Video & Transcript: Hawkeyes Knock Off Missouri for Sweet 16

March 24, 2019

Written by Rob Howe

LISA BLUDER: I’ve got to start with thanking the crowd. There was so much energy in the arena today, and we loved it, and our three seniors deserved it. The whole team deserved it. But I’m just so thrilled that Hawkeye Nation got behind this team. Number one in the nation in attendance on Friday — yeah, Friday, and then the turnaround today and just to do it again. Our fans are amazing, and we’re so thankful for them, and they just created a tremendous home court for us, and we are very thankful for that.

Megan today became the Big Ten’s all-time career rebound record holder, a great honor for her. Today she had a mere 19, 16 defensive rebounds. I thought our zone defense was outstanding. I thought our players worked so hard in it, and then Megan just cleaned up the glass afterwards.

I’m just thrilled that we have another week. I get another week with this group. I get another week to go to battle with these guys, and I’m very, very happy about that.

Q. Kathleen, you didn’t score in the first half of that game Friday. Did you consciously come out and try to get started early, or did you just let the game come to you like you usually do?
KATHLEEN DOYLE: I just tried to let the game come to me. I wasn’t really thinking about that. I was just letting the offense run, and that’s just how it kind of worked out.

Q. Megan, after you checked out, the three seniors there, as the seconds ticked off, there was a group hug there, the three seniors. Just tell me about that moment and what it was like.
MEGAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, it was amazing just to be with my seniors, and that was our last time being in Carver-Hawkeye Arena playing, and it was a bittersweet moment, but mostly sweet because it’s a Sweet 16, and we’re moving on. (Laughter.)

Q. Any of the players, the defense you played this weekend against Mercer and then again today, the thing that really kind of stands out, the other teams only shot two free throws in the two games combined. How does that happen?
MEGAN GUSTAFSON: I mean, it just comes down to what’s going on in the environment, and we were just trying to get locked-down defense. That was our focus going into it, and we really can’t control a lot of things, but we were able to control our effort on defense, and that’s what we really wanted to focus on, and in the Mercer game but also really especially into this game.

Q. Makenzie, you told me once that warmups don’t always come true when you’re hitting hot in warmups, but you were hitting in warmups on Friday and today, and both days you were really in the zone?
MAKENZIE MEYER: Yeah, I’ve just been feeling very confident, and my teammates have done such a good job of setting me up for great shots, so I’ve just been letting it fly.

Q. Makenzie, I think in the regular season, final regular season game, you didn’t have a field goal, and postseason starts, you’ve kind of been on a roll production wise. Do you see any key? What has allowed that to happen?
MAKENZIE MEYER: I just feel — I just have been feeling really confident lately, and like I said, our offense has really been flowing really nicely. We’ve been doing a good job of getting it inside to Megan and Megan is looking back out to us for the in-and-out three, and that’s a really, really great shot for our offense. I just think the offense has been flowing really well, and I’ve been able to knock my shots down, so that helps.

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Q. There were a lot of times when you were chasing Cunningham around the floor. She only scored eight points, a testimony to the team’s defense, but what were you concentrated on? Were you trying to deny her the ball or cutting off a move with one hand or what?
KATHLEEN DOYLE: I mean, she’s an awesome player, so we definitely had to focus in on her, but we were doing whatever we can to make her life as hard as possible throughout the whole game, wear her out, and it worked out in our favor today. But she’s a really great player.

Q. Megan, I think one of my favorite plays of the whole season was Tania saw you open, and you probably could have scored, but you made a nice pass to her, and I don’t know this for a fact, but I bet your coach was smiling on that one, when she made that floater?
MEGAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, that was a really fun play. I think I could have scored, but honestly, I just wanted Tania to score. I think it’s so much fun playing with my fellow seniors, and I just wanted that moment to really stick out, and hats off to Tita giving me the assist.

Q. Kathleen, just to follow up on Cunningham, she got her second and third fouls there in the middle of that run, I think it was a 12-0 run. You guys took the lead there for good. How critical was it to get her in a little bit of foul trouble there?
KATHLEEN DOYLE: Yeah, a great way to play defense on a great scorer like her is to have her not play, so that worked out for us. But like I said, she’s an awesome player, and that just, yeah, like I said worked out in our favor that she got into some foul trouble, and we took advantage of it.

Q. Megan, whose idea was it to kiss the floor at center court there afterwards?
MEGAN GUSTAFSON: It was Hannah’s. She didn’t really say anything to us, she just started running, and then me and Tania just followed and we knew what she was doing, but that was a special moment for sure.

