March 26, 2015

Irish NCAA Tournament Central

Irish NCAA Tournament Central

Muffet McGraw: Well, we’re excited to be here and ready for a great turnout by the Notre Dame fans in Oklahoma.

Q. Can you talk about the process of how you guys got here? I know you were delayed, but what you did during that time?
Muffet McGraw: We took off from South Bend about 5:30 eastern standard time, on our way to Oklahoma City with a plan that we might have to spend the night in Dallas. We were on our way to Oklahoma City and then they saw Lawton Airport was a little bit closer, so we decided to land there and bus over from there, so the buses came and picked us up, and a little minor inconvenience. We hung out, we ordered pizza. It was a very small airport. We were the only ones there, and we had about 95 with the band and cheerleaders and our whole party. We made the most of it, and our condolences to the people that were seriously affected by the storm.

Q. What have you seen from the Stanford team this year? This is the first time they haven’t had a Ogwumike sister in seven years, and I’m just wondering how you saw that change the dynamic for them?
Muffet McGraw: Well, they were both very special players. They have put their name in the Stanford record book in a big way. Great players in the WNBA, so I think two huge losses for them. But they’ve really recovered well. I think they’re a very balanced team. They’re a very perimeter oriented team, and they shoot the three extremely well. They’re very disciplined, extremely well-coached, a very smart team.

Q. You haven’t played Stanford since ’92 or ’91 season. Why is that? Is it just one of those scheduling quirks or have you tried or they tried to book a game and it just didn’t work out?
Muffet McGraw: You know, I don’t think we’ve really tried. In fact, I was talking to Tara a couple weeks before the ACC Tournament, and I said, it’s kind of funny we’ve never met in the NCAA Tournament, and I probably spoke too soon because it’s not a team that I really want to play. I really like Tara. I think it’ll be a — it’s kind of a great experience where it’s nice to go to the NCAA Tournament and play teams you haven’t already played. We had to get by DePaul which was sort of a rival for us, which was a very different kind of game. I kind of enjoy being in the NCAA Tournament and playing teams we haven’t played in a while.

Q. Have you tried?
Muffet McGraw: No, we haven’t. We talked about going west, but we’ve been going to Southern California basically for recruiting, for recruiting players in Southern California we try to go there, so we don’t have a lot of players from Northern California.

Q. I just heard a little bit of talk that Oklahoma City might be interested in getting a women’s Final Four. I wonder what your thoughts are on the city and if you think something like that could work here.
Muffet McGraw: I think it can work anywhere that there’s fans of women’s basketball, and that’s what we need to cultivate. The Tulsa Shock is not too far away and I think they`re getting a little more exposure because of that. With the NBA team here, it`s obviously a great basketball city, and it will be interesting to see what kind of fans turn out, and I think your answer, probably you’ll find out tomorrow night whether it would be a good idea.

Q. (Inaudible.) What stands out to you about her?
Muffet McGraw: I think she’s still a student of the game. She loves to talk Xs and Os. I remember one time a couple of coaches and I were just kind of sitting around doing a little doodling on a note pad in the lobby of a hotel, and she just kind of dropped by and said do you mind if I join you? I know this summer she went out and talked to a lot of different coaches at all levels because she wanted to change her offense. So she is someone I have great respect for, what she’s done for the women’s game, how she’s represented the women’s game with USA Basketball and with what she’s done at Stanford. I think she’s a class person, does everything in the right way, and is really good for our game.

Q. You have a little bit of a relationship with somebody at Stanford, Condi Rice. You’ve played some golf with her and things. I wonder if you’ve had any conversations with her since this pairing showed up, and could you maybe relate a little bit of your golfing exploits with her?
Muffet McGraw: The relationship might be a little bit more than it is, but I hope she’ll be here supporting both teams. When we were both in the Final Four, she changed her shirt, I think, after the Stanford game, put on the Notre Dame colors because she’s a graduate of Notre Dame. I would love for her to be here. I’m not sure if she’s going to be here or not. I haven’t had any correspondence with her lately. We did have an exciting round of golf where she was able to get a hole in one, so that was a memorable day for all of us on campus.

Q. What was your first wow moment (inaudible) the way she plays?
Muffet McGraw: I would say last year in the ACC Tournament, she went down the floor in transition and got the alley-oop and somehow managed to put it in left-handed on a pass that was a little hard to catch and control and at a really important point in the game. And I think that was probably the one moment on the sideline that I just thought, oh, my gosh, that’s a SportsCenter highlight, during the game. I think we were clapping and cheering, and it was really an amazing play that we went afterwards to watch quite a few times.

Q. A little scouting report, what you’ve seen of Stanford and what concerns you might have?
Muffet McGraw: You know, I think the biggest concern is how smart they are. They’re just a really disciplined team that — they run their offense, but they’re also really good at recognizing personnel and seeing some mismatches and weaknesses and really exploiting them. So they’re not a team that you can say they’re actually going to run this when I think they’re very flexible in what they do.

Q. With Notre Dame such a national brand, do you have a pocket of fans everywhere you go pretty much?
Muffet McGraw: Yeah, we do. We had a nice turnout in Greensboro at the ACC Tournament. We have a lot of fans in that triangle area. Everywhere we’ve gone this year I’ve been really excited about the fans that have come out in the ACC schools. So we’ve had a big turnout everywhere. I know the club offered 200 tickets as soon as the bracket came out. I’m hoping that they need more and they want to come over and give us a welcome and do whatever they can to help us. So hopefully they’ll come out in full force.

Q. What’s allowed you to (inaudible) as well as they have?
Muffet McGraw: You know, I think when you come into a program, the expectation level is set pretty high, and so I think everybody coming in knew that there was going to be a lot expected of them. We talked to the freshmen early on that they weren’t going to be able to play like freshmen. We were going to need them right away. I think the leadership that Jewell Lloyd has grown into has really, really helped our team. And I think our point guard, Lindsay Allen, has just done a masterful job. She seems very quiet, but when you get close to the court you can hear her talking, and she does a really great job of staying poised and keeping us levelheaded, and I think the post game has really just exploded. I think our posts, all three of them, Taya, Bri, and Kathryn, have really played well of late, and have just continued to get better.

Q. What has Hannah Huffman added to your team the last couple of years? She’s one of our Bay Area kids.
Muffet McGraw: Hannah is having a terrific year for us. She is somebody that comes off the bench in certain situations and has really played well. She gives us energy. She is a player, the fans love her because she is such a hustle player. She gets a lot of things that don’t show up on the stat sheet. She’ll come up with some big rebounds. She is a defensive player that, when we need a defensive stop, we’ll put her in the game for that. She gives us great energy. She helps us on the break in transition when the other team is pressing because she handles the ball very well. She’s a really good passer, got a great assist-to-turnover ratio. But I would say mostly it’s her defense and just a spark that she gives us off the bench.

Q. (Inaudible.) How difficult is it to prepare for a team (inaudible) that has so many?
Muffet McGraw: Yeah, it’s really difficult. You just kind of cross the zone off the list of things that you’re probably going to do. We’ve got to figure out how we can stop the penetration and the kick-outs, which is very difficult for us just having played DePaul which was a five out team. I think we came away with a lot of things we need to do better. It’s a difficult challenge for us. I think that defensively man-to-man, containing the ball, has been somewhat of an issue for us this year, so I think that’s something that we hopefully have fixed this week.

Q. Could you comment about the strength of this region? Three really strong, traditional programs in yourselves and Baylor and Stanford compared to maybe the other four throughout the —
Muffet McGraw: Yeah, if I’m not mistaken, I think the ESPN analysts said this was the toughest region. It didn’t say it was the toughest bracket to start, but I thought the toughest region. We’re looking at Baylor, a team that’s basically, we`re playing in their backyard; Stanford, a team that’s been to a number of Final Fours, consecutive Final Fours; Iowa, a team from the Big Ten that has had a fantastic year. I think all four teams have been ranked all season, and it definitely is I think the most difficult region. But I said that before the other brackets were announced, but I still feel that way.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about what you guys did (inaudible) and what you did on the bus?
LINDSEY ALLEN: Well, when we first landed in Lawton, we really didn’t know what was up at first. And we get off the plane and it’s like really, really windy, I remember, and then we just go inside to all the vending machines are and just the general lobby of the airport, and so we were just playing card games, Spades, chilling out, watching a little bit of Netflix on our computers and all that stuff.

Jewell Loyd: We were just hanging, you know, we were being kids. Everyone is laughing, dancing, we had was food delivered to the airport and we were watching like the storm as it continued to rain, just the colors of the clouds, stuff like that, and we were kind of just relaxing. It was a day for us to just be kids.

Q. Were you aware that Fort Sill is nearby and that’s where the Buffalo Soldiers were and it’s actually where Geronimo is buried?
Jewell Loyd: Yeah, actually our trainer, Anne, she was telling us that as we were playing spades. We were actually learning a history lesson while playing spades, so it`s the best of the both worlds.

Q. You didn’t know anything about what was going on when you landed in Lawton, you thought you were in Oklahoma City?
Jewell Loyd: Well, we knew that we weren’t in OKC. We knew that we landed there, so we were just kind of like we’ll wait for the bus, okay, just like a normal day. And like I said before, we were just playing cards, enjoying the moment and enjoying the time with teammates and the cheerleaders and the band, so it was pretty fun.

LINDSEY ALLEN: Oh, yeah, well, we were getting ready to land in OKC, the captain just told us that the storm has really picked up and we’re going to land somewhere else. So then we waited, we flew another like four, I think hour — 40 minutes maybe to Lawton and landed and like Jewell said, just chilled out a little bit and waited for our bus and the pizza to get here.

