March 27, 2003
Q. Coach could you talk about the guards and their offensive contributions?
Coach Muffet McGraw: I think our posts have really carried us through most of the year. And while our guards have individually had some great games, I think collectively these past two games, we have played well. All three of them have played as well as they can play at the same time, and I think that’s been a big difference for us. We are doing a better job taking care of the basketball in the last game. We are getting better shots, we have a little more balance and the team is looking to drive the ball more. Megan is shooting more 3s. It is taking the pressure off because I think everyone feels capable of scoring. I think we are going to be harder to guard if we continue to play that way.
As far as the matchup with Purdue, they have a great backcourt. They have an outstanding three-point shooter. I think the match up is another challenge for us defensively.
Q. When you play a team that’s dominated you the first time like Purdue — is that something you forget about? What’s the mind set going in?
Coach McGraw: I don’t think it’s harder to play a team that beat you. I think you have a tendency to be overconfident when you beat a team, so for us looking back at that game, it’s one we are very disappointed with, especially playing at home. So we have not talked about it. We are not going to watch any film of it, either. I think we all feel that we could play a little bit better but I’m sure they are playing a lot better now, too.
Q. Could you talk about what you expect, and what’s it like being here in the Sweet Sixteen now, especially with Purdue?
Jacqueline Batteast: Well, it’s just great to see now that everyone now is playing the basketball that we thought we were going to be playing earlier in the year, and it is good to see that everyone is playing with that defensive set of mind. It’s good that we are advancing and it shows teams that just because we are an 11th seed they could not take us lightly.
Megan Duffy: I kind of like being the underdog in this situation because going into games, they give you nothing to lose and I think we are coming together as a team and playing together. Just because we are the 11th seed, we are not supposed to win; I think that motivates us to play harder and compete out there.
Q. Coach, can you talk about what Megan and Courtney have brought to the team this year?
Coach McGraw: Well, I think Megan’s got leadership potential. She is somebody that never hangs her head after a mistake. She has played well all year long in pressure situations. She’s had a lot of success as a player already. She’s a very confident person. I felt really good about her being on the line. She’s just not somebody that really allows pressure to get to her. As for Courtney (LaVere), she has stepped up in every big game that we have had this year. She has had a big game and had double-doubles in about every big game. She’s always been there and has been our most consistent player. When you look at those two, they are not really freshmen anymore. Once you get to the NCAA Tournament, I think you have to think of them as sophomores.
Q. Could you talk about how strong your defense has been, because it seems like you’re feeding off that? It also seems like while your offense hasn’t always clicked, your defense has been your strength.
Jacqueline Batteast: Well, with defense you can always work hard. You can’t always control if the shots are going to fall. If we just go out and give our all on the defensive end of the court and at least stop them from scoring, we can win.
Jacqueline Batteast: Yeah, all season we tried to be a consistent team. We had sessions during the year where we played great defense and there were other teams where defense is just a part of our mind set. Now we are playing the basketball that we are wanting to play at the beginning of the year and defense is always the big game plan.
Q. Coach, in the last couple months, you talked about how this team was built for March, even through that tough stretch in January. Is this run what you meant by that?
Coach McGraw: Yeah, this is what I expected. I said in the locker room at the last game that this is the team we thought we could be all throughout the year and I think looking back, we went through some big growing pains, more than we anticipated and I don’t think I handled it well. I think, had I been a little bit calmer, a little bit more relaxed, a little bit looser, that would have been better. I had trouble with the expectations being so high and reality being so low and I think I struggled with that the whole month of January.
And then again, we are the underdog, so it is a lot easier, but I think that I could have handled that stretch a little bit better. I think if I would have handled it better, I think the team would have handled it better.
Q. The rivalry with Purdue, you won your first NCAA Tournament game against them, and then of course, you beat them to win your first national championship. Talk a little bit about the matchups and familiarity they present.
Coach McGraw: Well, it’s going to be a great matchup. I think it’s March; and, Purdue once again, I think that we have played them three times now in the NCAA Tournament. We were the 12th seed one year and they were the five seed and we upset them at Texas Tech. I think we have had a pretty good series in the NCAA Tournament, but they have gotten the best in the last two games. It is a great matchup and a great in-state rivalry and one that we enjoy.
I think they are going to be a great crowd. I know we will have a lot of people from here. I’m sure that they will have a lot of people from Purdue. I know that Dayton has to be happy with the teams that are coming in to play.
Q. Talk about how you never gave up on this team, especially when it would have been very easy back in January to already begin looking ahead to next season.
Coach McGraw: I think that’s a great example of how this team has overcome adversity and I think that shows the true makeup. They came through it really well and we learned a lot about ourselves. I think it was a big test, and once we got into February, I think we all felt that we had accomplished something because we know that we can handle in right now. We had to deal with Katy (Flecky)’s injury and that didn’t stop us for any time at all because we are just so used to some roadblock coming up, and now we are doing a great job of handling it.
