March 6, 2014
Q. Cyesha, what happened on that play where you went down, and how are you?
CYESHA GOREE: I'm fine. I just took a charge and hit the ground pretty hard but I'm good.
Q. Shannon, can you talk about the job you and Siera had to do in dealing with Larryn Brooks and how successful you were on the defensive end?
SHANNON SMITH: She's a great player, and I think she played great defense. We couldn't do it without our teammates.
Q. Cyesha and Nicole, can you guys talk about why you were so effective inside today?
CYESHA GOREE: Our teammates made an effort to look inside, go inside out. I think they did a really good job of executing that. That's one thing we really wanted to work on, preparing for them to look inside out. And we did a great job of finishing strong.
NICOLE ELMBLAD: I think our coach did a pretty good job of figuring out our game plan and knowing that we needed to go inside because we could. Especially Bird and Val who have been playing really well, finishing really well, so we just kind of focused on that this week and making sure that we're in position as guards to get passes down to the post and really help them get going.
Q. Shannon, Cyesha, there were six times in the second half where you cut the lead to ten points, and each of those times they couldn't really get over that hump and get single digits and you guys seemed to be able to respond every time. What was behind that?
SHANNON SMITH: I think we just played well. We just tried to stay strong throughout it. It's a game of runs, so we showed them if they make a run, we got to make a runback.
CYESHA GOREE: I agree with Shannon. It was all about getting stops. Sometimes we relaxed but we ended up catching ourselves and regrouping back together in the huddle and making sure we closed out next time or fixing it and not getting beat the same way twice.
Q. All three of you, how do you feel about playing Michigan State again?
NICOLE ELMBLAD: I was really excited for the opportunity. We had such a close game with them back home. We were disappointed to come out with the loss. We are just excited especially on this stage of the tournament to be able to have another shot at them and be able to go and play hard.
SHANNON SMITH: They're a great team. I'm looking forward to playing them.
CYESHA GOREE: I'm excited. Were treating this like another game. It's the second round, so we're going to be ready.
Q. What color are your pants going to be tomorrow, Shannon?
SHANNON SMITH: Beige and blue.
COACH BARNES-ARICO: I thought our team played exceptionally well in the first half. We shared the basketball we tried to establish an inside presence. That is something that we watched on film and we tried to make a concerted effort in going inside out and getting Cyesha touches early. Shannon Smith has been playing exceptionally well lately, being able to attack and draw people. We were able to draw a lot of fouls early on and get to the free throw line. In the first half our energy was terrific and I was really proud of the effort that we gave today.
Q. Coach, I know you're a little under the weather today. How hard is it just to be out there and keep that energy level high, even though you're not feeling well?
COACH BARNES-ARICO: Yeah I was feeling great until about two o'clock and we were at the pregame meal, and I was like, I'm not feeling well. My baby who is five, she was up the entire night before we left. I guess her bug kind of caught me. I went back to the pregame, didn't eat much. I spent the rest of the time in the bathroom, any time that I wasn't on the bench in the bathroom. I was a little concerned because of the young team, you're never really sure how they're going to respond.
But our kids have been playing so well. Our shootaround was terrific. We had a lot of time to prepare. They were focused.
We always talked during the year about Cal Ripken, who they're too young to know who he is and so I had to go through that, and just how people play with broken fingers and people play with the flu, and people play when family members pass away. It's just something that you've got to do. I tried to be out there for them. They really carried it. I was so proud that they told me before the game, I said guys, I might need to lean on you a little bit today. They said no worries, Coach, we got you. And then after the game they were just giving me hugs, which I hope I didn't give them any germs. I was proud of the way they responded, and from a coaching perspective, that's all you can ask of your team. They just were unbelievable today.
Q. Can you talk about the scoring distribution and how you were getting off offense up and down the lineup?
COACH BARNES-ARICO: When we're playing well, we're really able to do that. I think that we're usually very successful when we have great balance. We knew that if we would go inside early and establish Cyesha early they would probably look to double that. And then that would open up Val and that would open Shannon up on penetration, and that would open Nicole because they'd be doubling off of her, as well. And it did.
Val was able to knock down some shots. Nicole was really aggressive and drew a lot of fouls.
But when we're at our best, we have great balance, and that's what we had tonight.
Q. Coach, could you talk about Michigan State and how they've changed since you played?
COACH BARNES-ARICO: Yeah. They -- you know, I think our team has really grown since we've played them. And you know, we've had our bumps in the road but we've also responded. But they have grown tremendously. Obviously they lost their point guard, who always seems to hurt us when we play them.
But the people that have stepped in for her are playing unbelievably. Aerial Powers, I feel as if she's playing at another level. She's a tough match up because she rebounds the heck out of the basketball and she runs the floor. When she has the ball in her hand, she can distribute. She can go coast to coast. She's just phenomenal.
They're a senior laden team, obviously led by Pickrel and Becca Mills and No. 21, Clarissa Bell. But they are experienced. They're senior laden, they're Big Ten champs for a reason. And they're an incredibly tough team and it should be an interesting match up for us.
Q. Could you talk about Cyesha's injury and also the play of Nicole taking three charges two in like a minute stretch in that second half?
COACH BARNES-ARICO: Unbelievable. You know, it's funny and we've probably talked about this before but we keep a record of charges and loose balls and we really try to pride our program on that, whether it's in practice or in games. And Cyesha and Nicole, we have a block end hanging on everybody's locker, and you get a basketball sticker for taking those plays, and Cyesha and Nicole are in a battle for first place. The winner is going to get something special; I don't know what it is. But their block ends are full. And there's other people on our team that have two and three.
So those are two young ladies that have incredible motors and do the intangible things and really sacrifice themselves for the good of the team. And Nicole's three charges were incredible.
I think Cyesha is going to be okay. She took a charge and she landed kind of awkwardly. And we wanted an opportunity to rest her at that point. So I thought it was in our best interest to try to save some of our energy for tomorrow.
But she was ready to go back in. I just think Nicole Elmblad is one of the most improved players in our league. Obviously Cyesha Goree is, as well, but Cyesha didn't get on the court last year. Nicole has played for us and has probably tripled every one of her numbers. She is an incredible asset for our team.
Q. You handled Indiana pretty easily down in Bloomington. Did this game resemble that one?
COACH BARNES-ARICO: Similar. Indiana made their runs down there, as well. I thought down there our turnovers led to their three point transition, and here today I thought our misses led to their transition. I thought when they got out in transition against us is when they were really success.
Q. Coach, there were six times in the second half where IU cut the deficit to ten. How were you able to fend that off?
COACH BARNES-ARICO: I think a couple of those situations we had time outs, which was good. We really wanted to make sure we executed. And we drew up some things and talked about our looks. And I just recall one coming out, we got a terrific high low and it kind of ended their run. It was a really great play.
I think the other thing, too, is Shannon Smith made two tremendous plays getting offensive rebounds when they were making their run. She's a little thing, barely 120 pounds. She gets knocked around all of the time. She got in there and she got two big offensive rebounds and big put backs, and those were two key plays that stopped their run, as well.
COACH MILLER: Obviously we're disappointed in the end result today, but you've got to give Michigan a lot of credit. Our team has heard me preach not only in our regular season match up with them but getting ready for this tournament game, that Michigan is the hardest working team in the league, bar none. And they can take your spirit away because you work long in the shot clocks to defend them, and you get them to make a miss and then they can take your soul away when they get those offensive rebounds. So possessions against Michigan can last 45, 50 seconds to a minute, and that really wears on teams, especially young teams.
I thought we played competitively for awhile, but we didn't play with the effort that is needed at this time of the year. So we addressed it at halftime. Really challenged our team to play harder. We outscored them in the first ten minutes of the second half by five points and had a big possession with around 9:30 left in the game when our best player got a wide open three to cut the game to seven, and unfortunately that shot didn't go in.
I think that would have really brought the whole crowd into it, gave us a home court advantage at that point and a lot of momentum that the game would have been down to seven points with just over nine minutes to go.
But unfortunately, that miss, you could see some of the wind out of our sails and the effort that we had given so much in that first ten minutes of the second half you saw our shoulders drop and you see us get tired, and they immediately went on a 12 0 run to basically sock the game away.
