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March 29, 2014
JEFF WALZ: First of all, we'd like to welcome everyone here. Hope you're enjoying the beautiful weather outside.
For us right now if it's not snowing, it's great. So we are thrilled that you all were able to make it. We're thrilled to have the opportunity to come back here and play, and looking forward to a great ballgame tomorrow.
We know we're playing a very inspired LSU basketball team who's been doing some great things despite some injuries that they've had. I've been very, very impressed with what I've seen, and we know we're going to have a ballgame on our hands tomorrow.
Q. They have had two key losses in their last two games. How are you going to kind of counteract that?
JEFF WALZ: Well, they've won both of them. We have to be prepared to play. I've been very impressed with watching them on film the past game, two games, of how some players have stepped up for them, exactly what you have to do. That's what our kids did a year ago when we had our injuries.
You know, you're giving players an opportunity to play that were not getting those minutes before, and they're taking advantage of that, and that's what you have to expect. I've been really impressed with what Danielle Ballard has done in their absence. There's been a lot more put on her shoulders and she's responded extremely well.
So we know that even without those two, they're a very talented basketball team. I mean, as I said, it's the same thing that we did last season. We were without two, three players, and then you just have to have other players step up to the challenge.
Q. We see a lot of high seeds host the first and second rounds, but as the tournament gets deeper does it become more of an advantage to be at home when you're in the Sweet 16 and the Elite 8?
JEFF WALZ: Well, of course. It's nice to have the opportunity to play on your home floor in front of your home fans. I was just told five minutes ago that we've sold out the lower bowl, and now we're opening up the top at $10. You know, it's great. You're going to have that home feel behind you.
Now, at the same time there are distractions that come with that. Families come in town, they all want tickets, they all want to hang out with their kids. It's like, no, it's a business trip. Even though we're at home, they have responsibilities, we have to make sure they're focused to play basketball, not worried about where families are going to go eat. Don't ask me to go eat with mom and dad when we have a team meal tonight. You've got the distractions, but they definitely don't outweigh the positive.
Q. You mentioned last year the situation you guys were in. Probably people are thinking LSU's chances are about what they thought your chances were last year. Chances are they'll be inspired by your year last year. How do you remind your players about that‑‑
JEFF WALZ: Well, I've already reminded them. You don't have to worry about that. I'd be extremely disappointed if we did not come out prepared to play tomorrow. I know how talented they are. They've got a fantastic coaching staff that they've got the troops rallied, and they have been impressive to watch. They beat a very, very good West Virginia team without those two. I know Kenney played about 12 or 13 minutes in the second game, but they played a majority of it without her.
We know how good West Virginia is from having been in our league in the old Big East for so long. They've got our respect. That's not a concern of mine. My players are not going to be going, oh, they've got two starters out, easy game. No, it's not going to be that.
If we lose tomorrow, I promise you it's not because we overlooked them.
Q. You talked last year about conversations and texts you exchanged with Coach Pitino. Obviously a tough loss for his team last night. But how has the relationship that you guys have developed helped you and your team grow?
JEFF WALZ: Well, it's great. I mean, Coach has been great to me. If I've got a basketball question, he's more than willing to have me come out to his office, sit down and talk. You know, a really tough loss for them last night. I mean, no question about it. Those late games I'm not a big fan of myself. I was sleeping before halftime, and somehow woke up with 3:58 to go in the game and watched it and went back to sleep.
I would like to be able to tell you I watched the whole thing and was cheering for it, but unfortunately I can't stay awake that late. I've got a nine‑month old at home, too, that when she sleeps, I sleep.
Rick has been great. He's very supportive of our players, our program, and we've got a great relationship, and I think that's what makes our university a special place to work. It's special for our student‑athletes because it's not just men's and women's basketball that support each other. We're all supporting each other. We just had a swimmer that won a national championship. There's a lot of great things going on here, and they don't go unnoticed or unappreciated.
Q. What specifically did you think Kenney did for their team and what maybe do they lose without her out there and specifically against the kind of press that you may put on them?
JEFF WALZ: Well, she is a great shooter. She has great basketball instincts. She understands the game. She made big shots for them, but she also got the ball to the right people at the right time. But you know, you have Danielle Ballard, who's taken up all of that slack. She does a great job of getting to the basket. She gets the ball up on the rim. Their post players are doing a fantastic job of cleaning up her misses when she does miss.
You lose someone as talented as Kenney, and then you're giving Ballard more responsibility and more of a green light. It's kind of like, it's funny because we were watching the Baylor game today, and I'm not sure what that score ended up against Kentucky, but everybody is like, people are talking to me going, oh, they're a better team without Brittney Griner. No, they're not, it's just Odyssey Sims now is taking 25 to 35 shots, and they're nights when she can make 22 of them. And when she does, they're hard to beat.
There's a big difference as a player when you know you can shoot it whenever you want and you're not coming out because there's nobody else to put in for you, you feel pretty good out there. Right now it's not that LSU doesn't have players to put in, but Daniel Ballard I think is playing more free, and she's making some decisions that are pretty impressive and taking some tough shots, but it's like I tell our players, and Shoni, I think, plays the same way, too, you're going to take a bad shot or two, but she knows she ain't going to come out, and Danielle I think has got that feeling my coaches have confidence in me, they know they need me, and I need my teammates, but she's willing to put that on her shoulders. That's what I saw in that West Virginia game. I was just really, really impressed with how she competed.
Q. I'm certain LSU is your only focus this time around as I'm sure was the case for your two previous opponents. On Selection Monday when you saw your region unfold and you saw Maryland, did it cross your mind maybe I'll get a shot at the Terrapins?
JEFF WALZ: No, never thought about it to be honest with you. I was too concerned with getting back here. We knew we had a good Idaho team that shot the three well, and going to play at Iowa, was a game I was really concerned about. It never crossed my mind that it would be a 30‑point game. And then as soon as that game was over, we knew we were going to be playing LSU, that's where our focus has been. I have not watched a minute of film on Maryland or Tennessee because we have to get past a very, very good LSU team before I worry about that.
Q. What do you kind of remember or what do you take away from the last time you guys played, and what does that do for you guys that you think about that you do have a 20‑point win against them?
JEFF WALZ: We don't take anything away from it. I've told my kids over and over, and I share our experience at Maryland, in 2006 we won the national championship at Maryland; 2007‑'08 season we play an Ole Miss team in a Thanksgiving tournament and I think we won by 30, and then they're our second‑round game in the NCAA Tournament, and I think we're a 2 seed at that time, and we get beat. You know, you can't sit there‑‑ what happened in November has no bearing on what's going to take place tomorrow.
They're a completely different basketball team. We're a different basketball team. We've both improved in areas. There's not going to be any surprises.
As great as it is for us to come back home and play, I think they also have the advantage of having played here, also. So they're not completely unfamiliar with what they're coming into. They know about our crowd. I'm not buying drinks tomorrow, so we might not have as many, but they know what's going to take place. They know the environment. So I think that's a big plus for them.
You know, we don't worry about what happened in November. We have to worry about what's going to take place tomorrow.
Q. You were successful shutting down Theresa Plaisance when they were here in November. She's averaging 15.5 a game. Same strategy again or do you have to switch it up?
JEFF WALZ: We're definitely going to have to switch some things up. We'll try what we did in the first game. She's very talented, goes inside out, really causes some problems when she sets ball screens because if you switch they'll sit there and post her up, if you just hedge big she'll pop for the three. She presents concerns for us defensively without a doubt. We're going to have to be on top of our game making sure we know where she is at all times, and then more importantly, we're going to have to make sure we somehow try and keep her off the offensive glass.
Q. You mentioned your press. The press obviously is physical and you're trying to mentally affect your opponent. This is a team that turns the ball over 20 times in a game and it doesn't seem to faze them that much. How do you deal with that?
JEFF WALZ: Well, and that's kind of what we've done in the past, too. Everybody tells me you have to cut your turnovers down. You have to cut your turnovers down. The two years that we've had the opportunity to play in the Final Four, we've averaged 20 turnovers a game. It's just a matter of what type of turnovers you have. If you have turnovers that lead to baskets, then you've got problems. But if you've got dead‑ball turnovers where you can get back on defense, it's not‑‑ sure, it's not something you want to have happen, but at the same time it doesn't affect you as much.
So that's one thing that I've noticed about them. They have a lot of dead‑ball turnovers. When you look at the stat sheets, people aren't getting 25 and 30 points off their turnovers. You know, they're getting 15 to 18, but LSU is also getting 15 to 18, so it's turned out to be a wash for them.
For us if we can get them to turn the basketball over, we need to somehow convert those into baskets.
Q. Although you don't take a lot away from that November game, how has your team improved our grown since that early‑season game?
JEFF WALZ: Well, I think our depth has improved. We've had some players that have grown into some roles that back then they really weren't sure what their role was going to be. We've also become a better rebounding team, which we're going to have to do extremely well tomorrow, especially with how well LSU has been rebounding the ball at both ends of the floor. They've got great size, so we know we're not going to be able to just out‑jump them. We have to put a body on them.
