Q. Arica, as you’ve taken a look at this Boise State team, they’ve got a pretty potent guard combination in Lupfer and Hermida. What have you seen about them and how you plan on going after them?
ARICA CARTER: Well, we just plan on coming out and playing our game, focusing on the dribble drive because that’s been a big part of our game that we need to get better at. So we just plan on coming out and playing hard and keeping people in front of us.
Q. For both players, it’s been about 20 years since the last 16 beat a 1. How hard is it to work up the amount of worry that your coach might want you to feel right now?
MYISHA HINES-ALLEN: We’re not getting caught up in the 1 and 16 seeds. We’re just focusing mainly on playing our game, and that’ll take care of itself if we play our game.
ARICA CARTER: Yeah, like she said, we’ve just got to come out and play hard, play every possession like it matters, and give all effort.
Q. You guys have been off now for 11 or 12 days. What have you done over this last period to stay sharp?
ARICA CARTER: We’ve practiced hard. We’ve had conditioning days to make sure our fitness stays up, and we’ve watched a lot of film to make sure we’re mentally focused, and we just made sure that we’re staying focused both mentally and physically by going hard in practices and being smart in what we do.
Q. You guys have had some losses here in early rounds at home before; how do you get over those types of losses and regroup?
MYISHA HINES-ALLEN: My sophomore year when we lost here to DePaul, the year after that, we beat Tennessee, so I mean, it’s moving on to the next one. It’s not worrying about what happened in the past, it’s staying present, and just playing our game. If we play our game, I feel real confident in what we can do.
Q. For either of you, when you look at this field with Marquette and Dayton and Boise State, what stands out about what they could do to try to topple you all as a top seed aside from the whole seeding thing?
MYISHA HINES-ALLEN: Every team brings something different. So I’m just excited to get out there and play. That’s really what I know I’m focused on, my teammates are focused on, just going out there and playing our hardest and not getting carried away with who we’re playing or what round it is.
ARICA CARTER: Like she said, we’ve just got to come out and be focused. Every team is going to come out and give their best punch at the end of the year, and every team wants to win. Nobody cares what seed a team is. So we’ve just got to come out and play hard, and we can’t worry about what the other team is doing and just focus on what we need to do.
Q. For both of you, one of your assistant coaches who will remain unnamed has called this basically a two-game tournament three times. Your reaction to that, your thoughts on that?
ARICA CARTER: I mean, it is. Like I said before, every team is coming out to play hard. We’ve got to give our best. We’ve got to give our all and just go out there and play our game. I mean, there’s nothing more I can say about that.
Q. Arica, at the end of the season you were strong shooting from the three-point line, and I just wonder if you had progressed to do that, something that came along in your game, and did you think of that for the team?
ARICA CARTER: Well, I mean, I just worked on my game in all areas, and the three-point shot is what has been the most successful so far. Teams keep giving me that shot, so when I shoot it, I’m confident. My teammates have instilled confidence in me as well as my coaches, so when I’m open, I know I’m going to knock it down.
Q. Is it kind of lonely out there beyond the three-point line when you go up for your jumper and then it’s not like a rebound, you’ve kind of got the spotlight right on you on a three-point shot?
ARICA CARTER: No, it’s not lonely. I mean, it’s exciting because it’s a wide-open shot. I’ll take it.
Q. Myisha, what does it mean to you being a senior and getting another chance to play here in front of this fan base?
MYISHA HINES-ALLEN: I’m excited. My senior night, I just kept thinking back, I’m like, I’ll be back here, it’s not like I won’t be back because we’re going to host the first two rounds, so I’m excited, and this is actually right now going to be the last time I’ll be in the Yum! Center, so let’s just go out and win these two games.
Q. A lot has been made about banners in this building. How big would it be for you ladies to hang a banner, especially Myisha, in your senior year?
MYISHA HINES-ALLEN: It would be really exciting. But we’re not getting ahead. We’re just going to take one game at a time. Never get too ahead or worry about the banners or cutting down Nets or the trophies. We’re just going to take it one game at a time, and then it’ll take care of itself.
JEFF WALZ: We have two of them hanging, but you might not have ever seen them. They’re kind of over on the side. (Laughter.)
Q. In terms of compartmentalizing the whole two-game-at-a-time thing, obviously the scenario is that you all don’t have to leave the state before you get to the Final Four. How much can you look forward to that in terms of continuity, practice, just really being an hour away to the next round? How much of that is motivation?
ARICA CARTER: I think it’s great. We have the best fans in the country, so for them to be able to travel just an hour away is going to be amazing. I already know they’re going to pack the house. They’re going to be the loudest ones in the gym, so I think the fact that we’re so close to home, having our fans there is going to be amazing.
Q. Myisha, I wonder if you could comment on how you’ve seen the depth of the field grow in the women’s tournament; there’s still a lot of lopsided scores, maybe even more so than the men. Do you think we’re getting any closer to parity?
MYISHA HINES-ALLEN: Yes. I mean, this game has grown so much, and I feel like over the years you see a lot of different players and their game develop. I know you’re not seeing girls in the game right now dunking, but like you’ll see it on Instagram like them working out and them throwing down dunk and the handles that some girls have, the three-point shot. So I feel like the game has grown a lot because girls are more confident in themselves, thinking that they can compete with the guys. But it’s not always competing against the guys, it’s mainly competing against yourself and pushing yourself to become better, and once that happens, I mean, I feel like we can compete with anybody. Doesn’t matter if you’re a girl or you’re a guy.
Q. I’m talking about the number of women’s teams that are truly competitive in the tournament, and —
MYISHA HINES-ALLEN: Oh, sorry.
Q. As an elite team that you are, the expectation is that you’re probably going to win most of your early games pretty handily. Has that changed during your career?
MYISHA HINES-ALLEN: Yeah. A lot of teams are good. Like Coach Walz just said, yeah. Doesn’t matter what seed you are, you’re going to get someone’s best shot, because like I was saying before, top down, girls are getting better, so they’re getting spread out to different teams. It’s not all one — like the best players going to one team. They’re getting spread out, and you can see it now.
JEFF WALZ: You just look at Marquette, a team that was at Notre Dame in overtime, lost to Tennessee in overtime. They’re an 8 seed. I think the depth of women’s basketball has expanded. You go back to Marquette’s first game of the year, they went to New Mexico and lost at New Mexico. I think New Mexico finished sixth or seventh in the Mountain West. Boise won the Mountain West. So I think that speaks volumes that you’ve got a team that finished sixth or seventh in conference who the winner is a 16 seed. I just think it shows that our game is getting there. Do we still have a ways to go? Yeah. But you know, you go back seven, eight years ago, it was kind of whoever the top four seeds were were going to the Final Four, where now you’ve got a Baylor team who’s No. 2 in the AP and coaches’ poll who’s a No. 2 seed. So it just shows the depth of our game.
Sorry about that.
Q. Everyone on your team with the exception of the freshmen has obviously had the chance to last year play the first two rounds at home and be successful. Why do you think that was so successful last year? What did you guys learn from those two games here last season?
ARICA CARTER: I think it’s like we talked about this year, just being focused on the opponent in front of you, not thinking forward to the next game. We have to win the first game to get to the next game, so you can never overlook anybody.
I think that’s what it is, focusing on the opponent that we have to face, and also focusing on ourselves, making sure that we play our game and not let anybody change us.
Q. Just a quiz for you two: On Monday night after Boise State found out that they were playing you, one of their players made the comment that I’m not sure if the Louisville girls actually know where we are. So I guess my question is do you two know where Boise State is.
MYISHA HINES-ALLEN: Idaho.
JEFF WALZ: We have the utmost respect for them. At 23-9, you win your regular season and conference championship, you’re a good basketball team.
MYISHA HINES-ALLEN: I was going to get it right. We know where they are.
Q. For both of you, as the No. 1 seed there’s a reward of getting to play at home and better draw or whatever the theory is. But there are also expectations when you’re a No. 1 seed. Do you guys feel the expectations?
MYISHA HINES-ALLEN: Being the No. 1 seed? Like AC was saying, we’ve just going to take it one game at a time. We’re never going to get caught up in what our ranking is, and just mainly just focused on ourselves because it’ll take care of itself.
ARICA CARTER: I agree with what Myisha said. We can’t think about the pressure of what everybody else thinks outside, we can only focus on our people, our circle inside, and come out and play as hard as we can every game.
Q. At this point of the season, how are roles kind of defined? Obviously with how the game unfolds determines that, but in terms of how some players, some of your teammates are playing, how do you kind of see things changing for some of the other players on the bench?
ARICA CARTER: This far in the year everybody knows their role. There’s no changing it tomorrow because it’s tomorrow, it’s a new game. No, everybody knows their role and what they need to come out and do for the team to be successful.
Q. Do you see anybody who could have a bigger role, or is anybody capable right now?
ARICA CARTER: I mean, our whole team is capable of coming out and doing something that might surprise you, but that’s not their goal, they’re not coming out thinking, oh, I’m going to do this tonight. No, everybody knows what they need to do.
