know me watching their whole careers, even on the sidelines, just amazing what they've been able to do and bring this program back to an elite program, and being able to lead this team to back‑to‑back national championship games is amazing.
And I hate that it ends on a game like this, because you fail to see everything they did to get to this point.
But it's amazing and the best team I've been a part of ever. Never been a part of anything like this. And we'll all keep in touch. They're like my sisters. And it's amazing and we're going to miss them.
But very proud of them, and I know the Irish fans are proud as well.

Q. Natalie, of all the things that Brittney does well, what's the hardest to stop?
NATALIE ACHONWA: She keeps the ball high. She's 6'8". She keeps it up there. A lot of posts bring it down, and that would give us the advantage, but she keeps the ball up and she fights for position.

Q. Are you convinced that Baylor is the best team this year in the country?
NATALIE ACHONWA: Obviously.
SKYLAR DIGGINS: They're a great team. They're a hardworking team. They've got players that can‑‑ multiple players that can score 20. Every player knows their role and they play it to a T. And they showed they're the best team in the country.

Q. Skylar, now that you are a senior leader, can you talk about how this game fuels hunger and what you take from it going into the offseason building for next year?
SKYLAR DIGGINS: Gotta do a better job being a leader. I thought I didn't have good leadership out there tonight as far as keeping our fire. But I'll do better. I promise.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
Questions for Coach.

Q. What was your game plan against Brittney and how did you adjust during the game?
COACH McGRAW: Our plan was to double. We were going to play mostly zone and bring the double team. And I thought it was fairly effective in the first half. I thought the zone looked pretty good. And the second half, when we got into the foul trouble that destroyed our game plan, we really needed Devereaux. She was a big part of the plan. And we didn't have her.
We came in with Markisha Wright, who I thought played well as a freshman. But in the second half we were afraid to foul. Every time Brittney got the ball, even when we brought the double team, we didn't really lean on her. And I thought she got really close to the basket almost all of her shots, and she shot it over us.
There really wasn't anything we could do. We brought the double team. And she just‑‑ she made great shots. She's a great player. She was unstoppable, I thought, for the size and the players that we had in. It would have been great to see Devereaux play for 39minutes.
But I'm not sure it would have changed a lot. She just‑‑ she's so big. She's hard to stop.

Q. Muffet, have you ever seen anyone who has ever been able to impact the game at least down low as Brittney did and obviously as she did tonight?
COACH McGRAW: No. I think she's one of a kind. I think she's like a guy playing with women. It's just there's so many things that she can do that I've not seen a lot of women‑‑ well, really, you know, there's been some guards that had some skill like that. But as a post player she's the best I've ever seen.

Q. Even though you had foul trouble and some other things going wrong, you cut it to 6 at halftime and cut it to 3 and had the ball. Could you talk about the way your team was able to fight back?
COACH McGRAW: I was proud of that. And I think Markisha was in there for some. I think when we brought Dev back in‑‑ it was really disappointing that she got the third foul in the first half. That really was disappointing. Because she was why we made that run, having her back in.
And Skylar getting two fouls, that didn't affect it quite as much because she was able to stay out of foul trouble the rest of the game. And the second half Dev got a fairly quick one.
And we just weren't big enough. We just needed a little more size, and we just, we missed so many shots that they‑‑ their defense is really good, but we missed a lot of just a lot of open shots, too.

Q. When Dev got in foul trouble, Markisha Wright and Natalie Achonwa played a lot of solid minutes. Could you talk about their play a little bit more and what that means for the future of your program?
COACH McGRAW: Ace is really talented, and I think she's got a great future. I think the way she played against Maryland I thought was a great start for her to move into next year.
And Markisha Wright, I like her. I wish I would have played her more throughout the year. Because she's strong and she's a really good low block player, which we don't really have. So I think the two of them will be really good next year.

Q. Obviously a championship game loss is going to be rough no matter what. But I wonder if you're more emotional tonight because of this senior class that you've grown so fond of?
COACH McGRAW: I was hoping nobody would ask that question. The waterworks will begin now.
It's such a tough way for their career to end.

Q. In a situation like this, one wonders, if you had anything to change about your game plan or the execution, if you could have a do‑over on it, what would you change and why?
COACH McGRAW: I would‑‑ I'd have Dev play more. I think that was‑‑ that's really‑‑ we didn't have any control over that.
I thought our game plan was sound. We didn't‑‑ we didn't score. I think we got really frustrated with our inability to score, and they were scoring so easily, 40points in the paint. And we were struggling to make a basket.

Q. Did you think Skylar was a little tough on herself tonight? And then what do you see from her in terms of being your senior leader for next year?
COACH McGRAW: I mean, she played a great game. She didn't have any turnovers. We only had seven turnovers as a team. We did do a few things well.
She's just such a big‑time player and she just didn't get a lot of help today. But she did everything I thought she could possibly do.

Q. I'm wondering how you help players who have had such a great year all year but there's such a hunger for this national championship, especially after last year. How do you help them process this in a way that they can actually learn from the loss and still not be overwhelmed by it and be able to come back and move on next year?
COACH McGRAW: I think it will be toughest for the seniors not having that opportunity to come back. They're the ones that carried it so hard last time also.
We've got a lot of new faces now with Kayla and Skylar and Ace, really kind of the three main players returning. So I think for them it will be good motivation.
And for the freshmen, we've got to improve a lot to get ready for next year, and I think them seeing what it's like even from the bench I think will help them.
But I think we'll be able to process that. I think it will take some time, but eventually we'll remember what a great season this was.

Q. Is the feeling in the locker room any different than last year? Is there more of a feeling that Baylor really just kind of outplayed you the whole game or maybe more so than Texas A&M?
COACH McGRAW: I think it hurts no matter how much you lose by. But I think the feeling last year was a little different, I think more of we kind of let it slip away a little bit, but this game got out of hand. So I think there was some frustration that everybody didn't play as well as they wanted to. But it's still pretty much the same. Everybody's pretty emotional.

Q. Baylor has everybody back next year. What is the future of this program going to be like? Can anybody stop them next year?
COACH McGRAW: I think‑‑ no, I think they'll be preseason No.1. And we're still going to work at getting Brittney to leave early.

Q. You talked about double teaming out of the zone. To my observation, it looked more like the primary defender was frumping Brittney and the help was coming over from the other side. Was that part of the game plan, or is that when she got moving on you?
COACH McGRAW: We did three different things. The most‑‑ most of the time we played behind and brought the help. We also fronted for a spell. That was fairly successful, actually.
And then we played a box and one on Sims for a while. Tried to put the box on Brittney. So we were trying to play behind her then also.

Q. At this Final Four, one thing that was successful against Baylor was the backdoors, sort of the UC Davis patent backdoor. Did you pick up on what Stanford was doing, and next season do you think there's something that could be expanded on that?
COACH McGRAW: We run the Princeton offense which involves a lot of backdoors, and I think when we started the game you saw at the beginning of the game we were game planned to a T: Use the screen, engage Griner, and hit the roll.
And I think Dev got two quick baskets before she got her two quick fouls. That's what we were trying to do really most of the game, was to engage her in the ball screen and get the roll.
And then we had some backdoor opportunities that‑‑ I think they learned something, too. I think they got off a little bit. We got a couple. But I think they started playing a little softer.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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