March 9, 2013
Michigan State Quotes
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Head Coach Suzy Merchant and Becca Mills and Jasmine Thomas. Opening comments, Coach.
COACH MERCHANT: We're happy to have a chance to play tomorrow, that's for sure, and give all the credit to these guys and the ones in the locker room.
Our defense has been the thing that has helped us succeed. And it's hard to defend Penn State and keep them to a place where our offense could compete. And we didn't do it for the two times we played them. They were in the 70s, and we're not a real high scoring team, but we rely on our defense.
So to see our defense come to fruition tonight, I'm very, very proud of them and feel good about the win.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student athletes.
Q. Jasmine, what were you able to do with your speed, especially in the second half, to kind of change the game for your team?
JASMINE THOMAS: I don't know. The guards played us up tight, real close, even before we started our dribble. And just to try to create space a little bit just with that first step. But I don't know, I mean, it was to my advantage, I guess.
Q. Becca, just kind of talk about that 10 0 run you guys went on after they pulled within one on the Lucas three, 34 33. You hit a big three during the run, and just kind of talk about what worked well for you guys there.
BECCA MILLS: We needed to pick up our defense. And I think after I hit the three, it kind of got us pumped up. And I think when we hit big shots like that, it propels us in defense and makes us step up.
Q. Jasmine, was there a point where you just said that you needed to look to score a little more today in that second half?
JASMINE THOMAS: Actually, I was thinking more give other people shots, because my jump shot I didn't feel as comfortable shooting it tonight.
But I don't know. It was just take what they give you.
Q. Jasmine, I was watching you part of the game and you had a real like blank look on your face, even when you guys had you just kept seemed really calm and cool the whole time. What was going through your mind? This is obviously a big game, senior, and you're trying to get to the title game, but you still seemed pretty calm like the entire time.
JASMINE THOMAS: I mean, yeah, because it's like a 40 minute game. And Penn State is the type of team where they can get it going instantly. And there's no time to celebrate. You just gotta stay in the game, stay in the moment. And keeping that calm presence, I think, with my teammates looking at me, it satisfies them as well.
Q. Maggie Lucas on Penn State, how were you able to keep poised when she was making 3s, especially in the last couple of minutes?
JASMINE THOMAS: Yeah, she's a shooter. She's a scorer. I mean, we kind of know automatically just kind of going in. But we just have to tighten up and try to get through those screens even better the next time.
Q. Jasmine, how much did that tape on your hand affect you tonight? Obviously you still were able to lead the team. Was that affecting you at all?
JASMINE THOMAS: It was uncomfortable. I mean, I'm not going to put blame on the tape. But I mean, it is what it is. I don't think it was a contributing factor.
Q. Becca, you guys were down 16 5 at the start. Did you think that maybe you guys were in serious trouble at that point?
BECCA MILLS: No. I think that Penn State definitely is a team of runs. They came out really hot on us. And we needed to take a deep breath. We were playing too fast and slow down and get back to our game and get stops on defense, because that's what we do well. And then when we do that, we play better on offense.
Q. Jasmine, just being a senior now, being able to play for a Big Ten championship, in the last sort of second half of the season, you came up, really clutched for your team in a lot of different situations. What does this mean for you to play for a championship at the end of it all?
JASMINE THOMAS: I mean, we're there now. I mean, that was the plan coming in, to try to fight to the end. And now that we're here, we just gotta give it our all tomorrow.
Q. Becca, you had nine rebounds. Jasmine Hines had 14. Could you speak to her rebounding performance?
BECCA MILLS: Jasmine was a beast today. Nikki Greene is not a little girl. She was battling down there, and I think Jas worked really hard. And you could see it with all her rebounds. She did a really good job for us.
COACH MERCHANT: Jasmine Hines is not a little girl. Of the petite ones. (Laughter).
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach.
Q. Coach, I asked Jasmine how calm she was during the game. Does that really help your team during those runs? She just seemed the whole time that she was very flank and very focused in.
COACH MERCHANT: It helps, because I'm a crazy maniac, so we balance each other out, I guess.
