March 2, 2012
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Purdue head coach Sharon Versyp and student athletes Brittany Rayburn and Chantel Poston.
Coach, an opening statement.
COACH VERSYP: We were just excited to get on the basketball court. It was a long time. We were the last game. And we knew we'd get out and have a little bit of jitters. And I think we did.
But we got over it. And I thought that we played exceptionally hard. We played very well. I thought our defense was very good in the second half, holding them to 34 percent.
But Michigan State is an extremely tough team. Probably will go and do some great things in the NCAA Tournament, and we have a lot of respect for them.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student athletes.
Q. Chantel, how much did this performance from Brittany remind you of one that you had seen earlier this season?
CHANTEL POSTON: Brittany's a special player. And she kind of got down, but we always mid season kind of going through some things, and we just always tell her to keep shooting, the next one, the next one, the next one.
She's that type of player that's willing to do anything for her team, take a charge, knock down a shot. She's a gamer. She's a gamer. Gotta love it.
Q. Brittany, since we're older and out of touch, is that called feeling it or what do you call that?
BRITTANY RAYBURN: Yes. I would say something like that. It's called great training and passes from your teammates. It's easy to knock down open shots when your teammates are getting you open.
Q. Could you describe what it's like during that whole process for you?
BRITTANY RAYBURN: You know, honestly it's a rhythm that you get in with the team. And taking charge is the same way, getting rebounds the same way. Anything you have to do to get your team to victory is what you're going to do. And I think the biggest thing is going out and having fun.
Q. How disheartening do you think it is for an opponent when you've got someone that just is draining everything, especially from the outside?
CHANTEL POSTON: I know how disheartening it is for us to be on the opposite side, it's very draining, very draining.
BRITTANY RAYBURN: I'd say the same thing. It's hard to do when people are you can't get around anything and the shot just keeps going in. And they're playing great defense at times, and it's just like you said, it's a rhythm.
Q. Brittany, was this a little bit of a flashback to Minnesota?
BRITTANY RAYBURN: I mean, I don't know. I can't compare it to that game. I mean, it was mid season, completely different thing, playing in Big Ten Tournament is huge. Any game you can lose, you're done, and I think the biggest thing was just the will to win tonight.
Q. Obviously you did great things in the first 24 to 30 minutes, but can you talk about Chantel's two three point plays there when you guys needed to get over that hump a little bit and how big those plays were?
BRITTANY RAYBURN: It's huge. Especially coming off boards for her. I mean, she's doing a great job on the offensive boards and defensive boards and getting them at big times for us. We knew she'd be able to power it in down low because she's got the ridiculous ups, but to be able to finish through contact is something that she's really done well this season, and it really gave our team a good boost.
Q. Chantel, can you talk about it was a very physical game, seemed like you guys got a lot of the 50/50 balls, a lot of the offensive rebounds. Could you talk about what that did for your team when the offense was a little stagnant in the second half?
CHANTEL POSTON: Anytime you struggle in offense you need the 50/50 balls, and it's something that coach stresses all the time. She drills it in practice and is constantly telling us we have to get those hustle points. We have to get those 50/50 balls because it can make a difference in whether you win or whether you lose.
Q. Brittany, did you block out it could have been your last game on Hoosier soil as far as a college game? Do you block that stuff out about the finality of it being a senior, or do you think about that?
BRITTANY RAYBURN: You do and you don't. Going into the game, you know, that's definitely the thing. But like I said, just going into a game like this, you will just have to have the will to win and play to win and not to lose. And I think our team did a great job tonight showing maturity, just fought through everything tonight. And definitely it comes to your mind at the beginning, but when you're in the heat of the moment you just want to win.
Q. If you could both talk about the matchup tomorrow, and just what you expect, only played them once, so not as much familiarity, but just what you're expecting?
BRITTANY RAYBURN: I think as familiarity goes, we've played them recently, which is a good thing. Especially since you don't have a whole week to prepare or anything like that. So it's good to know scouting report quickly.
Our coaches will get us prepared very quickly tonight, or tomorrow morning, actually, because it's already tomorrow. But they'll get us prepared.
CHANTEL POSTON: At this point in the season like Brittany said, it's about the will to win. Doing the little things. Obviously we're going to go over personnel and go over the scouting report and the coaches will have us well prepared. But at this point it's just playing hard, having heart and having fun, I think, is huge.
Q. What do you think is the biggest difference between the last time you guys played Michigan State, losing by 15, and today with how well you were able to play from start to finish?
BRITTANY RAYBURN: I think losing in overtime at their place was a heartbreaker for us. The toughest game to lose is the one that's close that you have in your grasp. I think it definitely was still with us, a reminder the last time we played them we didn't come out on top. And I think that's definitely a huge boost going into that game.
CHANTEL POSTON: I'd have to agree. Also being we've been in this position before. We love playing here. It's kind of it's our home away from home. I think that helped us there at the end, just closing out the game, just knowing we've been here before, we know how to do this.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.
Q. Coach, what are you thinking when she [Rayburn] hits a couple and seems to be getting on a roll, are you thinking, okay, hope this keeps up, or what's going through your mind?
COACH VERSYP: Oh, definitely. I just started calling plays every time for her. She had the ball in her hand quite a bit and she had a great shot coming off the dribble, so I just did a lot of high on ball screens and she kept nailing them. And then certain other people were setting great screens for her.
You've got to ride somebody as long as you possibly can in games like this because you just don't know what's going to happen. And she felt it. Her teammates gave her a lot of energy. And the crowd gave her a lot of energy.
So I think everybody did a very good job allowing her to be successful.
Q. With Michigan State being on a real roll, what was the key for you guys in really slowing them, especially Porsché Poole who had been really carrying them?
COACH VERSYP: I think the biggest thing is our defense. Our guards really had to step up and play some great defense. We switched a lot of screens. We used some taller athletes on their guards. So we kind of switched one through four.
And we tried to keep our fives on Lykendra Johnson. That helped us. And for us being able to run early and knocking down shots early, I think that's a big key for us. If we can defend and knock down our first couple of shots, then we feel pretty good.
Q. Can you just talk about the development of Chantel? Mid Big Ten season she was playing single digit minutes off the bench and here she is hitting layups and three point plays that are critical down the stretch?
COACH VERSYP: I think with every player the light switch goes on different times. She's been in the gym doing a lot of extra, watching a lot of film. And I think just like anybody, she's just very confident right now.
We can instill that, but they have to feel it. And I think her teammates empower her, we all empower her, and I think when that comes, give her the ball and she's going to go to work.
And we'll real proud of her growth and what she's done for everybody.
Q. Chantel, with those two three point plays when you really needed to keep that distance, just how active she was today, especially in a very, very physical game inside there.
COACH VERSYP: Well, it really helps she can jump as high as she can so she can maneuver her body around people. So that's still amazing to me, her athleticism. But she knows that she needs to rebound. She knows she needs to attack the glass.
She's done a much better job shooting her free throws, but she's doing what her responsibilities are and her role is, and I think she's doing it well and she really takes it to heart and she just wants to help this team win.
Q. Coach, just noticing that all four semifinalists are ranked in the top 25, how good is this conference? How many teams do you think should get into the NCAA tournament?
COACH VERSYP: I think this conference is one of the best in the country now. And I believe seven should get in. And that would be the first time, I think, ever.
So Michigan totally deserves it. Iowa, Michigan State, definitely with their RPIs and the strength of schedule. We should get seven in.
Q. Michigan State had that 13 0 run early in the first half and then I believe Johnson picked up her second foul. What changed with her offensively on the bench and what were you able to do with her not being down low?
COACH VERSYP: I think Brittany kind of got on a run that was huge. That was the key. But also I felt like we attacked down low a little bit better when she was out of the game.
So I thought Chelsea scored and attacked the basket when she got it down low, made two field goals, and then we just started attacking the rim.
She changes the game because she's a shot blocker. So when she's out, you know, we did what we were supposed to do.
Q. Michigan State, you just played about 12 days ago. Penn State's going to be about 15 days ago. Just the freshness of the opponents that you're going to face, how much is that going to help prepare this team for semifinals?
COACH VERSYP: I think it helps. I think they still have like our players said, they still remember those games. And we weren't at our best. So now we have another opportunity.
So we need to be at our best to play them, and we'll see what tomorrow brings.
Q. How demoralizing do you think it can be when a player is really rolling like that? And did you see any signs that that was wearing on Michigan State, the way that Brittany Rayburn was draining threes?
COACH VERSYP: I think just in athletics in general, when you have someone just performing at a real high level and knocking down shots, or in any sport, it can be draining, but they kept fighting back.
They're well coached. Their seniors on that team, they kept fighting back. We were ahead by 18 and it could have went to 20 or 22, but it didn't. It got down to about 11. And then it was around 11 or nine for a while.
So, you know, you just gotta keep playing the way you're capable of playing and you can't worry about what the other team is doing.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Michigan State head coach Suzy Merchant as well as student athletes Jasmine Thomas and Lykendra Johnson.
Coach, opening statement?
COACH MERCHANT: You have to give Purdue a lot of credit. I thought they came out of the gates really strong I thought both offensively and defensively. I thought defensively they got into Kiana and we couldn't get a flow going early offensively, and that's kind of her responsibility, to make sure that we're flowing a little bit from that side. And obviously Brittany Rayburn was insane. That's the best way to put it.
And I just it was disappointing that it took us that long. I thought J.T. did a great job on her late in the second half, or three quarters or half, about six minutes into the second half. She was really in her and forcing her to put the ball on the floor. But it was disappointing we didn't have an answer for that.
We weren't physically and mentally as sharp as we needed to be, and give Purdue a lot of credit. I thought they really played and really played well.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student athletes.
Q. Lykendra, how tough was picking up that second foul? It seemed like you were in a good rhythm, and as soon as you went to the floor, Brittany got hot and the game really changed.
LYKENDRA JOHNSON: It's always tough picking up fouls where I shouldn't pick up fouls. I hurt my team too many times, and I gotta mature in that area. I mean, that's killed my career being in foul trouble. So it changed the momentum of the game and I just let my team down.
Q. Jasmine, what was it like watching Brittany go off like that?
JASMINE THOMAS: I mean, definitely it's never good, especially if she's hitting everything. I mean, literally everything. But, I mean, defensively, it was just hard to watch, just because you know you want to go out there and stop that player. But you still have to have somebody to step up and do that job as well.
And, I mean, it's a team defensive thing. It was team defense on her the whole time.
Q. Lykendra, what do you think was the biggest difference between the last game you played against them a little less than two weeks ago, where you were able to win in this game, where it seemed like you guys couldn't find a rhythm?
LYKENDRA JOHNSON: We just needed one more person to come alive on the offensive side. I think nobody deferred from not trying to score, but I think it was just tough to get somebody else going, when they were all up in our grill being real physical with us and basically getting us off our game.
If we just had that one more person, we would have won this game.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.
Q. Suzy, how frustrating was it for you to watch Lykendra like that?
COACH MERCHANT: Beyond frustrating. And it is just disappointing because we were prepared for everything they did. And we just didn't have the intent. And the difference was J.T. just decided when she decided it wasn't going to happen and she got up into her. And we kept saying it and saying it. But there wasn't a whole lot of response.
I could tell in the first four minutes we just were not as sharp as we needed to be. We have some transition rules, and, I mean, Porsché's responsible to block the basket, and every time the shot went up, she's still standing in the court.
I got into her at the timeout. I just felt like it was fighting your own team a little bit to get what was important accomplished.
So I was a little disappointed in that. And like L.J. said, I don't think we were offensively in the flow. And then obviously they got off to a great start. But it was frustrating. I'm not going to lie. We're kind of built to defend, and that was a little troublesome. And we're capable and athletic enough and we've done it against some really, really good players this year, and key people have done it. And it just didn't seem like we elicited enough intensity of a response.
And we know she can hit them. She hit 12 against Minnesota. So, I mean, it was definitely part of the scouting report.