I think the biggest reason is because of our leadership. I think in these last few weeks I think Alicia and Le’Tania (Severe) have really stepped up and become leaders for this team, and I think Megan is the leader of the future. I think when we are in games now, we have a lot more confidence because we are looking to our leaders.
Q. Jackie, could you talk just about your struggles on the offensive end? I know you are thrilled with the team’s success, but are the other teams are focusing more on you right now, or are you starting to press a little bit?
Jacqueline Batteast: You know, obviously, I would like to do a little better individually, but there are other parts of the game that I can help the team out other than scoring, and I’ve tried to be a better defender and rebounder. It’s good to see that my teammates have come along and picked up the slack.
I need a short memory and I have to forget those two games, and hopefully things will work out a little better this weekend.
Q. Was there a time between the BIG EAST Tournament and the NCAA Tournament, either in practice or meetings, where you realized, ‘I think they get it. I think they understand what we’re trying to teach them’, and you saw you had a very good chance to go out and get it done?
Coach McGraw: We had four days off which was a really great thing. I think mentally and physically we all needed a break, and when we came back we had a great practice. I was really encouraged by what I saw. Things finally seem to be falling into place. We were getting a lot of different looks. I think different people were playing a little bit better.
I think more than anything, I had to loosen up a little bit and just let them play a little bit more, and we were just a little too rigid. I was trying so hard to get them to score, and saying exactly what we have to do is score, and that was taking away from everybody else’s ability to score. We came back and altered our approach, and we just started playing basketball.
Q. Against K-State, during the stretch where they only scored a free throw, is that the best defensive performance you’ve seen from a Muffet McGraw team?
Coach McGraw: I think that’s a great stretch of defense right there against a very, very good basketball team. They are a top five team and have been playing well all season. They have a lot of offensive firepower and I thought our zone was terrific at that time. We were moving. We were aggressive. We were rebounding. We did everything we needed to do and I think that really kind of inspired us. I don’t think anybody scored in nine or ten minutes, but it was great because we were not scoring that many points either. I think it was just great that we could hold it.
Q. And lastly, were you aware of the head gear being worn by your husband and your son at the game?
Coach McGraw: (Laughter) I was disappointed with my husband’s choice of hat. I think a smaller hat would have been more appropriate since (athletics director) Kevin White was sitting directly behind him the entire game. But I thought maybe Matt would put it on once or twice but unfortunately, now he thinks that it is a good luck charm and he will continue to wear it in Dayton.
Q. Against both Arizona and Kansas State, you were able to shut down their strong post players in Shawntinice Polk and Nicole Ohlde. How does Purdue’s Mary Jo Noon fit into that mix?
Coach McGraw: We feel real comfortable with our defense. We are doing some different things, different zones and we’ve been able to stop the two post players that we’ve played. Mary Jo has some different problems. She is someone that’s very good around the basket. She shoots a great percentage. She does not put the ball on the floor quite as much, which is one of the keys for us in that game but I think she’s an excellent player. With their perimeter game it’s going to be very difficult.
Q. Alicia, why don’t you talk about the leadership you’ve brought to the team over the last couple of months of the season?
Alicia Ratay: Right now, we realize that we could only have one game left, so all of us are trying to be more aggressive defensively and offensively both.
Q. Coach also talked about that four-game break there and that she’s loosened up a little bit. Is that something that the team and players have noticed?
Megan Duffy: I think she’s pretty intense but she’s doing a great job preparing us for each game. Keep it going, whatever she’s doing.
Q. In January did you ever think that you would make it this far or was there ever a point in the season where you thought it wasn’t going to happen?
Alicia Ratay: I mean, I know our team has a lot of talent. It was just a matter of time before we would all put it together.
Q. Could you talk about the fact that no team seeded 11th or worse has ever made it past this next round?
Coach McGraw: I don’t think we think of ourselves as an 11th seed. We just think of ourselves at the underdog and we’ve been there before, we’ve been in two Final Fours. So I don’t really think that’s somebody is thinking of.
Q. Megan, you were asked earlier about having played in Dayton, what does this mean for you to be able to go home? And just as a follow-up, you played in Dayton — did you cross paths with Lindsey Hicks and Beth Jones during your AAU career?
Megan Duffy: First, I’m really excited to go back home and play, but more importantly we are in the Sweet 16, it doesn’t matter where we play. I’m just thrilled that our season is still alive. I don’t care — going home, going to any other place in the country, but I know we’ll have a lot of good fan support there and a lot of good fans are in Dayton.
Your second question, Beth Jones and Lindsey Hicks — were both in the Dayton Hoopstars program and they are both two years older, but we were always mixing and matching teams — they are two great players and I have a lot of respect for them. It will be a fun matchup.
Q. Could the players comment on what they remember about the first match with Purdue this year and what has to change for this weekend?
Megan Duffy: Well, obviously, I think the first game with Purdue was not what we intended it to be like. I think we are definitely going to be a little more hungry in this game, obviously, because it’s a tournament. I think it’s going to be a little bit of a revenge thing which is a good motivation for us to come back. And it’s nice to have a second chance because sometimes you don’t always get that opportunity.
Q. This question is directed towards Megan, and I’m sure you’ve been asked before, but add me to the list, it’s about leadership. Explain to me, did you ever feel uncomfortable when you were 14 years old and captain of a group of older girls? How did that work out? How does it feel now in the unusual position of not being captain of the team?
Megan Duffy: I guess that’s a good question. I guess when I was younger, being a point guard, you’re supposed to be a leader making sure everybody is in the right spot, and it’s always kind of come natural to me, no matter what team I’ve played on. The players in the past have had respect; that they are going to listen to me, which is nice. And I feel like I have a responsibility towards my teammates and coaches to carry it out on the floor and off the floor, also.
Coming here, obviously, is a little different. It is collegiate basketball. It’s not your high school and summer teams, but I think during the season, we had a stretch where we needed the leadership and I’m just going in with the attitude that whatever this team needs, I’ll do it. I guess whether they like it or not, it’s kind of something that I think it’s my role as a point guard and something that I need to do.
Q. I want to follow that up, when you say it came natural is that partly because you started playing basketball so young? And which sport did play first, golf or basketball?
Megan Duffy: I think it was golf, actually. I started playing golf when I was 4 or 5. That was probably the first sport. But basketball is right along with that.
Yeah, I mean, like my family has instilled in me a sense of being confident in yourself and helping others with that.
Q. Muffet, when you look at Purdue and I know you’ve probably seen a lot, a lot of film of them because it’s the second time you’re playing, there was a common belief before the year that they had three very good players — Wright, Noon and Valek — do you see a team that was pretty successful in getting all of the parts to merge together? Comment on their team a little bit when you watch them on film.
Coach McGraw: Yeah, I think they do. She have great balance. Jones (phonetic) should be tough to guard on the perimeter and does a great job of hitting 3s. Even if she doesn’t make the shot or take the shot you still have to have somebody out there guarding her. I think Hicks is shooting more 3s right now. She’s made a few in the last couple of games which I think has really improved their offense. I think that they have a lot of sort of unsung heroes on their team. I think Wright and Valek get a lot of publicity and they deserve it, but I think the rest of their team has really played well also.
Q. Muffet, what do you think about what you’ve been able to do, going to someone’s floor like that and taking away a victory; do you think that maybe there is more parity in women’s basketball than perhaps the NCAA wants to represent in the early rounds of the tournament?
Coach McGraw: I’m against predetermined sites. I feel that you should have to earn the right to host as we have in the past or we need to get to a neutral court. I think that places like Kansas State are good for the game. I enjoy that kind of environment. I like going into the kind of place where there’s going to be a big crowd, and it’s going to be an exciting atmosphere for women’s basketball. I much prefer that to a game where there’s 2- or 3,000 people that are not interested in either team. Certainly an advantage for the home team, and you have to be pretty good to beat a team on their home floor. Not sure that in the in-state tournaments that’s what you want. If you look at the neutral court games you see — North Carolina on a neutral floor against Austin Peay; and that’s 3 versus 14 or whatever that seed was, and that was an outstanding game and Georgia State gave Duke all they could handle on a neutral floor. So if you want to get to the excitement of the men’s tournament, I think neutral courts are what we are going to have to get to.
Q. Coach McGraw:, how did you come up the name for “The Storm” for your matchup zone?
Coach McGraw: I’m not sure how we got that. Just sitting around trying to come up with names for all of our offense, and this is something we wanted to be really aggressive and cause a lot of trouble. I’m not sure who exactly came up with the name.
Q. I just wanted to follow-up on something you said earlier, you know you talked about how losing to Purdue might be extra motivation for your team and some of your players picked up on that. In all seriousness, would you rather be playing a team that you are not as familiar with or that you play all the time? And obviously you and Purdue have a pretty deep history now. Would you rather be playing a team that maybe you don’t know quite as well and vice versa?
Coach McGraw: Yeah, I would. Actually, I said that to somebody today. I think it’s exciting for us to play Kansas State, a team we have never played before. It’s the kind of thing year-to-year where you want to go outside your league and play some teams you have not played before. You see them on TV but you don’t know that much about them, so it’s great to go to other conferences and see that. Right now it’s like we have the BIG EAST tournament and Purdue. And I think it’s different that when we were in the Final Four when we beat Connecticut because we were so familiar with their team. That made it a lot easier on the assistant coaches and players because they knew so much more about them. But I’m sure Connecticut and Boston College would rather be playing a team outside their conference. Having played Purdue during the year, I would think it would be great if we were playing a team we had not played before.
Q. It sounds like in this bracket you were stuck no matter what.
Coach McGraw: I think it would be a lot more fun to be in another bracket playing teams that you’ve seen on TV and haven’t had a chance to play before.
Q. I was going to ask you about the BIG EAST semifinals, seeing all of those teams that you’ve seen all year?
Coach McGraw: It would have been great to have two teams in each region, one team in the other region, kind of like what the SEC has and a situation where we would have the possibility that only one team can come out of the region. That kind of disappointing for the BIG EAST in that respect.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports