Ohio State Quotes
Q. Kelsey, you've made a lot of clutch shots in your career. Where does that transition defensive block stack up in your career highlights?
KELSEY MITCHELL: Well, I don't know. I was just trying to do what was needed. I think I had just missed a shot, so you take a shot, you've got to get back on D fresh, and if you want to be fresh you've got to get back. I felt like I needed to do something to help us win, and it worked, with the help of everybody else on the team.
Q. Free-throw shooting wasn't exactly where you guys wanted it to be, which meant you had to rely on your defense a little bit more. Were you proud of how you finished the game?
KELSEY MITCHELL: Definitely. When you've got players like Bell and you've got players like Wagner and you've got to defend them for 40 minutes and it comes down to crunch time and you're able to get out of here with a win guarding those guys and play like how you played, that felt like a positive for us, especially because we've always been talking about defense for us and how inconsistent it is, so to get it right when we needed to, I think it's a big pick me up for our team and our program.
Q. You guys combined for 66 points. Did you feel like you had to step it up this game with the way that you guys came back in the second half?
STEPHANIE MAVUNGA: To be honest, anything that the team needed, I felt like we both were there to do it. Very selfless throughout the stretch, down the stretch. I just tried to get every single rebound that was out there offensively and defensively. Anything that could help my team, and my team did a really good job of patting me on the back and getting me riled up. Or even when I missed a shot or I would miss free throws down the stretch, I kind of felt like I let teammates down and I remember Kelsey just coming over to me and calming me down and telling me look at me in the eyes. That got me to calm down and that reminded me Steph, it's okay, just do -- move on to the next play and just do what the team needs you to do.
Q. You guys beat Minnesota by 16 last time, and this time they just seemed to throw their best punch. What made it so hard this time against them?
KELSEY MITCHELL: I'll honestly say it's winning. You're talking about championships, you're talking about trophies, you're talking about making your program, going home with hard work for your team, for your program, and I think when you play in an atmosphere like this and you play in a tournament like this and you can go home with something, I think every team, no matter who you are playing, it's going to be totally different than the regular season. Literally it's irrelevant.
STEPHANIE MAVUNGA: And it's March. I mean, the madness has begun.
Q. Stephanie, you had a 20-20 game. Talk about that, being in your hometown. What does that mean to you, seven blocks and one coming down huge in the stretch to block that three?
STEPHANIE MAVUNGA: It really means a lot. It's truly an honor to wear The Ohio State University across my chest every single time I get to compete out here, and to do this with my teammates, I mean we have so many seniors, and to know that you can't take things for granted. For example, Asia, she's not able to play with us right now, and just to watch her, you know, just sit on the bench and really cheer us on, she's never missed a game in her career before yesterday, and so just remember that you can't take anything for granted. It's truly an honor to play for Coach McGuff and his staff and to play with all the teammates that I have. They're nine heck of a good players and even better girls.
Q. Stephanie, did you get a hand on Wagner's shot?
STEPHANIE MAVUNGA: I did. Both of the last two shots, I grazed.
Q. What were you looking for on the second one when she took the one with 19 seconds left, the one that heart rebounded?
STEPHANIE MAVUNGA: I was looking not to foul. I just remember everyone stressed to me, don't foul, don't foul, especially a jump shooter, and we were switching. So I really just wanted to sit down and not let my teammates down because I don't generally switch. And so anything that my teammates needed me to do, like I said, that was exactly what I was there to do, so I knew Carlie was going to shoot there, so I just wanted to get the ball or get my hands on the ball, anything to stop her from scoring and just get the rebound, and Alexa did that.
Q. Kelsey, you had that running bank that knocked the deficit down to a point. Looked like there were nothing but arms and hands in your face. Do you remember that play and could you talk about it if you do?
KELSEY MITCHELL: Well, I remember everything about this 40 minutes that we just played. With that being said, I do remember it. Just saw an open shot, tried to take it. Coach called a certain play for myself and for the team, and I took a lane and I saw it. Just trying to stay in the moment with it.
Q. Kevin, it's not too often that someone tries to outpace you guys. What do you have to do differently as a team?
KEVIN McGUFF: I think the biggest thing was just our defense. They were really fast. I knew the game would be up tempo, but when we were good in transition defense, I thought that was significantly impactful, and when we weren't, it was really bad for us. That's one of the kind of byproducts of not having Asia in the game. She's one of the people that we always had getting back, and so we have different people who aren't used to doing that as much. I thought that hurt us a little bit tonight.
But I didn't have a problem with the pace. It's just that we didn't get back every time.
Q. Kelsey, entering the fourth quarter, you had three fouls and Bell was driving in the lane just about every time. What was your defensive game plan with her with being so aggressive and you having fouls already?
KELSEY MITCHELL: Well, I've been in that predicament a lot throughout the course of my time playing basketball. Coach McGuff said you have two fouls, he kept reminding me, Coach Patrick kept reminding me, so I had to stay in the game to try make some stuff happen in regards to my defense to stop her from scoring, just did my best to keep my hands up. I had to show the refs that my hands was up. Beat her to the spot as much as possible because she was really good getting in the lane, and every time she went up I made sure I was not too far close to her, and I just kept my hands up on every shot. I just kind of tried to kind of play it cautious but then again play with a little sense of urgency.
Q. Kelsey, given how draining a game like this can be, how difficult is it to turn back around tomorrow?
KELSEY MITCHELL: Well, if we want to win, and I think everybody wants to do that, we're going to be okay. We don't have a choice.
STEPHANIE MAVUNGA: Coach McGuff said we'll rest on Monday.
Q. Kevin, Carlie Wagner had 19 points in the first quarter. She ended up with 26. What did you do defensively to slow her down because it seemed like she was just on pace for --
KEVIN McGUFF: Yeah, I mean, she's a great player, so she's very difficult to guard. We just didn't -- we played man and zone in the first half, and we just didn't have a great awareness of where she was. So we played a lot more man in the second half, and I thought that was helpful on her specifically, just so we always knew where she was. But she's an outstanding player.
Q. In a game like this where it's full of runs, what do you tell your team during the breaks, time-outs, to try and slow them down?
KEVIN McGUFF: Just keep fighting. I thought both teams played really hard, and for a stretch in the third quarter I thought Minnesota played harder than we did, and I thought we played harder in the fourth quarter. They were getting a lot of 50/50 balls, then we were getting them down the stretch. That was what we kept emphasizing, just make sure we play hard. We got all the 50/50 balls, and we continued to compete.
Q. You guys gave up 30 first-quarter points, and it looked like frustration was setting in for both you and the players. What were you thinking at the end of that first quarter?
KEVIN McGUFF: We've just got to be better. Like I said, we weren't good in transition defense, and they were really driving the ball. We weren't guarding the ball very well off the dribble. So we just talked about being better defensively mostly.
Q. Were you happy with the improvement in the second quarter?
KEVIN McGUFF: Yeah, I thought we got a lot better, and we did a much better job guarding the ball. Although the zone wasn't exactly what I wanted, it did slow them down a little bit, I thought taking them out of rhythm a little bit.
Q. It's been a long season and everything, but that last stand, the team played so hard. Could you compare that to any stretch this season?
KEVIN McGUFF: I don't know, I was really proud of the way we played at the end. We did, we played really hard. Coming out of time-outs, Minnesota really does a great job executing offense, so they ran really good plays late, but we executed our defense really well, and both those shots Stephanie blocked we were switching 1 through 5 which we don't normally do, but she switched out and contested those shots and blocked them. They were both huge blocks and so I was just really happy with our effort and our execution, especially on the defensive end and rebounding. We had that one possession, I think we got two or three offensive rebounds late, and we didn't even score, but we took the clock. We held the ball for about a minute with a one-point lead, and I thought that was a very significant -- probably the possession -- that was probably the possession of the game even though we didn't score because we took the time off the clock.
Q. I was just going to ask, second game without Asia, what went into that decision, and do you see her being available tomorrow?
KEVIN McGUFF: Potentially. I mean, she talks to the doctor every day. She wants to play, and it's close. But the first two days it's just been a decision of we know we can get her back at 100 percent for the tournament, so we've erred on that side to this point. We'll see how she feels tomorrow.
Q. It looked like the free-throw situation, it just mushroomed.
KEVIN McGUFF: Yeah, it was weird. We're usually a pretty good free-throw shooting team, but sometimes that happens. You get on a run the wrong way, and that kind of happened to us tonight. But once again, I was really proud of the team for finding a way to win, even though we made it a little bit harder than it needed to be down the stretch.
Q. What went into play Jensen those late game minutes?
KEVIN McGUFF: You know, I thought her energy was really good. She's a great athlete, and I thought she made some -- even though I don't even think she scored a basket, I thought she had nine great minutes. I really do. I thought she was really impactful, and it also allowed us to rest a couple people, and I thought that was a really important thing for us.
Q. Going back to that final possession you were talking about with the offensive rebounds, both were by Stephanie. How vital was her contribution?
KEVIN McGUFF: She was just relentless. She was absolutely unbelievable tonight. The numbers, 26, 21 and then seven blocks, her effort was amazing. She's a great player. She's a great kid. She really tries to do anything she can to impact this team in a positive way, and just really proud of her, the way she played today.
Hubbard, Wagner and Bell from Minnesota.
MARLENE STOLLINGS: Tough one for us. Credit to Ohio State, certainly. They're a great team. They're a great team, and every little detail matters when you're playing a team of their caliber.
For us, the disappointing part for us is we had about a four-and-a-half minute stretch there in the fourth quarter that we thought our decision making and transition could have been a little bit better, and that scoring drought really hurt us. I thought we controlled the game. Third quarter obviously we were up and had a chance to control it there. But that drought really made it difficult for us and gave them a life.
But credit to them. Mavunga and Kelsey, obviously two of the best players, Kelsey in the country, Mavunga in our conference. But I'm really, really proud of our kids and how they fought and how they battled. This is a team that's come a long way. We're not done yet, so that gives us a little bit of relief in this tough, tough moment. We were just one shot away from playing on Championship Sunday, and it stings for quite a while.
Q. Carlie, what Coach said, that you guys aren't done yet, how quickly can you turn the page after such a tough loss?
CARLIE WAGNER: Yeah, like Coach said, it hurts. We wanted to go all the way to the championship game, obviously, but we can't let it sting too long because we've got a lot more to do and the NCAA Tournament coming up. So looking forward to that, and we've got to bounce back and we've got to fix the things that hurt us today and obviously work on those for the next game.
Q. Carlie, you started the game off about as hot as can be. I think you had 19 first-quarter points. What kind of went into that? What were you seeing that got you that open?
CARLIE WAGNER: I mean, the shots were just falling at that point. They were giving me a little bit of space, and I felt comfortable shooting, so I was just putting shots up. My teammates were finding me at the right time.
Q. Kenisha, talked about what Coach talked about, the last four minutes. Was there anything they were doing defensively or did you feel like you guys just didn't get the shots that you wanted?
KENISHA BELL: I think we just was rushing. We thought we had something in transition, and instead of pulling it back out and settling down and staying poised, we were kind of rushing it. I think that kind of messed us up in the long run.
Q. Gadiva, talked about that second quarter, what happened after you got hit, and then you were able to come back and obviously made a big impact in the second half. That obviously showed a lot of toughness on your part.
GADIVA HUBBARD: Yeah, it was kind of scary, being that I had broke my nose before, but I couldn't let that mess up my game, so in the second half I just had to come back stronger like it never happened.
Q. Going into this game, I know you talked a lot about before today just playing in that championship game. The NCAA Tournament was the goal coming in, but it seemed like after yesterday the goal kind of took toward playing for a title game?
MARLENE STOLLINGS: Well, we came here wanting to go 3-0. We looked at this as a brand-new season, and we had a chance to come in here and win it, and that's how we approached it. We didn't approach it any other way.
You know, there's a long history of not getting to this game for our program, our university, so we didn't want to be into a moral victory of just being happy to play in the game today. So that's what we talked a lot about coming into the tournament last night and also our prep today is not to just be happy because we're playing in a game that we haven't played in in 12 years and only played in once in the history of our program, but rather let's change that culture, that mentality, and let's go in here and start being a team that contends for this championship, and we're obviously headed in that direction.
This was good for our team and our returners to get a taste of what it's like and just how minute every single detail matters when you get to this level, and I think we'll certainly have some takeaways from this for the NCAA Tournament without question.
Q. Do you think the general athleticism and skill it seems like in the Big Ten, a few years ago it was kind of knocked for being plodding before you got to Minnesota, and I was really impressed with how many athletes and what the skill was out there compared to maybe three, four years ago. What do you think?
MARLENE STOLLINGS: Well, certainly there's been progression over time. I actually played in the first Big Ten Tournament 25 years ago when it was known as a conference such as that. But I think what you've seen in the last four to five years in particular is a progression to more athleticism. That's the way the game is played. When you look at the elite in women's basketball, top 10 in the nation, top 5 in the nation really, that's the style and type of play.
I think we've done a good job of getting our team up on that level with our recruiting and being able to compete with the Ohio States of the world that have, obviously, the elite athleticism on their team in many ways.
Q. This is a great atmosphere, obviously here playing versus Ohio State. It's the type of competition that you're going to see in the NCAA Tournament. Does that help prepare you guys for -- it's been a while since you've been there, and I think Carlie is the only one that's played in the NCAA Tournament before.
MARLENE STOLLINGS: Well, she is. We're real thrilled and excited. Fingers crossed, obviously, that we're going to pop up there on selection Monday. It'll be our second time in four years, and really pleased for the program to be making that stride. You're right, you play at this level, and that's one of the things I spoke about in the locker room, as difficult and hard as it was, there's always a lesson to be learned in a win or a loss. It's really tough for them, and I really hurt for them because you're right there. But yeah.