March 16, 2000

More NCAA Notes

NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship
First and Second Rounds
Joyce Center
Notre Dame, Ind.

Pre-Tournament Quotes

Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw
On playing in the NCAA Tournament at home: “We are excited to be having this game at Notre Dame. We are looking forward to our fans coming out and having a chance to see us play in the NCAA tournament and not have to travel. We are definitely in our comfort zone here. I think we are playing very well. We have been off for about 10 days and we are anxious to play a game and see if we can work the kinks out.”

On the women’s tournament switching to neutral courts for first and second round games: “I think in order for us to get to the point where the men are at we need to go to neutral courts. The problem is attendance. We’ve got to be able to draw some crowds if we go to neutral courts. I think that is the stumbling block right now.”

On the highly competitive Mideast Region: “I think it is the toughest region. All 64 teams probably think they are in the toughest region. The 10 (seed) versus seven (seed) game is the toughest 10 versus seven I have ever seen in the tournaments history. Those are two great teams that probably deserved a higher seed in their minds. UCLA is a team that was picked to go to the Final Four early in the season. This sub regional is very difficult and whoever wins this must go play Tennessee in Memphis. That is a pretty difficult challenge for any team.”

On the benefit of Notre Dame’s tournament experience: “We have three players that have been to the Final Four and the bulk of our team has been to the Sweet Sixteen. I think we can use that to our advantage at this point. Everybody on our team, except for the freshmen, have tournament experience. We are a veteran team and we will look for our leadership from the junior and senior class.”

On playing on St. Patrick’s Day: “We just like to play on St. Patrick’s Day. I think it will be a great thing. My big concern is what my husband is going to wear. I know he has the big hat and the tie and he’s probably going to make a really big scene in the stands. There will definitely be a lot of green being worn in the stands and we would like to see a little bit of the ‘Luck of the Irish’ to get us off to a good start.”

On the possibility of wearing green jerseys: “I have no comment at this time. We will have to wait and see tomorrow.”

On her impressions of San Diego: “I think they are a great team and are coming off a big win that gives them momentum. They have a good inside-outside game similar to what we have. (Jessica) Gray on the blocks is a big scorer and very difficult to defend. Their guard (Susie) Erpelding is a great shooter who we are going to have to contain with our defense.”

On Ruth Riley’s progression: “When Ruth came in, we knew she was going to be a great player for us. She had a lot of talent and, more importantly, she had a tremendous work ethic. She was somebody that was never satisfied with her game. She was always in the gym and always stayed after practice and came in on days off. So you knew she was going to be good because she wanted to be so good. (Assistant coach) Carol Owens did a great job of developing her as a freshman. She had a lot of great moves but Ruth has really improved. She has become a really good free throw shooter and is very strong on the block. Probably the biggest improvement in her game this year has been her passing. For us, keeping Ruth on the floor has got to be one of the keys to our success in the tournament.”

On recent practices: “We had quite a few practices before we even knew we were going to play San Diego so we did a lot of scrimmaging to try to stay sharp. We also took a few days off to rest up and get everybody fresh mentally for the tournament. It was easier to practice once we knew we were going to play San Diego. We had a little bit more opportunity to focus.”

On comparing this year’s team to her 1997 squad: “Compared to our Final Four team, I think this year’s team is more athletic and we’re better defensively. I think we have more options defensively. That team was really a two-man team. Beth Morgan and Katryna Gaither pretty much had to carry us every night for us to be successful. And they did, which is why we were successful. We depend certainly a lot on Ruth Riley and Niele Ivey, but Alicia Ratay is also a big part of our offense, as is Danielle Green. I think we’re a team now that has a great balance. We probably have seven people that can really go off and have a good night. I don’t think you can key just on one person any more.”

Notre Dame senior guard Niele Ivey
On returning to play in the NCAA tournament after sitting out last year due to injury: “I have been waiting for this moment. After traveling with the team last year and seeing all the excitement and preparation, this is the best part of the season to play in. I am just glad I am healthy and can contribute to the team physically.”

On bouncing back from the loss to Rutgers in the BIG EAST tournament: “I think we have a bad taste in our mouth from the last time we played. We have had 10 days off and we knew it would be hard to practice because we are so anxious to get back on the court. I think everyone is really looking forward to getting back out there and playing.”

Notre Dame junior center Ruth Riley
On her memories of her first NCAA tournament game and her feelings today: “I hope it will not be like my first NCAA game. I got in foul trouble early and I don’t want to see that happen again. It will be different because we will be at home. It is a different experience going out on the road in the first round and I think playing at home will help the freshmen with their nerves.”

