March 22, 2009

Head Coach Kelly Graves

Opening Statement: “Well first of all, I want to congratulate Coach [Kevin] McGuff and Xavier. They had a terrific season. They are a class organization. I’ve known Coach McGuff for a long time and I think he epitomizes what is great about our game. And so I give them our absolute best. I’m really proud of our team. One of the things we talked about before the game was that we needed to keep our composure and make plays, especially down the stretch. I was proud that at critical times, late, kids were able to step up. So this is really exciting. This is a first for our basketball program. Not at the University, but for this basketball program. I’m just really proud for the entire team.”

On defense against Ta’Shia Phillips: “Well, regardless of what Heather [Bowman] said, it wasn’t our game plan to let her get hers. We tried to take everyone else away. I thought, initially, we did a pretty good job on her. We thought the only way we were going to be able to neutralize them as a whole would be to just change things up. You could probably tell that we mixed up our defenses, never stayed in one longer than two or three possessions. That’s the way we’re going to handle her inside. But she’s a great player. So even though I had tons of bruises, we just could not simulate how good she really is. She’s just so mobile, she has great hands and she’s strong. We told our players to foul her and tonight she makes her free throws. She’s just a great player who had a great game.”

On overall defensive strategy: “We’re not a very tall team inside, but we’re very long across the board. Our wings are 6-0, 6-1, and they have long arms, so what we wanted to do was really contain penetration and I thought for the most part we did a good job there. Obviously, they got it to her a lot, but we wanted to contain penetration and not allow them to make threes. They’re one of the top three-point shooting teams in the nation. I don’t have stats, but tonight I don’t think it was a whole lot. I thought our perimeter defenders did a really nice job.”

On differences between the two halves: “Well I thought in the second half, they really started to attack the basket and I thought that was one of the adjustments that they had at halftime. They really started to put the ball on the floor and it really hurt us a bit. But we took a couple of charges at key times and you know some of the balls bounced our way when we needed them to. They don’t get a lot of motion after seeing them on tape five or six times. They do key a lot of things off [Ta’Shia Phillips], so that wasn’t that unusual. Like I said, they just didn’t make the threes that they normally do.”

On wanting to play an up-tempo style:  “Absolutely. And it wasn’t just this game; this is how we play. We were the 12th or 13th team in the country in scoring, and they’re sixth in scoring defense, so we knew something had to give. So we knew if we could impose our will and push it, Courtney [Vandersloot] is pretty good at doing that, that’s how we play our best basketball. We can play a half court game, but we’re better when it’s an open court, full court game, and she’s able to create. They switched up some things defensively and we were able to take advantage of some post ups with some of our longer guards. They went with a bigger player on Courtney down the stretch and we were able to get things inside. I think Courtney said it, we have a lot of players that are offensively pretty gifted.”

On the difference between the last Gonzaga tournament team and this one: “This is a different team. There has been a lot of turnover. I think we only have two of our players still playing, Vivian [Frieson] and Heather [Bowman] that were in that game. But I thought that in our first year we were just happy to be there and we played like it for a few minutes. But I think this is just a different group. From day one, they had their sights set on doing something bigger and not just making the tournament. It’s a whole different mindset. We don’t have the ‘happy to be here’ attitude.”


Junior Forward Heather Bowman

On having a partisan crowd in Seattle: “I think it really helps. When you go on a run, you can feel the crowd’s energy pumping you up. And when we’re down, it gives us that little extra boost and I think it helped us out a lot down the stretch.”

On defending Ta’Shia Phillips: “It was a big challenge. I had to work hard out there. She gets such good position, she’s a big girl and she’s so skilled. She went out and put up some big numbers against us. We kind of had a game plan: do what we could against her. I had great help from my teammates on the backside and it was enough.”

On stopping Ta’Shia Phillips’ teammates: “That probably was part of our game plan. We know that we’re undersized and that she was going to get hers ultimately. So we just had to not let her beat us. They’re all very skilled, so it’s not like we just focused on her and let the other players beat us. I guess that could be part of our game plan.”

