March 29, 2010

Recap | Box Score

Oklahoma – 77
Notre Dame – 72

An interview with:

THE MODERATOR: We’re now joined by Coach Muffet McGraw of Notre Dame. Your thoughts on tonight’s game.

COACH McGRAW: I thought Lindsay Schrader and Melissa Lechlitner played great. They didn’t want their season to end. I thought they did everything they could do offensively to help us win the game. I thought they beat us from the three point line.

I thought Stevenson, she really played well, five for eight from the three point line including the game winner. That was someone we were really, really trying to guard and just lost her for a second on a number of occasions, and that was the difference in the game. I thought they rebounded really well, too. We didn’t do a good job on the boards, and our bench, which has been our strength all year long, just gave us nothing tonight.

Q. Lindsay, can you talk about your night offensively?
Lindsay Schrader: Well, if I was going to go down, I was going to go down swinging. I always told myself that I had to attack the basket, and I sure did tonight. I should have done that all year. I don’t know why I was kind of holding out. Yeah, I wanted to score. I didn’t want to lose, and it just kind of took over me. But I left it all out there. You know, people look around and see I’m not upset, but there’s nothing else I could have done. That’s just the way you’ve got to do it.

Q. Can you talk about Oklahoma’s inside game and the problems that Olajuwon caused?
Lindsay Schrader: Yeah, well, we were really, really focusing on Stevenson and her three point abilities. So that left her wide open sometimes in the post area, and she’s strong. She’s a great player.

Q. Melissa, what was it about the mid range jumper that was working today? I mean, when did you feel that comfortable with it and just stay with it?
Melissa Lechlitner: Well, the screens that Lindsay and our post players were setting were really opening a lot up for me. So right from the getgo, the very beginning of the game, my first one fell and so I just kept attacking and using their really good screens after that.

Q. Can you talk about you guys were down I think six points with about two and a half minutes, 2:40. Can you talk about how you guys regrouped and attacked and put it into overtime?
Lindsay Schrader: Yeah, we decided to rebound a little bit and get some defensive stops, and we came down and had a couple of really good offensive plays, and Skylar hit that big three and sent it into overtime. We just kind of dug down a little bit.

Q. Melissa, can you talk a little bit about the legacy of this senior class?
Melissa Lechlitner: Yeah, such a great four years we had here. You know, it’s been fun representing this University, and I wish we could have went a little further.

Q. Lindsay, Coach has already said that on a couple of occasions you guys just lost track of Stevenson. Were you surprised that she attempted the three in a tie game that late in that situation?
Lindsay Schrader: No, I’m not surprised that she shot it. I got over there as fast as I could, and she let it fly. She was hitting them all game. I guess that was my fault. I should have been more conscious of where she was.

THE MODERATOR: Ladies, we’re going to let you return to your locker room. We’ll take questions for Coach now.

Q. Coach, can you talk about what you had planned for the final 4.4 seconds and how that all unveiled?
COACH McGRAW: Yeah, it was a play we’ve worked on quite a bit, but you know, it obviously went awry. Schrader was going to throw it to Skylar for three, but probably in hindsight should have just given it to Skylar right at half court and let her dribble it down. She probably would have made it because she’s that kind of player. Yeah, it was obviously four seconds, you’re going with your late game play that you’ve worked on all year long. We didn’t the pass was a little off, and they defended it well.

Q. Can you talk about the comeback from six down with 2:40 left and talk about Skylar’s three pointer?
COACH McGRAW: Yeah, that was huge. We ran the same play that we got Barlow the three for in the Syracuse game, and she responded well. She hadn’t been shooting that particularly well all game, but she has the kind of confidence that I thought she could make it. Erica did a good job of screening for her to get her that last three. Lech did a nice job getting inside the lane to get the three point play. It was only two possessions, we got back to back, three points for each, and were able to get a stop in between, which was the real key for the whole run.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about Jasmine Hartman’s defense on Skylar tonight?
COACH McGRAW: I thought that Skylar got a lot of lay ups in the first half that didn’t go in for her, and I think it probably frustrated her a little bit. You know, and then we went into Schrader for a good deal of the time in the second half. She was able to hit the three, got a couple in transition, but I think we probably didn’t get her the ball enough to really let her do what she can do.