A lot of credit to Michigan. I have a great deal of respect how hard they play. We're going to continue to learn from this. We've had a great year, considering how young we are. And we truly believe we will receive a post season bid and we hope to receive a post season bid and we'll prepare hard for it.
Q. Alexis, can you put some perspective on this season? You were unbeaten top 25 for the first time in decades and rolling along, still 18 12 is pretty successful?
ALEXIS GASSION: Yeah, we definitely worked hard in practices and prepared a lot, and a lot of credit to our coaches because they prepared us so much. I think we've gotten a lot better. We're just trying to come together as a team and play better.
Q. Alexis, was it hard for you guys down the stretch here -- you know, I think you lost six of your last seven. Anything you can identify that was a difference, or is it simply that, you know, the level of competition was just, you know, too hard to climb over?
ALEXIS GASSION: Yeah, it got a little tough. I think we at times got outworked, and you know, our shoulders kind of dropped, and you know, that was tough for us. So yeah.
Q. Alexis, how tough was it for you guys to kind of respond and make a run when it seemed like every time you guys would cut the lead to ten they would be able to respond and get that offensive rebound like your coach had mentioned? How tough was it to kind of regroup when they seemed to be getting every second chance?
ALEXIS GASSION: That's very tough. Credit to them because they were very good in transition and they were getting all those rebounds. Yeah, it felt like things weren't going our way, but we just had to try and come together and you know, play as one.
Q. Alexis, just what was working for you offensively tonight?
ALEXIS GASSION: Just trying to get out and run in transition, trying to take open shots and trying to get rebounds, offensive rebounds as much as I could.
Q. Midway through the first half it seemed like you guys were getting stops on defense, just couldn't get those rebounds, keep the ball inbounds and just preventing those second chance opportunities. How deflating was that to get those stops but not be able to capitalize on them?
COACH MILLER: Well, their offensive rebounding percentage in the first half was 50 percent, which is extremely high. They shot 50 percent from the floor but they got half of their misses back. Again, one of the things that Michigan does is if they don't score in transition and you can get them to run a half court play, they're going to be very patient, they're going to run the shot clock deep into the shot clock and take a shot. And when you don't get that conclusion of your defensive stop with a defensive rebound and they get a second chance, those possessions end up lasting nearly a minute long, and that is really deflating and really deflating to a young team who has a fragile psyche, and we talked about that and we talked about having to play through those offensive rebounds.
But when they start to happen, and they've heard me preach and they've heard the coaches preach about what that can do to a team, it's really deflating. I think that was a big part of the story. They shot 50 percent. But more importantly, they got 50 percent of their misses back.
Q. I believe you've tripled the number of victories this season from what you had two seasons ago. It may be difficult to get a few more and get into the NCAA tournament. I mean, what specifically do you think that Indiana needs to do next year? I think you have two extra Big 10 games, two to, say, climb up to 8 10, and that might get you in the mix?
COACH MILLER: Well, you know, certainly it's a process. And you know, we believe we certainly moved ahead of schedule this year and surprised ourselves even and exceeded expectations which was a mantra for us all year, to try to exceed expectations. But if you're not human if you don't get a little greedy, and after our start, I felt like we got a little greedy.
There was nights in the Big Ten that we were out talented. What is discouraging for us are the nights where we feel like we're outworked, because that has nothing to do with talent, and there's some really talented teams in this league with scars.
Michigan beats you with a team approach and an effort approach, and those are the ones that are discouraging because they don't put a superstar out there. They are just workmanlike and I've got a lot of respect for Michigan when they do that.
We've got to continue to recruit. We believe our freshman class will form a strong foundation to build upon, but we've got to continue to get better and better players. We don't have a top 100 player in our program at this point. You can't look at not one other roster in the Big Ten that doesn't have a top 100 prospect coming out of high school on their roster.
So we're proud of what we did. We've exceeded a lot of expectations. But we've got to improve our talent level. We've addressed shooting. We rewrote a lot of record books in improved shooting. We wanted to improve skill. We have four really talented shooters coming in. Now we have to get more athletic and bigger. That's not going to happen next year. We're going to be undersized and really skilled. But in the future we've got to get longer and we've got to get more athleticism in our program.