Q. What do you know about Stanford? What have you seen of them? What kind of team are they? What are you going to have to be prepared for?
Jewell Loyd: Well, they’re very disciplined. They run a highball screen. They drive and kick to shooters. They have two really good fast guards that are very experienced, so we’ve been watching them and learning personnel, obviously have really good shooters. They’re very well-coached. We’ve been doing our preparation, and we feel pretty good going in.

LINDSEY ALLEN: Just like Jewell said, they’re a really disciplined team. They know when they get their shots and where to get their shots, and they’re going to make you pay if you sign off them a little bit. They`ve been a little inconsistent this year, but it`s tournament time and we know that we’re going to get their best game.

Q. What did you take from the first two games of the tournament that you played in South Bend? What did you take out of those two games as far as where you are as a team now?
LINDSEY ALLEN: I think we took each game individually. We just looked at the results individually for each game, and we’re just taking it one game at a time right now, but we realize that we have to take the little things seriously because we’re going to get everyone’s best game, and the intensity really picks up around this time, so just taking it one game at a time and focusing on us.

Jewell Loyd: I think as a whole we’re playing with more heart and more passion. People always said that we were really young and right now I don’t see that in us at all. We’re very confident, motivated, and we’re taking it — we’re going along with the ride and we’re having fun. That’s the main thing.

Q. (No microphone) how do you describe your leadership role with this team versus what you did last year?
Jewell Loyd: Actually it’s pretty easy when you have the team that we have and coaches here. I didn’t ask for the role, it just kind of just happened. Little did we know we just kind of looked up, and oh, I guess it is me. But when you have unselfish players on the team and everyone is learning from each other — I’m learning from Lindsay and Lindsay is learning from me and vice versa — it makes it fun. It’s a learning process. I like to learn. I’m a student of the game so I’m learning from a different point of view than I was last year.

Q. Game time is 9:00 here, which is 10:00 Notre Dame time. Any issues or problems with that at all?
Jewell Loyd: I mean, it’s game time. You’ve got to be able to play, whatever the time is, wherever you play. You’ve still got to go out and play your game, so you can’t get caught up on the time.

Lindsay Allen: Yeah, we played late games this season. We played a few at 9:00 this year, 8:30, 8:00. So we just have to take what we have right now and just make the best of it.

Notre Dame Player Quotes

Lindsay Allen, Notre Dame Guard:

On how previous Sweet 16 experiences will help tomorrow against Stanford:
“I think just having that experience is really key. We have players who have been here before so they know what to expect and we’re playing a great team in Stanford tomorrow, so I’m really excited for this experience.”

On the pressure of being ranked second and continuing the winning streak:
“As soon as the tournament started we’ve really focused on one game at a time. We’re not worried about wining streaks or anything like that, just one game at a time and preparing for the next opponent.”

Is it difficult to prepare for a team of Stanford’s caliber having never played this team?
“I would say it is. Some teams we’ve seen before like DePaul and then the ACC schedule. We’ve seen Stanford play before on TV and things like that, but just learning what they’re about and what plays they actually run is a little difficult.”

On the atmosphere in South Bend with both the men and women making the Sweet 16:
“Yeah, there’s been a lot of excitement. We’re really happy for them and they’re happy for us. We’re trying to keep this win streak going for both of our programs and make it as far as we can.”

Michaela Mabrey, Notre Dame Guard:

On how previous Sweet 16 experiences will help tomorrow against Stanford:
“I think just being here and knowing what to expect and just knowing how good the teams are gives you less of a nervous feeling. You’ve already been here and so you know what to expect, which I think gives you a little bit of an advantage.”

On the pressure of being ranked second and continuing the winning streak:
“Our whole team doesn’t really focus on that. Coach really engrains in our minds ‘Rankings don’t matter.’ It’s just about us and exceeding our expectations as a team.”

Is it difficult to prepare for a team of Stanford’s caliber having never played this team?
“I think just being in the ACC, we’ve seen the same teams over and over again, but we’ll just prepare the same way that we do for every other team: always going over film, scouting and knowing exactly what they do. We’re just going to continue what we do.

Hannah Huffman, Notre Dame Guard:

Can you talk about what it’s like playing your former high school teammate Erica Payne in this game?
“It’s definitely mixed emotions. She’s not only one of my teammates but one of my best friends too. We’re still very close with her and our families are very close. For one of us the season is going to be ending, so it has a little bit of that competitive feel. I think it’s always just us being competitors, so I’m definitely looking forward to it and I know she is too, so it definitely adds a fun spin to the game. We played AAU and high school together. I’ve known her since 8th grade. Our parents are going to come to the game together. We go on vacations with them, so it’s going to be fun. We’ve been having some trash talking through text messages, so it’s been fun.”