WBB NCAA Tournament Media Day

KyleHuesmann

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NCAA Tournament Media Day – IOWA CITY REGIONAL
Tom made the long trip out east to Buffalo, while I make the short trip across town to Carver for the Iowa City Regional, hosted by the Iowa Women’s Basketball team. Friday’s two games are sold out at an attendance of 14,382. Due to the NCAA’s setup for games, some seats had to be taken out. We will be meeting with each team today, including head coach and a couple players, as well as watching the first 15-20 minutes of each team’s practice.

Team Media Times
Colorado
– 10:45am to 11:20am
Iowa – 12:25pm to 1:00pm
Creighton – 2:05pm to 2:40pm
Illinois State – 3:45pm to 4:20pm
I will post quotes from each press conference, as they are completed throughout the day.

Colorado Buffaloes (22-8) (9-5 away from home)
HC JR Payne –
6th season at Colorado, NIT appearance in 2021
5-7 vs Q1 – defeated Oregon and Arizona
8-1 vs Q2
9-0 vs Q3/4

F Mya Hollingshed (14.1 points, 7.5 rebounds, 39.8% 3pt)
C Quay Miller (10.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 50.2% FG)

Iowa Hawkeyes (23-7) (11-4 at home)
HC Lisa Bluder –
22nd year at Iowa, 16th NCAA Tournament, 20th postseason appearance at Iowa
10-4 vs Q1
6-3 vs Q2
7-0 vs Q3/4

G Caitlin Clark (27.4 points, 8.1 rebounds, 7.8 assists)
C Monika Czinano (21.1 points, 6.1 rebounds, 67.8% FG)
F McKenna Warnock (11.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 42.3% 3pt)

Creighton Jays (20-9) (8-6 away from home)
HC Jim Flanery –
20th season at Creighton, 5th NCAA Tournament appearance
2-5 vs Q1
6-4 vs Q2
12-0 vs Q3/4

F Emma Ronsiek (14.9 points, 5.1 rebounds, 50.5% FG)
G Lauren Jensen (12.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, 44.4% 3pt) (Iowa transfer)
G Morgan Maly (12.0 points, 3.6 rebounds, 36.8% 3pt)

Illinois State Redbirds (19-13) (11-8 away from home)
HC Kristen Gillespie –
5th season at ISU, WNIT appearance in 2021, 1st NCAA appearance
1-1 vs Q1
3-5 vs Q2
14-7 vs Q3/4

G Juliunn Redmond (17.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, 48.9% FG)
F DeAnna Wilson (13.1 points, 7.7 rebounds, 47.6% FG)
 

KyleHuesmann

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Apr 14, 2021
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Colorado HC JR Payne first one to talk with us today. Will share more when I get transcripts.
 

KyleHuesmann

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Apr 14, 2021
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Colorado Head Coach JR Payne

PAC 12 Comparison to Creighton?

Not really. Creighton is a very unique team, I think across the country they're a unique team and they're really, really good at what they do. And they're different than the teams that we played in our conference.

Closest similarity would be Utah because they also shoot the ball really well and has a lot of versatility in their lineup and so our preparation has been very much detail oriented, like shell drill, to guard Creighton you have to be excellent in your fundamentals.

On playing in front of a sellout crowd
Yeah, our conference draws really well, so at Oregon state we'll play in front of nine to 11,000 people. Oregon the same. Arizona the same. There's a lot of teams in our league that draw very well. So, 14,000 is different than 9,000, I don't know if all 14 will be here for the early game tomorrow, but it will be a great crowd and I know that this community loves basketball. And so, it's not just, they're not just Iowa fans, they're basketball fans, so I know that there will be a great crowd. We have to make sure our communication is where it needs to be in a loud arena like this, but not super different than some of the arenas that we've played in.

I remember years ago that even I think it was the Sweet 16 of the NIT against Iowa and they were really good, and it was a great atmosphere. I mean this is what college players and coaches want to experience, this type of atmosphere.

F Mya Hollingshed on Colorado's first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2013 and celebrating, while also preparing and staying focused
Outside of our veterans holding each other accountable as players, our coaches echo it all the time, like, okay, we can celebrate on Sunday. We can do that, enjoy the moment, but once we get there, like, it's time to focus on Creighton. And since then, we've been dialed in on the scout, what they do, what they don't do, and just things that we need to do to execute the game plan in order to beat a good team like Creighton. And I think we've taken that into account and just treating it like we've done in the past to move farther than where we want to go.

F Mya Hollingshed on Creighton
Yeah. Seeing what we saw on film, they move the ball really well. They move off the ball. They pass the ball. They cut. They do a lot of things really well. I think for us being a defensive-minded group leading the PAC 12 in defense it's just good that we go back to our basics.
 