Yeah, I think one thing, when Jasmine went to a point guard school one summer and she came back with a lot of notes, and one of the things she told me that she learned there was be the face your team needs to see. And that's a quote that she came back from. And she always kind of refers back to it.
And it was interesting you talked about that, because in the past, I think I would read her wrong, you know, when she's like that. And probably did.
And this year, just really getting to watch her mature and her game develop and that always going back to that's the face her team needs to see, calm, poised. Becca commented on that. We played way too fast and too panicky out of the gate, and Jas is one of those kids that can stay calm in the heat of the battle. So that was big.
In fact, when we would go to our timeouts, she would actually kind of take a little bit of a walk away from her team, I think just to get herself together, get her heart rate down, to get her focused, and to keep that same face that her team needed to see every possession.
Q. After that slow first half, especially shooting for you guys, what changed in the second half, more efficient, better numbers?
COACH MERCHANT: Well, we knew we had to come out and be a better offensive team in the second half, because I just felt like we took a stick and hit a big beehive. We just angered a little bit a bunch of bees in there because of their offense is so potent.
And so I said to the girls, it's like we know they're going to come out. There's aggressive attacking, crazy scores that can take over games in seconds. And if you watch all their film in fact, we showed a clip at film today or yesterday where in the Ohio State game, in 35 seconds, they scored Maggie Lucas got the three and got fouled. They got a steal, hit a three, and Bentley scored a layup in about a 35 40 second span. It's like eight, nine, 10 kind of thing. It was that potent.
So we talked about being aggressive, but at the same time, we had to play slower.
We felt like we were playing rushed and rushing our shots and rushing our reads and just weren't ourselves offensively. And I thought getting stops helped us a little bit because we were able to control the tempo at that point.
Q. Can you expand on the defense a little bit? Like you said, you played them in the 70s earlier, and it was 16 5, and then you outscored them 49 to 30 the rest of the way. It's their season low in points. That's a phenomenal effort. Expand your thoughts a little bit on your defensive effort tonight.
COACH MERCHANT: We did a couple of different things to Penn State. We call it downing a ball screen, where we wouldn't let them use it, and we kind of gate trapped it to the strong side.
And the one thing, if you watch them in their triangle offense, every guard, they'll put Maggie Lucas sometimes at the top of the key, so that whole lane line is open to the middle.
And so we really talked about forcing our foot angles to the sideline and never getting beat middle.
Now, late, I thought we broke down. But we didn't let them get middle and we bound ball screens at the wing and in the corner.
So basically what that means is you're going to say you're not going to come over the top of the ball screen and use it. And they do a lot of damage that way.
The other thing that I thought was big to make sure that they could score in a range that we could compete with them was not give it back to them for turnovers, for touchdowns. We had 29 points in turnovers, I think, the last time we played them. I don't know exactly, but I think it was somewhere around there.
And I think tonight they had six. Our goal was 10, 12 at the most. But we could not give them points that they didn't earn. And I thought our kids did a nice job of that.
Q. Could you speak about Jasmine Hines's play today?
COACH MERCHANT: Yeah, she was big. And she had been struggling a little bit there down the stretch. And I think you can get in your own way sometimes. And she was overthinking, overtrying. So sometimes you just gotta sit down for a while. As much as we needed her, I think when she wasn't playing, it frustrated her. So when she came out, she was more focused on really trying to perform to the best of her ability.
We were winning. We didn't have to have her. But it certainly humbled her a little bit, and I think she wants to contribute.
She gets people in foul trouble because she's so powerful. And tonight, it's the best I've ever seen her defensive rebound, and that was probably more important than the offensive rebounding.
Q. Same question that was asked of Jasmine: What does this mean especially for the seniors? I know Schiffauer hit the shot that gave you guys the lead for the first time, and then obviously Jasmine's performance tonight. What does the chance to play for the championship mean for that?
COACH MERCHANT: It's really big. You always come here with that intent. And you always leave sometimes when you come up short a little disappointed. I mean, you know you're looking forward to the post season, but it's a long time to wait. And it's nice to have a chance to play for that kind of hardware and that kind of trophy.