On her own progression: “I see a lot of changes from freshman year until now. The coaching staff worked with me a lot and that helped me make the transition from high school to college. In high school the post players just stand there and shoot the ball because there aren’t many tall players. Once you get to college it’s more of an up-tempo game and there are stronger post players that you go up against. In a lot of ways my teammates and coaches helped me out.”

UCLA Pre-Tournament Quotes

UCLA head coach Kathy Olivier
On playing George Washington: “We’re happy to be here and we’re excited to be playing a team like George Washington. I’ve known Joe (McKeown), the head coach for GW, for a long time. He’s a great guy. I think it’s going to be a battle. He’s a very good defensive coach. He definitely knows what he’s doing. We’re going to have to play some good basketball in order to beat them.”

On the course of the season: “As far as struggling (throughout the season), I think it’s been good for us. I think this is a group that, with six seniors, takes the adversity as a plus. They know we’ve had a lot of people play a lot of minutes because of the struggles and the injuries.”

On the health of her team: “Now we’re healthy and we’re much more confident. Early in the year it was hard because we didn’t have everyone there in practice. Erica (Gomez) missed the first six or seven games before she came back. So the dynamics of our team were a little different.”

On her reaction to playing at Notre Dame: “I said ‘Pack the gloves, we’re going to Notre Dame’.”

On UCLA freshman guard Nicole Kaczmarski: “Kacz has been playing well. This is a player that came in early and did a great job for us. I think as a freshman, any time you come in and play with six seniors, it’s a little intimidating, but she’s a tough cookie.”

On UCLA’s style of play: “(Our style of play) depends on what game it is. We’re very different and I think that’s probably one of our strengths. We have a lot of versatility and a lot of people who can step up at any time.”

On George Washington’s Kristeena Alexander: “She is a good three-point shooter. She can really open up the inside game.”

UCLA senior forward Maylana Martin
On scouting George Washington: “I just remember they never stop moving. They are really active and have a never-say-die attitude.”

On George Washington’s Petra Dubovcova: “She’s a really good player. She’s one of those foreign kids that’s really mobile. That’s a different look for me.”

UCLA senior guard Erica Gomez
On George Washington’s Kristeena Alexander: “I remember she is real quick and a great competitor. I think we all just have to disguise what we are doing against her and provide help when we need it.”

On the season: “We’ve had a lot of adversity, but I think that right now, coming into the tournament, is a perfect time for us (to play well) because we ended our Pac-10 season with two wins on the road. So our confidence level is up now. Also, I think our team plays much better in the tournament.”

USD Pre-Tournament Quotes

San Diego head coach Kathy Marpe
On playing in the NCAA Tournament: “I am happy to be to here. Obviously we’re one of the underdogs in the first and second rounds. I have been to South Bend once before and that was to stick my head in and see the Notre Dame campus. I am glad to be back a really see how it feels to be on the Notre Dame campus.”

On playing Notre Dame: “We are dealing with this as if it were any other game. Notre Dame is a basketball team and we are a basketball team. One of the things I like about this match-up is that we are similar style teams, however we are giving up a few inches at each position. We are primarily a half-court team and Notre Dame is half-court team. We tend to emphasize defense, I know they (Notre Dame) emphasize defense. We’ve got a good point guard, they’ve got a good point guard. We’ve got a dominant post-player, they’ve got a dominant post player. We have got a great scorer, they’ve got a great scorer.We’re looking forward to it because the team that plays the best basketball is going to win on Friday night.”

On gaining experience: “One of the things I try to do as a coach with my scheduling is to try and make an away trip to a big-time program. This year we went to play at Tulsa and at Oklahoma. We played in those facilities and a big-time atmosphere. Oklahoma was getting ready to play Connecticut in their next game, so they were definitely at the top of their game.”

“Our conference tournament gave us tournament experience. We had to win three games in four days. We had to do it against teams that were better than us and teams that had beaten us.”

On defending Notre Dame All-American center Ruth Riley: “I think we have to be concerned about that because Jessica (Gray) is six-foot-one and Ruth Riley is 6-5. I think we can’t let her get the ball where she wants to get the ball. Jessica has a very good outside game as well as a good inside game. She can step away from the basket and one of the things Ruth Riley is going to have to prove she can do is can she step out and score? Can she step out and defend?”

On the Susie Erpelding- Alicia Ratay match-up: “(Alicia) Ratay is 5-11 and Susie (Erpelding) 5-9, so there are some inches we are giving up there. Susie has proven all year long that she can play against a taller player. Most teams have tried to put a taller quicker player on Susie and she still got a lot of points.”

On satisfaction of simply playing in the NCAA Tournament: “We’re very happy to be here, but we are not satisfied being here at all. The last time we went (to the NCAA Tournament) in 1993 we played on Wednesday, after having played on Sunday. We didn’t really have time to digest it, but this year we have had the time to go through that ‘I’m so happy to be going to the NCAA.’ From selection Sunday we have been able to focus on the game. First of all, can we compete with this team (Notre Dame)? I think we can. And Susie (Erpelding) has given five years of her life and Jessica (Gray) has given four years to this program and they want to take it as far as they can. They are not just satisfied being here.”

On preparing Jessica Gray for guarding taller players: “I think one of the things that has helped Jessica, not only this year but last, was our assistant coach Eric Johnson who is 6’4″. She goes up against him almost every day in practice whether it be individual work or not. It is not like Jessica will be surprised. She goes against Eric and he jumps pretty good too. We are lucky that she has that kind of personnel that she can go against every day.”

On the defensive game plan for tomorrow night: “I think we will not do anything differently than we have done all year. Our bread and butter is our half-court player defense. I don’t see us changing that. I have these sayings that I put on t-shirts for the players. One is that we want to play aggressive ‘suffocating defense.’ That is our theme all year. We feel that the shots come and go, shots go in sometimes, but the defense is always there. So, I don’t see us doing a lot of different things with that. At the same time, we have mixed up our defense. We have some zone and we will alternate some times between player and zone. If something is not working we will try the other one. As far as playing zone against them all game, we are going to go with our bread and butter.”

On the inspiration of Rollie Marpe: “I think it is there, but I think last year it had much more impact. But certainly he was a big part of the senior’s lives. He was there everyday making them shoot their free throws. I think we all still get that, I know I still get that from him. It is not the focus, certainly. These kids are the focus. We are dedicating this season to the seniors.”

San Diego senior guard Susie Erpelding
On being in the NCAA tournament: “I think that is something that at the beginning of the year is a goal. That is what you set out to do. It is kind of like the reality of getting here. We knew we had a good core coming in returners like Jessica [Gray] and myself, but we also had a lot of freshmen. We had five new people coming in. There was definitely an uncertainty as to how we were going to mesh together. We definitely put in the work to get where we are today. Like coach said, we are very excited to be here, but we are not settling for that.”

On the traditon of upsets in the NCAA Tournament: “We have been talking a little bit about upsets in the past couple days, about twelve seeds beating five seeds, ten seeds beating seven seeds. We have definitely talked about upsets, and we would like one too.”

San Diego senior forward Jessica Gray
On defending Ruth Riley: “I am very excited. I am a very competitive person and I think this will be a good challenge for myself. All my life I have had to guard people bigger than me. I am only 6’1″. I think it will be a very good challenge for me. I am excited for it. I love to play against really good players. It brings everybody else up.”

On defending other taller players: “I had to guard the girl from Long Beach State. She is 6’8″. That’s very very big compared to me.”

On Ruth Riley: “I have not been able to watch much game film on her. Right after we found out who we were playing I asked Eric, our assistant coach, what her basics were. She is a good player. She has to be if she is an All-American. Like I said, I have not been able to see much game film on her yet so I am not real sure what moves she has.”

George Washington Pre-Tournament Quotes

George Washington head coach Joe McKeown
On playing in the NCAA Tournament: “I am excited for our program to be back in the NCAA tournament. Last year we took a year off. So, we are very well rested. We are excited to be here playing at the University of Notre Dame and to play a great team like UCLA in the first round. We have a great bracket here and a lot of great basketball to be played.”

On playing UCLA: “This is what the NCAA tournament is all about. It is very exciting for us. We look forward to it. We have a very difficult match-up in the first round, but this time of year everyone is going to be good. So, you might as well play them in the first round. It should be a lot of fun.”

“It is a compelling match-up. UCLA went to the final eight last year, they were ranked fourth of fifth in the country at some point in December and that’s who we’re playing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. We’re still ranked in top-25 in one of the polls, so I think we have two teams that are pretty evenly matched.”

