LEXINGTON, Ky. – Louisville, Baylor, Stanford and Oregon State -- all ranked among the nation’s Top 15 -- are headed to Lexington for the NCAA Women’s Basketball Regional, set for Friday and Sunday in Rupp Arena.
Sweet 16 action begins with a doubleheader Friday. Baylor will play Oregon State at 7 p.m. with Louisville set to take on Stanford at approximately 9:30 p.m.
See transcript of pregame news conference featuring U of L coach and players below
The winners of Friday’s games will square off Sunday at noon for a trip to the Final Four.
Baylor, the No. 2 Lexington Region seed and ranked No. 2 by The Associated Press, has a 33-1 record. The Bears swept the Big 12 regular season and tournament before dispatching Grambling and Michigan in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
Oregon State, the No. 6 seed in the region, advanced to Lexington following a win over Western Kentucky and upset victory at Tennessee. Oregon State has a 25-7 record and is ranked No. 13 by the AP. The Beavers placed third in the Pac-12 regular-season standings.
Louisville, coached by Jeff Walz (pictured), is the No. 1 seed in the Lexington Region. Entering the NCAA Tournament ranked No. 3 nationally by the AP, the Cardinals are 34-2 after defeating Boise State and Marquette in the first two rounds of the tourney. Louisville is the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season and tournament champion.
Stanford is the No. 4 seed in region, defeating Gonzaga and Florida Gulf Coast to get to Lexington. The Cardinal are 24-10 overall and entered the tourney ranked No. 15 by the AP. Stanford placed second in the Pac-12 regular-season standings with a 14-3 mark.
Photo by Jamie H. Vaught
Below is a full transcript of Louisville coach Jeff Walz and his players during Thursday's March 22 press conference for NCAA Women's Regional semifinals and finals in Lexington.
JEFF WALZ: Just like to say what a pleasure it is and an opportunity to continue to still be playing. There's 16 teams left. It's a long year. It's a long season. But we're really excited to still have the opportunity to compete. We know we're going to have a very good game tomorrow night with a very talented Stanford basketball team, a team that's extremely well-coached with very talented players. We're looking forward to it. Anytime you get the opportunity to continue to play, it puts a smile on your face. Q. Do you think the biggest problem for you guys with Stanford is going to be their defense? JEFF WALZ: Well, you know, we're going to have to figure out a way to score. I mean, at this time of the year, the old saying, defense wins championships, that's great, but if you don't score, it's a slight problem. You know, we know we defend well, they defend well, so I think whichever team can execute the best at the offensive end is probably going to be your one that comes out on top. We played some great teams. That's one thing that our league affords you is the opportunity night in and night out to play against some very talented and well-coached basketball clubs. You know, we've had the opportunity to watch film. They're very good. They rebound the ball extremely well. They get out and run in transition well. And we know we're going to have our hands full. Q. You played here earlier this year against Kentucky. Having done that, how comfortable are you with playing here at Rupp Arena, and how much of an advantage do you think it'll give you having played here earlier? JEFF WALZ: Well, we actually played at Memorial, so we did not play here. Q. I stand corrected. JEFF WALZ: That's all right. We played at Memorial Coliseum, but we have played here before. A few of the players did a few years back. It might have been Myisha Hines-Allen's freshman year. So we have had a couple that have had the opportunity to play in Rupp. We're excited about it. You know, I don't know if it's much of an advantage for us. This is Stanford's third year of playing in the Lexington region, so this is more of a home court for them than I'd say it is for us. But it really doesn't matter. At this time of the year, you just have to go and play. Q. How have you kept this team focused or made them aware of the stakes at this round as a No. 1 seed, especially with a team like Stanford, which has made a habit of upsetting No. 1 teams in this regional? JEFF WALZ: You know, at this time of the year, to me there is no upsets. There's seeds; sure, we're a 1 seed, they're a 4 seed. Everybody is good. When you get to the Sweet 16, you're playing everybody that's talented. You don't make it this far by accident. You know, they have some very talented players on that roster. I had the opportunity to coach Brittany McPhee this summer with the U-23 team, just a remarkable young woman, great player. So we know that in order for us to win, we have to play our best, and it's going to take a great effort from all of our players. At this time of the season, you know, it's great basketball. I mean, it's the fun part about it. You're watching film, and you're trying to figure out how are you going to attack your opponent, but everybody is good. It's really just