On being a part of the NCAA Tournament: “I’m just so happy to be here at this spot. But it’s not like this isn’t what we expected. We wanted to be here and we fulfilled our goal.”


Sophomore Guard Courtney Vandersloot

On Gonzaga’s offensive style: “I think what really helped us a lot is that we get up and down the floor and we get points in transition. But at the same time, once they stopped us we know that we have a lot of weapons out there on the floor and so it’s tough to stop everyone out there. And I think that helped us. We had a lot of people knock down some big shots for us today.”

On being a part of the NCAA Tournament: “It feels great. It feels, like what Coach said before the game, it feels better than it did to win the [West Coast Conference]. But to be honest, we weren’t looking to play one. We came here looking to compete.”

On stopping Pitt’s Shavonte Zellous: “I feel like every team we played, there’s going to be that player that puts up big numbers. We watched a little bit of her and she was putting on a clinic out there. We have players that can really step up and defend and have lock down defense. We haven’t really thought about it. We just got out of the game today. But I’m sure we’ll think of something.” 

 

Head Coach Kevin McGruff

General Statement: “Give Gonzaga credit - they played an excellent game.  I am disappointed for our players.  I do not think that we played to our capability.  I am really disappointed for our seniors because they have done so much for our program and this is not the way we wanted them to go out. ”

On the difficulty of stopping Gonzaga’s offense: “They played at a great pace.  They were really aggressive and they moved the ball very well.  I will take some credit for what we did not do because our kids worked very hard in practice and I thought that I really let us down in terms of our preparation.  Much of that has to do with Gonzaga playing very well tonight and partly because we did not play as well defensively.”

On the decision behind not playing Amber Harris: “She has been doing a great job in rehab and I thought she was at 90 to 95 percent, but I didn’t think that she was quite there in terms of me putting her in a position to be successful.  I wanted to make sure that I did the right thing for her and I think that not playing her was the right decision.”

On attributing the poor shooting to Gonzaga’s defense or Xavier’s offense: “They did a great job mixing up their defenses and keeping us off balance.  I thought that we got enough good shots but we didn’t make them.  It was also problematic that those missed shots led to a lot of transition opportunities for Gonzaga.  We needed to make more shots to win, but our misses also put them in a good position to score in transition.”

On your feeling when you got the lead down to three: “I felt like we had great momentum and we were really moving the ball at that time and getting good shots.  As we moved the ball more we also seemed to get more offensive rebounds.  But Gonzaga hit some big shots to stop our momentum.  Again it was a combination of us breaking down and Gonzaga taking advantage and making big shots.”

On if this game will scar or be beneficial to players next year: “The fortunate thing about players is that they tend to have short memories.  It is the coaches who are usually scarred and we have a lot of great talented kids in our program and they really want to succeed at a high level.  I am very optimistic that we will have another great off-season and be an even better team as we approach next year. 

 

Senior Guard Tudy Reed

On how difficult it was to get momentum with Gonzaga’s offense clicking the way it was: “It was pretty difficult.  We had a slow start and we just never really buckled down on defense.”

On the factor of the large Gonzaga crowd: “The crowd didn’t cause us problems.  We played plenty of games on the road and won so it was not really a factor in this game.”

On when this will sink in: “On the five hour plane ride back to Cincinnati.”

Sophomore Center Ta’Shia Phillips

On if she could have brought Xavier back in the second half: “It really doesn’t matter what I do as an individual because this is a team.  It really doesn’t matter how I rebound or score because this is a team effort.”

On what she told her teammates to try to rally everyone together late:  “The key at the end of the game was to keep the momentum going.  We kept getting great shots all night, they just were not falling.  We just had to keep taking those shots and getting stops at the end of the game.”

On how this game will serve as motivation for next year: “It will be the exact same thing that happened last year.  It will serve as motivation to do better and be a better team next year.  As you can see we are a much better team this year than we were last year.  Next year we are almost the same team we were this year except for our two special seniors, Tudy [Reed] and Jerri [Taylor], so we will come out and do our best, again.”