March 5, 2012
Head Coach Muffet McGraw
"We were happy to avenge our loss. I thought we played well right from the start. We got out on the ball and shot the ball really well. Defensively we did a much better job on their guards in particular and I thought we did a good job. We had really good balance today which we didn't have last time. So overall really pleased with the win."
You guys made I think eight of your first ten shots or nine of your first ten shots. Offensively, was that as well as you guys could execute that first four, five, six minutes of the game?
"Yeah, it really was. We came out with fire. We were ready to go, and we were open. I think we took advantage of the opportunities and converted early. I think that set the tone for the game."
What was your plan with (Asya) Bussie and (Ayana) Dunning, the two West Virginia posts? I know they got some points tonight, but you pretty much shut down everyone else. Is that pretty much what you were looking for?
"Initially our plan was to guard everybody individually. We weren't going to double down until they started to beat us in the posts. Devereaux (Peters) was in the front as opposed to being behind. When she got in foul trouble, we were going to double down off the other post. So we didn't do that quite as effectively. Brittany (Mallory) did a good job of leaving her man in the second half. I think she was able to get out and really see it coming. She's a really smart defensive player, so we relied on her to get the double team for us. That was really the plan. Everybody guard their own man and see if we could take them one on one in the block."
This was West Virginia's last game in the BIG EAST. A lot of people have made comments about teams leaving and the whole mix up of the conference. (WVU) has been a Big East school for a while, and they've been a favorable school. Everyone seems to enjoy them. What's it mean what they've brought to the BIG EAST in their time here?
"I think West Virginia's always been a tough place to play. (Mike Carrey) has done a really great job, especially this year, losing four starters and coming back. When you play their teams, you know that they're going to be well coached. They're going to be great defensive teams. They're one of the best defensive teams in the country. Mike does a really good job. This year he could have been "Coach of the Year". He really got that team going. I think they're a team that's always in the hunt. It's always a difficult game for us. So we wish them well as they leave the conference."
Sophomore Kayla McBride
Can you talk about your game today? You are 17 of 30 shooting in your last three games here in Hartford on this court. Can you talk a little bit about your shooting performance in this stretch?
"I think it's just taking advantage of my opportunities. My teammates gave me the ball, so I think I just like the atmosphere, and I was just letting it go."
Are you doing anything different in terms of looking for your shots? Are you reading defenses better? How are you getting more space to get that shot that you want?
"I think it's just being more comfortable playing with my teammates. After sitting out last year it took me a little longer to get back in rhythm. But I think right now in this stretch I really need to step it up for my teammates and just do what I do best, and that's get the ball in the basket."
Senior Natalie Novosel
We sat here last Monday night and you guys said how winning the BIG EAST outright was something you guys wanted to do for Coach. You're now one game away from a similar position trying to take your first tournament championship for Notre Dame. Is this same sort of feeling?
"Absolutely. We are right in the position where we want to be. Tomorrow's game, there is no doubt in our mind that we want to go in and win that for Coach."
Junior Skylar Diggins
Can you talk about Kayla's game and how she's stepping it up at the right time of the year?
"I think Kayla is a player who can score, who can rebound, who can guard a big, guard a guard. She can do it all. She's really taken advantage of her opportunities when she gets the ball. She said we're giving it to her where she's comfortable and she knows where to go. She makes herself very available to the high post area. I mean, you can give it to her when she has a mismatch. She has a great handle. She can create her own shot. She's a player that's really shown what she has and she's a great shooter, but she also can bang around in there with the bigs. I think she's doing her job and playing her role to a tee."
Can you talk a little about the opportunity to play in the BIG EAST tournament championship game?
"I think it's great for our school, particularly in the season that we've been having. This is great for us being able to avenge. We're excited for the opportunity to compete for a BIG EAST championship. We mentioned, all of us have, what that would mean to us as a program and to Coach McGraw. So it's a great opportunity to show we have an atmosphere like this in a tough conference like the BIG EAST."
Head Coach Mike Carrey
"Unlike a lot of teams, (Notre Dame) just kicks our butt. I'm not going to make excuses for our team. They just beat us. They did exactly what they needed to do. They have more energy. They played harder and they just beat us. I told the girls before the game we're not going to use the excuse that we're tired, something happened, whatever. We didn't come out ready to play, and they did, and that's what happens when you play good teams. Next we go to the NCAA, and we're going to play all good teams. We're going to make a decision that we're going to come out and play, or we're going to stand around and watch the other team play. If we do, that's going to be a short tournament for us."