a matter -- I tell our staff, it's not a matter of what we're going to do to them. It's like, okay, how can we execute at a higher percentage, how can we perform better. Not necessarily what we're going to be able to do to stop them. Q. Given the histories of both programs, are you kind of surprised that it's come to this point for you all to finally meet? Have you ever had any consideration or discussions about playing them in the regular season before? JEFF WALZ: Yeah, we were actually supposed to play in that Columbus Tip-Off Classic when we ended up playing Ohio State. But due to some time conflicts with game times and when they could be on TV, I know Stanford wasn't able to play past a certain time because they had to get back to the West Coast, so we actually had to change opponents so Stanford could play the first game, which was against UConn, and then we ended up playing Ohio State in the second game. So we have had some talks about trying to play. But it's been fun. You watch them play. I've watched Tara for years. She does a remarkable job. She's a Hall of Famer for a reason. We know that they're going to be very well-prepared and very well-coached. Q. You said how can we play at a higher percentage, how can we perform better. After what you guys did to Marquette last weekend, what do you think your team needs to be doing better moving into this regional? JEFF WALZ: Well, offensively I thought we played pretty well, but what we have to get better at is our defensive transition. Especially if you go back and look at that Marquette game in the third quarter, we scored. We got up and down the floor great, but the problem is we allowed them to go seven for their first seven. But we go six for our first seven. So that's something that we have talked about is you can't trade baskets. You've got to make sure that you're dialed in, you know exactly what you're supposed to do. You can't celebrate after you make a shot. As I tell them, act like you've made one before and let's try and sprint back on defense. Hopefully we'll get that figured out and you'll see a much better effort than we showed the second half of that Marquette game. Q. You mentioned Brittany McPhee. Just kind of as a player, what do you see from her on film? JEFF WALZ: Well, I mean, she's so tough. She's a hard-nosed kid. She rebounds the ball well. She can score. You know, she knocks down big shots. It's not like she's a 45 or 50 percent three-point shooter, but when she needs a three, when her team needs one, she steps out and makes it. She has great control of their team. You know, I love how she passes the ball. She knows who to get it to when someone else is on. But she's an all-around player. She rebounds, she defends, she scores, and does it all with a smile. You know, that's the one thing I can remember about her from the summer, she'll kick your ass and smile about it. That's kind of what makes her as tough and hard-nosed as she is. Q. All season you've kind of talked about your team's ability to play together and the team chemistry, but how have you seen them kind of handle being a 1 seed so far in this tournament? JEFF WALZ: Well, I think they've handled it extremely well. We don't even talk about it. The 1 seed is just a reward of what you've done during your regular season, your conference tournament. You know, once the games start up, I've said it all postseason, it's all about momentum. It's not about seeding. You know, you have to capitalize with every opportunity. You have to gain momentum, you have to capitalize on it, and that's something that we were able to do in the first two rounds. We came out in that Marquette game, a team that I've got a ton of respect for, they take Notre Dame to overtime, Tennessee to overtime. So it's a very talented Marquette basketball team that's very well-coached, and we got a little momentum right out of the gate. And before you know it, we're up 20. Well, that's what you have to do. You've got to make sure you capitalize on it. So it has nothing to do to me with who's a 1 seed, who's a 4 seed, who's a 2. You've got to make sure you come and capitalize on every opportunity that you get. Q. Earlier this week there was a video of you going around at practice hitting a half-court shot at the end. What was going on there? JEFF WALZ: Well, I had plenty of time in my college days to practice those trick shots because I wasn't ever in the game when it mattered, so like before practice and after practice that's what we worked on all the time. You know, I just enjoy it. It's fun. I really think that part of the thing that makes our program as special as it is and our players as special as they are is the relationships that we form. You know, it's not you just come to practice, you work at it and then you leave. It's about spending time with them off the floor, after practice, and that's what we do. You know, I was just -- I got lucky there. Coach Williams filmed the whole thing, and there were a few of them that weren't very happy when it went in, because believe me, I talked for a while after that. Q. How much of a luxury has it been to just be 80 or so miles from home, to have a game this close? Has it really changed much of your routine coming in here? JEFF WALZ: Well, we were able to practice at home today, which was nice. We slept in our own beds last night. And then knowing where all the social life is tonight for our players is going to be important. If we can get them out on High Street tonight just to get adjusted to the 9:45 tip, it'll be a good thing, because we're going to be playing until about 11:45. So I want to make sure they're prepared for that. So back in my college days, I used to come down here when I was at Northern to my buddies' that went to UK, and we had a great time, so I know where to take all the kids. Q. Not the party atmosphere but the proximity to Louisville, but how awesome is it that you're only 60 miles away from Louisville to play the second weekend? JEFF WALZ: It's great. We were really excited about it until they came up with a 9:45 tip time. We're expecting snow tomorrow night, so it's going to cut down on a ton of our fans that want to drive back and forth. But it should increase the viewership, which is great, because that's what we're trying to do. I think it'll increase TV viewership. But the actual in-person, it's going to have a huge effect on. You know, I'm still -- I know what they're going to tell me, and this is the standard line, you're the feature game on ESPN, all that good stuff. It's what you hear all the time. We never tip a game at 9:45 eastern standard time all year. Why would you do it in the NCAA Tournament? I just don't understand. I thought this was about the student-athletes. But I mean, if we played at a normal -- if we play at 9:45 during the year, that's great, and I know it's listed as a 9:00 tip. The first game starts at 7:15. It will take two hours; they all do. So now you're looking at about 9:15, then they're going to put about 26 minutes on the clock, so you're talking about a 9:45 tip. I'm not worried about the players, I just feel bad for the fans. I feel bad for the fans that want to come and support us and have a great environment. What player doesn't want -- when we go play at Notre Dame, they're not cheering for us, but golly, what an awesome experience to have a packed house. That's what it's all about. In '13 when we played at Oklahoma City in the regional and we're playing Baylor, I mean, it was all Baylor fans, but it's the environment that these kids remember. You know, I can go back to '09, our first year we go to the Final Four, we play Maryland in Raleigh, and there was nobody there. There was maybe 2,000 people that were at a regional championship game. I'd much rather play in front of people. So unfortunately the times are just awful, and I hope it's something that we can look and try to adjust for the future, just for the fans. You know, I understand if I'm sitting in my house in Louisville and I'm watching a game that's taking place on the West Coast and it's starting at 10:00 my time. Hey, I understand that; it's 7:00 out west. But to be starting a game at 9:45, it's just sad to me. And it's not for the players; the players are going to be fine. I'm not worried about that at all. They're not going to be tired, they're not going to be anything. They're going to be excited to play. It's we're trying to grow our game, and I think we just had a huge turnover. Q. I was talking to Josh this morning, and first off, he says he can beat you one-on-one, so I'd like you to tell me if that's true, but how great is it going to be to have your family here tomorrow night? MYISHA HINES-ALLEN: Well, it's always great when you can have family come see you play because I'm not from here, so just the fact that they can come and see me grow as a basketball player. But he's a big guy now. He can probably just like body me to the paint, but he's not a basketball player, so he can't shoot. So I'll just take that advantage. But yeah, he's a football player, so he's pretty strong. I'll give him that. That's it. Q. Coach Walz is not happy that you all are in the late game because he's expecting that that might cut down on the fans here. Were you all surprised to find out that you were going to be playing in a 9:45 game that's probably going to be pushed back even later? MYISHA HINES-ALLEN: No. It is what it is. At the end of the day, we're just here to play a basketball game and go far in this tournament. We're not really worried about the time. And if we're being -- we've already played like games at weird times. We had a game at 11:00 a.m. when we were in Miami. So we've been able to adjust to the times that we've had to play, and we're just grateful to be here, have the opportunity to play, and just get far in this tournament. Q. Myisha, what's kind of been the message about facing Stanford in the first game? MYISHA HINES-ALLEN: They're a big team. They like to run in transition. They're well-coached. You've got a Hall of Fame coach on their end coaching them up. So we know it's going to be a hard-fought game. It's going to take 40 minutes to beat this team, and we just all have to be dialed in and know that scouting report and who's who on that team, who we're going to be sagging off, who we're going to let shoot the three. So I mean, we just have to be dialed in and know the scouting report. Q. You guys played tremendously well against Marquette, but is there anything after the game that you were looking at that you need to get better at moving into this regional this weekend? JAZMINE JONES: I would say yes, that third or fourth quarter we had a lot of defensive breakdowns. We can't have that. We started off great, but throughout the game, we had those breakdowns. We're trying to keep playing hard for all four quarters, not just two quarters or three quarters, so that's what I would say about our game. Q. Looking back on the last game, offensively what do you look back on that game and feel pretty good about individually and maybe as a team that you feel like can help you in this game? JAZMINE JONES: Well, I think we played hard. Our tempo was great. We got the ball out quick. We pushed the ball up the floor. Our bigs were crashing the boards like how they always do. That was huge. But I would definitely say the main thing was our tempo. I mean, that was great. We all Sprinted up the floor. Q. Myisha, is Josh telling the truth when he says you wear blue during football season? MYISHA HINES-ALLEN: I wore it once. Q. Does he wear red during basketball? MYISHA HINES-ALLEN: Well, he has, in this year. But he will tomorrow. Q. Asia and Jaz, how do you think you're going to match up guard play-wise with Stanford? They're pretty solid defensively. ASIA DURR: I mean, like Myisha said, they're a great team, well-coached. They have great guards, they have great post players, and it's definitely going to be a great game. It's going to be a challenge for us. They have a great team who plays well for all four quarters, so it's going to be a challenge. JAZMINE JONES: I agree with Asia. Their two guards, Williams and McPhee, they're great offensive and defensive players, so we just have to come out and play hard for 40 minutes. Q. Coach Walz just said that to beat teams you have to execute as well as stop but more so execute offensively. Jaz, how are you guys right now clicking offensively, and what makes this team really go? JAZMINE JONES: I think our chemistry off the court, it trickles down on the court, too, and I think we're just really close together off the court, so on the court we're just a big fist, so it's kind of hard to break us up on the court. So I think that helps. Q. Myisha, as a senior, how have you seen this team have that kind of chemistry, maybe even more so or maybe not compared to the teams before that you were on? MYISHA HINES-ALLEN: I don't want to say like it's the chemistry that's the whole thing because in past teams we had great chemistry. But you can say chemistry because -- I'm sorry. I mean, as soon as the freshmen -- I know what it is. Freshmen, they want to learn. Like Dana wants to learn. She wants to get better. That's one thing that I love most about her is when she messes up, she'll actually like go to AC, me, Asia, and she'll ask questions. She wants to get better, like she listens to what Coach Walz actually has to say to her and doesn't take it to the heart. So that was one of the things, and Loretta, she's coming along, Lindsey, she's coming along, too. So when the freshmen buy in to a program, it becomes a lot easier. You have your seniors, you have your juniors, your sophomores, they've been here, they already know what to expect, so once the freshmen come along, everything starts to click, and everyone knows their roles and everyone is doing their roles at this time right now great. I think it starts with freshmen. That's weird, but I feel like it starts with freshmen. Q. Kind of the first game back in Louisville in the tournament, you guys offensively took a little bit to go, but is that why the bench maybe was so crucial, because of what you just said about the freshmen and the sophomores even stepping up? MYISHA HINES-ALLEN: Yeah, every year you have someone different that steps up, and this year I think it's them. So it's kind of weird how you don't know what to expect from people, but right now this team is clicking so well because everyone is playing together. Everyone has a common goal of winning this tournament, and that's the only thing we're worried about, we're not worried about who scores the most points, who gets the most rebounds, assists, any of that, we're worried about winning. Whatever you have to do in order to win, that's what we do. When we played Boise State, Kylee, B, Dana, they came off the bench and gave us the spark that we needed because the starters weren't doing what we had to do. So the fact that people can come off the bench, too, and contribute so well, it's hard to come by. I mean, that's why there's only 16 teams left, because not everyone has a bench that's able to contribute like we do. It's just credit to our bench players and us, too, for getting them better, too, because without us, like playing well at times or playing bad at times, they wouldn't get the opportunity that they have. Q. Talking about the bench play, is that what makes this team