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Head Coach Muffet McGraw And Players Comment On The NCAA Tournament

March 22, 2003

Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw

Opening Comments about the Tournament:
“We’re excited being in the NCAA Tournament again. It’s a thrill every year. We are happy to be out here; it’s a great environment for women’s basketball. I know the crowds are going to be terrific, and it should be an exciting weekend of basketball.”

On the matchup with Arizona Sunday:
“It’s a very difficult matchup for us. This is an Arizona team that has a lot of team speed and plays tremendous defense. They have a lot of skill at the guard spot. I’m really impressed with (Dee-Dee) Wheeler. We played them last year; they beat us out there in a very close game. They are a much better team; obviously, they’ve added the Rookie of the Year in the Pac-10 added to that team. (Shawntice) Polk gives them a big presence inside and an intimidating presence defensively and scores a lot of points for them. I think their transition game is about the best we’ve seen. We really have our work cut out for us.”

On a young team facing the Arizona defensive pressure:
“We have turned the ball quite a bit this year. We’ve worked all year long at not turning the ball over but unfortunately I haven’t seen a lot of improvement in that area. I think a lot of it is decision-making and that, hopefully, will come with a lot more experience but it definitely a major concern of ours.”

On the team’s long layoff:
“It was really beneficial for us. We have looked really good this week at practice, This is probably as good as we’ve looked all year long. We have had a number of injuries that are still not completely healed. We’ve really needed the time off. We had four days off completely after the Big East Tournament and came back to practice this week and really looked as good as we’ve looked all year. I think it’s been a good thing. We brought referees in to try to simulate a little bit of a game situation the other day (Wednesday) and it was good to try get them back in the flow of knowing that everything they were complaining about being a foul wasn’t really a foul. It was good to get them back into playing shape.”

On what Notre Dame has to do to defeat Arizona:
“We’re going to have to play really well. We have to take care of the basketball, handle their pressure and win the battle on the boards. Those are the three things we’ve really got to concentrate on. I don;t think we’re going into the game saying we have to score in this area. We have to play our game. I think it’s going to be more defensive and how we handle the ball.”

On the play of senior guard Alicia Ratay:
“She’s our senior; she’s someone we look to a lot. If she comes out and shoots the ball well early on it relaxes the rest of the team. She’s a great shooter, shooting over 50 percent in three-point shooting in the Big East. She’s certainly someone who can hit an open shot and someone we rely on from the perimeter. She played well down the stretch with the exception of the last game of the Big East Tournament. She played well in the month of February and early March. We’re very confident she’s got that big game experience and she’s an NCAA Tournament-tested player and we look for her to lead us.”

Notre Dame players

Junior, guard, Anne Weese

On coming back close to home..
“It has been amazing the last two year to be able to play such important games in front of the most important people in my life. It is awesome. It has just worked out both years. My mom says ‘things just seem to work out for you Anne,’ and that is exactly the way it is.”

On the experience of being at Notre Dame…
“It has been amazing to be around athletes of this caliber and to see the athletes we have played against and to travel the country. It’s amazing. I’ll do anything that I canto help the team. I know it is not necessarily going to be on the floor during the game, but its in the locker room, it’s during practices, pregame, in the huddles. I will do anything it takes.”

On making the team…
“Of course, winning a national junior championship opens up doors for you, so at the end of last year I had a few opportunities, but when I got into Notre Dame I knew I wanted to go. I have wanted to go since I was a little kid. So I had Coach (Jim) Littell give coach (Muffet) McGraw a call and just say I will be going to school there and if something comes up, maybe I could practice with them or scrimmage if they need some practice players. I went to camp this summer and I met Coach (McGraw), I met the players. I went to school in August and nothing was really coming up so I thought nothing of it. Then I got an email out of the blue one day that said ‘could you show up to practice?’ I showed up, they gave me some shoes and they made me an offer to try out as a walk on and it worked out.”

On how many people she will have coming to the game…
“Just from the tickets that I have been able to round up, about 25-30. That doesn’t count what they are doing on their own. I hope more than that, but we’ll see, I am really excited.”

Sophomore, forward, Jacqueline Batteast

On the difference between this year and last…
“I feel a lot better this year, I am healthier, I still have a sprained ankle, but it is 100 percent. I like the position we are in right now. There is no pressure, we’re just going in playing as had as we can and hope to advance.”

On what they have to do to win Saturday…
“We have to stay composed, they are going to press they are going to try and get us flustered, try to get us to turn it over. They are going to throw the ball down low. The posts are going to just have to stay within our game and know that they are going to make their run and just stay composed and we will make ours.”