Video & Transcript: Hawkeye Women Mercer Postgame

March 22, 2019

Written by Rob Howe

COACH LISA BLUDER: First of all, just want to congratulate Susie Gardner on the great game and how she represented her conference.

We knew they were a really good team coming in here. We knew that just because they were a 15-seed, they had won 17 in a row and went undefeated in their conference play the last two years, won their conference play last two years, had five seniors on the team and they had all the makes. They played Florida State to a one-point loss, Georgia very, very close and last year they played Georgia to a five-point similar to this one. So it doesn’t surprise us at all. We knew they are a good team.

But most importantly I want to thank this crowd for coming out. Our crowd was fabulous today and they probably helped us get those five points that we really needed, so just a tremendous crowd. Appreciate them so much and hopefully they will come back on Sunday, as well.

Megan, today, became the Big Ten’s all-time or season record holder in both points and rebounds, so another accomplishment by Megan, and Makenzie, you know, just had a terrific game and had her highest scoring game since she went out at the Penn State game with a knee injury. Very, very good time for her to come back and knock down those threes for us. She tied a career high with five threes.

Q. Makenzie, what kind of trouble were they giving you out on the perimeter with the entry passes, 24 turnovers by you guys today? What happened there?
MAKENZIE MEYER: They were just really aggressive defensively. They had a long team and they had a couple really long guards and they were doing a good job of keeping their hands up and they knew our game plan was to get it inside. They did a good job tipping passes and we probably could have done a better job using ball fakes.

Q. You had a big rebound basket there and got fouled, in a key time of the game. Talk me through that play and what you saw as it developed.
MEGAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah,, it was a crucial time during the game. We really needed a bucket and I’m very thankful that my teammates were able to trust me. I kind of ruined the assist, wanted that board, just being able to get position when the ball caught the rim, that’s something I have a knack for, to do that and put it up and hopefully it went in and it went in. It felt really good to get that bucket because it gave us a ton of momentum going into that defensive play the next time.

Q. Can you talk about the crowd support?
MEGAN GUSTAFSON: They are incredible. It’s been amazing to play in front of these amazing crowds the last couple games. Senior day was amazing. This is awesome and we’re really looking forward to Sunday, too.

Q. Megan, first NCAA win for you. How does that feel to get that monkey off your back?
MEGAN GUSTAFSON: A lot better than last year. I think there might have been a little jitters collectively. We have to get through that first game in order to keep playing so honestly feels really good to get the win no matter how ugly it was.

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Q. Obviously you were having trouble getting the ball in to Megan. Someone had to step up and get some points. You had the three stroke going today. Did you feel like someone had to fill that role besides her when you guys were trying to get a lead?
MAKENZIE MEYER: It always is nice to take some weight off Megan’s shoulders because we know she does so much for us. Opened up a lot of three opportunities and I was able to knock them down today.

Q. You were down four with about four minutes and 25 seconds left. Did you say anything to each other to snap out it?
MEGAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, our emphasis was on getting stops on defense. I think it’s really important to do that at those times and really get those extra possessions on those rebounds. We weren’t doing a really good job boxing out in the third quarter, especially, so we really emphasized on pushing back and then on offense, I kind of knew that I needed to take over, and so just demanding the ball, making sure I can get myself in the best position possible.

Q. Do you feel like the committee didn’t you any favors —
COACH LISA BLUDER: I don’t know much many coaches that really like their seeds. We personally liked our seed. We didn’t love our opponent. We loved our 2-seed but I think we played against somebody that was much more difficult than a 15-seed. I think everybody can recognize that and understand that. This is a good Mercer team.

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For them to be a 15-seed was kind of crazy. You look at our next opponent, you know, both of these guys were 5-seeds a few days ago.

So you know, people that are announcing the game said they thought this was the hardest preliminary rounds in the country.

Q. That you could win today despite losing the turnover battle 24-3, what does that say about this team?
COACH LISA BLUDER: How well we shoot the ball. When you get 40 points in the paint, that really helps. When you shoot such a good percentage.

So yeah, we’re disappointed in the turnovers, and you know, that’s — I don’t know if it was nerves. I’m not sure if it was rust from two weeks, I don’t know, but that’s pretty uncharacteristic of it, but I don’t want to take anything away from Mercer because I thought coming into it, they are a really good defensive team. Titus, she’s athletic, long, hard to pass over. So is Thompson. She does a really good job. She’s the heart and soul of that team. Just amazing how well she played with two fouls and played the whole second quarter and never picked up that third foul.

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Q. Coach Gardener said that they saw on film that no one was guarding that entry pass, getting up and contesting that as much as they did. You look like you were trying everything possible to get your team to maybe ball-fake or something and make that positive. That had to be frustrating for you.
COACH LISA BLUDER: Well, it was. You know, and that’s unfortunate because we’re better post passers than that. We are much better and we know — we kept talking about using ball fakes and triple threat and not holding the ball above our heads. It’s funny that we resorted to some of those things but we’ll be better on Sunday.

Q. Obviously you said the turnovers and stuff, not characteristic, but how do you approach Sunday? Do you just kind of flush this one and hopefully the jitters and the nerves that you kind of mentioned are gone?
COACH LISA BLUDER: Yeah, you know, I hope so. I think our team wanted to come out and play so well for this great crowd.

We are so appreciative of everyone that came out. Sometimes you want something so badly, right. You remember last year and you want to do so well for these people that came out to watch us play. So I think that got to us a little bit. We’ll be more prepared for that on Sunday for sure. But yeah, we’re going to flush it. We’re going to move on.

Q. Were you very encouraged by the way you finished the game? They had you on the ropes and your team found a way to win?
COACH LISA BLUDER: Yes, and that’s what you do, find a way to win. Hannah got on, so that was really nice. You know, Megan gets the offensive rebound, but we got stops, and that fourth quarter, they only got two offensive rebounds. Look at every other quarter leading up to that, we got seven offensive rebounds. I said that incorrectly.

They got seven offensive rebounds in the third quarter and only two in the fourth quarter, and so we did a much better job finishing the possession in the fourth quarter versus the third quarter.

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