March 3, 2011
THE MODERATOR: Let's start with an opening statement.
COACH LAW: I'm proud of my kids. They played extremely well tonight. They were focused and my point guard. Lydia McCully ran the show and played a sound game. And my freshmen didn't play like freshmen. It was a total game effort.
I'm so proud of them and I love Conseco Fieldhouse. I love this place.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the players.
Q. Lydia, you guys started off the game on a 10 0 run. How important was that for you guys to start off knowing that you came in with a 12 game losing streak?
LYDIA MCCULLY: Coach always preaches first five minutes. It definitely was the first five minutes for us that got us started and got us energized. When you come out like that, there's no way to go out but strong.
Q. Lydia, could you talk about how good this feels. It's been a while since you guys have had this feeling?
LYDIA MCCULLY: It feels so good. This is something we talked about, even when we were losing. It's not over until it's over, and right now it's not over, and so we're going to play through it.
Q. Lydia, your first possession, you're just saying let's go, let's go. What was the mentality starting out?
LYDIA MCCULLY: Like I said before, the first five minutes. So I know my team has been asking a lot of me and me to step it up, because I really haven't been. So I definitely wanted to give them as much energy as I could.
Q. Centrese, is it as simple as you guys playing with more a sense of urgency that Coach talked about? Is it that simple? Or was there something else going on today do you think?
CENTRESE MCGEE: I think we just wanted to win, and we just had to put in the energy to get it.
Q. Centrese, can you talk about what was working for you? Took a heck of a time to have your first double double. What was Wisconsin doing to allow you to score and get so many rebounds?
CENTRESE MCGEE: I'm really good at back cutting. I was trying to find an open spot, and I'm usually good at rebounding. So I just stuck to my strength.
Q. Lydia, offensively, you didn't get a lot from KP [Karisma Penn], but you got something from everybody. Did you guys feel like everybody had to contribute offensively to get it done?
LYDIA MCCULLY: Everybody always has to contribute. And I think and I said it before we pretty much know everyone wasn't stepping it up. And Karisma does a great job. She she's very consistent, and because of that she helped open it up for everyone else today.
Q. Centrese, after the game seemed like you were limping off the court a little bit. Was anything going on?
CENTRESE MCGEE: I have a minor tweak in my ankle, but I'm fine.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.
Q. You haven't lost a game in your time here at Illinois in the first round of Big Ten Tournament. Coming into the game, was there already a sense of confidence for you and the team?
COACH LAW: I'm always confident in every game we play, if it's Assembly Hall or wherever. I just think when I came in here, it's really definitely after Monday and my talk with my kids and just seeing where they were and explaining to them what March means and what March Madness is all about and just getting the response that I got from them in practice.
It's been that way, but it was a little more. They've just been energized and excited all about it. Half of my team doesn't really know what March Madness is all about or even the Big Ten Tournament. It's all about because we're so young.
It was definitely, you know, good to see them, how they respond, how focused they were the last couple of days. And definitely when I walk in this place, you know, it's a special feeling.
Q. There have been a lot of games down the stretch where it didn't go your way this year. What was the difference today? Why did you get it done down the stretch today?
COACH LAW: I just think we play with a sense I was preaching with a sense of urgency, five minute increments. First five, make sure we control the boards, make sure we do all the little things. And I just think tonight we were focused on the little things. I know I put it on the game plan, but I think collectively tonight we all paid attention to our goals, what we wanted to do. We knew that Zastrow was going to come in and have a good came. We knew Karel was going to have a good game.
But I was more concerned about Lana taking care of the basketball, boxing out, executing, not just looking at Karisma, everyone stepping up and being confident to take those shots. And I think we did that tonight.
And I think when most teams bring on the run, we just look for somebody to post together. And I think Lydia McCully did a great job of pulling everybody together and keeping everyone calm.
Q. What you got today from Te te [Centrese McGee], was that the role you envision her being able to do, like consistently?
