Ohio State Quotes
Q. Kelsey, Maryland is bearing down, they're within two points, and you were up by 18; what happened with that spurt, because it looked like NBA?
KELSEY MITCHELL: Yeah, it did. Teams made runs. We're playing in a Big Ten Tournament. You know, we knew things could happen. We didn't know at what point it would, but we prepared and we stayed focused and we dialed in for the rest of the 40 minutes.
Q. What does this mean to you, the team, going back to back with the Big Ten regular season and tournament title?
KELSEY MITCHELL: It feels good. We've been through so much as a team, as a program. To get something, take home some hardware, it just feels good. We don't know when it's going to settle in as far as emotions are concerned, but we're going to take every bit of it and we're going to utilize it and have fun with it for as long as we can.
Q. Stephanie, I thought this team played really -- I won't say angry, but so hard. It was almost like you knew what you wanted and weren't going to let it go.
STEPHANIE MAVUNGA: Yes, sir. This is what you grind for. This is what off-season is for. This is what preseason is for. Day in, day out, coming into practice, playing hard, executing offensively and defensively.
So like Kelsey said, we wanted to bring the hardware back to Columbus, so we had to scratch, fight and claw through it, and we did it and executed and came out with a win.
Q. Linnae, you had eight second-quarter points, I think, and Maryland as a team had nine. Were you just feeling it in the second quarter? It was on both sides of the ball, too.
LINNAE HARPER: Honestly, I think it just started on defense, just trying to bring a lot of energy on that side of the court or whatever, and just trying to bring some energy and effort to our team, and everybody played hard and just trying to bring something to the table.
Q. Last time you played Maryland you guys lost by 30; you couldn't seem to stop them offensively, and this time you're down one of your better defensive players in Asia. What was different?
LINNAE HARPER: Well, Big Ten is a great conference and a lot of great teams, but we learned from that game. We can't dwell on it, and we made sure this time it was going to be a different outcome, and that's what we worked on. The past few weeks we've worked really hard defensively, offensively, and just tried to fit together as a team.
Q. Stephanie, what does it mean for you to get this championship so close to your hometown?
STEPHANIE MAVUNGA: True honor, true blessing to hear everybody saying my name in the stands and having so many family and friends and the crowd, and just like looking around and seeing so many people that I knew even that weren't on my list.
So the support is overwhelming. It was great. And to do it with nine amazing, special girls was even better. I'm just grateful to be here, thankful the opportunity, and I love the coaching staff. I just thank them every single day for giving me another opportunity.
Q. Kelsey, you were named Big Ten Tournament Most Outstanding Player. When you hear those words, what does that mean to you?
KELSEY MITCHELL: Well, I didn't even hear half of it. So much going on, everybody was smiling, laughing, crying, it was just too much. But when I get the trophy, individually I guess it's okay, but when you look at the trophy that you take home for your team and your program, that's what matters.
Q. Going off that, undisputed Big Ten champions, regular season and tournament. What does that mean to you?
KELSEY MITCHELL: Like I said, it feels good. I don't know when it's going to actually settle in or how I'll actually feel. I know senior year, we've been through so much, we saw people go, we saw people leave, Asia went down. There's just so many things that happened, and to do it for all the people, for your coaches, for your fans, and most importantly for the seniors you represent, it feels good. It feels really good.
Q. By your standards, they kept you relatively quiet that first time in January. Did you exploit anything today on their defensive end that you were able to take advantage of?
KELSEY MITCHELL: Not anything specific, but I just really stuck to what Coach McGuff told us. I bought into the defensive end in regards to knowing personnel and who could do what.
In regards to the last match that we had compared to this one, I think I've matured over the course of time. I think our whole team has, and I think that when stuff got down and everything went the other way, and it wasn't on our side, I think we still stayed focused and we still stayed consistent in our focus, and I think that's part of the reason why we're here talking about wins now.
Q. Kelsey, you went from one field goal made in the third quarter to scoring 12 in the fourth. How did you flip the switch like that?
KELSEY MITCHELL: I can't actually tell you. It was just so many emotions. Individually I just tried to, like I said, stay as aggressive as possible, but like I said, buy into what Coach McGuff said in terms of the game plan that he had for us, and tried to stay within the offense.
Q. Steph, what can you talk about hopefully getting to the Final Four and having that home-court advantage close to home, but also just in Columbus and doing it for your teammates? Just talk about how you handled it.
STEPHANIE MAVUNGA: This is honestly a true, amazing honor. I remember sitting out last year and kind of being disappointed and kind of down because of course you want to be out there helping your teammates, and I know that we just were so -- capable of so much and we had so much talent around.
I knew coming in this time I didn't really want to feel that same hurt. Even though I wasn't playing last year it still hurt because we worked so hard every single day, and to see my teammates down after working so hard out there, it just really hurt.
We didn't really hang our heads too much. We just got back, grinded, and so it just really means a lot, and kind of to see everything and all the hard work playing off, and just to know we're not finished here. It continues. We have to go back and just buy in. It's a process. It's a marathon, not a sprint. And so we have to work hard and execute offensively, defensively, and just play hard, compete, play hard, play smart, play together.
Q. Early on, Maryland was getting almost all of its points in the paint, and they didn't shoot a free throw until well into the second quarter. Do you wish you would have been more physical on defense in that moment?
KEVIN MCGUFF: You know, I think overall our defense was pretty good. Really the one thing we were doing, though, is we were letting them drive it a little too deep into the paint.
So I thought our post defense was okay, but it was more we were getting beat off the dribble -- two things: We were getting beat off the dribble and they were scoring, or we were getting beat off the dribble and our post players were over-helping at times and were dumping it behind. Really I think it was guarding the ball as much as anything is what the problem was to start the game.
Q. Kind of going off the question I had for Kelsey earlier, when you win the Big Ten both in the regular season and in the tournament, is there anything extra to that, winning both?
KEVIN MCGUFF: Well, I'm really proud of our team because this is a great conference. This is as good as it's been since I've been here. It's a lot of talent. We have great coaches. It's a really deep conference. Every night was a tough matchup.
To be able to win the regular season outright was a huge accomplishment, and then to come here and have a starter go down with an injury, so we're a little bit shorthanded, to come away with a championship after three tough games is really tremendous and it speaks to the character and work ethic of our team.
Q. You mentioned before this tournament started that your favorite postseason memory of Kelsey Mitchell was her game against West Virginia; how does this stack up --
KEVIN MCGUFF: This is pretty good. This is pretty good, because like I said, this is really special. We have five seniors who have put a tremendous amount into this program, so for them to be able to go out with winning the conference championship here today was incredibly special and something that they've worked hard for.
Q. With the game on the line towards the end of the stretch when Maryland cut it to two, are you optimistic when you see Kelsey Mitchell step back for a deep three?
KEVIN MCGUFF: Well, I mean, that's where we want the ball. Whether we win or we lose, I can live with it with her shooting, because I have that much confidence in her.
Q. How were you able to put that three-game funk behind you, obviously that game against Maryland was in there, and I think it was probably almost a different team at times.
KEVIN MCGUFF: Yeah, you know, it's such a long season. Inevitably you're going to have highs and lows. That was certainly a low point during that stretch the first time we played Maryland, and we were really bad that night, and they were really good. They have an excellent team. They've been just a tremendous addition to the conference since they've been here in women's basketball. I have a lot of respect for all that they've accomplished.
On that particular night earlier in the year, they really gave us a beat-down, and probably the best thing that happened to us. Like Woody Hayes used to say: Nothing cleanses the soul like an ass-kicking. So we got cleansed that day. Sometimes you need that, and sometimes you want to talk about through the wins, hey, we've got to get better in these areas, until you get punched in the face like that, then you really sometimes don't get it.
But we've improved with our transition defense, we've improved with our half-court defense, and we've improved with our rebounding, and we're going to continue to stay relentless and trying to get better in those areas as we head towards the NCAA Tournament.
Q. Do you feel like collectively this season you have something special going on right now?
KEVIN MCGUFF: I do. You know, obviously it's always our goal to play our best basketball at this time of year as we get into March, and I feel like we're playing better defensively in rebound, like I said. I also think we're sharing the ball and generating better shots than we were at certain times during the year.
If you look at two things I thought really stood out, though, over the last couple days, number one is we stayed together and we fought through two really tough games, and we had to do that. The second thing is we got contributions from a lot of people, like Makayla Waterman was absolutely huge in that first half. Jensen Caretti made some game-winning plays yesterday against Minnesota.
I really loved our togetherness and the fact that we had other people step up because those are the things that have to be in place if you want to do something in the NCAA Tournament.
Q. Speaking of the NCAA Tournament, the win today in all likelihood ensures that the first couple of games will be in Columbus. How big is it to not have to travel to play the first couple games?
KEVIN MCGUFF: Yeah, it's a great opportunity, and I would be, obviously, thrilled with that and excited. We've got great fans. I know we'll get great support if we get an opportunity to play at home.
Certainly we'll be playing at home, so I'm looking forward to that. But yeah, I think our fans will really support it.
Q. Third day in a row without Asia. Just the status on her going forward?
KEVIN MCGUFF: Yeah, I think she'll be back at 100 percent before we play the next game. I said she -- we could have pushed it and tried to play, but we just made the decision that it would be better if we could get her -- just to ensure that she would be at 100 percent the next time we played. So it will be great to get her back. There were times we certainly missed her energy, especially on the defensive end.
Q. I think this long layoff has been a big talking point on the men's side with them playing the tournament a week earlier. I wonder if you have any things you've learned over the years how to deal with it?
KEVIN MCGUFF: Yeah, it is important that you manage it because especially for us, I feel like we've played our best basketball here of late, and we don't want to lose that edge. But it's also a good chance for us to get a little bit of rest. We've had some people play a lot of minutes. It'll be a combination of some time off here the next couple days, and then we'll get back to practicing.
It's kind of -- the one part I like about it is like, you don't have an opponent, you can just focus on getting better. So we'll do that. But we'll practice really hard here during the middle of the week and then take some time off again next weekend.
BRENDA FRESE: You know, I told them in the locker room, man, I'm just so proud of this team. You know, everything we've been through, you know, you saw the character of this team. Our fight. A lot of teams after that second quarter would have given up, and I think you continued to see just the character, the culture in our locker room that we're never going to quit fighting for each other.
Just obviously Ohio State had more possessions. They were better than us tonight. They're a tremendous team. This conference prepares us for what's out ahead with so many talented seniors, Kelsey Mitchell taking over.
But blow for blow, I thought our second half was very indicative of who we are and how we want to play.
Q. Kristen, how can you take any -- if there are any positives from this tournament from tonight's game that you can take into the tournament once you find out where you're headed?
KRISTEN CONFROY: Just our progression. I think every game we grew up, and that's what it's about this time, it's March, getting better, survive and chance. Now it's just continuing to take the lessons we learned, obviously a four-second quarter came back to bite us, so finding that consistency throughout the game I think will be taken into March.
Q. Kristen, you struggled a little bit in the first two games. What was working differently for you and how did that help propel the team?
KRISTEN CONFROY: You know, I wish I knew the answer to prevent it from happening again. But realistically it was such a great team that I didn't need to score the first two games for us to be successful, and I kept telling them I was saving up for this game, and it worked out, the ball started falling, and they did a great job of finding me. That's something special about our team is we find the hot hand and we keep it rolling from there.
Q. Kristen, you mentioned the growth you guys went through during this tournament. Obviously you, Ieshia and Kaila who have been here before came up big. How much of a difference does that make when you're going against a really veteran team like Ohio State and you guys have two starters who have never been in this position yet?
KRISTEN CONFROY: Yeah, I think it's just continuing to know what you've been through and what it takes. I had the pleasure of learning from Shatori and Bri, and now it's my pleasure to pass it along to them, and I think team has something to prove what it tournament is younger players grow up this tournament March is about, so we're hoping to take that into the NCAA Tournament, where it really counts.
Q. Coming into this tournament, how much focus was put on getting four titles in a row?
KRISTEN CONFROY: I think we took it one time at a time, truly. I know that's kind of a buzz word, but like I said, we have a young team, so we're really trying to get better every game and play our standard, and for three quarters we did that tonight, and for one quarter we fell short, and it came back to bite us.
Q. Kaila, on defense when they did go on that run in the second quarter, was it something you guys were doing on defense or was it that they got really hot?
KAILA CHARLES: I think it was a mix of both. They're a great team, but we knew we had to play together team defense and have each other's back. Once we figured that out, that's when we were able to come back in the third quarter and the fourth and make a good run.
Q. In the second quarter when Ohio State went on that run, it started pretty much right exactly when Brianna went out with her second foul; how significant was that?
BRENDA FRESE: Yeah, very significant. I mean, those first two games, I thought Bri had really grown up and done so many positive things for us. I thought Ohio State did a phenomenal job at understanding she was an X factor for us and went at her aggressively even to go get that third -- obviously we were trying to stop the bleeding, we put her back in and then they isolated her to go get her third foul. Tremendous play call on the other end, but tough night for her, which impacted us, I thought, significantly in that third quarter.
Q. Ohio State didn't even attempt a field goal until the 6:49 mark in the second quarter. What was the defensive switch-up that you guys did to prevent them from getting the ball up?
BRENDA FRESE: Well, I mean, you just saw our energy really pick up, and we were just so much more aggressive and just the toughness factor, we changed up some of our defenses full court, but I just thought our mindset defensively and on the glass were a big difference.
Q. Similar to what I asked Kristen, you guys don't have a player who's lost a conference tournament game until tonight. How can you, I guess, spin it and keep the mentality positive moving forward now?
BRENDA FRESE: I told Kristen she's greedy. Hey, we've had a lot of success. You know, sometimes it's just not your night, and credit goes to Ohio State. I mean, they had hungry seniors -- what did they have, five or six, that have been waiting for their turn.
You know, we've had a lot of success with Kristen and everything she's brought to the table, and for this team -- nobody expected this team to be in this position this year, and with everything we lost, and then you talk about going down, losing Blair -- you know, this has been a rewarding year, when you talk about how this team has bought in, the inexperience we have right now and how they played tonight and through this tournament is extremely rewarding.
Q. Kind of picking up off of that, just with the injury that you guys had with Blair and losing the two players at the beginning of the year, do you kind of remind your players of that after games like these, after the three losses at the end of the season to put it in perspective?
BRENDA FRESE: You know, no. I think they would use that as a crutch, but I think it's a healthy perspective to have as a coach. But we're going to continue to push them to standards that we know, that we want to push them to, that they're going to be -- but no, I think that perspective for them is after the season and everything that they accomplished.
If you would have told me at this point we would be 25 and 7 competing for a title in the Big Ten Tournament after what we lost last season and with Blair, you know, really just really proud of them.