Q. Just because of injuries and other situations, you guys have really been kind of up against the 8 ball with size this year having to play such a heavy guard lineup. Was this a game where that kind of caught up to you in some way because of the way Olajuwon played and Amanda Thompson?
COACH McGRAW: I thought Olajuwon played really well, and I was disappointed in our post that we didn’t do a better job on her. We worked on some different things. We were trying to double team her, and she got some offensive rebound putbacks and just some easy, easy baskets off of penetration when we didn’t drop in.

I was really disappointed in the defense we did on her. She played very well, and I mean, seven offensive rebounds. That’s almost as many as our whole team had. She did a great job hanging on that weak side block and waiting for her opportunities and she used her size. I thought Erica Williamson might be able to defend her a little bit better. I thought Becca could be a little more quicker and Deb maybe could block a shot, but really we were 0 for 3 in guarding her. She just really outplayed us.

Q. From inside and outside tonight, was there one of those areas that was more of a concern to you going into the game?
COACH McGRAW: No. I think we were worried about both. We played about half man, half zone. I thought they hit some shots on both. They got it inside a little easier I thought against the man to man, but she hit a couple threes on the man to man, as well. You know, we had a really good plan, I thought, going in, and you know, we didn’t get to the double team as we had kind of worked on, so that was a little disappointing that we weren’t able to get down and double her.

Q. This was the second time you’ve played Oklahoma this year. Did you see in any adjustments they made from the first time?
COACH McGRAW: I thought Olajuwon played a lot better. She just played better. I thought Stevenson made more shots. Otherwise I thought we did a pretty good job on Robinson. I thought Skylar’s defense was really outstanding on Robinson. I thought she kept her in check, did a great job on her.

But their inside game I thought really just Olajuwon, I thought she really, really played well. We did a decent job on Thompson. So I thought Olajuwon and Stevenson both really stepped up for them.

Q. I wonder if you could sort of just reflect on the season that Skylar has had. It seems like she’s been everything you could have wanted this season.
COACH McGRAW: She really was. Right from the getgo, she was MVP of the Paradise Jam. She’s been our leading scorer all year long. She’s been a close second in assists, leads us in steals. She’ll occasionally be the leading rebounder if that’s what we need her to do. She’s our best on the ball defender. She had a sensational year. She really wanted the ball late in the game, and I was disappointed that we didn’t get it to her a little bit more because she’s such a game player. She’s so competitive. She just wants to win, and just really she had a great year.

THE MODERATOR: Coach, congratulations on a great season.

THE MODERATOR: We’re now joined by the University of Oklahoma, Coach Sherri Coale and her student athletes. Coach, your thoughts about this evening’s game.

COACH COALE: I could not be more proud of these kids, just a relentless, gutsy effort. The way we’ve won a bunch of games this year. Just so proud of player after player. I could talk about each one over and over.

I thought Notre Dame was fantastic, as well. I think this was one of those games that can really grow the sport of women’s college basketball. It was a clean game. One team would score, the other team would answer with a basket, another basket. Just a high quality basketball game. Notre Dame is a fantastic team. I don’t get speechless very often, but I can’t think of anything better to say other than I’m just really, really proud of this bunch of kids.

Q. Nyeshia, you said earlier in the week that if you got the chance at another game winner like that, you were going to make it. Can you talk about that play and what was going through your mind when you got the ball and the shot clock about to go off?
NYESHIA STEVENSON: Yes. I mean, I played it back in my head before we played Notre Dame tonight, about how much I ran from it in my sophomore year. I was like, you know what, I’m not going to do this to my team, and I want to play some more. So I just said, hey, when the clock is running down, if you’re not going to take it, who is, so I just jumped up and shot it.

Q. Abi, Muffet McGraw was just saying she thought the biggest difference between the time you guys met earlier this season and tonight’s game was your play. Can you talk about how much you looked to take it inside against their post players and how much you took advantage of that?
ABI OLAJUWON: I think that honestly just comes with experience. We played them very early in the year before we even started our conference play. As you could tell this year our conference was very hard, and having those games every other day gives you great practice, and even going against scout, that always helps a lot, and I just feel like I feel more familiar with being on the court.

Then it comes with we had no intention of going home tonight. I kept saying, we have practice tomorrow. As much as in the past I’ll go, oh, man, there’s practice. When you’re saying you can’t wait to practice. You would give anything to practice. I knew Amanda and Nyeshia knew that we were ready to stay.

Q. Amanda, can you talk about what was going through your mind that last possession, last 30 seconds and the way the play developed, and just take us through that whole sequence?
AMANDA THOMPSON: Well, they scored, of course, and the game was tied up, so I’m like, all right, we’ve got to do something. Time is running out. And you know, we’ve been in tight situations like this, but I felt like, well, my role, even though I want them to go in always thinking when the ball is going to go off, so the majority of the time I’m thinking, get the rebound, get the rebound or just do anything so they won’t get the ball and go down and score.

So I mean, I knew we had it before Ny even got the ball. I knew she was going to be open, and I was going to get the rebound. But I was so happy that she made that shot. I mean, it was huge. It was huge. It was amazing. I’m proud of her. Two years ago it was a whole different story, and it’s when you do the right thing, good things happen to good people, and she’s a great person, and I’m glad it happened to her.

Q. Amanda, I wonder if you could sort of expound on what Abi has meant to the team this year for somebody who had to play behind Courtney for three years and everything she’s done to be able to play as well as she has as a senior?
AMANDA THOMPSON: I feel like she’s committed herself to getting better. She worked in the off season and just put herself in a position to be successful during the year. You know, every game she was just a step closer at getting better, getting better, getting better. What a great time to be such a dominant player. Her presence on the court is unbelievable. Our point differentiation is positive when she’s on the floor. It’s just a whole different game.

She showed that today, being down there battling, and we’re talking, and she wants every possession. And when she has that attitude, we’re going to be successful, and I’m happy for her, too.

Q. Nyeshia, can you talk about sometimes when the other team hits a big shot to go into overtime they take the momentum. Can you talk about when you huddled up there after Diggins hit the shot to tie it, what you guys were talking about going into the overtime?
NYESHIA STEVENSON: Basically that we’ve been in these situations way too many times to just die and give up. Overtime battles, I mean, we’ve won throughout the year, so we weren’t nervous or anything about it. We just said, hey, we get another five minutes, so here we go, so as soon as we started the tip, just get the ball rolling.

Q. Nyeshia, you and Sherri a minute or so after the game hugged at mid court. Can you let us in on what was said between the two of you?
NYESHIA STEVENSON: Yeah, she said that basically she was just very proud of me, and she was like what did you say? What did you say? She was like no. She said, “Are you mature or what? Are you mature or what?” And I’m like, “I’m mature, Coach. I’m mature.”

Q. Nyeshia, you’ve had some games late season where you got really hot at the end of the game and you did that tonight but you were hot early, as well. Can you talk about why you think you got in the flow of the game so early and throughout the game?
NYESHIA STEVENSON: Yeah, it basically shows when I really want the ball. Every time I caught it, my feet were ready and my hands were ready and my mind was ready to shoot. I never hesitated, and I think that’s what made me knock down baskets early.

THE MODERATOR: Okay, ladies, have a good evening. Questions for Coach Coale?

Q. Sherri, looking back through all the scores this season, when Nyeshia hits four or more three pointers, you guys are 8 and 1 now. Can you talk a little bit about her scoring?
COACH COALE: Yeah. Obviously when you play a team that runs a lot of zone, you’re going to have to make some shots from the perimeter. I thought the fact that she started out the game making a few really relaxed us and felt like we could go back to her late in the game. I think they did kind of lose her a bit. They concentrated obviously very hard on her after she hit an early one but kind of got lost a little bit a couple times in the second half and we didn’t find her and felt at the end like we could.

She’s been that thing for us, that spark, and when we get those three point shots along with the penetration that we get from D. Rob and then the post play we get from Abi, then we’ve been obviously pretty successful.

Q. Just wondering when you play in the Big 12, very tough conference, that meat grinder schedule, how that might help you when you get to NCAA Tournament times and games like this?
COACH COALE: I think it makes you tough. I think it makes you physically and mentally tough. We have had to play every possession all year long. We haven’t been good enough to take any off. We just can’t win if we do that. These guys have figured out how to concentrate, concentrate more on the possession than the scoreboard, and I think that really was reflected tonight.