But we've addressed shooting. I said if we would address that first, our skill level will improve through recruiting, and I think it has and it will with the incoming class we have.
Q. You talked about Michigan being a hard working team. Was that just the biggest thing inside for them was just them outworking you guys?
COACH MILLER: They really execute and take high percentage shots. You know, they're really patient. Their shot selection is fantastic. They don't force. They pass up some open shots at times to get better shots. They share the basketball. I mean, literally when they get into the game if you can stop them in transition they run about three plays consistently. Three. They don't throw a big playbook at you, but they understand if you take this away, we're going to do this. They're a very smart team. They don't over coach it.
They're very good at what they do. They share the basketball, and they shoot a high percentage because they share the basketball and they take good shots.
Sometimes we force shots. Sometimes we take too quick a shots. And if you watch consistent tapes on both team teams, you'll see that. When we're making shots we look like a million bucks, but at times we can force some shots.
Q. Coach, six times during the second half, your team had a chance to cut the deficits to single digits but each time Michigan seemed to respond. What made it so difficult to sort of get over that hump?
COACH MILLER: Well, we had to expend so much energy to get ourselves in that position that again, for the first ten minutes, almost nearly ten and a half minutes, we had outscored them in the second half by five points. That only got it down to ten. And I'm telling you we missed a huge three with about 9:30 left on that clock to get it to seven.
And I think the momentum would have really changed. But now you've played nearly 11 minutes and you've only been able to cut the lead to ten. They're looking up and giving our heart and soul out there, and we still only cut it to ten. Eventually they're going to make a run, and that 12 0 run in that moment took it from ten and potentially seven with that made three, to all of a sudden it was 22.
And it was over and probably looked a lot worse than it was because we really competed that first ten or 11 minutes of the second half. We ran out of gas. But I hope they learned how hard it is to play at the effort that we need to play with.
Q. Obviously you like to run and get out in transition. They tried to take that away, how did you feel about the pace offensively?
COACH MILLER: Well, we couldn't get defensive rebounds, so we couldn't run as much as we want. I thought when we did get defensive stops, which included a rebound, and we got out, we had some looks, we had some openings and mismatches that we liked early in the shot clock. But they shot a great percentage for the night, 50 percent for the game. They offensive rebound a high percentage of their misses.
There just wasn't enough opportunities to run against them that we wanted, and that plays into a Michigan game. The possessions are lower, and it plays into their game, and they played well. They played well. I don't think our freshmen understand night in and night out how hard. They've never been in the Big Ten Tournament, and the one thing that I asked them to believe me is the intensity rises from Big Ten regular season to Big Ten Tournament, and this is going to be harder and harder.
I hope they see how hard you have to play in Big Ten Tournament time. I've been associated with five teams that have won conference tournaments. I understand how hard it is, and I hope now they see that.
Q. Coach, were there unique challenges bringing this team home over the last month after such great success to start with? You said such a young team just trying to get them to understand it's not always going to be that easy to win games?
COACH MILLER: You know, the unfortunate double edge of having such a great nonconference and then upsetting Iowa to go 14 0, they didn't have much adversity, and so they thought it was going to be pretty easy. You know, and I don't think they thought they were going to run through the Big Ten, but they thought maybe they were a little bit better than they were.
And we kept on talking you know, what's coming and who we're playing and you've never seen Maggie Lucas and you've never seen Jordan Hooper and you've never played in front of 8,000 on the road. And until they experienced it, I'm not quite sure young teams totally buy into it. And our seniors hadn't had enough success to really for them to believe you know, the seniors saying, hey, we know what's coming. Do you guys understand? So you know, the hard part is that we never want to give back any of those wins.
We're really proud of our start. It's the highest rank Indiana's ever been ranked in the history of the program. They can never take that away from us. But it did not set us up to have much adversity until mid January. And I'm not sure we always handled that or understood what was coming. But I'm proud of the year. I really believe we're deserving with our RPI and our 18 wins that we're a post season team, and we're going to prepare for two weeks to hopefully receive a bid to the WNIT or the WBI, and we'll go out and represent not only Indiana but the Big Ten.