most dangerous, or is there another aspect of this team that you would consider to be most dangerous? ASIA DURR: Yeah, I think when our bench is playing great, we're a dangerous team because, like Myisha said, you never know whose night it is, and we have so many unselfish players, so it doesn't matter whose night it is. We get to that person. It could be Dana, it could be Bionca. Like Bionca played great in our pit game this year, so you never know whose night it is, and whoever's night it is, we're just going to keep that person going, and just like I say, it could be anybody. Q. Myisha, just to follow up, you said you're going to have a lot of family here. Is it just in particular because this is like an NCAA Tournament game, and how many people are you expecting? MYISHA HINES-ALLEN: So my mom, my brother, so that's not really a lot. But they're going to be here. But I'm trying to get my sisters to come. My sister just got a new car, she's from Maryland, so she did the drive, so hopefully my other three sisters will drive in the car with her. Hopefully my family all comes down. But I know for sure my mom and my brother will be here. Q. For all of you, Coach Walz hit that half-court shot at practice -- JAZMINE JONES: It was fake. MYISHA HINES-ALLEN: We make that reaction because whenever he steps on the court, say we're running through a drill or we're doing scouting report and he has to be on the scout, or even like when we're running our own plays, he'll like make the perfect pass or make some like weird shot, and it's like, how did you do that. Like you look at him, and you're like, how are you able to play basketball. So I mean, whenever someone talks about him, it's just like, oh, my gosh, because you know like he's actually good, and he knows the game. That's the weird part. It's not weird because you want your coach to know the game. But as a player, you're like, how. When he made that half-court shot, he didn't jump. He was just like -- JAZMINE JONES: He did all the extra stuff. MYISHA HINES-ALLEN: Yeah. Him and Coach Sam, they'll sit on the side and just shoot the ball, like sitting down. It's weird. Coach Walz is -- I don't want to say, but unique. JAZMINE JONES: That's a good word, unique. Q. He's had so much success in this tournament going back to some of his earlier teams like in 2009 and everything. What makes him such a good coach in this tournament? MYISHA HINES-ALLEN: He knows the game. He says it all the time how when he wasn't playing in KU, when he played there, so he sat down, he actually had to watch the game. He wasn't getting a lot of playing time, so instead of like pouting about it, he actually sat down and learned the game, and that's why I think he's so successful now, because he's not worried about what happened that last play but how to beat this team doing something else. If it's not working, he knows like what to do. He's actually watching and coaching us up to win. Q. When you all need some points or something, when he draws something else, how much trust do you have in what he's telling you to do? MYISHA HINES-ALLEN: A lot. I mean, it actually works. Like the stuff works. And you're like, how did you actually come up with that. The game is going on, and he's like, give me the board, and he draws something up real fast, and it works. He's unique. That's a good guy, good guy to have on your side. Q. Jazmine and Asia, if you could talk about the time slot tomorrow night, obviously only 60 miles away from Louisville, the proximity was great, but Coach Walz was not happy with the 9:45 tip-off. Does it matter for you all? JAZMINE JONES: It doesn't really matter to me. If you think about it, there's times where we're in the gym training, it's like 2:00 in the morning, and we get shots up. I think all college players do that from time to time. And also like in high school, you train late at night. I don't think it matters. Like I don't care. And I think the whole team really doesn't care about the time. We're here to play. ASIA DURR: I think it's just another opportunity for us to play the game that we love. Like when we was in high school, we'd play AAU games this late, so I don't think it really matters to us, we're just ready to play tomorrow. Q. I know that the NCAA Tournament will match you against schools that you haven't seen before in the early rounds, but what's the difference with like say facing a team like Stanford for the first time and the challenge of getting ready for them? You alluded to the defense and that kind of thing, but really what's the hardest part when you have to face an elite team like that for the first time on a stage like this? MYISHA HINES-ALLEN: I mean, right now we're in March, March Madness. Anything can happen, and it's whoever plays the best basketball that night. I feel like it's not really much about them, it's more so about us. If we play Louisville basketball, then the score will take care of itself. We know that it's going to be a hard-fought game, but at the end of the day, if you play your best basketball that night, you're going to win. FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports