Purdue-Michigan State Quotes
March 10, 2013
Michigan State Quotes
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Head Coach Suzy Merchant and student athletes Kiana Johnson and Jasmine Thomas. Opening comments, Coach.
COACH MERCHANT: Well, obviously disappointed, especially the first half. I mean, that was kind of where the game was lost, basically. And that was frustrating.
I did like our fight in the second. I thought we did some pretty good things to make it interesting and to hear the crowd trying to get back into it.
But we just played very flat, defensively, and I thought obviously, offensively, we had some really good looks. I mean, we didn't make layups, and I think that was the difference. If we could have scored early, I think that puts more pressure on people to score at the other end. And they do go hand in hand. So just was not our night.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Kiana and Jasmine.
Q. Jasmine, it looked like your teammates may have been fatigued going into this.
JASMINE THOMAS: I mean, maybe it could have been a factor. Three games in three days is no joke. But I don't know. We knew what we were getting ourselves into, so it was kind of up to us to manage our bodies.
Q. When you guys played Purdue last time, for either of you, you went down there with a really big focus on defense. And tonight, I think they started out 8 for 8 or 9 for 9. What was the difference early on with you guys on defense?
KIANA JOHNSON: I think it was our mentality. We weren't aggressive on the defensive end. Our posts were giving good looks. We couldn't get over the back screen, and we didn't have help side defense. That's what it was.
Q. Even though you were down big at halftime, you guys came back and almost made a game of it or did make a game of it. What changed for you? What did you talk about at halftime that allowed you to come, you know, have some fight left in you?
JASMINE THOMAS: We weren't playing our basketball. I mean, like mentioned before, started at the defensive end, and that's not where our focus was.
So in the locker room, we kind of talked about locking down defensively and slowing down offensively.
KIANA JOHNSON: Going off of that, felt like on the offensive end, we were individuals instead of a team. And we succeed when we play team basketball.
Q. What makes [Drey] Mingo such a difficult matchup?
JASMINE THOMAS: I mean, we knew going in she was a hardworking post player, probably one of the hardest workers in the Big Ten. I mean, she just doesn't stop. If she's not open in one area, she'll fight until she is. So I mean, that's what makes her tough because she never quits.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.
Q. Looked like the players were leaving their shots short. Was that the lights?
COACH MERCHANT: I don't know. I know we talked about that. We haven't played three games in three days, but it is a group that has played extended minutes. I mean, even in the beginning of the year when we had basically five people, six people, blowing people out, even in games where you should have been sitting them, they were used to logging lots of minutes.
So I guess I don't number one thing is we're not going to make an excuse. We played badly. We had shots. I don't know if you need your legs to make a layup. I mean, just throwing that out there.
I mean, you're two feet from the basket, and I'm not sure you need to be elevating to a point that you need all of your legs. You just need to focus and finish.
So to me, we were not very sharp. And I think had we scored a little bit earlier to start things out we talked about being more actionary versus reactionary, and I think it was completely the opposite. We just kind of took whatever they did.
Drey Mingo single handedly our team had 14 points and she had 14 at the half, for crying out loud. We're not that bad of an offensive team.
I talked to the team about consistency. That's what's been hard this year, to be honest, is like you can't have everyone's going to have an elevated game or two, but if you look at Purdue, for example, a lot of their successes come from the same people mostly stepping up.
Drey, I feel like Drey, [Courtney] Moses and KK [Houser] are pretty consistent players and double digit scorers for them, night in night out, and they get contributions in other ways from other players.
For us, it's not been like that until recently. We've had one kid that I feel like going into the last 10 games I knew exactly what she was going to give us, and that was Jasmine Thomas.
So that's been a little bit of our Achilles' heel is that we need everybody. We don't have a deep bench, and we need everybody. So when one person isn't as sharp, it affects our entire ability to do some things. That's why we practice defense so much, because we think we can at least defend sometimes. Most of the time.
Q. You will have some basketball ahead presumably with the tournament. What will you do to get the disappointment out of their heads and focus on the next step?
COACH MERCHANT: I haven't even gone there yet. It's still disappointing. I think you've got to feel it a little bit. You've got to be disappointed in order to kind of regroup and decide what kind of team you want to be.
And I feel good about our team. I think I'm very proud of them. It's just disappointing that that wasn't the team that showed up here the last two days. And it was frustrating.
And I'm frustrated for Jasmine and Schiff [Courtney Schiffauer], too, because they rely on their teammates to be there for them.
So to answer your question, I'm really not worried about getting the disappointment. I hope it fuels them a little bit, that they use it to think about what kind of player they want to be the next time they step foot on the floor and what kind of aggressor we want to be.
And it was disappointing, but I give Purdue a lot of credit. I thought Drey Mingo was amazing, absolutely amazing, and I'm really happy that she got her extra year and what a story and what a class act she is. And very, very proud of what she's been able to accomplish with all of her adversity. I think she represents the Big Ten and all of us very, very well. So give more credit to her and her team than certainly the disappointment of our team.
Q. Last time you guys played, Annalise [Pickrel] was a really big factor for you guys. Why do you think she wasn't able to get going tonight?
COACH MERCHANT: I don't know. This entire tournament, I couldn't find the Annalise that we've had. I don't know where she went. I was asking her. I don't know. We've got to find her. he's a tough matchup. She's obviously a big three- man for us and can face up as a four as well. And I'm not sure why.
