Transcript & Video: Hawkeyes Ready for Shot at No. 1 Baylor

March 31, 2019

Written by Rob Howe

Q. Megan, going up against a couple pretty good bigs tomorrow. How much have you seen them on film this year? Is there one thing in particular that sticks out to you about how good they can be?
MEGAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, to be honest, I’m not super familiar with them just because they aren’t in our conference and during our season, we’re focused on our opponents in conference play and stuff. But obviously we’ve heard of them. They have a great couple post players, and I would just say their level of physicality. They have a couple inches on me and Hannah, so we’ve just got to be ready for that physical play.

Q. When you first found out you were going to be in Baylor’s regional, what you were thinking and how much y’all were looking forward to the challenge or was it a different mindset?
HANNAH STEWART: Yeah, when the bracket came out, we were mostly focused on Mercer and just taking it one game at a time. I don’t know how much we even noticed that we were in Baylor’s bracket.

We’re really excited about it. I think we match up well against them. We know they are obviously the overall No. 1 seed, but I’m really happy that we’re in their bracket, and I think it’s going to be a challenge but I think we’re all ready for it.

Q. You guys did a really great job yesterday sort of messing with their passing lanes and disrupting their offense, in particular, you swiped that one just outside the arc and just burned to the other end of the court. What have you seen from Baylor that you think you might be able to attack, as far as their perimeter play defensively and messing with their flow like you did yesterday?
KATHLEEN DOYLE: Yeah, they definitely have a great group of guards that we’re going to have to try to disrupt offensively. All we can do is try to make their life as hard as possible, so it’s all about trying to bring that defensive intensity, and we’re going to try to bring that again tomorrow night.

Q. Can you compare Baylor with anyone else that you’ve already played this year? Have you thought about that — Megan, you can answer that. I see you nodding.
MEGAN GUSTAFSON: I see a little bit of similarities, thinking about Nebraska or Maryland. I think they have got a couple good bigs inside, both of those teams we played against but at the same time they have some shooters and some really good drivers, so I see some similarities, for sure.

TANIA DAVIS: For guards, you can compare it to a Maryland or a Rutgers. They are in your (indiscernible) defensively, so we’re going to have to be strong with the ball. Like I said, we played Maryland and we played Rutgers, so we feel like we have — we’re pretty much prepared for it.

Q. For all of you, or whoever wants to take it, but Greensboro is not that far from Raleigh. There was a lot of talk about N.C. State maybe having a built-in home-court advantage, but your fans were loud yesterday. What does it mean to have that support in getting this far, and for people to have come so far to support you and cheer for you?
MEGAN GUSTAFSON: You know, we love our Hawk fans. They are some of the best fans in the country. I believe that 100 percent. I’m not surprised that they traveled to be honest. You know, other people might be surprised, but you know, our fans are so passionate about us, and we’re so thankful that we have these fans. They are loud.

You know, a lot of my family members are there. They are very loud. I know that a lot of our — my teammates families are there, too, so it’s just really special to have so many fans behind us.

HANNAH STEWART: It’s awesome to see our friends and family. We all have lots of friends and family here, but there are some people that we’ve never met that are walking around our hotel and telling us “Go Hawks” and that kind of thing, which shows us how awesome and loyal our fan base is. We’re so thankful for them.

Q. How tough is it sitting and waiting for a 6 o’clock game tomorrow?
MEGAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, I mean, obviously it would be nice to just play right now. I’d do it right now.

But at the same time, it’s nice to give our bodies a little rest, and you know, especially because we’re playing two games in three days, and so I think the rest is important, but at the same time, I would like to play right now.

TANIA DAVIS: I’ve been saying it all tournament. The one-day prep, I think it’s been beneficial for us. It allows us to stay locked in and mission-focused and doesn’t allow us to deviate or think about other things.

So I feel like the one-day prep is always good for us. It allows us to go over our scout a little bit more and clean up the little details that we need to.

KATHLEEN DOYLE: I mean, it’s definitely a hard to wait for the game. You’re just so excited to play, and yeah, it’s just quite the build-up, but it’s always exciting when we finally get to go out there and play.

MAKENZIE MEYER: Yeah, like the others have said, we’re all just really excited to get back out on the court, but it is really beneficial for our bodies to get some time to rest and recover, and we’re just looking forward to the opportunity.

HANNAH STEWART: Yeah, we’re ready for that game. We’re excited to play, but we’re in the Elite 8 and we’re happy about that and excited about that and we’re kind of soaking that all in, too.