KyleHuesmann

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Head Coach Lisa Bluder

On Illinois State

Really good defensive team. They play exclusively player to player defense. I know they're going to bring help on Monika, but they just really do a good job. Juju does a great job of getting out and denying them. I'm sure she's going to be on Caitlin, but a very, very good defensive team and hang their hat on that.

On Illinois State's 321st pace of play ranking
Yeah, when you see somebody with a pace of play like that, it contributes, right, to your defensive numbers. Just like when we play at a fast rate, we're going to give up more points because there's more opportunities. That hurts our defensive numbers a little bit. But we will absolutely get out and run because that's us.
We're not going to change anything. Are they going to try to slow it down? Well, you can try to slow it down on the offensive end, but it's pretty hard to slow it down on the defensive end when we have the ball in our hands.
We'll make the most of those situations. If they want to milk the clock on the offensive end, so be it. We need to get out and deny the passing lanes a little bit more. We need to create our own offense from our defense. If that happens, it happens, but I know on the offensive end we'll play Iowa basketball.

On defensive improvements compared to last season
Definitely I think we made some schematical things that can help us defensively. Also, I think the team just understands the importance of it. We talked about how last year we got to the Sweet 16 with a really, really good offense but a pretty poor defense. And if we want to go farther, which all these women want to do, then we had to improve the defense.
So, it was buy-in, it was commitment by our coaches to continue to stress it all year long, and it was just buy-in by our players that they were going to put more effort into it. There was a couple other things, I think we've taken care of the ball a little bit better that hasn't given up easy baskets at the other end. We're doing a little bit better job in those areas. But more than anything, it was a mentality of just wanting to be a better defensive team.

On playing March-esque games for almost the last month and then getting a week of break time
I think our team is chomping at the bit to get back on the court. I think the break was well deserved and needed, but you're right, there's the highs and then you have to come down from that and then build back up again. I think our team is pretty mature, having been in this situation last year, although we didn't have the week off last year because our tournament was moved back a week.
I think they are so excited to get back on the court. I don't think they've lost any step or any drive or anything like that having this time off. I think more than anything, they're so excited to get out here and play in front of this crowd again and to have the opportunity to play in Carver.
 
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KyleHuesmann

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C Monika Czinano and PG Caitlin Clark

On excitement for tomorrow's game

Monika:
I think just being so excited. This is the time every basketball player dreams for, and we've been dreaming all season and off-season. I think more than anything it's just excitement for what's to come and knowing what our team is capable of. Definitely going to have to take a melatonin. Going to be very wired.

On selling out Carver
Caitlin:
Yeah, it's tremendous. This doesn't happen many places in the country for women's basketball. I'm just really thankful this community supports us like we do. It's spring break, there's not many people around town anyway, and to still have it sold out is pretty incredible and just to have that excitement around our game. I don't know if really any other place -- probably South Carolina is sold out, too -- but other than that, I don't know if it's going to be sold out anywhere else. We're very lucky, very fortunate, and to have that excitement around our team is pretty special.

Monika:
Yeah, it's kind of indescribable walking out of the tunnel to a sold-out crowd and they're cheering for you. It's something that not many people get to experience. I hope Hawk fans know how much it means to us, how much it really does help us momentum-wise, and how we love the support. It's part of the reason we all chose Iowa. The support here is crazy. It's unbelievable. It's amazing to have that behind you.

On Illinois State and post play
Monika:
Yeah, we are fortunate enough to play a decent amount of MVC teams normally with Drake and UNI. Obviously Drake didn't happen this year, but we know how good those teams ares, that conference is, and how we can't take it lightly.
When it comes to the post, I'm really excited to kind of get a new look outside of the Big Ten. I know all those posts pretty well. But I just think playing hard is something that our team does every game. It's going to be huge and just going into that game treating it like it's a normal thing, not looking at it any differently, and just making sure I go out and do what I know I can do and have fun.

On rebounding from losses to IUPUI and Northwestern and starting 7-4
Caitlin:
Yeah, I think we were certainly thinking about that, and obviously we weren't at our best then, and then had to deal with injuries and COVID and things like that. I don't think we ever hung our head or anything like that. I think we knew we had so many opportunities still in front of us, and we took full advantage of them
 

KyleHuesmann

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Lots of connections between Iowa City and Creighton

- The Jays come to Iowa every year for a closed preseason scrimmage

- G Lauren Jensen transferred to Creighton from Iowa

- Sr G Rachael Saunders graduated from Iowa City West and has been around Carver her whole life
 
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KyleHuesmann

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Creighton HC Jim Flanery

On Colorado

Well, I think they're both sound, and they're disruptive. When you first start to evaluate a team on the defensive end, you are, like, okay, are they out taking passes away and putting pressure on the ball; and if they're doing that, are they caught out of position a lot? I think they're pretty good at both of those things.
I mean, I think their ball pressure and their ability to get up into you and get out in passing lanes is going to be something that we're going to have to deal with. 10.8 steals a game on the season, and 10.2 in the PAC-12. That's a lot in a Power Five conference. That's a lot of steals. We're going to have to take care of the ball. We're a pretty good take care of the ball team. This isn't maybe the best team that we've had in terms of turnovers, but it's a pretty good one.
We play a lot of times five kids that we're comfortable handling the ball at any of the five positions, so we're not -- as much as I just talked about what Tatum can do, we can initiate offense with people other than our point guard, and we're perfectly willing to do that, so that will be one way to kind of alleviate pressure

Combatting early game jitters
I think just letting them know that it's a collective thing, and I think that's where our balance is important. I mean, we're not going to come out and run four straight plays for Emma to start the game and say, you've got to get us going. We're not going to because that wouldn't be fair. You have to figure out, like you said, who is kind of -- who maybe needs to settle in a little bit, but I think humor can be good in that huddle before they come out and right from the get-go just telling them to rely on each other, but also to put a smile on because I do think, hey, you know, the game is not going to be decided in the first six to eight minutes. I just don't feel like that's the case.

G Tatum Rembao on Colorado's defense
Colorado defends really well, and I think ball security is one of the things that we focus on all week, and we're going to have to continue to focus on going forward. I think using certain people as releases is going to be really important.
Although they are bigger than us, we have good posts that can stretch out the floor, so I think it will be interesting to see how they decide to guard that and kind of using that to our advantage as well.

Players on Iowa transfer Lauren Jensen
Tatum Rembao:
Lauren Jensen is a great player, but she's also an amazing person. She's so competitive in practice. She pushes us every single day, and I just think the competitiveness and the encouragement that she brings to practice every day has really pushed our team forward.
Rachael Saunders:
I would say having Lauren on the court is one thing, but having her in the locker room and team bus and team hotel is another thing. She brings so much just happiness and joy with her. She loves the game, and she's a great teammate to have on the court. She rarely gets upset or frustrated, so she's just kind of a calming presence for all of us, and her talent is a great addition to our team as well. I would say that she fit in quicker than I've seen anyone come in even as a freshman or as a transfer.
 
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Illinois State Head Coach Kristen Gillespie

Opening Statement

We are absolutely thrilled to be here. Just such an incredible accomplishment for our program. I've said this a lot the past couple of days. It's just something that you talk about with your team as the ultimate goal, but as a coach to be able to watch your players' dreams come true before your very eyes, it's unlike anything. I'm just so thankful that I get to be their coach, and we're just thrilled to be here.

On playing in front of a sellout
It will definitely be a new experience for all of us, but how awesome. That's what it's all about. Not only did we win three games in three days to make it here, now we get to -- I think probably for the first round game I'm sure this will be the best atmosphere, and that's how we're looking at it.
It's just our program gets to be on ESPN. We get to put our brand out there. Our 14 players get to showcase everything they've done, all the hard work that they've put in to get our program back to where it's at, so we're thrilled. It sure beats the alternative of watching it on TV, so we're excited.

On playing a slow pace compared to Iowa's fast pace
Yeah, very contrasting styles. I think they are a little similar to a team in our league in Drake. Different players, no doubt, but we've played teams that play all different styles. We are who we are, though, and I like who we are. Like I said, I think our staff -- I think we have a good game plan. Now, is it going to be enough? I don't know.
We haven't played against a player like Caitlin Clark...I don't think there's a defense that can shut her down, but it's going to be by committee. Monika is an unbelievable post player. Probably the best post player we've faced.

G Mary Compton on playing in front of a sellout
Yeah. I mean, I went to a lot of Iowa games growing up, but I think that their program is at a new level. Especially right now. I don't think I'll ever have seen Carver as full as it will probably be tomorrow. Yeah, I mean, I think we're all looking forward to the experience, and even if they are cheering for the other team, it beats an empty gym for sure. We're looking forward to the opportunity

On what Coach Gillispie can share from when she made the NCAA Tournament as a player
She's talked about it's a time that we'll always remember. It's an extremely exciting time. We'll have memories forever. Especially the people that we're doing it with, so just going in there and knowing that we're meant to be here, and she also set us up to talk to the 2008 RedBird team that made the NCAA Tournament, and we got some words of wisdom from them, so we've heard from a lot of different experienced athletes about what it means to be here and the importance it has.

G JuJu Redmond on what you can carry over from the UNI win to tomorrow
Togetherness. I feel like we stayed together as a unit, and when times got tough, we just went back to our principles and believed in one another, and I feel like it can carry over to the game tomorrow if we just stay together and listen to what the coach is telling us and stick to the game plan. It should be a great night.
 
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