And then our shooters have continued to shoot the basketball well, which has allowed Asia Taylor and Sara Hammond to have some things open up for them in their mid‑range game and in the post.
Q. What you were just saying there at the end, and then you also mentioned it on Tuesday, how motivated you feel like Sara and Asia are to bounce back, play a lot of minutes this game and contribute a lot. Asia had maybe one of her best games of the year against LSU previously.
JEFF WALZ: They're both excited to come out and play. I know Sara especially is a competitor. The great thing about it is Sara wished she would have played more and played better and stayed out of foul trouble at Iowa, but the bottom line is we won, and she was excited about that. That's really the character of all of our players.
Sara Hammond was just as excited for Cortnee Walton for how well she played as she would have been for herself if she would have gotten 15 or 18 points.
Asia Taylor, although she didn't play a bunch of minutes, she was very efficient in our Iowa game with I think about 10 or 12 points in about 10 or 12 minutes. She took advantage of the opportunity when she was on the floor, but we definitely can't have those two get in foul trouble. We've talked about that. They understand that. You've got to be able to play with one or two fouls and know I can't pick up this third one. And that's what we really sat down and showed film with Sara on. Sara had two in the first half and picked up her third within 40 seconds of the second half on a reaching foul. Those are the ones you can't get.
Excited for both of them. We're excited for the opportunity to play tomorrow, and it should be a great basketball game. The first game should be a great game. I think we're very fortunate to have four very good basketball teams here in this region, and I'm expecting three great basketball games.
Q. Sara, how much does LSU remind you of your team in the regional semifinal last year and the fact that people probably aren't giving them much of a shot?
SARA HAMMOND: Oh, yeah. Well, I think they're a very well‑coached team. I think they have a great coach. She's a great motivator. She knows how to get her team going, and I think her players respond to that. They did a great job when they played West Virginia, they were down two players I think it was, and their team rallied around each other and got a big victory against a 2 seed in West Virginia. I think they're going to have that same mentality coming up here as everybody is counting us out, we're the underdogs, but we're going to stick together as a team, kind of the same mentality we had last year going up against Baylor. Nobody gave us a chance. I know they're going to come in here thinking we're the underdogs like everybody is thinking, but they're going to stick together as a team and I think it's going to be a good ballgame. I think we're looking forward to their competition.
Q. Asia, you and Sara had the best seats in the house in Iowa. Kind of talk about what you're going to do to prevent something like that happening against the LSU Tigers?
ASIA TAYLOR: Definitely this is going to be a physical game, going to be an aggressive game, but we've just got to be smarter. We know our value to the team and we need to be out there and our best attributes are when we're on the floor. I'm a good cheerleader but not as good of a player. We're just going to be smart. Me and Sara talk to each other a lot. Shoni talks to us and just tells she needs us out there with her and we've just got to be smarter at the end of the day, stay away from the tic‑tack fouls that we can avoid, and if we do that I think we'll be fine.
Q. Asia, what do you remember back about the first LSU game, and how important was that for you to kind of know that you were back and going to be back this year and playing at a high level?
ASIA TAYLOR: Well, that was definitely a good game. It was a good game for me, good win for the team, as well. It just felt good being out there. I felt comfortable. I felt like I could be aggressive. I was playing off of instincts and I wasn't overthinking things. I think it was just good. It was a good win, and we fought hard. I just remember just the battle of it all and just that 21‑0 run that we went on. Everybody played well in that time, and I know that LSU is saying, other than that spurt we went on that 21‑0 run, they played us pretty much even. But they're going to see a more‑aggressive team, a better team, a smarter team and a more‑disciplined team this time around.
Q. Just going back to the locker room talking to the girls before here, they said that Party Crashers 2 is what I'm hearing now. Can you explain what Party Crashers 2 is all about and what that exactly means to us fans? We need to be in the loop here, ladies.
SHONI SCHIMMEL: I mean, in reality not a lot of people expect us to continue to keep winning. We went to Iowa and it was going to be a hard game going in because you're on Iowa's home court. They average 10,000 fans or whatever it is, and for us to go in there and get that win by so much, it was just kind of like, hey, we're here having fun, we're here for the Big Dance, and that's on our mind. We're a 3 seed, and so we embrace that because, hey, we're going to come in and ruin a couple people's parties. It's kind of like last year all over again, but it's a little bit different at the same time, and so we just embrace it because we like to have fun, so why not go out there and be the party crashers again.
Q. Shoni, your impressions of LSU, and I don't know how much you've really seen of them since the last time you played, but how has that team maybe changed from the last time you played them in November until now?