Just I felt like we were in the middle of every play instead of paying attention to the score and the time and all the things that go with all the hoopla that comes with being at the Sweet 16. We just played basketball possession.

Q. I’m looking at Jasmine’s line, and it’s sort of okay just to look at it, but she seemed like in the half court offense to be the one who was able to find those open people and turn those into made baskets. Comment on what she was able to do for you tonight.
COACH COALE: Well, she does a really good job of attacking the gaps of the zone, and she sees herself as a passer. And so obviously she’s going to be able to find guys at the block who are stealing out. Did a really good job, I thought, deep in the shot clock a number of times, the ball in her hand deep in the shot clock, and she was patient, patient enough, didn’t panic. But the thing Jas did all night was guard Skylar Diggins, honestly, and the two for three from the three point line was gravy.

Q. Obviously the stakes were high in this game, but would you say this was one of your better all around games, the Sooners’ better all around games all year?
COACH COALE: Oh, I have trouble comparing games. I really do. I would probably have to watch the film before I could tell you that, because in my mind right now about all I can see is Nyeshia’s three ball going in the basket, so you might want to get back to me later on that one.

Q. At the end of regulation you had the ball in a similar situation, about 30 seconds or so left, but they had three fouls to give, I think. Did you know you were in trouble in terms of with that many, it would be tough to get a decent shot in the last second?
COACH COALE: Yeah, we knew they had fouls to give, and I thought Muffet did a great job of strategizing the final seconds there. We were trying to get deep enough to inbound it and have we didn’t want just one second on the clock. We thought if we could have three on the inbounds, we could catch it and shoot it and maybe get a foul that way. But a little too much time clicked off the clock there at the end. I was trying to call time out, but I guess I wasn’t yelling loudly enough.

Q. Sherri, for Abi to go 35 minutes tonight and play as well as she did, I mean, I know you’ve been talking all year about how she committed for her senior year, but this is probably a centerpiece game of that commitment.
COACH COALE: You know, everything about this game I thought was kind of how it’s supposed to be for this senior group. Nyeshia and the similarities from two years ago and the reflection of her growth.

And then Abi over the course of a season; you know, she just deserved this stage and she deserved that performance, and every time Notre Dame scored, Abi was our answer. When we were grinding it out around the 10 minute mark, she just was undaunted in the post. I loved her demeanor. I loved her focus. I loved her rebounding. I just thought it was fantastic and so appropriate for her.

And I think a big part of her performance tonight came from how well she played in the first and second rounds. It’s that confidence that just continues to build. I don’t think she’s anywhere near as good as she has a chance to be at the next level.

Q. Jasmine has had some really good defensive games. Can you rate this one compared to some of those most recent games?
COACH COALE: Well, based on the way Skylar has been playing of late, this would have to be one of her top two or three. She’s committed as a defender, and she likes that. She relishes the opportunity to guard the opposing team’s best perimeter player. All night long basically she did exactly the right thing.

Right at the end she went under the old screen and gave Skylar the three and she was fighting like crazy to get over it and Skylar made a great play. It was a tough shot, people running at her. But aside from that, it was a pretty flawless defensive performance on her.

Q. Two part question: One, did Nyeshia get your conversation pretty close to straight? And second, at the risk of being corny, can you talk about just sort of the cool aspect of the NCAA Tournament and what it can do for somebody like Nyeshia redemption wise?
COACH COALE: Yeah, we won’t get corny. This will be good. Yeah, the conversation was pretty much that. I said, “My, how you have grown up. Are you mature or what?” She was yelling right back in my ear, “I’m mature, Coach. I’m mature.” It was pretty funny. But I just told her how proud I was of her and her growth, and it couldn’t have happened to a better kid in a better situation, and I just wanted her to soak it all in.

As far as this stage and this tournament and what it can do for you, most of the success in life is about being confident and about believing you can do things, and the really superior part of athletics is that it can teach you that if you let it. It teaches you that confidence is something you give yourself. You earn it and then you give it to yourself and then you accept it, and nobody else does that for you. And if you can learn that lesson through collegiate athletics, you can be successful at anything you do.

THE MODERATOR: Okay, Coach, thank you very much, and congratulations. We’ll see you tomorrow.

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