It sounded like from what Ayana said you called the game perfectly the first eight minutes with energy. (Notre Dame) turned it up. Is there anything you could have done differently to prepare for that run?
"Well, exactly. We knew what they were going to. There was a lot of talk and all that stuff. So we knew they were going to come out that first eight minutes and try to bury it. I told (our players) for two halves of the game last night exactly that. They're going to come out and try to bury us. Told them today again. We defended (ND) the same way we defended them at Notre Dame. They ran their same offense, we ran our same defense. They were like two steps quicker and we stood around and why, I don't know. I don't know how we were not excited about playing this game. You know, if you look at it, teams are going to try to take away even Yaya (Ayana Dunning), and if you look at their shooting percentage, we've got to do a better job on the perimeter. We turned it over trying to feed the post and they're sagging in on the post we've got to move the ball and make their defense move, and we just stood around on both ends, and it really showed."
I know coming down here you talked about the importance of winning some games here to help your seed, if nothing else. Do you think you've done that with two wins?
I don't know. I don't really want to call that. We felt coming in here we could improve our seed, but how much? I'm really not crazy about an eight or nine, because you turn around and play the No. 1 to win the first round. But we have nobody to blame but ourselves. Don't think I'm not proud of these players, because I am. I really am. But I'm disappointed. I never thought we'd come out and play flat like we did. But for the whole season, I've been very proud of the players, and they deserve a lot of credit, especially Yaya, Asya (Dunning) and Jess Hartley, what great leadership they provide. We've just got to get smarter and that type of stuff. But with all that being said, we got beat today. Notre Dame was the better team. I'm still proud of what our girls have been able to accomplish today. I'm not disappointed in them and our seed. And wherever we fall, there is no doubt we'll be able to play and compete."
You talked a little about it yesterday, but now this is the last game in the BIG EAST. Talk about what it means to play in this conference as long as you did.
"I mentioned that to the players after the game. I said `for you upperclassmen, this is not the way you want to go out. For younger classmen, you really don't realize it. You had an opportunity to play on the big stage in the semifinals against the number three team in the country, and we need to come out ready to play.' Me personally, I've said this yesterday, I love coaching in the BIG EAST. I love coaching against the great coaches and the friendships I've made in the BIG EAST. The teams are great. It's a great league. But we're moving to the Big 12. That's a big challenge also. It's a great league and another challenge for us. Everybody will move forward. Also, I said yesterday, fans of Connecticut have been tremendous. The people of Hartford have been tremendous. I've really enjoyed playing Connecticut here or at their gym. I've enjoyed being here in front of the fans of Connecticut, because I believe they're very educated in basketball, and they support more than their own team. They appreciate good play. I have mixed feelings. I have mixed feelings. But I'm going to miss the BIG EAST and miss a lot of the friends and everybody. But I'm sure I'll make new friends, hopefully. I don't make friends easy, that's the problem. So hopefully I'll make a couple friends in the Big 12."
Junior Ayana Dunning
Did you get the sense that they had more motivation because of the time you guys beat them in South Bend? They wanted to come out and show they were ready to play tonight?
"I think we knew they were going to come out with a chip on their shoulder. The coach told us the first eight minutes they were going to try to just get the lead on us, and unfortunately we didn't come out ready to play. That's what they did. We got ourselves down so much at the beginning of the game, it was hard. We were just trying to fight back the entire time."
Junior Asya Bussie
You have been so good defensively, how frustrating was it early in the game when it seemed they were able to score every single time they wanted to? It's got to be frustrating for a team like West Virginia that prides themselves on defense.
"It was frustrating. We do pride ourselves on defense and we didn't defend. They got whatever they wanted offensively. Like Ayana (Dunning) said, we were trying to dig ourselves out of a hole the entire game. We just didn't defend."
Freshman Akilah Bethel
I noticed in the second half, especially in maybe the last 15 minutes, you seemed to be really hitting the boards and trying desperately to get some rebounds and put backs. Can you talk about what energy you were trying to bring to maybe turn things around?
"I was just trying to pump everybody up because I didn't want to lose, and I know my teammates didn't want to lose. We just needed a spark. Unfortunately we had such a big hole to dig ourselves out of it was kind of hard. But I didn't want to let go, and I didn't want to give up. We still had time. So until the buzzer was done, I wasn't going to stop."