MYISHA HINES-ALLEN: Yeah, AC said it right. Roles are already made. Just because we’re in the NCAA Tournament now, you can’t try to do something you haven’t been doing this whole season. So I mean, everyone has been playing well, and you never know who’s going to step up. Every game you have someone different step up, whether it shows up on the stats sheet or not. Everyone knows their role and what they’re capable of doing, and we know what they’re capable of doing, and the coaches do, too.
Q. She’s not here so I have to ask about her; talk about Asia’s play this year. Bleacher Report specifically called her the Michael Jordan of women’s college basketball. Would you two kind of like to weigh in on that?
MYISHA HINES-ALLEN: That’s something — that’s high up there, Michael Jordan. I mean, that’s impressive. But Asia, she’s just a phenomenal player. She wants the best, not only for herself but for her teammates, and she puts her teammates first, and that’s one of the things I love most about her. She’s never caught up in how many points she scored or what Bleacher Report is saying or the outsiders are saying. It’s about us first, and she wants the team to be successful, and whatever she has to do, she’ll do it for us to be successful. That’s one thing I love most about her. That’s what I have to say about her.
ARICA CARTER: I agree with what Myisha said. She’s a great teammate, and she’s always there for us even when she might be in the struggle, she’s always trying to pick somebody else up. I see that in a lot of players, especially top players. She focuses on her teammates. When she’s off, of course she might be down, but then you can’t even tell sometimes because she’s always just working hard and doing whatever else she can to help the team.
Q. Do you think it helps that you guys haven’t really been a perennial 1 seed like Notre Dame or UConn, you guys have that experience of kind of going into some match-ups deemed the underdog?
JEFF WALZ: You know what, being a 1 seed is an honor. There’s no question about it. It’s what you’ve done the entire year. It’s your body of work. These young women have done a fantastic job day in and day out. But now we just throw all that out. We don’t — we know we have a four-team tournament, you’ve got to win the first to get to the second. And nobody cares what seed you are.
Being a 1 seed is fantastic, like I said. It shows you what you’ve done throughout the year. But we’ve had a lot of success as a 3 and a 5, gone on to play in Final Fours and National Championships. The one thing that makes March so special, both men’s basketball and women’s basketball, is the best team doesn’t always win. It’s whoever is playing the best basketball that night. You know, I go back to ’13 when we beat Baylor. If that was a best of five, I don’t like my chances. But it’s not, it’s one game. And that’s where you get into a situation where you start making shots and the ball starts going in, and then a call here or there, a 50/50 call, ball goes off of somebody’s foot, it gets given back to you, those are the things you can’t control. So that’s what makes it so special.
I’ve said it all along, it’s not always the best team wins. It’s whoever is playing the best that night. And that’s what you’ve got to do as a coach, you’ve got to do as players, you’ve got to make sure you’re playing your best, and I feel good about where we are right now. I think the ACC Tournament was something that we have talked about. You go 3-0 in a tournament, you win a tournament championship by a total of 10 points. It’s not like we blew anybody out. We’re down 12, I believe, to Virginia Tech in the first half, down eight or nine to NC State, and our kids don’t panic. We’ve been in those spots before. You’ve just got to keep working, keep grinding, and like these young women said, we take care of ourselves. Instead of being worried about all the time what the opponent is going to do, we try to focus on us, what we have to do. You know, we know what we have to do in order to hopefully advance.
Q. Following up on your point about the close margin in the ACC, what do you think those kind of wins really show about this team in terms of its focus and resolve, and like you said, you’re not blowing out anybody, but you’re getting these close wins?
JEFF WALZ: Well, I think it shows the maturity of them. You know, they can go back on their experience. We’re up six, I think, six or seven to Notre Dame with about four and a half, five to go, and they cut it to one, and I didn’t call a time-out. There was no need to call a time-out. Our players know what to do. It was just a matter of executing, relaxing, taking care of business, and they cut it to one. We executed the offense, man gets the ball reversed, Myisha makes a little 15-foot jump shot, and now as the game gets under a minute, I’ve got three time-outs to work with. And I think that’s where we are right now right now with this group. Sure, I might have to call a time-out here or there, but it’s not something I feel I have to do to bail them out, where it’s like, oh, my gosh, I’ve got to stop this. They’re mature enough. They’ve got enough experience that we know exactly what we have to do to be able to stop momentum from the other team, and that could be a defensive stop or execute at the offensive end.
