March 5, 2009
THE MODERATOR: We'll take an opening statement from Coach Law and then take questions for the student athletes.
COACH LAW: Just proud of my kids. They played extremely well, definitely on the defensive end. Initially we started out playing man. They started attacking us. We changed it up, started playing at different defense, a little zone to try to contain them a little bit. My kids played extremely well down the stretch.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for the student athletes.
Q. With what happened here last year, does this seem like déjà vu all over again with the opportunity you have?
LAYCEY SIMPSON: Most definitely. It's weird in a way 'cause last year we were the No. 9 seed, and this year we are. Just feed off that. I love playing in the Big 10 tournament. A whole different atmosphere. I love it.
Q. Jenna, what did you think of your teammate Whitney Toone tonight?
JENNA SMITH: I love Whitney's game. In practice, she elevates over everybody. She gets the rebounds nobody expects anybody to get. She gets so excited to rebound. She always brings intensity on defense and is always attacking the basket.
That's one thing you love about her, she's always aggressive for offensive boards, defensive boards. That's her bread and butter.
Q. Lacey, you were down early in the first half. Looked like you turned on a switch. Can you talk about that.
LACEY SIMPSON: Me and Jenna have been there. We just kept saying, Keep fighting, it's not over, plenty of time left. We feed off each other. As soon as someone scores a basket, gets a key rebound, we feed off that. It pumps everybody up.
I didn't have a doubt at any moment in the game that we were going to lose tonight.
Q. Lacey, the shot that you hit to beat the shot clock from behind the backboard, is that when you thought you couldn't lose this game?
LACEY SIMPSON: Yeah, when you hit shots like that, you have to win games. I don't know. I just try a little move. I heard coach yelling, Shoot it, shoot it. I just hurried up and threw it up there.
Yeah, when you hit shots like this, I don't know, to me you're gonna win the game.
Q. Jenna, can you explain why you guys are maybe so successful playing here in the Big 10 tournament.
JENNA SMITH: I mean, I don't know why we're so successful. I think we just bring so much energy. We always come off the regular season with a positive. We aren't always coming off a loss or a win. I think with we feed off of each other. Coach always said it in the locker room, You win this 40 minutes, you get another 40 minutes. If you're not, you're done. You think your season is done after this. You take pride each second you're on that court. You lose, you're done. I think thinking about that each and every play comes into play with us.
Q. Lacey, you do get Ohio State in the next game. What do you have to do to beat Ohio State?
LACEY SIMPSON: Really it's going to come down to our game. Have to continue to play together offensively and defensively. Everything else will play out.
Of course, we have to stop their post, their inside and their running game. At the end of the day, it's going to come down to how we play, and that's playing together.
Q. Lacey, you got the record for most steals. How does that make you feel?
LACEY SIMPSON: It makes me feel so good because that's something I take pride in, playing defense first. That's something I've had in my mind since I first came to Illinois, I'm going to break this record. Breaking it here in the Big 10 tournament, with fans, the team here, it's very fulfilling.
Q. Lacey, you talked about playing here in this Big Ten tournament. When you started your career here at Illinois, it wasn't quite the same. Can you talk about the difference between what you experienced now and when you first got here.
LACEY SIMPSON: Now it seems like the game's at a higher level. It's just fast paced, more intense. It's fun. A lot of energy. In the past, you know, it wasn't like that. Now it just seems like it's funner. That's why I look so forward to playing in this tournament. Seems like everybody's trying to bring their A game. You want to bring your A game, too. For the most part, that's the difference.
Q. Jenna, last two games against Penn State, they pulled away down the stretch. Were those two games going through your head at all?
JENNA SMITH: I think most definitely. They beat us on our court and their court. Like coach was saying, everybody, third time's a charm. We knew we had to beat them. It's tough to beat a team three times. That's what coach kept saying. We thought about that. We knew they were going to come and push. They had seniors, great backcourt that didn't want to lose. We just had to play together. Every team is going to make runs, but we have to stay together.
Q. Jenna, explain what the difference was this game between the previous two games.
JENNA SMITH: I think the biggest difference was that we played team defense and we attacked best and just shared the ball with each other. We made the extra pass to get the wide open person. We were working it inside outside. We played team defense. We helped contain Tyra Grant. We got out on the shooters. We boxed out. We just did the little things we didn't do in the previous game.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, ladies. You're dismissed. We'll continue with questions for Coach Law.
Q. Does this feel like last year? Is it the same feeling at this point, that you need the next win?
COACH LAW: Definitely. It just feels good when you walk into Conseco Field House, you can't help but think about what happened last year. This is altogether a new year. Definitely going to feed off the team. We're the ninth seed. We don't have anything to lose, everything to gain. If we bring our game, stick to the game plan for 40 minutes, it's anybody's ballgame.
Just trying to prepare my young people to let them know either you play or we go home. I just think that right now my veterans, by duo, my dynamic duo, they're constantly telling the young ones, We did it last year. They're giving them a lot of confidence saying, We can get this done.
Q. In what ways has Fabiola Josil come the farthest? Looks like a different player.
COACH LAW: You know, I always knew that Fab could be a great player in this league. I think her confidence is up. She's playing defense. I think she's starting to understand what we're looking for in the offense. Took the pressure off of her from being the point guard, put her at the two spot so she didn't have to think a lot, she can just do what she does best. She's really a scoring guard. Told her to just step in the gap. She must be confident to take these shots.
I think once you get a good game under your belt, you start playing the defense, dictating, she's asking the questions, she's understanding the game a little better, understanding what we're looking for in our offense as well as our defense.
I think in the beginning, she was a little timid, a little unsure. She's a little bit more confident now, and it's showing.
Q. Talk about Whitney Toone today.
COACH LAW: Whitney has been playing with a sense of urgency as of late. She comes in the game and she's like, Coach, whatever I need to do, I'm willing to do. I can rebound. I can bring what I bring. I play defense. My energy, I'm not going to let the energy level go down.
Even the last two games she's come in and attacked the offensive boards and the defensive boards. She stuck to the plan with defense. She's looking at playing defense first. If there are open shots, she's willing to take the shot. You can tell that leadership, that veteran. She's playing like a veteran. She's a junior college kid. I told her I need her to be able to just come in and play free. She's been helping us a lot down the stretch.
Q. Is it a foregone conclusion she'll start tomorrow?
COACH LAW: I'm gonna I don't know. It's a game time decision. I just think that right now, I'm looking at the chemistry on defense, who's talking. Who's the five unit working well on defense is probably gonna start. I think Lacey Simpson didn't do anything wrong. It's just at the time she picked up a quick foul. I knew Penn State was looking to attack her on the defensive end. I'll probably have the same starters as I had tonight.
Q. You had seen Penn State twice before. You've seen Ohio State twice. Expect any surprises or do you just know each other?
COACH LAW: We know each other. I give the utmost respect to Coach Foster (Ohio State). He's a great coach. He's going to have this team prepared. Bottom line, we just have to make sure we're all on the same page at a time. If they do anything differently defensively, we need to make sure we can adjust.
We're gonna focus on them, watch some film. We played them twice. It's really going to come down to how well we execute, how well we do things that we need to do.
Q. This is your second season. Can you talk about that second year.
COACH LAW: The second year, you know, is much I feel like I'm much more, you know, settled. You know things now. This is the second time around. I can say this year I've become a better coach, more patient coach, than I have been in the past. I just think that second year you just really you know, especially with the team, the ups and downs we've had this season, you learn how to make adjustments and know how to get through to your kids. It just seems a little bit more I'm more settled this year than I was last year.
Q. Was controlling Tyra Grant and Mashea Williams off the dribble kind of what turned this game around?
COACH LAW: Definitely. I mean, I think when I called the timeout, initially I thought the first couple plays they were looking to put their head down and get to the basket. They went on that run. They were up, they had 11 and we had 4 or 6. I knew that was the game plan. I had to make some adjustments to control the dribble penetration. I only have four or five guards. Pretty good guards. Tyra Grant, second in the league with scoring. Mashea Williams is quick. Also Brianne O'Rourke.
The best thing I could do is try to contain them, throw a couple of junk defenses at them, make them think a little bit. I think we caught them off guard and tracked them in. They were penetrating into my post players. Just had to make an adjustment. My main game plan was to try to play man to man. Once I saw they were attacking off the dribble, I had to make some adjustments.
PENN STATE QUOTES
THE MODERATOR: We'll start with an opening statement from Coach Washington and then take questions for the student athletes.
COACH WASHINGTON: I'll just take questions.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions then for Tyra Grant.
Q. Can you talk about the team just never giving up, play for the seniors.
TYRA GRANT: We always want to play for our seniors and try to put 'em out on a good note. But today we couldn't do that. But we still tried to play hard and tried to fight hard to the end.
We did some couple things in the first half that, you know, we don't usually do. We try to come out and, you know, come out better.
Q. The difference in your mind from this game and the two games you played against them in the regular season?
TYRA GRANT: The difference was I guess we just didn't stick to our game plan. You know, inside out, get it to the post. If they kick it back out, then have a shot or drive it to the hole. I felt like we didn't stick to what we were supposed to do. We did other things. And that just didn't work out for us.
Q. You'll be back next year. You're kind of still part of the future. Can you look forward. I realize it's hard to do now. You have new players coming in.
TYRA GRANT: We have a great recruiting class coming in. I'm sure that they can help us do a lot as far as take us far in non conference, conference, and even the Big Ten.
I'm hoping I'm not hoping, I know that we'll be able to do better things next year.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. You can go back to the locker room. We'll continue with questions for Coach Washington.
Q. Same question. The difference between this game compared to the two in the regular season?
COACH WASHINGTON: Well, I didn't think we defended very well this game. Lacey Simpson and Jenna Smith pretty much had their way. I didn't think we did a strong job defensively on Illinois as a whole as we had the first two games. We allowed them to get their confidence, get a rhythm.
I thought they out hustled us, I thought they out toughed us and kind of put us back on our heels, especially in the second half.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.