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Q. Lisa, can you talk about Tania’s three to start the fourth quarter? It just seemed like that really lifted you guys to a whole ‘nother level.
LISA BLUDER: Yeah, we got pretty excited. They went to a zone defense coming out, and then Tania hits one in the corner and then Makenzie turns around and hits one in the other corner, and all of a sudden now they have to change their defense again. That’s exactly what you want to have happen when somebody switches their defense is you just take advantage of it and open up with those threes.

Q. I asked Makenzie, too, but what have you seen different in her since the postseason has started, and how beneficial has that been for your production?
LISA BLUDER: Well, it’s huge. The more three-point shots that we can put down, the easier it makes life for Megan inside and Hannah inside. When you have to respect those guys, now all of a sudden you can’t double as hard, you can’t cheat as much, so it opens up that middle so much. So it’s wonderful when we’re hitting threes. I don’t know what’s the difference right now. I mean, other than that she did have a significant knee injury and came back early from that and probably is not — wasn’t all the way completely mended when she did come back, and now I think she’s really feeling good.

Q. Two big runs you had, one gave you the lead, one put the game away basically. What were you able to do to sustain those runs and were they similar?
LISA BLUDER: You know, I think in those runs, we played great defensively. We were making them take so much time off the clock, and our kids are tired, they worked really hard because lots of times they were playing defense for 27, 26 seconds, and then Megan, like I said, just cleaned up the boards. But they were just not getting any really good looks, and I think that’s just — and we kept getting that defensive stop, defensive stop. It just gave us a real mental edge.

Q. Did you change anything with the zone because the second half you were so active on that entry pass, the pass to the wing, you were deflecting a ton of them and they could never get their offense running?
LISA BLUDER: We got some steals out of that. Hannah got three, I think, Kathleen got three out of it. You know, they spread it out, so we kind of spread it out, and really when you know you’ve got Megan sitting in the middle, it allows you to do that more. There was times that there were five out, out there, so we were able to spread it out a little bit more. They really weren’t getting the ball inside at all, so we just kept moving it out as they moved it out.

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Q. So much emphasis is put on this tournament and how far you can go. How important was it for you guys just in terms of the legacy of this senior class to advance and keep this thing going?
LISA BLUDER: Yeah, I think that’s important, but honestly, it’s not even something we think about. We are just wanting to keep playing basketball. I mean, that’s — like that’s what it’s all about. We wanted to make it to the Sweet 16 because we know that’s a huge accomplishment, but it’s not about the legacy, it’s about this family being together, it’s about these women having the opportunity to go to battle for another week. It’s more than that. It’s not about legacy, it’s more about sentiment, it’s more about being together.

Q. Do you think your players were feeling any pressure, though, to get you there, to get you to the Sweet 16 because I know you never bring it up but obviously it’s out there.
LISA BLUDER: You know, I think the first game we felt more pressure than this game, quite honestly. I think the first game we hadn’t played for a while, we were having those kind of uncharacteristic turnovers and tonight we only had 11 turnovers. I just think that we settled down. We were so thrilled with the crowd coming out on Friday, it almost was like we didn’t want to let them down, instead of just playing off the energy a little bit.

I don’t know if the team — they just want to be successful. They just want to keep winning, and I mean, we want to go to the Elite 8 now. That’s the next goal.

Q. How were you kind of able to limit Sophie Cunningham tonight, especially from three? She had a pretty rough shooting night from three, and that’s definitely a specialty for her.
LISA BLUDER: Well, we respect her. We know how good of a player she is. We know what her numbers have been like, especially these last five, six games. I mean, she’s been shooting over 50 percent from three-point range.

So we said no open looks. She gets no open looks from three, and we basically dogged her all over when we were in player, when we were in our triangle-and-two, and then in zone. Again, we were just there on the catch. We were there on the catch. We did get her in a bit of foul trouble to begin the game, but she still played 33 minutes.

Q. You guys had a season high 24 turnovers against Mercer. Obviously it was going to be a big point of emphasis in between games. How did you think your players did today with taking care of the basketball?
LISA BLUDER: I think really well. I don’t think they — I think they put it behind them, which is exactly what we wanted them to do. We knew it was not right. It was not good. We knew it was uncharacteristic, so let’s not dwell on it, let’s not get mad about it; we just said, forget about it, it’s over, let’s move on. And they handled that really well today.

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