COACH LAW: Definitely. She was saying that she stuck with her strengths. I was going to add, yeah, we worked on layups and finishing with her, I'm banking, I'm hitting her, you keep your eye on the rim, because it's focus. She was getting to the rim all season long, but it seemed like a ball, and I watched film and I watched film with her and I start telling her this is what the problem is, this is how you have to finish. You're getting to the basket but you're not full extension. You're not having a full extension.
We worked on just Mikan Drill and doing finishes, and tonight she looked at me smiled, and I was like, yeah, because naturally she goes to the boards extremely well. Like I said, she cuts back door. She has a knack for getting to the basket and timing and cutting and reading defenses, and most freshmen don't have that.
But bottom line all season long all during the Big Ten, she wasn't finishing, and tonight she finished. She goes to the offensive rebound, and in practice, no one likes Te te because she's constantly moving, always getting to the boards. Even our practice guys have a tough time trying to keep up with her.
So she played these things. What can you do and what can you do well. And she came in, like she said, she can cut to the basket, rebound with the best of them, and she did that tonight.
Q. Going into the half, you guys have a 12 point lead. It's been a while since you guys have gone into the locker room with a lead like that. What was said going into the second half?
COACH LAW: It's a while back. It's like ladies, normally we're playing catch up, but right now, in my mind, we're going to play like we're down. I had to talk to them like we were down, time situation, score, don't let up, play with a sense of urgency, don't get comfortable because last time we went up we played Wisconsin we were up in the second half, we sort of just got relaxed.
So I just changed their mindsets and told them right now we're down, we're down 12 and we've got to take care of the ball. We have to play defense. We have to execute and we gotta take care of the ball. So they responded.
Q. What was the reference to pancakes and bacon? I heard something about something that happened this morning.
COACH LAW: I'll tell everyone. I was having some health issues back in December. I can't eat bacon anymore. I'm on a low sodium diet. And Mary Murphy got wind of that every time for breakfast I love bacon. I love bacon. And it's been killing me for the last two months that I can't really eat it.
So she was like you might go do some bacon. So that's the inside joke. They got wind of it.
Q. After the game, you maybe jokingly talked about fitting that suit in for tomorrow. Any truth to that?
COACH LAW: I might take this to the dry cleaners. It's the same that suit we won, and I'm pumping my fist and looking up to God, and my kids was like you didn't wear it. What are you going to wear, Coach? You're wearing something new. I went into my closet, like I remember this suit way back. This is going to be the first suit that I wore. And it's interesting that it's in the book. It's the same suit.
But I'm trying to be a little superstitious. And if you see this suit tomorrow, yeah, you might see it tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
THE MODERATOR: Opening statement.
COACH STONE: It's a somber locker room. Very disappointed in our play today. Give Illinois a lot of credit. They came out and were on fire right away. Made pretty much all their shots in the first ten possessions. We couldn't get a stop. And we didn't establish a real good offensive goal in the first half.
Our team responded well in the second half. Got in a little foul trouble, but I thought Lin really started to take care of the paint inside and Alyssa really started to show up. So these two young ladies really did pretty much everything they could in the second half to get us back in the game, and within three. Couple costly turnovers here and there.
But, again, every time we got close enough, Illinois answered. But it's tough right now. It's a tough loss. This is a team that was optimistic about making a deep run in this tournament and given a chance at the bigger dance in a couple of weeks.
It's an awfully special senior class and I'm convinced we're not quite done playing yet. But it's hard to visualize much than what just happened in the game.
It's a tough loss. We were not as sharp as we need to be by any stretch of the imagination.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the players.
Q. Alyssa and Lin, obviously a loss is never anything pleasant. What does this particular game mean to you as you move into your futures?
ALYSSA KAREL: I think we just weren't ready to come out and play. Came out, they got a big lead on us, and we didn't respond. So it might have something to say about our preparation and our mentality coming into the game. We gotta be ready.
LIN ZASTROW: You never want to end your season like this, but like Coach Stone said in the locker room this doesn't define the season. It didn't go the way we wanted. But hopefully we still have some more games to play and finish out strong there.
Q. Alyssa, how tough is it when you're in the hole to, I guess, stay positive and get back in the game?
ALYSSA KAREL: It's really tough. We've done it before this year where we've gotten ourselves in a hole. And we keep inching back. And it's really tough to get yourself out of that. You start the second half down 12. It's not easy. And we had a few tries and unfortunately couldn't come up with it.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.
Q. Can you talk about what worked for you tonight and what didn't?
COACH STONE: Not a lot worked in the first half. Offensively or defensively. Let's just talk strictly defensively in the first half. Illinois is known to be a team off the bounce and in the inside and a lot of drives. And they came out and we start, we double teamed early. And they found the open person. Moore, Rukavina, and they found some shooters, and they knocked shots down, and that's been something they've not been real successful with in the past but they were this time.
We came out of the double and we went to we call it choking in the down dribble, and that seemed to work better in terms of keeping the ball out of the paint.
But they got some offensive rebound put backs. We lost our vision defensively and Centrese McGee cut in front of us on the front side a number of times. And that affected us on the other on the offensive end. We tried to establish an inside game, and we couldn't pose our will very well in the first half.
Thought we did a better job in the second half. Look at the points in the paint, there's a margin in the second half. But it took us a while to figure that out. Then perimeter shooting from our other guards. We couldn't get Taylor Wurtz going. Jade Davis found one late. I thought Alyssa Karel did pretty much everything possible she could to will this team to win. Ashley Thomas gave us good energy defensively. Cassie Rochel, a freshman, did okay in the first half but got in some foul trouble. And I thought Anya Covington was filling in for Tara Steinbauer, did a nice job, got a little winded down the stretch and in some foul trouble, but did a nice job.
On ball screens with them, too, we were trying to again force them to take outside shots, and they knocked those outside shots down. We had to adjust.
Give Illinois a lot of credit. They came in with knowing that the only way they're going anywhere is to win the game and get to the championship. And they've been in a lot of games. You look at their Iowa game as of recent. They just beat Michigan at home or lost to Michigan, three point shot at the end of the game. Or layup actually and a foul.
So they're a good team. I'll take nothing away from them. They played better. They had a lot more energy. And they jumped on us early and we couldn't respond.
Q. Can you talk about especially late in the second half the team started catching on fire? Did anything in particular lead to that?
COACH STONE: Well, I think once well, first, Ashley Thomas's defensive energy and ability to rotate Lin and Anya off of Penn. When we scored, they answered. They never let us take the lead. We were going mini games for the media [timeouts] and we couldn't get over the hump.
But it wasn't without effort. Our kids, I thought they played really hard in the second half to try to get back. But that first half, that first eight minutes of the game was too much to overcome.
Q. And you controlled Penn basically tonight but some of the other Illinois players stepped it up?
COACH STONE: I think that's what they've been looking for all year long. I think GodBold wasn't playing very well, didn't score a lot, but it's just a tough matchup for us. Lydia McCully had her way in there. She played very well shooting the ball outside. She had her hands full guarding Lin and did a good job in the first half. We couldn't get our post players going in the first half. And Centrese McGee, might have been one of her best games of the year. Really good freshman player. She's very quick. She's a ball getter and is very active on the weak side of the floor, and we kept missing her.
Q. And what's next? Now you have to wait almost two weeks for postseason.
COACH STONE: That's the tough part, it really is. There's a lot of reflection time right now and we'll head home. It's an early out. It's a sour taste in our stomach. There's no question. We're disappointed with today. In many ways we're embarrassed by our defense, but, again, I want to make sure it's clear I take nothing away from Illinois. They played well. We just didn't play with the type of intensity that we needed.
And, you know, it's a woulda coulda shoulda deal, and unfortunately you can't blame it on that. You gotta get it done within the 40 minutes, and we did not.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.