“The reason they are 17-10 and a 10 seed is because they haven’t had a year that they expected, but to their credit they went out and played Tennessee, Connecticut and Rutgers. They played a great schedule and had they scheduled differently they could be 22-6. They might be the best 10-seed in the history of women’s basketball. They put a lot of talent on the floor, you are going to see Maylana Martin and Janae Hubbard in the WNBA. UCLA can play with and beat any team in the country.”

On UCLA’s style of play: “They have tremendous talent. They have five starters back from a team the went to the final eight last year, a game away from the final four. We have tremendous respect for them.”

On UCLA’s personnel: “Maylana Martin is probably as good as any player in the country that we have played against all year. Janae Hubbard presents really tough match-up problems for any team. She said she was coming to GW in high school so I still hold her to that. [Erica] Gomez is one of the most talented point guards we will play against. The problem with UCLA is that they have so many weapons. You could shut one down and be okay, but they can hurt you a lot of different ways.”

Comparing his George Washington team with UCLA: “They are a big strong physical team. We are not. We are a quick open court finesse team, power-finesse team if that is a word.”

On teams that might compare to UCLA that George Washington has played this year: “Nobody. They are a little bit like Rutgers, in that Rutgers makes you play half-court. They take advantage of you with their zones and their size. But, I am not sure that we have played any one that has the physical presence or talent of a Martin or that front line.”

On Nicole Kaczmarski: “I wish she would have stayed on the east coast. She was the national high school player of the year for good reason. She is tremendously talented. When she played for UCLA, because of Martin and because of Hubbard a little bit, she gets a lot of open shots. She is just really dangerous. She is a great one-on-one player. Like a lot of freshmen she has been a little up and down this year. We just hope she is down tomorrow. Kaczmarski can score from anywhere. She is kind of fun to watch, but not tomorrow I hope.””

Comparing Nicole Kaczmarski and Cathy Joens: “She is real explosive. She reminds me of Cathy Joens freshman year. Cathy came from LA to GW and Nicole went from New York to LA. They are very similar type players. Cathy is not as highly touted as Nicole was in high school, but I have seen her impact in games.”

On Kristeena Alexander: “She and Nicole [Kaczmarski] went to the same high school, Christ the King, and then Nicole left I think her junior year. Kristeena has had a huge impact on our team this year. With Marlo [Egleston] and Elisa [Aguilar], she gives us three point guards really on the floor at the same time. In big games, Kristeena has just made big shot after big shot. When we beat NCAA conference teams like St. Joseph’s, Xavier, Rutgers, Arkansas, games like that, really big games, the last three or four minutes she has been just tremendous the way she plays. Its her first NCAA tournament, she transferred to GW hoping that she could play for us, and things just worked out.”

On the play of the George Washington guards: “We for us our guards are our life line. When they play well we are a very good basketball team, we’re very dangerous. I think we have three or four of the best guards in the country and when they are at their best we are really tough to beat.”

On his 7-0 record in the first round of the NCAA Tournament: “Each team that you bring to the NCAA Tournament is different. In going 7-0 we were fortunate enough that a couple of those games were played at George Washington. I don’t remember playing a UCLA in the first round. I don’t have a magic formula for the first round, I wish I did because I would sell it to other coaches.”

On their seeding in the NCAA Tournament: “I was disappointed in the seeding, but I don’t want my players to feel that way. I can’t get into the heads of the (NCAA Tournament seeding) committee, all I can do is play the schedule we have and we went 25-5 and their is not a whole lot better that we can do playing a national schedule. To be honest with you I thought we were going to be a four or five seed.”

George Washington senior guard Marlo Egleston
On backcourt defense: “Basically we will need to have a lot of ball pressure and to, especially help out inside. We need to help out Starr and the other post players as much as we can. We just need to pick up our level of play because most of us, especially the guards, have been here before in the tournament. We need to use that experience to make good decisions.”

On the players familiarity with UCLA: “We are familiar with them because they are returning a lot good players that they rely on. For us this year’s team is so much different. Our match-ups with UCLA and the way we play has changed completely.”

George Washington senior forward Starr Jefferson
On playing UCLA stars: “I’m excited. (Maylana) Martin is definitely an outstanding player. I’m not going to with Janae (Hubbard). I am very excited to play them, I have great respect for them, they’re great players, but this is the big dance and whatever I can do to minimize their impact is what I am gearing up to do.”

George Washington senior guard Elisa Aguilar
Reaction to seeding: “Win. We were probably a little surprised. Maybe we thought we would play an easy team. You can not let that get to you, so tomorrow we have to play our best and beat this team.”