March 5, 2009
THE MODERATOR: We'll open up general comments from coach Stone.
COACH STONE: Very proud of our basketball team. Our post defense was solid, our ball pressure was good. We addressed rebounding at halftime. Told Tara Steinbauer to get on the offensive boards, on the weak side boards, and she did. Nearly a double-double. Rae Lin D'Alie played nearly the whole game. Alyssa Karel does what Alyssa does. The help of our bench, Caitlin Gibson gave us quality minutes. Jade Davis off the bench, her shots were timely. I thought we did a decent job of valuing the basketball.
I'm proud we weren't playing another 40 minutes against a very good team. Hopefully the fact we played this first day is to our advantage. We'll get rested up for our game with Michigan State tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for the student athletes.
Q. Speak a little bit about the performance of your team today.
TARA STEINBAUER: All week we've been practicing on keeping the ball from getting inside. It's been one of the things we really stressed. I think our guards did a wonderful job on the wings with ball pressure, which was huge for us, so it was more difficult for them to get the ball inside. All in all, I think it came down to hustle and to playing as hard as we could, and we did that.
Q. Northwestern brought the score down to three, is that when you guys felt like something needed to happen?
TARA STEINBAUER: Absolutely. That's the moment of the game where we all have to come together. We knew that it was our turn to go on a run. I think we all came together. That's exactly what we did. Coach, in the timeout, she's been saying the same thing all year, our identity is in our defense, we have to maintain it. I think we did a really good job of that all game.
Q. Northwestern really narrowed the gap in the second half, did they play differently?
ALYSSA KAREL: Yeah, you know, in the second half they were really trying to stretch out our defense. I think that's where a lot of their points came in, where we would double in the post, they would kick it out to their open player.
After a few times out, coaches told us we have to have the best ball pressure we've had all year. I think that's where we kind of turned it around.
Q. You guys played well defensively today, can you talk about that?
RAE LIN D'ALIE: I mean, that's our go to. Our defense is our go to. We were happy but we weren't satisfied. They came out. They stretched us out in the second half. They got great skip passes. Brittany Orban knocked down some threes. They really stretched us out.
As far as the first half, I think that is what we're about. That's our go to, is our defense. It wasn't as surprising as it should have been.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about the play of Northwestern?
RAE LIN D'ALIE: Oh, yeah, definitely. They're a great team. They just go hard all 40 minutes. You can't relax on that team. The moment you do, that's when they start to catch you. They're smart. Their coach has done an amazing job with them. They're much different than when he came in here as a freshman. Definitely all the credit in the world to them. You're not going to beat them if you don't play hard. That's the bottom line.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, ladies, you're dismissed to the locker room. We'll go back to questions for Coach Stone.
Q. Coach, can you talk a little bit about the play of Northwestern today?
COACH STONE: Starting with Jade Davis, we're a defensive team. When you have an offensive threat, like Jade, she's a freshman in her first Big 10 tournament, Game 1, comes in very relaxed. Her first shot was quick. We don't really take quick shots. Those are ones, yeah, if it goes in, work the ball if it doesn't. She was in rhythm. Felt very confident. We come in an hour before the game not having shot in here at all. She found the bottom of the net right away.
They cut it to three. Jade went on her run. Her three point shots, got right inside the defense for the two point shot, that was timely, huge for us. Defensively I think she got mad at herself when Kristin Cartwright beat her off the dribble. Near the end, they were pressuring us, she was very confident with the basketball. She's proven she can make some timely free throws. I think our last opponent where she had to make some free throws was Michigan State.
Caitlin Gibson as a senior has been here. Time is diminished a little bit this year. But she's always ready. This was a great game for Caitlin. It's a game that suited her skill set both offensively and defensively. I kept wondering when we would go back with Lin. We had momentum with Caitlin. To save Lin Zastrow's legs under that four minute media was huge for us. Made a nice high low pass into Tara. Had a nice up and under move. Defensively she's a tough matchup. I can't say enough about those two.
Q. Can you talk about the difference between the first and second half today?
COACH STONE: I thought we came out right away in the first half with that. We talked about the first four minutes. We also talked about the second half determines whether you win or lose the game, it's that second half. They came out and got comfortable. They spread us out very well. Starting knocking down three point shots, which means Amy Jaeschke is not scoring, but the other people are.
Again, that's a great credit to Joe and what he's done. They're not one did dimensional. Brittany Orban is a great freshman. She's a very good player. They've got a nice nucleus of players, a different look, a confident look for the future.
Q. Northwestern played really competitively all year, what does that mean for the Big Ten?
COACH STONE: It's great. The bottom of the league's getting better. That's huge for our conference. That's huge for the implications of post season and the strength of our conference. I think everybody in the league did an outstanding job in their non conference schedule, in terms of strength of schedule RPI. We're banging heads against each other 18 times. You come to the Big 10 tournament. I think you're seeing, in my hope, many teams in the NCAA tournament this year and in the future because of what you're talking about.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. See you tomorrow.
COACH STONE: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open with a statement from coach and then go to the student athletes.
COACH McKEOWN: First half obviously we got off to an awful start. I was proud of our team, the way we bounced back in the second half, made it a great game, had chances. We didn't take advantage of those.
It's tough to come back spotting that many points in the first half. Took a lot of energy for us to make a run that we did in the second half. Again, I thought it was a great game in the second half. We had beaten Wisconsin at Northwestern. In that game we kept the pace where we wanted it. Today we just couldn't control that.
Got to give them a lot of credit. They made a couple big plays when they had to, when we had some momentum, had really made a great run. I wish them the best.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the Kristin and Brittany.
Q. The team started out slow, how did you turn things around?
BRITTANY ORBAN: In the first half we knew things weren't going our way, had to bounce back. Had to play like it was our last game. We came out with the confidence we needed, made our plays, things we needed to do to chip away. Defense was crucial, to get stops on D. We were able to pull it back, but just not totally close the game.
Q. Why did the team start out slowly?
KRISTIN CARTWRIGHT: It might have been nerves. I can't really speak for the whole team. We came out, we were playing hard, but we were just making little mistakes, mistakes we usually don't make. Kind of got us a little rattled. It took us a while to get our composure back. Once we did that, we were able to put the ball in the basket.
Q. (No microphone.)
KRISTIN CARTWRIGHT: I think we've improved so much over this year, even throughout the Big 10 season. It's kind of hard to see with our record. But if anyone watched or followed any of our games, they could see the improvements individually and as a team. We played very well with each other. We were able to compete in every game we played. We might not be able to win, but we're definitely able to be very good competitors.
Q. Cartwright had 12 points in the first half, what happened there?
BRITTANY ORBAN: I would say it wasn't as much as getting her better looks. We were looking more inside, looking to get her one on one more. It was the moving outside once she got the ball. They were trying to double down on her. She's experienced that all season.
It was just a matter of how the guards were rotating on the outside. I think we did a better job in the second half looking to get her open passes.
THE MODERATOR: Ladies, you're dismissed back to the locker room. We'll continue with questions for coach.
Q. 41 38, Jade jumps up and bites you.
COACH McKEOWN: Yeah, I thought we had thrown a couple different defenses at Wisconsin at the start of the second half. Got us back in the game. But she came in and made a couple plays that really were back breakers. We got it to three. They go right back up. We get it down to six. They make a couple shots.
Alyssa Karel, she made a couple big plays, too. But Wisconsin played with a lot of poise today. I thought we rattled 'em there the first six, seven minutes of the second half. I really thought we were going to win the game a couple times there. We just didn't defend like we did all year. I was really disappointed the way we broke down defensively in about a six minute stretch, 12 minutes to six minutes, I don't have the box. We were scoring. We loosened them up. We had some crucial turnovers, too.
They're just a real solid defensive team. You're going to have to you can't give them anything. I thought we did that.
Q. Four of eight in the second half from outside the arc. Did you feel late in the game you could have stuck with outside shooting or do you feel with Davis they were watching your threes too much?
COACH McKEOWN: You know, when you're down, we're not good at matching people basket for basket, three balls. We haven't proven that all year. I just felt like we really wanted to get inside, get to the foul line, stop the clock, give people a chance to get set on defense. I thought we did that in the second half. The last couple minutes, the second part, when we went Erin Dickerson in, everybody knew we were trying to get her open looks. We got Amy Jaeschke a couple open looks. Didn't go down. Erin, we couldn't get her freed up. Wisconsin did a good job.
The reason we got to the basket a lot was because they were really guard than on the perimeter, taking away some of the looks we might have gotten earlier. Brittany drilled a couple threes on kick outs. They made it a lot tougher down the stretch to shoot a three.
Q. Did Wisconsin make any adjustments for the second half that helped them get better shots off?
COACH McKEOWN: It didn't help that we left them friggin' wide open, too, to be honest with you. That was a problem. We had some breakdowns. I think we went into a couple defenses where we just didn't guard a couple people on purpose. I think that helped us get back in the game.
But they did a good job, too, of substituting, getting people in there to make shots. I gave them a lot of credit. I thought she did a real good job of countering that. We were trying to play chess instead of checkers. We played checkers in the first half. We're not good at checkers, obviously.
Q. I know it's hard to look past this loss, but what can you say about the nucleus returning of this team, the killer instinct that Brittany represented coming out of the locker room, Maggie's contribution throughout the season?
COACH McKEOWN: I was disappointed. We don't worry much. I was at George Washington, we always had All Americans, players of the year. We were always the No. 1 seed. I never worried then about who made all conference, things like that.
I was disappointed Brittany didn't get some recognition on the all freshmen team in the Big 10. I thought she had a great year. But I thought Brittany had a great year. I know there's a lot of good players on that all freshmen team, but I certainly think she's one of them. When you score 25 points at Ohio State, she's been our leading scorer three of our last four games. I was really surprised at that.
We don't worry so much. Our program gets individual, we don't worry about individual awards. From day one, she didn't act like a freshman on campus, and really was a leader. I probably should have named her captain at Christmas. She's just a tough, hard nosed kid, plays a lot bigger than her size.
I think the nucleus with her, Amy has two years left. I thought Maggie had some big games for us. She's fighting off some injuries. Struggled a little bit down the stretch. Minnesota the other night, she drills a three to give us a cushion.
Those guys I think and players that we signed. Kristin Cartwright probably played her best game last week. Jenny Eckhart, she progressed through the year. It's tough on them. It's a new system, a new coaching staff. They've been challenged at a high level this year to compete with everybody. That's what we're trying to put in place at Northwestern. I think we did. I think we accomplished all those things.
Q. How much easier is it going to make it at the beginning of next year that players have been in your system a year, know what you want, what to expect?
COACH McKEOWN: I think it will be a lot easier on them. It may be tougher on me. I never had a losing season before, so I can't tell you this was easy. I don't really like going home today. I might make everybody stay around, watch the whole tournament.
These guys obviously have to get back and go to class. But next year I'm planning on staying a lot longer. I packed for five days.
Q. Did you recruit Orban or something you found here?
COACH McKEOWN: All the players that were here were here when I took the job in June. She had signed with Northwestern. So did Maggie and Ally. There's not a player on the current roster we recruited. They were all year.
Brittany, we watched her play. I had known about her in high school. She played on a great high school in Ohio. She was a tremendous engineering student. Focused and tough. We're really pleased she's here. Got to get all those good players out of Ohio.
Q. I know you haven't had too long to look back on it, but from day one to now, how far do you think this team has come? What are your overall feelings about year one?
COACH McKEOWN: If I had a crystal ball, I thought I did a bad job of preparing this team for the non conference schedule. We left five or six games on the table. I just feel like with my experience and success we've had as a coaching staff, I just felt like this is a team we could be sitting here with 14 or 15 wins. We left a couple things. Purdue game went to overtime. Illinois game, we made a shot, they waved off a shot. When you look back, I feel like I didn't have a feel for this team. I would have done some things different myself. I'll take the blame for that.
I really feel like, some of these games we got beat in December, maybe November, I just wish we could have had some more momentum going in. I should have done a better job there. But hopefully that will help us next year.
It was a great year. You heard Brittany say that. I mean this sincerely, I'll get off the pulpit here, none of our players worried what other record was. They played hard all the way through the month of February and March. We played two of our best games last week, Minnesota and Iowa. That says a lot for the character of this team because most kids would have said, I got spring break coming up, get me out of here. They really wanted to be the best team they could at the end of year. I'm proud of that. I'm really proud of the job my coaching staff did to develop that. I would have fired me at Christmas.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.