SHONI SCHIMMEL: Yeah, they've definitely grown. For them to go through a whole season since the last time we saw them in whatever the beginning of November I think it was, for them to grow, it's just you've gone through a whole season now. You understand what you're good at and what your strong points are on the court, and so Theresa Plaisance, she's a very good basketball player, actually had a chance to play with her this summer, and she's a great ballplayer, and Danielle Ballard, she's coming in tough and she's out there to go out there and win. At this point it's going to be a battle because everybody wants to win, and nobody wants to go home.
For us to just sit there and not take these people lightly as a team, we can't take them lightly. That's something we have to just go out there and do the best we can and dominate for us.
Q. Shoni, obviously when you're watching film of LSU you're trying to figure out ways how to stop them. But as a fellow basketball player are you kind of at the same time admiring the way Danielle Ballard, the creativity around the basket in her NCAA games, the ability to rebound as not a very tall player?
SHONI SCHIMMEL: Yeah, definitely. She's a great basketball player. She's shooting left‑handed, right‑handed floaters in the key, and how do you stop that? She obviously is versatile, so for her to have that, it's great for LSU. She knows what she's doing. She's obviously played basketball for a long time and she obviously loves the game, because she embraces it and she goes out there and she's a hard worker. That's something we can't take lightly. We have to box her out, because we know she goes to the glass ‑‑ she ended up with like 15 last game or something like that? So for her to do that's impressive from the guard spot. Usually the guard is getting back, picking up the transition, whatever it may be, so she's not doing that this game, and so we just need to box out.
Q. Sara, how much do you think it'll be an advantage for you guys, even think about last year when you played Purdue, that you're at home and that you guys have been in your own beds and been going to class and not traveling, not staying in a hotel this week? How much is that an advantage for you and how much are you encouraging fans to come out and support you guys tomorrow?
SARA HAMMOND: Yeah, obviously I wouldn't say it's an advantage, but we prefer being in our own bed and having our own routine and not being in a hotel all day and being on the road, it's really nice because you get to do your daily things that you're used to, going to class. I think really like that, and I think just like you said, being at home with all of our fans, the people that come out all season long, that really gets us going.
But it's the NCAA Tournament. Anything can happen. I think we've seen that both on the men's and women's side this year in the tournament. If you don't come ready to play, whether you're on the road or you're at home, you're going to get beat, and I think our coaches have been telling us that this whole week, the time we've been practicing. Yeah, you're on your home court, but look what we just did to Iowa. I'm sure they had the same mindset going into it, we're on our home court, this is an advantage, and LSU is going to have the same mindset we had going in that they're thinking they've got this because this is on their home court, so let's go prove people wrong and have that underdog mentality, we're going to come in here and ruin their season. So I think we've just got to put that in perspective and say it's great at that we're home and we're wanting as many people to come out on Sunday, but we've got to treat this like it's do or die, win or go home, and not kind of think of that as an advantage over the other team.
And we are, we're trying to get everyone possible out to this game on Sunday because we need all the support we can get, and our fans is what make us go. The energy they bring, the excitement they bring and how loud it gets here in the Yum! Center, I think me, Shoni and a Tay would all agree that gets us pumped and gets us going. I think we want as many people as possible, 22,000 plus, as many people, bring a friend that's never come, bring your grandma, bring your grandpa, anybody, a friend, as many cardinal fans as there is out there.
Q. Shoni, is the Emmonnie Henderson coast‑to‑coast lay‑up something that's new for the offense?
SHONI SCHIMMEL: Yes, that's something we've definitely practiced. For her to just finish a lay‑up. But she's learning the game, and so for her to just make that move, she's pretty beastly, and for people to not get in her way, it's probably smart. We've got to keep pushing her to be the best that she can be. Full‑court, coast to coast, whatever it may be, she's going to learn and figure it out. I think that was kind of a once‑in‑a‑lifetime kind of thing. She was tired after that. She needed an oxygen tank after that.
No, she's figuring it out, so it's good for us.
Q. Asia, can you kind of just comment on maybe where you guys watched the men's game last night, if you're able to, your thoughts on their season and you guys have kind of over these last two years, both teams have had these great runs and maybe how well you know the guys on the men's team if you do and anything about your relationship with them and kind of seeing their season end?
ASIA TAYLOR: Yeah, we love our men's team and we were all supporting them. I know a lot of people were supporting the game. Some of us fell asleep, but I got to watch the game. I just want to congratulate them on a great season. Their success and our success last year was a big story around Louisville, and we were the heroes. We were the talk of the town, and that was great. And this year I know they were just as hungry as we are, and it just sucks that their season had to end like that. But they had a great season, nothing to hang their head on, and I'm just proud of them. I hope the city still supports them the same, whether they won a championship or not.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports