March 6, 2010
THE MODERATOR: We'll begin with an opening comment from Coach Bluder, then we'll take questions from the student athletes.
COACH BLUDER: I'm extremely proud of our women, as I am almost every single day. I thought they just continued to battle. They kept their focus when things got rough in there.
You know, Kamille, she just comes up with big 3s for us all the time. She does it tonight. Kachine makes her free throws at crunch time. She does that again tonight.
But I'm probably most proud of our defense and rebounding tonight, because for us I don't know for certain, but I think this might be one of our lowest scoring wins of the season.
And that makes me feel good about our defense. Everybody talks about our offense. We feel good about our offense. But it's kind of nice to win a low scoring game where maybe our offense wasn't there all the way.
So I'm happy with that. I'm also extremely happy with the rebounding. We outrebounded them by seven. I looked at second chance points where we got so many opportunities off of second chances to score, and to me that's a lot of heart, and I'm really proud of the women for that.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student athletes.
Q. Kamille, could you talk about that last 3 pointer and so your team had struggled a lot behind the line, and obviously you didn't hesitate. Your thinking behind that?
KAMILLE WAHLIN: I mean, the play call for me was to either get a 3 point off or get a ball screen. So I just tried to when it comes down to crunch time, you just forget about all the other shots you miss and you just try to step up and knock it down for your teammates. I was thankful it went in. My thinking was just to be confident and be ready to shoot it.
Q. Kachine, not to sound too gross, but did you have a mouthful of blood on those last two free throws?
KACHINE ALEXANDER: I was swallowing a lot of blood. The ref saw it get on my hand and he said, We've got blood. I had to hold it in and try to not let them see I was really bleeding. I don't even know what to say about that.
Q. Kamille, your teammate sits next to you with a bloody lip, could you talk about her play down the stretch, grabbing clutch rebounds and knocking down free throws at the end?
KAMILLE WAHLIN: I mean, Kach, game in and game out, we know she's going to be tough. Anything that happens where she can get knocked down ten times in a game she's going to get back up. She's just got that mentality of being tough. And she's not going to walk off the court with a bloody lip. We always know she's going to get back up and she's so tough that it just rubs off on all of us.
Q. Kamille, can you talk about how physical it was, because it looked physical. How was it from your perspective?
KAMILLE WAHLIN: It definitely was a very physical game. But Michigan State, we kind of expected that.
They're a lot bigger than us. And so we just, in our minds, before our game, we were getting ready for a physical game. When games are close like that and you're in the Big Ten tournament, both teams want to win, you've got to expect that.
And we just gotta have the mentality of never backing down. And I think we did a good job of not backing down this their physicality.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, ladies.
Q. Coach, what did Trisha's performance mean today, especially with Jaime sitting most of the first half?
COACH BLUDER: As I was sitting here I realized I forgot to mention that in my opening statement. Trisha Nesbitt was a warrior in the first half. She goes in, plays 16 minutes for us in the first half, she has her career high, 10 points. She misses her first 3.
Kids in that situation wouldn't shoot again. And they haven't been doing a lot of that all through the year. She just stepped up. I was happy for Trisha. Defensively she's held her own all year. It was nice to see her contributing offensively like that and knowing just that I think this gives her a lot of confidence going into the game tomorrow.
Q. One win we thought in this Big Ten tournament we thought would be enough to get into the NCAA too. Do you feel safe at this point?
COACH BLUDER: I never feel safe. Right now we're going to the championship game. And we have an opportunity to get the automatic bid and just why not go for that? Why not, at this juncture, in our season, why would we settle for second? Let's go for first and let's try to get that automatic bid.
Q. Morgan didn't have a lot of points but she seemed to keep battling all game down low. Can you talk about that?
COACH BLUDER: I thought her defense was really good especially the beginning of the game. She had a number of blocked shots in a row. She had some really good rebounds for us. Morgan is a freshman and just battling against those upperclassmen and gives up so much height at times.
But I thought she did a really nice job inside defensively for us tonight and had some key offensive rebounds and put backs as well.
Q. I think you called a timeout after they went on that run. What did you talk about with the team at that point?
COACH BLUDER: I just talked about that we had to change the way we were playing. They got kind of mad and they were taking it out on us. They were being a lot more aggressive and we had to change the way we were playing. We knew we could get back into it.
But we talked again about defensive and rebounding, because I just feel like if you focus on the offense too much at that point, it kind of freezes them sometimes.
So we really focused more on the defense and the rebounding. We talked about possessions, how we needed every possession and we can control that with taking care of the ball and rebounding.
Q. Coach, once again, only one missed free throw. Could you talk about the clutch free throw shooting down the stretch?
COACH BLUDER: Second game in a row we haven't missed in the second half. That's nice to see. We're a good free throw shooting team. And we have the right people taking them as well. So that's also nice. But we are pretty good in the clutch free throw shooting, and, once again, we did it tonight.
Q. Coach, I know you beat Michigan State in the regular season. Very close. Did you consider this an upset at all or did you know coming in you had a pretty good chance of winning this game?
COACH BLUDER: I think it's an upset because we're the second seed and we're the third seed. In my mind it was in that way. But obviously we beat them on our home court now playing on a neutral court tonight. This is an important win for us. They're top 25 wins. So for us it's very important for the NCAA selection committee, this is a good win for us.
Q. What does it mean to your program, I think it's been since 2001 since you've been in the tournament finals. What does this mean to your program?
COACH BLUDER: I hadn't thought about that. I guess I didn't realize that. Well, we won it that year, so that was kind of nice. I remember that. But for our program, you know, for us to come this far in seven weeks, you know, to come from last place in the Big Ten to playing in the championship game in the Big Ten tournament, I think that kind of speaks for itself.
Again, it goes to the qualities of the women and their perseverance and just their ability to battle and confidence. I continue to be amazed by them. They're just incredible women.
Q. I know you kind of touched on it briefly, but it was your first win when you scored less than 60 points. What does that mean to kind of get a defensive win like that?
COACH BLUDER: I think it's good for us. At this point of the year it's good for us to know that we can win a game with our defense and with our rebounding instead of our offense. I think that's really good, important lesson for us to learn this time of year. Probably have to fall back on it again.
Q. Gabby played like nine minutes. Only scored one basket. You seemed to get some quality time from her in there.
COACH BLUDER: Again, I think she played great yesterday. She's a freshman. And she's kind of typical freshman and up and down. And I thought Morgan was playing a little bit better today.
But I have great confidence in both of those women. And sometimes Gabby provides us a little more bulk than Morgan does, and that was good for us at times in this game to have that.
Well, against any of them, actually. Because Morgan is slight. And it's nice to have a little bulk we can go to off the bench.
Q. Coach, the same story, different player, with Jaime today picking up two quick fouls. Can you talk about your team's ability to kind of pick up the slack. You had players like Trisha step up and pick up the scoring?
COACH BLUDER: Trisha I thought was outstanding the first half. And I thought it kept us in that first half as far as being able to hit some really key shots for us.
Jaime goes out with two fouls, and, you know, again you kind of play with the idea, go back and forth. If we can stay close, I just believe in letting her sit and letting other players take advantage of that opportunity. I thought Trisha took advantage of it tonight.
Q. Lisa, you played eight players all year. That's all you've got. This will be the third game in three days. Is fatigue an issue at all?
COACH BLUDER: You know, I don't think you can even think about it at this point. We'll be getting ice tubs ready for them tonight. Try to rehab them as quickly as we can. And, yeah, I mean, it's something that comes into your mind. But they're 18 to 20 years old. I don't know if we remember what it's like to be 18 to 20 years old.
But they've got a lot of energy at that point. At this point you're playing the championship. So much adrenalin has got to be kicking in for you at this point.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
Michigan State Quotes
THE MODERATOR: We'll begin with an opening comment from Coach Merchant, then we'll go to the student athletes.
COACH MERCHANT: I thought it was a hard fought game. It could have gone either way. I think certainly the difference for us was their rebounding. They scored 19 points off of offensive rebounding situations, and we didn't put ourselves in position on our end. I think that's the first time that we've had spells during games where maybe we haven't rebounded that well.
But that was an entire game where I felt like we just could not get a defensive rebound for whatever reason. And you have to give Iowa credit for really hustling after them and taking advantage of maybe us not doing the job and chasing down opportunities and then taking advantage and scoring, 19 4 there. And I feel if we had cut that down in half we would have won by five or six. They did a really good job of rebounding it.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student athletes.
Q. Aisha, what is it with Iowa that's given you such problems these last two games?
AISHA JEFFERSON: Well, the first game it was basically just fouling them, getting them to the line. I think we did a good job today containing them on defense.
But a big part of our offense is creating offense from our defense. And we weren't really defensive rebounding, and they scored about 19 second chance points from rebounds.
So that wasn't a good thing for us this second game, but I think it was definitely two different things from each game.
Q. Aisha, could you talk about your offensive performance today? This was your season high?
AISHA JEFFERSON: I think it was mainly because they were playing the 2 3 zone and the middle wasn't really guarding much and I felt like it was a good chance for me to just be aggressive there and also help my teammates get involved, because it was really hard to guard the middle when you're playing a 2 3 and you've got great post players down low and good shooters on the outside.
But it's still disappointing, because I didn't do a total job today.
Q. Brittney, what do you guys talk about after the game and what's the team feeling like right now?
BRITTNEY THOMAS: I mean, we're definitely disappointed. We came in here with a goal of taking the whole thing. To be one game away it's frustrating. And just everything that Coach and Aisha said, it really came down to rebounding. I think we did a good job defensively to keep it a low scoring game.
Iowa is known to they're going to score; you've got to answer them. That was the type of game it was. The score seemed like it was the game that we wanted, but they started getting the O board at the right time and putting buckets in.
Q. Brittney, there were just a ton of turnovers today on both sides. What led to that?
BRITTNEY THOMAS: I think a bunch of them were in a lot in the first ten minutes of the first half. And I think both teams were trying to go really hard and both teams were getting a lot of deflection. I think it kind of washed out because both teams were turning it over a lot.
I think it was just the energy and it's live and survive and you've got to win. I think once both teams settled down, the turnovers settled down as well.
Q. Aisha, if somebody told you coming in you would hold them to 59 points, would you think you had a pretty good chance of winning the game?
AISHA JEFFERSON: Our team goal every game is holding opponents to 54, and confidence with our defense as the backbone. That was one of our biggest keys. Iowa can score six points in 30 seconds, and holding them to 59 points is great, but most of those points came off of some rebounding.
But it wasn't good enough. And we got outrebounded and that's the game right there.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, ladies. Questions for Coach.
Q. You guys seemed to struggle offensively a lot. Was that their zone?
COACH MERCHANT: No, I actually was glad I mean, zone we were kind of slicing and dieing there, I thought the last ten minutes of the first half, you know, then they obviously didn't play it again.
So they have been relying on a 2 3 zone 80 percent of the time that they play for obvious reasons. And I thought we did a really good job of attacking it. We just didn't have that good of a shooting night. Kal was really off. Lykendra didn't give us her offensive rebound putbacks like she can. Jas, as good as she was yesterday, didn't put the ball in the basket.
Normally we have three, four scorers, and today we just really had one. It's hard to win when you just have one kid feeling good on the offensive end.
I look at that a little bit, and I thought we had good opportunities that just didn't fall with the right people taking shots.
Q. Suzy, did you have a feeling about Aisha before the game? Was she showing anything that she might have a breakout game, and can you talk about her performance?
COACH MERCHANT: I thought obviously it came at the right time. We were struggling offensively and she kept us in it, from the arc, from the inside, high post area, scoring on the block. I think she was just really feeling it.
We wanted to make sure we kept her in as long as we could. I mean, she's kind of tough to manage sometimes with her situation with her injuries and whatnot. But I thought she played her heart out.
I thought she did a really good job on No. 22. That kid was 5 for 6 yesterday, and we had some pretty grave concerns about her shooting the basketball against our 4s.
So I thought it was a really I thought she played both the rebounding piece, everybody could have been better.
Q. What do you think about the NCAA tournament at this point, seeds?
COACH MERCHANT: I guess probably a lot is going to depend on how the other conference tournaments play out. I feel good about where we're at. I think certainly we wanted to get to the finals and have a shot at winning this thing, which maybe could have improved our seed. But I still feel like we should be a very good high seed.
Our record against top 50 teams and certainly the way we finished was very, very strong. We gotta get Al back healthy and we'll have time to do that in the next couple of weeks.
Q. Did you get more or less than you expected out of Allyssa tonight?
COACH MERCHANT: You know, it's hard to gauge. I mean, she played. So that was more than I thought. I really didn't think we were going to be able to play her.
She couldn't get through a shoot around. I didn't think we were going to play her. But she kind of fought through. The problem is it probably limited her ability to do some things out there. But having her presence at times was good.
We just really came down to defensive rebounding there. And I thought having her in there would help us.
But I just look at Morgan Johnson as someone that really I mean, she got five offensive rebounds and they had three team defensive rebounds, all three of those, if you look at the tape, were probably her keeping it alive. And I don't think our 5s did as good a job as we could have on keeping her off the boards.
I was proud she played and fought through some things. But I think we got more out of her than we felt we could.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.