So yeah, we’re looking ahead to Baylor and going to play that game, really excited. But we’re also enjoying the moments we have together right now here in Greensboro.

Q. How do you counter their heighth advantage and size? What strengths do you feel could be to your advantage?
MEGAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, obviously they have a couple inches on us and we just have to be ready for that. They are going to have a really good physical level, and we have to use our own physical strengths. Especially we’ve got to focus on our footwork, too, inside, especially if we’re going to use ball fakes, or whatever it is. Footwork is going to be important.

HANNAH STEWART: Yeah, they are really tall. They are really big. But I think Megan and I have a lot of chemistry, as I’m sure they do, but I think if we make the right reads off each other like we’ve been doing all year, we’ll be all right.

Q. You touched on it, Iowa being in the Elite 8 is already a pretty good accomplishment. That being said what would a win against Baylor mean to this program?
HANNAH STEWART: Yeah, I think it would just be awesome to keep putting the University of Iowa on the map and showing people who we are and what we can do.

Utmost respect for Baylor. They are an awesome, great team, but it would be really cool to knock off the overall 1-seed. We’ve all got our sights on it and we’re all focused on that game and ready to do that but we’re just going to go out there and play basketball the best that we know how and hopefully come out with the win.

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Yeah, it would obviously mean a lot. We want to keep going and we want to keep playing and we want to get this team and our coaches to the Final Four.

COACH LISA BLUDER: We’re thrilled to be playing in April. Obviously we know Baylor is the heavy favorite, but hey, it’s April Fool’s Day tomorrow, right. We’re just going to go after it and do our best.

Again, we know we have things stacked against us, but it only takes once. It only takes once, and maybe that once will be tomorrow. I know my team won’t back down to anybody. We know and respect Baylor. But we’re ready to play.

Q. Can you talk about the matchups between your squad and the Baylor Lady Bears?
COACH LISA BLUDER: Yeah, I think everybody likes the inside matchup. I think that’s what people are probably referring to the most.

You know, not very many times do teams have two bigs anymore. It’s kind of unusual. It’s hard sometimes to have one good big on a team, and I think both of these teams have two good bigs.

So I think we’re both kind of unique in that situation. Certainly Lauren and Kalani are terrific post players. You know, I think I’ve got two terrific post players. I think it’s going to be a great matchup. We have to keep them off the boards. They do a great job of rebounding.

I just — you know, they have a little bit more height than we do. We’re not going to grow between now and tomorrow, so we’re going to go to battle with what we have.

Q. Some of the Baylor players, when they were asked who they thought was the most underrated player on their team, they said Didi Richards because she’s such a good defender. Who on your team do you think would draw that assignment in terms of having to face Didi as a defender?
COACH LISA BLUDER: Who is going to defend Didi?

Oh — who are they going to have Didi defend.

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Well, if Kim wants to share her scouting report, I’d be glad to look at that. You know, I have no idea. I mean, I’m not going to ever assume what another coach is going to do or anything like that. I don’t think that would be very wise.

But you know, there’s three choices. I would imagine she’s either going to be guarding Makenzie or Kathleen. I mean, I don’t have any idea what she plans to do.

Q. Who do you think is the most underrated player on your team?
COACH LISA BLUDER: I think they are all terrific. So really, they all — because they are all unique and they all bring something different.

Yeah, Megan scores the most points, but I’m not taking away anything that any one of the other players do. They all have their role.

I really don’t like comparing players. I have three children, and I don’t tell you which one of my children are the most valuable. I think they are all valuable, and I think it’s the same thing with my team.

Q. Already making it though this point is pretty good for you, but getting past Baylor would mean even more. How much are you telling your players to not just be satisfied with where you are now, and to keep going after it and beat Baylor?
COACH LISA BLUDER: Yeah, I don’t have to talk about that with them. I mean, it’s every kid’s dream to play in the Final Four, right. I mean, we are 40 minutes away from every kid’s dream. If you’re a basketball player, you want to play in the Final Four.

I don’t have to worry about them being hungry at this point.

Q. I think you might have addressed this in the very first press conference, but some of us weren’t here. Can you tell us a little, what makes Megan so special?
COACH LISA BLUDER: Yeah, you know, statistically, those are obvious. Anybody can look at a stat sheet and see that.

But what makes Megan so special is, you know, her desire to work to be the best that she can be. Her work ethic is second to none. She’s not just the first person in the gym and the last person in the gym. It’s what she does when she’s in the gym. You know, I’ve seen a lot of kids come into the gym early, and they don’t get half the workout of what she does in about three to five minutes.

It’s what she does with her minutes that she’s in the gym, too. She’s always in a 100 percent gear. I’ve never known a player that doesn’t take possessions off, sometime. She never takes a possession off. It will be the day before a game, and we’ll be going against our gray squad and she’s diving on the floor for a loose ball. I mean, she just does not take possessions off.

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When you have that type of mentality, it allows you to go hard in games all the time, even when you’re up, even when you’re tired, even when you’re down, when you’re fresh, it doesn’t matter. She’s just trained herself to go that speed all the time.

And then she’s just an exceptional teammate. She’s kind. She gives credit to her teammates. She’s humble. She’s an All-American with absolutely no ego. I don’t want people to get that confused with confidence because she’s confident, but she doesn’t have an ego. She doesn’t have to prove it to anybody. She knows how good she is, and she doesn’t have to say it. She believes it and her teammates believe it.

She’s just a great teammate, too. And she’s a great student, double business major.

Q. What about Megan allows her to be successful against taller players like she’s going to face tomorrow night?
COACH LISA BLUDER: You know, I mean, she hasn’t gone against that many players that are 6-7. I mean, that’s a real challenge, and we know that.

I think what allows her to be successful is she does run the floor well. She’s got great footwork. She’s got wonderful hands.

Her shot is very, very quick. She doesn’t — she’s got some great ball fakes and up-and-unders and things like that that she can try to get you off the ground with. She’s got a nice hook-shot. Hook-shots are really hard to defend because you’re standing away from the defender. I think that she’s found ways to shoot over bigger people because she does it almost all the time — now, not 6-7, but almost all year, she’s the undersized post.

Q. You showed tremendous toughness yesterday; that toughness factor, that’s probably going to be a huge part tomorrow, as well.
COACH LISA BLUDER: I think you’re right. I think you have to be physically and mentally strong to play against a team as good as Baylor. I mean, what we had yesterday, North Carolina State made their run coming out of halftime. We called a time-out and we just talk about momentum shifts, and there’s always shifts of momentum during a game.

When you have the one riding for yourself, ride it as long as you can. And understanding that it is a momentum shift; let’s stop it. Let’s not panic but let’s stop it. But yeah, I think with Baylor you do have to be mentally and physically strong.

Q. As you said, most people are kind of focusing on the matchups down low, but your perimeter players did an incredible job yesterday of disrupting N.C. State’s offense early in possessions and limiting them in transition. How do you see them replicating or changing what they were doing versus Baylor who have a little bit of a different makeup personnel-wise?
COACH LISA BLUDER: You know, we’re not going to — we can’t reinvent the wheel in 24 hours. I mean, we’re not going to change our style. We’re not going to change up what we do.

We have to do, you know, what we’ve been working on since June. You alter little things for every team, but you certainly are not going to change what, you know, your style of play or your personnel or anything like that.

So you know, yeah, we’d like to get out. I mean, geez, Juicy is shooting the ball extremely well. Chloe, just a tremendous athlete. Didi is a great defensively player, and a tremendous rebounder.

So it’s knowing personally at this point in my opinion and I think our team is really smart and they do a lot of those things really well.

Q. So yesterday, your team shot from over 54 percent from the floor, and Baylor in over 30 games hasn’t let an opponent shoot over 50. What’s your plan to move the offense tomorrow and keep it rolling?
COACH LISA BLUDER: Yeah, everybody talks about Baylor’s offense inside and everything. Their defense is remarkable. I mean, what they are holding people to, I mean, that’s absolutely incredible. Again we are not going to change anything. We have to do what we do and do it best.

You saw it yesterday. We have to have other people step up. It can’t just be our inside players, and I thought yesterday we had good balance. And so I think we’re going to have to really rely on that balance tomorrow because they do such a great job defensively, as well.

Q. You kind of talked about Baylor’s other three. In a game where so much of the talk is about the inside, how important is to maybe not let one of the other players beat you, like Didi Richards scoring 25?
COACH LISA BLUDER: Yeah, I think you’re right. It would be a bad thing if you contain those big players and then all of a sudden one of their guards just lights it up on you that hasn’t really done that all year long.

But you kind of have to play odds, too. You know, I think coaches are kind of statisticians and you look at percentages and you play percentages, and I think you have to, especially against a team as good as Baylor. You’re not going to play everybody the same, because you have to put your defense where they have done the best offensively.

And so you hope that doesn’t happen but it certainly could, and you know, I’m hoping a couple of my players have that kind of output offensively, as well.

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