Q. Gordy Presnell, head coach there, has been there for 13 years. What do you know about Gordy?
JEFF WALZ: Great guy. I just had the opportunity to talk to him after our meeting. He’s got a great program. He’s a very good coach. You know, they lost their post player early in the year to an injury, so he’s had to adjust how he kind of likes to play, and I think they’ve done a very good job, and I think that’s what a good coach does.
You know, sure, you might have a system, but if something happens where someone gets injured, if you can’t run the system, you change, and I think that’s when you realize somebody can coach, when they’re willing and able to make changes.
We know that they’re going to do some different things at the defensive end of the floor. We’re going to have to stay patient and just make sure we realize and can recognize what’s going on. But he does a great job, and they’re a really, really good basketball team.
Q. Following up on the parity angle, there are men’s coaches who when Kentucky shows up they stop recruiting a player, figuring that it’s a lost cause. Do you have the same experience with UConn, or are there coaches that do, and how do you deal with that?
JEFF WALZ: No, I mean, if we had that philosophy, Asia Durr wouldn’t be sitting here playing for us because she was recruited by everybody in the country. You know, there’s enough players — we’re getting more players that are at a high caliber that UConn can only take so many. You’ve only got so many, and the thing about Geno, which I laugh about, is everybody talks about, well, 15 scholarships is too many, Geno is stockpiling. No, he doesn’t. He’s got like 10 or 11, that’s it, every year. If you look at his bench, you know, he always has some walk-ons or some players that he ends up putting on scholarship, I think, but he’s not out there with a full 15.
You know, we have 12 right now on scholarship, and Jess was a walk-on starting the year. We added her on scholarship because she’s worked extremely hard. But most of your top, top programs, it’s hard to keep 15 players happy. You know, now if you redshirt a couple, which I think is great, but if you don’t, boy, it’s hard.
I think if you have that mindset of I’m going to stop recruiting them because UConn calls them or Baylor calls them or whoever else, it’s not really a smart philosophy to have. You know, so we keep recruiting, but I do say it all the time in recruiting: The most important aspect of recruiting is know what kids you can’t get. It’s not know which ones you can get, because if you spend too much time on the kids you can’t get, it’s going to affect you on the one that you might be able to get. So that’s what we talk about all the time as a staff is, hey, let’s get in there and let’s get to know the player, let’s get to know the support system around that player and find out.
If mom is going, I don’t want my baby to go away from home and I’m doing a home visit in California, I mean, I’ve got a pretty good feeling I’m not getting her. So that’s when you’ve got to — you might still recruit her, but I’m not putting all my eggs in that basket.
Q. They won their league, they won their league tournament, they’ve won 10 in a row. What did the committee miss, or why are they seeded 16? Seems like they’re better than that.
JEFF WALZ: Well, I mean, I’m not privy to be in that room. But I know they are a very good basketball team and have got an RPI of about 110, 111, and I’ve got a lot of respect for them. There’s no question about that. I was surprised to see them as a 16, and I think if you watch the selection show, from their expression, I think they were surprised to be a 16.
But you’re going to have to play somebody. That’s what I say all the time. Everybody talks about this draw, that draw, this bracket, that bracket. You’ve got to play somebody. I mean, it comes down to what are you going to do, everybody is sitting there telling me, you want to be opposite UConn, you want to be opposite UConn. I’m like, why. They’re like, well, you don’t want to play them in the semis. That’s the only time he’s lost in the Final Four is in the semis. So why not play them in the semis? He kicked our ass twice in the finals. So it’s a mindset. It’s how you take it. And if you’ve got the approach that it’s the next game — like we have to worry about this one here tomorrow. Believe me, our kids will not overlook Boise because I’m not. I’ve got way too much respect for Gordy and the staff and their players, and then if we’re fortunate enough to advance, believe me, Marquette and Dayton are two really good basketball teams, very well-coached that play hard, and they’re going to present some problems to us.
But we will not look past tomorrow, and if something happens and if we lose, I promise you, it’s not because we didn’t have respect for Boise State, because we do.
Q. Going off of that, when you look at the losses here to Dayton and DePaul, was there a common thread that allowed that to happen?
JEFF WALZ: Well, we lost up in Albany to Dayton in the Sweet 16. So that wasn’t here. And our game against DePaul, match-ups are a big part of this game, and three years ago when we played them here, it was a bad matchup for us, and we knew it when the draw came out. They all shoot threes, they spread the floor, and you know, we have some players that are more traditional back-to-the-basket post players, and they really — they shot — their 5 player I think had two or three threes in the first half. So match-ups dictate a lot. You look at the men’s game, and all of a sudden it’s like, golly, why is this supposed to be a close game, and then you realize, well, the opponent has got four players that can shoot threes, and who they’re playing is a traditional two-post offense.
So I’m not concerned about what’s taken place in the past. Our players know that we have gone on the road and won a bunch of times in this tournament. So once the games start up, you know, it’s — anybody has a chance to win.
Q. You referenced it earlier, you have a couple banners hanging in this gym. Talk about how hard it is to get one of those banners and how badly you want to hang another one.
JEFF WALZ: It’s difficult. It’s one thing I would say, people really don’t understand, I think, at times how hard it is to get to a National Championship game, to get to a Final Four. Everybody is trying for the same thing.
You know, it takes a special group, and I think we have a special group, and then it takes a little luck. I don’t care what anybody says. It takes a little bit of luck. You’ve got to prepare, and that’s what I tell our players. You have to prepare and prepare as hard as you can, so when that opportunity comes, your preparation meets a little luck, and that’s fine.
Now, you can’t sit there and just pray for luck and not prepare. That’s really not a smart thing to do. So it’s something that we put in front of us. It’s our goal. In ’14 we lose here in the Elite 8 game with a chance to get back to the Final Four. I mean, it’s tough. There’s no question about it, and that’s one of the reasons I give the utmost respect to UConn and Geno. He makes it look easy. I promise you, it’s not.
Q. I asked the ladies earlier about all the headlines that Asia has been garnering throughout the year. How has it been coaching her, and talk about how just overall talented your team is? Obviously the ladies sitting directly to your right are very talented in their own right.
JEFF WALZ: Yeah, we’re a ballclub that when we come out and we play hard and we play together, we’re really good. You know, as good as Asia is, you know, she counts on her teammates, also, to help her. That night she had 47 up there at Ohio State, it’s not just because it’s all one-on-one. It was within the offense. She had about three or four where she just came down out of transition and scored. The rest of them were out of the offense, kids getting great screens for her, her reading screens, getting the ball to her at the right time. So we count on each other.
Myisha has been a double-double just about every night she plays. It’s really impressive. But part of that is because Sam boxes out her man and Myisha’s man. So Myisha is able to get in there and clean things up. Sam is one that I don’t think gets enough recognition of credit for what she does. If you watch our game, just watch Sam Fuehring. The kid is on the floor more than anybody that I’ve coached and is always in there mixing it up and defending and rebounding. She’s taken, I think, about 40 charges on the season. Those are the things that you have to have. Sam and Myisha play extremely well together. And that’s what’s made our team so good.
Arica, I say it all the time, and for those of you who watch it, you understand what I’m saying, she’s a perfect 15-and-over YMCA men’s league player. There’s nothing fancy. There’s no behind-the-back, there’s no hoop-di-do, there’s nothing. She comes off a ball screen, takes her time, pull-up jump shot. She’ll get the ball on ball reversal, she takes her time, straight into the shot. And I think that’s what’s makes her so good. She understands the game. She’s got a high basketball IQ, and those are the things you can’t teach. You either have that or you don’t.
Her game, I think, someone asked about her three-point shot, the kid made zero three-pointers her freshman year. I mean, couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, and just got in the gym. She’s worked at it. She’s worked and worked and worked, and she is a testimony of what is hard to find these days because a lot of players are like, well, I went in the gym for the past week and I shot extra, but I haven’t gotten better. Well, AC has been doing it for three years now, and finally the rewards of all the work that she’s put in, she’s starting to reap. And that’s what’s so exciting about her as a person and a player.
And Asia is the same way. Asia is the first one in the gym, the last one out of the gym. But what I love about this ballclub is you can go back to our Notre Dame, end of the third quarter, I think it was Pittsburgh or end of the third quarter when Asia hits those threes fading out of bounds, and the bench is the first one out there to congratulate her. They’re all excited for her. But then if you would have seen Asia’s face when Myisha was named MVP of the ACC Tournament, she’s the first one to give her a hug. She’s the first one in the pressroom that’s got a tear in her eye, so excited about winning. She didn’t even make first- or second-team all-tournament team, but she was excited for Jaz, who’s had a wonderful year for us, for Sam, for AC, and that’s what makes this group so special. Our chemistry is wonderful.
I tell them all the time, you have to — in order to be a great basketball program, you have to learn to respect each other’s differences. You aren’t going to be friends with everybody. It’s impossible to be best friends with everybody. But you have to respect each other’s differences. And that’s what this ballclub does. There’s some great friendships that have been made, but at the same time, you might like ’80s music and you might like rap. You know what, we compromise, and that’s what this ballclub has learned to do, they’ve learned to respect each other and care about each other.
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