And I'm so proud of this group. We even lost Akyah Taylor in the game yesterday, so now our rotation is even smaller. She's not even here. She had to go home. She has a fracture in her face and a concussion. I don't know. We're just going to go to the hotel and get in a bubble and come back here tomorrow at 3:00 at this point.
Q. Piggybacking off of that, halfway through you had the foul trouble with Pickrel and Schiffauer, and the others a little bit later, the players were gassed. Like you mentioned, Taylor's not in there. Just what can you say about your team's fight, I guess, considering all of that and then to sort of battle back at the end of the game?
COACH MERCHANT: Well, especially how Penn State plays. It's not like you can take a break and get your composure, dribbling the ball up and take a few seconds.
I mean, they are a full court, in your face, pressure, deny, hard headed/trap ball screens for 40 straight minutes. That is emotionally, mentally, and physically taxing on a group of about six or eight kids.
So that's what makes me proud is a lot of people can play with Penn State for 23 minutes, maybe 30, maybe 32, maybe 36. But it's hard to finish against them because of the consistency at which they perform and their defense and their offensive transition.
So I was very pleased. We gave up some offensive rebounding opportunities just to be sure that they couldn't get easy baskets in transition.
So I'm proud of them. I really am. I thought it was one of the most kind of inspiring it was just fun to watch a band of kids just fight and compete and not everything go their way, but find a way.
Q. Top two seeds are now out in this tournament, what does that say about the depth of this conference, with you guys and Purdue advancing to the Finals tomorrow?
COACH MERCHANT: We've been talking about that, and a lot of people have asked me through the media and I agree with that I think it's just like the men's side. It's just a bizarre league in that if you don't bring high energy and focus and aggressiveness and play and compete at a high level, you could get beat.
The one thing I'll say about playing Purdue, I actually texted Sharon [Versyp] this morning and wished her luck or whatever, and we're good friends, and I told her the story at 6:00 this morning, my two year old jumps in bed and says: Mommy, can I get some juice? And I said okay. So I go over get him juice. And I turn around and my two year old is sitting in bed and he's going: Boiler up, (clapping), boiler up, (clapping), over and over. I went, oh, my gosh, what's happening. My Spartan is a Purdue Boilermaker. That's how I started my morning at 6:15. So I thought Sharon would get a kick out of that.
But now I'm going to put my kid in a closet. Is that bad? Probably bad.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
Penn State Quotes
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Coach Coquese Washington and student athlete Alex Bentley. We'll go straight to questions for Alex.
Q. Alex, in the second half, what did Michigan State do to seal the deal for them and how were you guys unable to get things going especially in the last five minutes?
ALEX BENTLEY: They played good defense. They tried to stop us from getting in the lane and forced us to go into the baseline, and we just couldn't get our offense going.
Q. How frustrating is that, not to be able to get that offense going? Maggie [Lucas] hits those two big threes, and I thought maybe that momentum had come and it just dropped off. How frustrating is that for you guys?
ALEX BENTLEY: It's frustrating, but you just gotta keep your head, keep your cool and stay focused. Try to just stay disciplined on the game plan, play our game.
Q. Now with the tournament coming up, how do you guys kind of look past this one and change things up again going into next week, kind of deja vu from last year? You'll pick up from last year to kind of advance to the tournament
ALEX BENTLEY: You can't look past it. You can't look past a loss. We take what we learned from this game and we learn from it and we get better and we use that to move forward.
THE MODERATOR: At this time we'll take questions for Coach.
Q. Michigan State really slowed this game down there in the middle of the second half. What did they do that maybe got you guys out of your game plan?
COACH WASHINGTON: Well, Michigan State is a team that likes a slow pace. I thought we had opportunities to push the pace and we just didn't use those.
But one of the things they did do was they rebounded very well. And we didn't rebound well at all during that stretch. So when you can control the boards, you have a chance to control the pace. And the second half, they certainly were the aggressors on the backboard.
Q. Coach, people say all the time it's always hard to beat somebody for the third time in a season. You know, you beat Michigan State twice by double digits, what was different this time around?