She just and obviously we had some other kids playing a little bit better in that Penn State game. And sometimes it isn't necessarily what she's not doing; it might be what somebody else is, so in that situation.
But I still don't feel like she's being the player she can be. And she's gotta come back to us. She really does. I thought today, I mean, in particular, we had a few kids that were not the players that they can be and have been at times.
Q. Kind of the same thing, I guess, talking about Klarissa [Bell] and she didn't score a point. So what was going on, I guess?
COACH MERCHANT: I have no idea. You should ask her. I don't know. I asked our players. They didn't know. She's kind of tough to read sometimes like that.
So when it just kept being consistent at both ends of the floor, maybe sometimes it's better to sit down and give somebody else a try. And when we did that, we made a pretty good run I thought that second half. I think we gave her opportunities.
That's what I'm talking about with her a little bit is the consistency piece. I mean, she was way more aggressive and confident obviously the Michigan thing, and then obviously very good defensively, but dropped offensively yesterday, and then today was kind of so so on both sides of the ball.
So I don't know what happened. I don't know if her legs just caught up. I don't know if there was something going on outside. But I'm not sure. I don't know.
And she's a tough one. I mean, she's got a lot of talent and skill. And so one of the things that she has to really work on in the off season is what kind of player do you want to be, and that has to be consistent. You really have to want to take on challenges and connect with your teammates.
And for some reason it wasn't there tonight.
Q. Can you just kind of expand on the way that Jasmine Thomas has been playing here. I think this was the eighth straight game in double figures in all tournament.
COACH MERCHANT: Wow, it's such a blessing to have someone play so hard like that on both ends of the floor. She's doing so much for her teammates. And that's the frustrating thing for me because I'm kind of a fiery, competitive person. And when I see someone doing that, I don't understand how other kids cannot jump in and play just like that or find a way to bring that kind of emotional connection to the team.
And that was what was hard for me tonight, because I thought JT [Jasmine Thomas] was like really bringing it and we couldn't get anybody else to join her. And we've had that happen in the past, and that's not a good situation for us.
So to comment, she's just been unbelievable. You couldn't write a better story as a senior, as a captain. We owe this entire season to be 24 8 in a championship game is largely, largely due to Jasmine Thomas and her will to win.
Q. Outside of maybe duct tape and handcuffs, what could you guys have done differently to defend Mingo?
COACH MERCHANT: I don't know. We probably could have gone zone earlier. I just that's not what got us here, though. I think you know that about me. You know where I came from and who I've played for in the past. So it's hard for me to pull the trigger sometimes with zone. That's a true statement.
I felt like I was a little bit worried about their shooters. And when I see zone, I see open opportunities for Courtney Moses, and she got away from us finally over time. It took some time, thankfully, but she did get away from us there. So maybe a little bit more of that pressure so we could play more gaps and help and that kind of thing.
But I don't know. I don't understand. We were really good defending her that second time down there. And I thought our post defense against Penn State was really good. So it was a shock to see each post player have three fouls in like three minutes. And she has 14 points, and I don't know how long that took, but it wasn't very long.
So that's, again, the consistency thing that I didn't quite know what to do with.
Q. If you wouldn't mind looking big picture for just a minute, what can you expect out of your team in the NCAA Tournament? And maybe even bigger picture than that, what's it going to take for a Big Ten team to make a deep run into the tournament and why don't you think that that's happened in a while?
COACH MERCHANT: Geez, I don't know. Sometimes I think it's matchups. I think the women's game still has a little ways to go. When we have these home sites, things are manipulated with seeds that I'm not sure maybe are accurate. I know they try to be, but at the end of the day, you want your home people playing on the home court that might adjust a seed just one notch, just to make it fit.
And then a 7 10 really is maybe not a 7 10 game. Maybe a 7 seed is really a 4 seed.
So I think that could be some of it. But you're right. The time we go to work, I think Penn State there's a lot of us who have an opportunity. But I think you have to look at Penn State and watch their success.
They were a Sweet 16 team last year, which is a nice run, and they want to take another step. And I think their defense and their athleticism will allow them to do that.
I know they wanted to win this thing here today, but in some ways, maybe just getting a little taste of the things not going your way can inspire a team like that to kick it up a notch.
So I feel like they have a chance to be a Final Four team, I really do, given the right matchups and the right situation. I feel it's an excellent team and Coquese has done an amazing job.
I think there's a lot of really good teams in our league, a lot of really good battles this year. I hope to see six I think last year we had seven in the tournament. I'd love to see that again. But you just don't know. You really don't know.
I think Ohio State was the one that was a little bit on the bubble, but I'm not sure.
And then, you know I don't know, I don't know if that layover has anything to do with it or not. There's other leagues that have the layover that we do. ACC is finishing up. I think ACC, SEC. So they have some layover, too, and those are teams that have been in Final Fours.
I used to think that was the problem, but you look at it and say it's hard to say that when you see Big East teams and things like that in the tournament. But it's all right.
I think our league has a lot to be proud of, student athlete wise, coaching wise, performance wise. It's a tough league top to bottom, so I expect the committee to reward us and hopefully put us in positions where we can make runs.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.