Q. Porsché and Kiana have been playing well for you for a stretch the last couple of games, but tonight really struggled. What do you attribute that to and why was it such a tough night for them?
COACH MERCHANT: I'm not sure. Maybe it's a question to ask them. I'm not sure where they were. But I didn't feel like they were mentally or physically the players that they had been. They were kind of in their own little world out there from a defensive perspective, from an offensive perspective. Hadn't seen that in a long, long time.
And I just felt like there was no leadership from either one of them as players. And they had been doing a good job of that prior to this point.
You know, we knew they were going to be physical with Porsché. And talked to her about really doing a better job of setting up her screens and from the tip.
I mean, there were just things like that. Her safety position. She was just not as sharp and focused as she had been. And I felt the same way with Kiana. I think when Kiana is not strong and focused and someone's getting up in her to a point where she lets them, because she's capable of it, it's happened before where she just handles it, no big deal.
I was disappointed and it causes everybody to play a little bit rattled. And I thought she got rattled tonight. And it affected both ends of the floor for us, her and Porsché.
Q. Did you feel the second foul on Lykendra was a turning point in this game, and was there any part of you that thought maybe I should keep her out there with two fouls because she's playing so well?
COACH MERCHANT: No. I know her. I've coached her for four years. The third was coming. I was happy to get her out before she got her third because we had to wait a long time. And I was really worried about it. She just doesn't do well in those situations.
So I've just coached her long enough to know that you know, I thought about it, but it was to the point where we were under when I really thought about it, when they kind of pulled that stretch was later in that, in part of the first half, and it was like we need to ride that because we're going to need her, make a statement out of the gates. So I guess I felt like, yeah, for sure. For sure.
I mean, I think she gives us a lot of confidence in different ways. And it always does. Sometimes you can get away with it. But it definitely defensively bothered us. I thought Becca came in and just defensively was not very sharp, no matter if she's guarding a post or had to switch out onto a guard or was on a different situation, I just felt like she wasn't as sharp as she needed to be defensively.
So it put us into a real mode. I mean, in the second half I was playing A.P. at the four, just trying to get somebody in case we could switch out in those situations. She was defending the four, playing the three at times.
We were doing things that were a little outside the box from what we normally do. And a lot of it had to do with the situation that we were in because of L.J.'s foul situation.
I mean, that charge was frustrating a little bit because I thought she we know that about Rayburn, and she said she stopped and the kid fell. But I don't know. I have to watch it on film.
But I told her, you know, you don't ever get the benefit of the doubt, L.J. They got a quick whistle for you, usually.
Q. How do you compartmentalize sort of going into potentially going into the NCAA tournament? Seemed like you were playing real well, winning five in a row in eight of nine versus the feeling after this one of just not playing very well?
COACH MERCHANT: We played a bad 20 minutes the first half. But the last 20 I thought we played well. I mean, we fouled them at the end. Gave them four, five free throws. I have to look exactly. But I know we fouled Moses twice. Might have been three people to the line.
So, I mean, we outscored them in the second half. And we played hard. We were just in a little bit of a hole. I think you can build positive on the second half and the way we fought and competed.
I thought we got some good minutes out of some other people. I mean, I thought that J.T. really sparked us, and, you know, that's something that I feel like we can build on.
I mean, certainly disappointed with the loss, but I thought at least the second 20 minutes, I thought we played good basketball. We really played good basketball. We were just a little bit in the hole. And we couldn't quite get a couple situations, whether it be the ball falling for us, we had a couple of puppies down there we missed, we had a defensive rebound scramble a couple of times where that would have gone our way, we probably could have done some things.
So I guess I felt like I don't think I think you can build on that. I think we're an NCAA Tournament team. I really do. I mean, we have 20 wins. We've got some key wins, playing really well down the stretch.
We had one bad 20 minutes and a kid that went absolutely insane. That doesn't happen very often, that situation where a kid is that hot. And so we can learn from it.
But I don't feel like that hurt our postseason, and I was trying to build on the positive on the second half.
And I think there's merit to that. It's not like you're trying to make something up. I really feel like we played hard and played well in the second half. We were just in a bit of a hole.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.