COACH WASHINGTON: We didn't shoot the ball well. We didn't shoot the ball well at all. And they shot the ball much better than we did. Basketball is about making baskets, and we had too many stretches where I thought we got pretty decent looks that didn't go down.
I thought we had some stretches of the game where we just shot too many quick jump shots and that wasn't good. We didn't get into a flow.
But I thought Michigan State played a very good defensive game. They're a very good defensive team. And they played with a lot of energy on the defensive end, a lot of enthusiasm. And we didn't match that energy. So that's the difference.
Q. Moving forward now, maybe besides shooting, what is the other improvement you guys need to make next week before the tournament comes?
COACH WASHINGTON: Well, you can't get too high with highs and can't get too low with lows. Basketball is a game of matchups.
When you play in conference play, you know, teams are so familiar with you and know your personnel and know the things that you like to do. And you go forward to the NCAA Tournament, you don't know what your matchups are going to be, you don't know anything like that. It's a new season.
We get some time off, we can rest. We can get healthy, and get ready to go to the NCAA Tournament with a renewed focus.
Q. We saw regular season in the tournament kind of a mirror image of last year. What's different this year heading into the tournament, with this squad?
COACH WASHINGTON: I think our confidence. And you look at this game, it's an anomaly. It might be the worst shooting game we've had all season. And again, credit Michigan State, but this isn't who we are.
I'm confident we'll go into the NCAA Tournament and we'll play better offensively. I'm confident we'll go in the NCAA Tournament and we'll play better defensively. And you have nights when you just play poorly.
It is what it is. It was a night that we played poorly. We shot the ball poorly. We got outrebounded. And we didn't have good flow on offense. That's not who we've been all season. So I don't think that's who we'll be in the NCAA Tournament.
Q. Talked about your depth all year. You put in a number of players especially early. Still a luxury to have, right, to be able to put in all those players and have them play a decent amount of minutes?
COACH WASHINGTON: Absolutely. Absolutely. Again, Michigan State played very well. They made shots. In the second half, I don't know what the score was at halftime, but Debbie Antonelli is here. She switched the ball at halftime because it wasn't great offense the first half.
But they shot the ball much better the second half. And I thought they played well. I thought Michigan State played a very good game and Jasmine Thomas hit some big shots in the second half.
And I also thought Becca Mills hit big shots. They did a good job moving people around, getting their shooters big shots.
Again, the game comes back to making shots, and they made shots in the second half. And we didn't make enough of them, especially when it counted like probably the last five minutes.
Q. Can you talk about the difference that the senior class makes and what it's going to be to have that senior leadership heading into the tournament?
COACH WASHINGTON: I think when you have four, five seniors that we have that have been through so many, have so much experience, I think that will carry us. Certainly our kids are very disappointed right now.
But they're a team that has good perspective and they'll keep this game in perspective. Certainly a number of lessons that we can learn and we can apply moving forward and our kids will do a great job of taking those lessons and going forward with them. But the senior class, I think they have great perspective and will be able to keep this game in perspective.
Q. How much did it hurt losing Nikki [Greene] to foul trouble with about eight minutes left in the first half, and do you think that stops her from getting into a flow offensively with the rest of the game?
COACH WASHINGTON: Not only did it stop her from getting into a flow, I think it stopped our entire offense from getting into a flow. I thought we were doing a good job of moving the ball.
And she's also a big key for us defensively, so losing her at the end of the first half, you know, it got us out of our rhythm offensively. But we had it the whole pretty much the whole second half and we never got back into the rhythm. So that's something we've got to get better at. We've gotta work on having a better flow when, offensive flow when she's not on the floor.
Q. Noticed the toughness of Maggie Lucas. Certainly isn't a secret. But tonight, especially late, she made some tough threes. Made some tough threes. What does that say about the player she is, expanding on this stage, even down by 10 or 11 and still making those threes?
COACH WASHINGTON: She's a competitor. She's a competitor. And her drive and her will to win are very, very high. So and not just her, the entire team. Our drive and our competitive fire is high. We just met a team tonight that played better than we did, shot the ball better than we did, and rebounded better than we did. So that's why we didn't get the win.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.