March 28, 2011
Notre Dame Quotes
HEAD COACH Muffet McGraw: I thought we did a good job with their posts in the first half. We did a good job guarding the three-point line. And, offensively, I thought Skylar [Diggins] was magnificent in running the show today. She did an outstanding job of attacking. She hit some huge threes, maybe an ill-advised one at times but she hit the big shot when she had to. Devereaux [Peters] didn't give us a lot of minutes but when she was in there she was very effective. Brittany Mallory at the free throw line, Natalie Novosel hit some big shots and I think every one of our starters was an MVP.
Talk about getting this team into the Final Four...
HEAD COACH Muffet McGraw: I think there were some questions early. When you lose four starters you're going to have to figure out who's going to step up for you. We lost to UCLA at home, we lost to Kentucky on the road but then after that I think we really started to play well. It's when Devereaux really started to come on towards the end of the season. I think the growth of this team is one of the best of any team I have ever coached.
Why were you able to have your team so loose before the game?
HEAD COACH Muffet McGraw: I think the key is for me to stay away from them. I think that's the biggest thing I try and do. They are a loose group on their own. They seem to get themselves ready.
Talk about Tennessee being 20-0 [all-time against Notre Dame before today's game] and if that makes this win any more special...
HEAD COACH Muffet McGraw: The first thing the team says was "1-20, 1-20!" The team figured that the law of averages having them winning at least one.
On overcoming Tennessee's depth and height in the post...
HEAD COACH Muffet McGraw: I thought we followed the game plan really well. We wanted to double team the post and we started out doing a good job with that. We wanted to guard their three-point shooters and catch up with them in transition. And we wanted to run. I thought we played an up tempo game which is what we wanted and what we like. I think the team was just ready to play. I think Becca [Bruszewski] coming into the game, the whole team kind of rallied around her. I think that just gave everybody a big lift.
Talk about your defense on Simmons...
HEAD COACH Muffet McGraw: I thought she was a freshman and coming into the game I thought we had a little bit of an advantage over her with Skylar guarding her. I thought she'd probably take a lot of shots and we got her in early foul trouble. We just contained her. I was worried about her getting loose and getting some lay-ups and threes and I thought Skylar did a wonderful job on her.
Talk about how Skylar has handled playing for her hometown team...
HEAD COACH Muffet McGraw: I think when you're the "pride of the West side" and everyone's eyes are on you, it can be really difficult but she didn't flinch from the first moment she came in. I think she embraced it. That was a huge key because the crowd was so much behind her. She has handled it extremely well.
Talk about decision to put Devereaux back in with six minutes left and four fouls...
HEAD COACH Muffet McGraw: She was a huge part of that run .I think finishing in transition. It was just a decision with six minutes left. I felt like we had a pretty comfortable lead. She went in and played like a senior for four minutes. It was good and we got a lot out of her.
Compare this team to your national championship team...
HEAD COACH Muffet McGraw: That team led the nation in field goal percentage defense. I think this team is committed to defense as well. I think that is a huge key for us that we can get out and guard. This team is much faster and we run the ball better. We can press where as in 2001 we sat in a 2-3 zone and let people drive so Ruth could block it or get the rebound. I think we are much more up tempo this year and this group is a lot of fun.
Talk about the gutsiness of Becca and a number of the other players...
HEAD COACH Muffet McGraw: Becca just won't quit. She's fearless. She doesn't miss a beat at practice. She had the rib injury in the UConn game in the Big East tournament and she wanted to come back in even though she couldn't breathe. She's the most mentally tough player I think I have ever seen.
Any rooting interest tomorrow night in Philadelphia?
HEAD COACH Muffet McGraw: Definitely rooting for the Big East. We want to have two Final Four teams from the Big East.
Student Athlete Questions:
How's does it feel to be going to the Final Four?
Skylar Diggins: It's a real feeling. This is what you work for. This team has so much camaraderie. We are all together and have been like that all year. When the off-court relationships are strong it's easier to take criticism on the court and be able to come together and do great things. We just rallied around each other to do this for our program, Coach McGraw, ourselves and the city of South Bend.
Becca Bruszewski: It's a surreal feeling for me. I feel absolutely amazing. Just knowing that potentially could have been the last game but my team came out ready to go. This is an unreal feeling. At about the eight-minute mark I looked at Skylar and just said "get me there." This is unreal.
Natalie Novosel: To be honest it hasn't really hit me yet. We didn't feel like the underdog. We went in there expecting to win. WE came together and played team basketball and that's what won the game for us.
Talk about how tough it was playing on an injured knee...
Becca Bruszewski: I think I was just running on adrenaline. Knowing I didn't want to let this team down is what let me get out there and play. Knowing I didn't want this to be my last game I just went out there and gave it my all and we're coming back next week.
Describe the injury...
Becca Bruszewski:There are some big physical girls in this tournament. There is a little tweak but it's nothing serious. I'm absolutely going to be ready to go next weekend.
Talk about dancing around before the game. Why were you so loose?
Skylar Diggins: It's a game. We work hard to be here. We're excited and happy to be here. We love our teammates, coaches and staff. You have to stay loose. You can't make it a business thing. You have to understand that this is what you work hard for and you have to enjoy it. We played with a lot of emotion and excitement and ultimately got the victory.
Talk about making a timely big play and about your determination...
Skylar Diggins: We talk about basketball being a game of runs and we just had to make more than Tennessee. We play better when we have a chip on our shoulder. This team is just clicking so we hopefully we can bring this back.
Talk about choosing to play for the hometown team...
Skylar Diggins: I'd say it's going pretty well. I'm having a great time being around my family and friends. The crowd is amazing. In a way I'm just living my dream.
Natalie Novosel: Sky was a big time player coming out of high school and she decided to come here. It's a great support from the whole community because our attendance went up. We're just real happy she's on our team.
Talk about Tennessee having so many people here and having to play through adversity...
Skylar Diggins: We knew coming in it was going to be a great atmosphere. We knew Tennessee fans were loyal but thank the Lord we had fans that came. Our crew was mighty tonight. Our crowd never quit on us tonight. That helps us a lot. Coming in here was a focus thing and Becca is the key to that focus thing.
Talk about receiving extra motivation from Becca...
Natalie Novosel: I think it began this morning at shoot around. She was coming up for Princeton and she made a move to the basket and we weren't even worried. Her pre-game talks are really what do it for us.
Skylar Diggins: She's definitely one of the toughest players I have ever played with.
Talk about mental process that goes on in your decision making...
Skylar Diggins: It's just reading the defense. You have to give it to the hot hands. When people want the ball you give it to them. When one person gets hot you keep feeding it to them. Today I was able to catch more seams so I could score more.
HEAD COACH PAT SUMMITT
Obviously, I am very upset. I am very disappointed in our basketball team. I don't think we came here with the focus and don't ask me why. I look at this junior class and Angie as a senior and I am kind of lost for words as to why they wouldn't come in and already know what they were going to do. At the same time, you have to give Notre Dame great credit. They had great ball movement and no question Skylar Diggins was the player that made them go. We did not have a guard play that way and guard play is very important at this time of the year. I hate this for our program, our administration. I hope our players will learn from it because we have a way to go. We were exposed today.
Q: Notre Dame seemed to have a good idea defensively of what you wanted to do and was able to take that away, did that get you guys frustrated early on?
ANGIE BJORKLUND: I think we weren't the aggressors tonight. I give Notre Dame a lot of credit. They knew our game to a tee, our personnel and plays and just executed better than us.
SHEKINNA STRICKLEN: I give Notre Dame a lot of credit. We did not show up and didn't play great defense. They were more aggressive than we were and it showed as the game turned out.
Q: Shekinna, as a junior how do you learn from this for next year?
SHEKINNA STRICKLEN: Know your defense. That's the key to winning the game. You have to play as a team. You have to bring your defense and energy and we didn't have that today. Shots weren't going and when that happens you better play defense. We didn't have any leaders step up today and we weren't clicking as a team.
Q: Can you talk about Skylar Diggins and her performance especially in the second half.
HEAD COACH PAT SUMMITT: She was terrific. I thought without any doubt the best guard on the floor. When she has to score, she can score, but she can distribute the ball too. She energizes that team and was the real force. I have a lot of respect for her. She does what she has to do. If she has to step up and score she can, but there has been many games I have seen where she gets other people touches. They have good rhythm on offense because of how she plays.
Q: Will you get right back in the gym like you have the last two years?
HEAD COACH PAT SUMMITT: Most likely. Not tonight. If I was allowed though, I'd probably be back there tonight.
Q: Meighan Simmons spent a lot of time on the bench in the first half. Can you talk about what that was about?
HEAD COACH PAT SUMMITT: Obviously, Meighan was not herself today. Just looking at her stat line, 1-11 FG and 0-5 from the three, you can tell she was very anxious so we had to look to other people to do stuff for us. She is a freshman and sometimes we forget that with a great future ahead of her, but she had 4 turnovers. This was a big game that seemed a little bit different to her then playing through the SEC and getting here.
Q: It was a tough shooting night for many players that are great shooters. Was it something Notre Dame was doing on defense or was it just a bad night for the players?
HEAD COACH PAT SUMMITT: It was definitely a combination. They definitely played good defense, but I thought there were times they affected us, but also times we got so over anxious. Being at this point and trying to get to the Final Four was probably too much for some of the younger players.
Q: With all your depth and talent and offensive fire power, you have overcome a couple of weaknesses throughout the year. Point guard play and defense. When you say you were exposed tonight, were those the two areas you were referring to?
HEAD COACH PAT SUMMITT: Definitely our defense was exposed. This team has had some good nights on the defensive end. This was a night we had to have it in order to advance, and we did not bring our A-game in that regard. That really hurt us. Eventually, they are going to buy into it or at least we are going to find enough people to buy into it.
Q: You tried three people at point guard tonight without much success. What are your thoughts on this?
HEAD COACH PAT SUMMITT: This is very true. We have one of the best point guards in the country coming in. I think that will help us quite a bit and hopefully she can show others how to play the game at the highest level.
Q: Can you talk about Notre Dame's physical play and toughness inside especially Bruszewski for being undersized?
HEAD COACH PAT SUMMITT: She is very aggressive and very tough. She sets the tone for the team. Across the board, they had great player movement, ball movement, intensity and sense of urgency. They got to a lot of loose balls and used the glass well. I am very impressed with this team.