March 30, 2015
2015 NCAA DIVISION I WOMEN’S BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
Regional Final Â· Baylor vs. Notre Dame
Chesapeake Energy Arena Â· Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Sunday, March 29
POSTGAME QUOTES – NOTRE DAME
Hannah Huffman, Notre Dame #24 Guard:
On reaching the Final Four
“Every time it’s just an amazing and incredible feeling. All year you’ve worked to get to this point, and those last seconds where you know it’s finally in your hands, it’s a very special feeling. So we’re going to enjoy this for a little bit, but then it’s going to be time to get right back down to business.”
On the point she knew Notre Dame had won
“It was in the last five seconds. Baylor is a team that plays hard the entire game, and they’re not going to just let you have it. Literally, in the last five to 10 seconds that’s when I knew, but up until that point it was very stressful. It’s a great feeling.”
Brianna Turner, Notre Dame #11 Forward:
On reaching the Final Four
“I am so excited, this is an unbelievable experience. I know some of my teammates have been there before, but this is my first one, so I’m really excited.”
On the game plan going into the game
“Just to be really physical with their posts. They have great post players, and of course Niya Johnson is an amazing point guard with all of her assists. So really just playing great defense.”
On the turning point
“The turning point was when the buzzer went off and we knew we had won.”
Taya Reimer, Notre Dame #12 Forward:
On reaching the Final Four
“It feels amazing, being in the Final Four. Last year really gave me a taste of that. All of us were really hungry to get back to that position. It’s been our goal all season to get to the Final Four and try to win the National Championship, so it feels amazing to be in this position.”
On the game plan going into the game
“We knew they were a really physical team, really athletic. We were just trying to focus on shutting down Nina Davis, specifically, and their posts, and to control the rebounding game.”
On the point she knew Notre Dame had won
“Honestly, it was a close game. It was really down to the final wire, up until even under a minute left. We just had to play a smart game, and their wasn’t really a point where we knew we were going to win, maybe with like 20 seconds left, but they played an amazing game and it was a battle.”
Muffet McGraw: That was amazing. I think that was one of the best games in terms of our persistence, our relentless approach. We got down early and we just never quit, and we kept coming back, kept coming at them, did what we had to do. I thought Lindsay Allen was just the best point guard in the country today, just an amazing game, tournament MVP. What a great job by this young team that we thought maybe was a year away, and now here we are back in our fifth straight Final Four.
Q. Jewell, talk a little bit about the performance by Lindsay and how close the two of you are on the court and off.
Jewell Loyd: Well, she’s like my twin, really, and she’s unstoppable. I think people have really underestimated her, and for us she’s been awesome all year, it’s been awesome to see how talented she is. She’s great, and she’s my big sis. I’m older, she’s my big sis. I look up to her on the court and off the court. She’s very humble. She’s the MVP.
Q. Jewell, for you and Lindsay, I know you guys are excited about tonight, and if you could describe how excited you are just to have this and get back again, but also I guess looking forward, how much maybe last year drives you going back to the Final Four and how much you still feel like you have left out there.
Jewell Loyd: I am enjoying the moment right now with this team and this program. We were just so excited to get this job done right now. We’re a big family, we’re all still kids and we’re loving it. Michaela also in the game was great, so we’re just enjoying the moment.
Lindsay Allen: Yeah, like Jewell said we’re excited to be in this moment. When we’re looking back, we’re just excited to be making it to another Final Four.
Q. Brianna is not here, but did any of the three of you see what happened with the flagrant foul in the first half, and can you talk about the momentum shift that happened after that?
Madison Cable: I didn’t see it.
Jewell Loyd: Yep, it happens in basketball, but we were focused and ready to play team defense and team basketball.
Lindsay Allen: I didn’t see it. I can’t comment, sorry.
Q. Lindsay, have you ever played two better games back to back do you think in your career?
Lindsay Allen: Not that I remember, no. Today was — this weekend was just a really great weekend. Our posts set really good screens for us in both games and the guards got really great free-throw line jumpers in both games, so this was a really good shooting weekend overall.
Q. Madison, with about six minutes left in the second half you had a huge block after a Baylor transition play. What did you see on that play and do you think that turned a little bit of momentum for you?
Madison Cable: Yeah, I was probably one of the people supposed to be back not letting them get down in transition, so I ran back and jumped in and got lucky and got the ball. I think it was good for us that they didn’t score there.
Q. Could you speak to adjustments that were made at halftime because you were trailing on the boards and so forth, and you completely out-boarded them on the offensive and defensive glass significantly in the second half. Can you talk about what you did to accomplish that?
Lindsay Allen: I think we changed a little bit of our defense on the ball screens. It gave the posts a better chance to get the rebound because they could actually stay with their man on defense. So we just focused on boxing out and getting rebounds and being tougher inside I would say.
Jewell Loyd: Yeah, definitely. I think after I got knocked out, everyone just got tougher. Everyone was like, we’re playing hard, fighting to the end, and that’s what we did. Everyone settled in and we executed our game plan. We listened to Coach, and she knows what’s best.
Madison Cable: Yeah, they’re a big, physical team, and we talked about at halftime that if we don’t win the rebounding boards or at least get close we’re not going to win the game, so we came out and we battled.
Q. Jewell, what occurred at the end of the first half that you ended up on the floor?
Jewell Loyd: I mean, it was just a screen against a wall, I don’t know. It’s part of basketball, part of sports.
Q. Jewell, is there almost an expectation at this point for you guys? It seems like there wouldn’t be a Final Four without you. At this point is this almost what you guys expect every season going in?
Jewell Loyd: Well, our whole program expects to win. Our program breeds champions on the court and off the court. For us we’re very competitive, and for us we just want to win.
Q. Lindsay, there at the end when you guys were celebrating you go up the ladder and they’re chanting MVP and you’re taking your piece of the net. Describe what that moment is like and really the whole celebration.
Lindsay Allen: It’s just a great moment just for our team overall to make it to another Final Four. We fought so hard in this game and we knew coming in it wouldn’t be easy because Baylor is a really good team. We rebounded really well down the stretch and we were just really excited to win, no matter who was going to be MVP or who scored the most points.
Q. Madison, talk about the offensive rebounding that the team did in the second half, and you came up with a big rebound. There were a couple big offensive rebounds for the team.
Madison Cable: Yeah, kind of like we already said, they’re a big, physical team. We talked about at halftime that we really want to get on the boards if we want to compete, so we did that, and I think I just kind of crashed. Sometimes the balls get knocked around, so I tried to get in there and grab one, and that’s what happened on that one offensive rebound.
Q. Have any of you heard whether on Twitter or Facebook or directly, perhaps even an old-fashioned phone call from any of the Notre Dame alum about the success that you’ve had this season, particularly in the tournament?
Lindsay Allen: No, we haven’t heard yet but we normally do emails after the season when we’re finished playing with a lot of alums, especially women alums emailing us and telling us how proud of us they are, so we’ll see after the season.
Jewell Loyd: Former players will always give a text after a game or something like that, or like on Twitter or if we’re walking around on campus someone will come to us and stuff like that. But we’re still pretty close to the alums that were here.
Q. Jewell, was this about as physical of a game as you’ve had to play?
Jewell Loyd: As far as one of the top five probably. Yeah, it was really physical, and we knew that coming in. You’re playing for more than — you’re playing for your team, you’re playing for a chance to go to a Final Four, so you play with a lot of passion, and that’s what the game is going to be like.
Q. How big of a play was Madison Cable’s play in the second half for you tonight?
Muffet McGraw: You know, I thought she had two huge plays, the block on Nina Davis in transition which was just a huge stop that we had to have at that point, and then she hit the three at the other end. I thought those two were really key for us down the stretch.
Q. On that transition play, I thought I was going to be roadkill, so you might thank Madison for not having run me over. Could you please speak to the adjustments that you made at halftime, and how did the game itself shape up in comparison to your scout?
Muffet McGraw: I thought we used the last play in the half as a momentum — let’s say a motivational point. We talked about guarding the ball screen, which we did not do effectively at the beginning of the game. Our first plan was not effective. We went to the zone. That was not effective. We guarded the screen a different way. That was semi-effective. We came out in the second half and we tried to stay with the posts instead of hedging, and I thought that was much more effective. The guards had a little more trouble getting around it. We went to the triangle and two. I don’t remember what time it was. Maybe around the 10-minute mark or so, from 10 to 6 we played a lot of triangle and two during that stretch, and I think that was very effective. I thought it took them out of rhythm. They took a few possessions to get comfortable in it, so we stayed in it. We went back and forth with man, and then we completely switched all the ball screens late in the game, probably two-and-a-half minutes and under.
Q. Muffet, I know there’s probably more time for reflection between seasons and after seasons, but does it get more and more satisfying as these Final Four appearances keep racking up?
Muffet McGraw: You know, it really does. I’ll tell you, this one was the hardest. We had to work the hardest to get to this one. I thought we lost so much from last year, and we’ve lost really good players throughout the years, but last year’s experience and not having any senior starters, you know, you just didn’t know how the season was going to unfold. We had so many tough games. I think we played the toughest schedule in the country, so we learned a lot throughout it. I thought they came into practice every day ready to learn, but I still felt we were going to take some lumps at some point, so when we kept on winning, it just really built our confidence, and I guess in retrospect, it was better for a young team to build the confidence of winning rather than to have a learning lesson of losing a game maybe at the end of the year. I thought the Miami game was kind of a tipping point for us, and ever since that game I think we’ve been on a pretty good run. But this one is incredibly satisfying to see what this team was able to do together.
Q. You’ve got a lot of contributions, not all of them even show up in the stat sheet from your bench. At the same time you were able to really limit the perimeter shooting that was a big three-point shooting team but they get that contribution on a regular basis between Wallace and Prince, really held that down. Was that part of the game plan and were you doing that specifically?
Muffet McGraw: Well, I was disappointed early on when they made a lot of shots that we really were hoping we were going to guard them and not let anybody get a hot hand, that we would kind of key on Davis, try to slow Johnson down a little bit, but they were the focal points, but we didn’t want anybody else to get hot, and they did. They came out firing. That’s who was doing most of the scoring early were the other players. I thought we adjusted fairly well to that by getting out on them. But trying to double-team Davis, that’s a monumental task. She’s a great player. She is phenomenal. She is so hard to guard. She’s quick up and down the floor, scores in so many different ways, really a challenge for us defensively. I don’t know if I answered your question because I’ve forgotten it.
So for us being able to rest some people with Hannah Huffman coming in, with Madison Cable coming in, with Kathryn Westbeld coming in, it gave our starters a quick rest, and I think they did some good things while they were in the game, too.
Q. I know next week is next week and you’ll get there soon enough, but right now if you could just describe the comfort level, confidence level that you have with this group, taking them in.
Muffet McGraw: Well, as a coach, I always see what we can do better, and this time I’m planning on celebrating it a little bit more because they need that. They need to understand how special this is, and I will enjoy watching the freshmen enjoy it because for them it’s the first time, and it’s going to be a really special one. I think for the whole team, they had a goal at the beginning of the season, they got most of the way there. They’re not going into this just happy to be there. We have been there a number of times and not been able to finish. Each year we feel like maybe this will be our year. But I think definitely celebrating this whole week of what we accomplished all year long because only one team is going to win.
Q. Talk a little bit about the development of your young team, but particularly the development of Lindsay Allen as a player. Do you feel like this weekend a new star was born in women’s college basketball?
Muffet McGraw: Yeah, I think the best point guard in college basketball, but I’ve been saying that throughout the year. She really showed it throughout the night tonight. Last year she was able to come in and simply run the team without having to be vocal. She had experienced players all around her. She helped her, they got her comfortable, she took us all the way to the national championship game by not making mistakes, by not trying to do too much. This year we asked her to do more. We asked her to score more. We asked her to be more involved in the offense, to be more vocal, to be the true leader of the team. And that was a challenge for her, because with a young team there was an awful lot of talking needed and she’s not a very vocal person. So I think to see her develop, she worked incredibly hard this summer. She came back the most improved player off the summer. She really looked great when she came back, looked to score more, I thought was doing so many really good things, and I think got more attention from the defense with all the players that graduated. So she was going against better players and playing better.
Q. Can you talk about the defensive mindset of your team, the adjustments you made and the role defense played in turning the game around after they got ahead by nine?
Muffet McGraw: Yeah, I thought we kind of held our patience. I thought we were okay. I thought we looked a little panicky on the court for the first probably six or eight minutes, and then I thought we calmed down, we played our game. That’s what we kept talking about in the huddle, do what we talked about, do what we’ve been doing all year, and defensively we’ve gotten so much better holding teams under 70 I think for a long time now, so that was a big goal for us, and we were able to accomplish it I think because we started to play more team defense. When Madison comes in she’s going to rotate over and take a charge, and that’s the kind of thing — the blocks and those kind of plays I think get everybody really fired up defensively.
Q. You said that you didn’t put Michaela back in after the game because she was feeling dizzy. Do you know what happened and if she’ll be fine for next weekend?
Muffet McGraw: Yeah, she’s going to be fine. She started and played a couple minutes and then said she felt light-headed and one of the assistants said she’s done for the day, not feeling well. I think she’s going to be fine, probably didn’t eat enough before the game. I think she’s going to be fine. She sure looked good in the first half.
POSTGAME QUOTES – BAYLOR
Kristy Wallace, Baylor #4 Freshman:
On the difference in the 2nd Half:
“I think their defense was incredible at the end of the second half. I think we were in foul trouble and that really hurt us. They got to the line a lot. Their rebounding was incredible. They’re a great team and give credit to them.”
On Notre Dame’s offensive rebounding:
“It was tough. Players make great plays, and they made some great plays. They made some amazing plays at the end of the second half. That’s what won it for them, their rebounding and their ability to make plays.”
On fatigue during game:
“I think it did play a little role in the end. Niya has been playing basically 40 minutes every game this whole season. It’s been tough on everyone and I think we were a little fatigued at the end of the second half.”
On the team’s youth:
“I think we took that as a challenge. Being able to take the role of the underdog, we really like that. So I’m glad we were able to get there and show what we could do. I think we did a great job. We made it to the Elite 8 and no one ever thought we could. Give credit to our fans for always being there, they believed in us. We did a good job this season.”
Imani Wright, Baylor #20 Guard:
On the difference in the 2nd half:
“I think they executed better as far as the game goes. I think some things we did, we shot ourselves in the foot. Some things we controlled, and we didn’t quite follow the game plan. We made crucial mistakes in the second half.”
On the fatigue factor:
“I think overall our defense wasn’t what it needed to be. I feel like we still battled with the team. Even though we only played with six players, I think we gave a lot of fight. It was a tough game and a tough loss.”
On missing shots and rebounds:
“I think some of our shots weren’t falling. It’s like momentum, they gained momentum with every rebound they got. It’s disappointing, but sometimes it’s how the game goes.”
On the youth of the team:
“Nobody thought we would be here except the people in this room. We had a great season and I couldn’t be more proud of everyone in this room. We fought hard until the end. We’ll be back next year, without Sune, but we’ll be here next year.”
Alexis Prince, Baylor #12 Guard:
On the turning point of the game:
“When they went up by six and we couldn’t get a stop, and we couldn’t get a score.”
On the difference between the 1st and 2nd Half:
“We couldn’t get any defensive stops and we couldn’t find the basket at a certain point. We can’t do that against a team like that. We couldn’t rebound at the end.”
COACH KIM MULKEY
Q. Sune, do you think that perhaps you were a marked woman tonight in some ways because of the flagrant on Friday? Did that affect your game?
SUNE AGBUKE: You know, I didn’t really understand what I could do different, and it happened, and I don’t know, it rattled me for a minute. But I was just trying to play and trying to get to where I was going. I don’t do things — I don’t throw elbows. I just felt like the rest of the game, the refs kept telling me don’t give us something to look at, don’t give us something to look at, like I was doing it on purpose, and I wasn’t.
Q. Nya, you were right in there, right down to the last minute. Talk about not being able to finish.
NIYA JOHNSON: That’s just on us, not finishing. That’s part of focus, and I thought they beat us with offensive rebounding, so that’s something we have to work on.
Q. Nina, just expanding on what Nya just talked about, the offensive rebounds they were able to have, I think it was only 16-12 in second chances but did you feel like that took away chances for to you score?
NINA DAVIS: Definitely. We knew coming into the game we knew that was something we couldn’t let happen. We couldn’t let them get offensive rebounds and we kind of let that happen in critical moments at the end. They had two or three critical rebounds at critical moments at the end, and that cost us the game in the long run.
Q. Late in the game, three starters were playing with four fouls apiece on your team. Could you talk about how that might have impacted the rebounding on both ends of the floor?
NIYA JOHNSON: I don’t know, like four fouls you have to play smart at the end of the day. I guess we tried to stay off of them. They was calling it pretty tight at the end, and I don’t know, it was just difficult playing with four fouls.
NINA DAVIS: I cannot even say it really affected us, we all had four fouls, but you just can’t let the fouls stop you. Like Nya said, you have to play smart but you have to keep battling, and it was a critical moment and we kept battling, but we just fell short.
SUNE AGBUKE: Yeah, I have to go with Nina. That’s the game, playing with four fouls for all of us. You’ve got to keep playing hard, and that’s what we tried to do.
Q. Sune, just talk about this team in general. You guys were picked second in the conference. You guys roll off a 20-plus game win streak, incredible run to the Elite 8. Kind of sum up this journey with a team so young. It looks promising from here to the next couple years.
SUNE AGBUKE: I’ve just learned so much about life from this team. We weren’t always the biggest, we weren’t always the fastest, we weren’t the most talented, but we battled every day. You know, and we were always — we always could learn lessons. We lost two games in a row late in the season, but we were able to bounce back. That’s what we were all about. We just continued to get better all year from every loss and from every win. We just kept improving, and there’s just not another group of girls that I’d want to go to war with, and I’m excited for them because next year they’ll make it better, and the year after that they’ll only get better, and that’s just Baylor for you, and that’s just the kind of program that Coach Mulkey has built here, that this year we made it to an Elite 8 and we’re disappointed because we couldn’t make it further, but next year, man, they’re going to be so great.
Q. Nina, in the second half did they do anything different defensively or do you feel like some of the shots that you were getting weren’t falling?
NINA DAVIS: It was just a game. I was going about it the same way, some shots went in, some shots rolled out. It happens.
Q. Nina and Nya, obviously outsiders coming into the season didn’t necessarily expect you guys to get this far. I know Coach has talked about the next couple years are going to be incredible with you guys. Given the fact that the expectations outside of the program weren’t this high, how much do you think this is going to springboard you guys, making it this far and giving Notre Dame a run for their money?
NINA DAVIS: I think right now we really can’t see it because we’re in a lot of pain because we fell short and we thought we had a great opportunity to get to the Final Four, but we had a great season. It was a great journey, and I wouldn’t trade anything in the world for this team or anybody. This is going to give us a lot of confidence. We have a great class coming in and we pretty much bring everybody back except for Sune so this is going to give us a lot of confidence once we get over this right here, and we’re going to be all right.
NIYA JOHNSON: I think it’s just motivation and just will make us work harder in the off-season and just put in work.
Q. Sune, you talked about having learned a lot from this team. What would you say that you’ve learned that you might apply to your career as a lawyer as you go forward, and what will be your best memory of your time at the program?
SUNE AGBUKE: What I’ve learned that I can apply to my career? We have — I think everyone on the team has a great personality and we find ways to laugh like at times when maybe we shouldn’t laugh. So I think that lightheartedness that sometimes we can use in moments that like we’re broken like this and our hearts are broken but we can go back in the locker room and someone can say something and we can all kind of crack a smile, and I think that’s something I’ll really take with me about not taking everything too seriously. What was the next question?
Q. What will be your best memory?
SUNE AGBUKE: I think just getting on everybody’s nerves.
Q. I don’t want to get you in trouble, but would you comment at all on the considerable disparity in the number of trips to the foul line, particularly in light of the fact that you guys were so clean during the standpoint of collecting personal fouls in the first three rounds of this tournament? And also, on the difference that that made in rebounding and the momentum of the game.
KIM MULKEY: Well, I’ll answer it this way so that I don’t get in trouble. I think there were three things that really were critical in the difference in the game. I thought when you have two teams of equal ability and they’re playing their hearts out and it’s back and forth and it’s back and forth, in critical moments, the team that does something — make a play, usually wins, and I thought Notre Dame got several offensive rebounds, long rebounds that gave them another opportunity, and if you look at the stat sheet, it may not jump out at you because it’s really pretty similar, but it’s when they got those offensive boards.
I thought role players for Notre Dame just absolutely killed us. When you can hold Jewell Loyd to five for 18 and 13 points, you can’t let Mabrey go five for five, you can’t let Cable hit a three, or four for four, but they were five for five between the two of them, so that’s, what, 15 points right there. And then the third thing is we didn’t get to the foul line enough. We got there nine times and they got there 24, and I thought those were the three things that stood out to me.
Q. Did you feel like maybe you missed a chance in the first half? You’re up nine with a chance to extend it, and then they kind of got right back in it?
KIM MULKEY: Well, you have the flagrant, so you had things that are — I can’t control that over on the sideline, and Sune is just not a dirty player. I just find it funny that in two games she got a flagrant 1. Those mistakes do hurt you, but we stayed in the game. We stayed in the game. We were in the game up until the last minute of the game, but when you look at the last three or four minutes of the game, I just thought those long rebounds when we’d make defensive stops, and it was a four-point, six-point game, we just couldn’t get them, and then we stepped back, and you look at the big picture, you take away the role players’ points for Notre Dame, you take away some of those free throws, it might have been a different game.
I know that we’re young, but guys, Notre Dame is young, too. So they’ll have a good team back, as well.
Q. Coach, like a lot of players have mentioned, your team has a very bright future. They’re a young team. What are you looking forward to taking from this experience?
KIM MULKEY: Oh, I think we’ve got to get better defensively still. I think that we have got to understand the importance and the value of just one play, one rebound, and that comes with time. That comes with time. You’ve got a player, and I just mentioned Jewell Loyd, we hold her five of 18, but the truth is Jewell Loyd makes all those players get those points, and we don’t have that player, so we’ve got to get it from a bunch of different places. We’ll get better.
Q. When you have players, some of your best players get into foul trouble, especially late in the game, I imagine that’s a very delicate balance between playing hard and also being cautious to stay in the game. What do you tell your players in those moments?
KIM MULKEY: I don’t know that I really tell them anything. I don’t really talk to them about don’t foul or anything like that. I think I’m just coaching in the moment on what we need to run, what we’re doing defensively. If I feel like they need to come out of the game, I’ll sub in offense, defense, but that never went through my mind because when they got in foul trouble, it was really late in the game.