March 22, 2009

MICHIGAN STATE QUOTES

Senior Guard Mia Johnson

On her three-point shot putting them in the lead... Well I didn't know but I was hoping because I was missing them early on but I didn't need any other one, I needed that one at the time. It fell by the good graces of the Lord

On how the team transitioned from the first half to the second half... Coach definitely brought us into that time out and you could just see fire in her eyes letting us know we were not going to give up. The biggest thing she was telling us was that we just had to keep chipping away at their lead, and sooner or later their lead was cut and we were able to gain our composure back and some fire as well. When we came out after half time Aisha (Jefferson) came out strong and really gave us that Spartan lead and we just ran with it.

On the last four minutes of the game... We knew everything was on the line, and that this was it. It was either do or die and we could win and move on or not. Right then and there I think we got the sense of urgency in us to let us know that if we did not pick it up we were going home. Our fans took it to another level in the last five minutes and I think that really played a part, because slowly but surely things started to go our way and we just ran with it.

Sophomore Forward Cetera Washington

On stopping Alysha Clark... Coach emphasized putting pressure on the wings and letting Allyssa (DeHaan) and Aisha (Jefferson) take on Clark by themselves. We keep pressuring their wing players and I had my hands in the right place at the right time and got some steels and some interceptions.

On the home crowd... That crowd really helped us today. We love the home crowd, and when we are down in the trenches and we hear them roar we are able to make some runs and it fires us up even more.

On what she has been trying to bring to the table after being placed in the starting line up... She really emphasized me being able to get some defensive stops and being a rebounding guard. We need that out of our guards because we have Lykendra (Johnson) on the boards and we need the other guards to step up as well. I just took on that role and went other there and went crazy trying to have a nose for the ball. I gave their point guard a step or two because I knew she could drive, and then our wing players did a great job of denying the pass in so they couldn't get it to Clark.

Red-Shirt Junior Aisha Jefferson

On her defense against Alysha Clark and drawing fouls... I just knew she was cutting across when they were lining up around the free throw line. I just knew she was cutting across so I tried to sneak up and get that quick charge on her because I knew she was coming. On the other one where she was driving from the elbow, she usually does kick it out when she is driving from there. I just kind of hid behind Allyssa (DeHaan), and was there for the charge. I told my coach I was going to draw at least two charges on her.

On how her body is feeling after drawing a total of three charges... My body feels terrible, but at this time of the year no one feels good. I got my pads and my knee braces, ankle braces, shoulder braces and everything else.

On how the team transitioned from the first half to the second half... Being a leader along with a couple other people we were just talking about poise. It was not really much of the pressure that was killing us it was ourselves that was doing it. It was not anything they were doing, and we finally figured it out and took our time. It was not anything that we were running but how we were running it, and cutting down the turnovers was also a big factor in that.

On coming off a loss in the Big Ten Tournament... We have learned from all of our losses, and back then I don't think we had that sense of urgency. Everyone has a new mind set now because the NCAA Tournament is like starting a new season, and we don't have anything to play for after this so it is all or nothing. You can just see that feeling in everyone's eyes even the younger kids who have never played in the NCAA Tournament before. I have been telling myself to lead by example and I am pretty sure they noticed how focused I was out there.

On what went through her mind knowing Allyssa DeHaan was guarding Alysha Clark... I trust Allyssa because no one is like her in the nation. With her shot block ability I knew she could get her hand on the ball at least. We tried to switch it up during the game, and we practiced the both of us guarding her, so it was not that different. She (Clark) did a great job and scoring 35 points is great for her but we definitely took pride in defending her.

On what's next and the possibility of matching up against Coach Joanne P. McCallie... We are thankful and happy and we are going to celebrate this for the next couple of hours and then move on to the next game. We are not set on playing Duke or Austin Peay, but we will be ready to play whoever wins that game and we will deal with that when we see who we play later today.

Head Coach Suzy Merchant

Opening Statement My heart was ticking pretty fast there down the stretch. It really was a great game for us. I know there was probably a lot of doubters as to what we were doing defensively in the first half, but I think you saw it pay off in the second. We really felt good about what we were doing, it was just a matter of executing. We had so many people make big plays, from Aisha (Jefferson), to Cetera (Washington), to Mia (Johnson), at both ends of the floor. This is survive and advance mode and we're happy to be surviving and onto the next one.

On deciding to use Allyssa DeHaan to guard Alysha Clark. I was asked at the first press conference how we were going to defend her, and of course I'm not going to give up how we're going to defend her. I know there were a lot of doubters out there after she had 25 at halftime, but I really felt like we were doing the right thing. That was to just go one-on-one on the block. She's going to get hers; you can't worry about that. Our goal was maybe more like 25 total, and the difference with those nine is probably the offensive rebounding and the foul line and she got both of those things. If we could have eliminated that then maybe we would have kept her to 25, but she only had nine second-half points. I think what happened was that we fired Allyssa (DeHaan) up to be more aggressive, to get up in her shot in the second half, and we also stayed home on their shooters. They made five threes and our goal was three. Aisha was kidding me a bit because after Brandi Brown hit that one late she was like, "Coach is going to kill me, Coach is going to kill me" because I was going to. We were not going to leave a shooter because we felt if Clark had 40 or 50, we felt we could do the job if we didn't let the arc take over. I thought our defense did a pretty good job with the exception of a couple of blunders. We were late on that on slice with Kalisha (Keane) and then there was Aisha's little mental lapse. I did know that Allyssa was going to guard her, Aisha was going to guard her, and Lauren (Aitch) was going to guard her. On every post, we knew her pet moves and we worked on them for five days. I felt good about our plan.

On the final 10 seconds As soon as Clark fouled out, you could see their team have a bit of a wide-eyed look to them. I think that's the one thing they've always had, and that was composure as a team and when she went out that definitely changed that. We felt that we knew what Brandi Brown's pet move was going to be on the block, and Aisha did a great job of getting in her space and not even letting her have a turnaround jumper. I also said that this is what moments like this are all about. We talked about whether this was going to be you're finest hour or your darkest moment. That's what it comes down to and you choose to make that decision by how hard you play defensively. I talked about how this could be the biggest stop of your lives and how much are you willing to dig in and fight a little bit harder and we had to because that last shot was not the plan, so I was a little disappointed that we gave them that last shot opportunity. Our kids made a play though, and that's what it comes down to.

On Alysha Clark We had hours and hours in the film room and our players were almost nauseous after we got watching all that she does. I kept saying how she does this stuff on Courtney Paris, on Tennessee, on LSU. Her feet and her hands are spectacular and she's an unbelievable finisher. She can finish anything. I mean, that one was almost on the top of the backboard for crying out loud and it went down. So she can finish and anytime you have that kind of a weapon you have to give her the kind of respect that she deserves. I felt like our kids were a little surprised by it in the first half, seeing her live for the first time. They were able to step it up in the second half though and hold her to nine points.

On working to cut down turnovers You're going to walk into a hornet's nest for sure, especially athletically and with pressure. The thing is, if we have any sort of advantage it's that we just faced a team that pressed. Considering we only have a day to get ready, at least we've gone against pressure as best we can. They pressed us the entire game, and I would too. That makes sense, but we didn't handle it that well in the beginning but we did better at the end. Obviously, Duke has 10-12 high school All-Americans on their team that are super-big and athletic. That's making the assumption that they beat Austin Peay. Women's basketball is a pretty small community and you know a No.1 seed deserves it.

On Cetera Washington I felt she started us in the first half. She was not intimidated. She was the one that was offensively and defensively taking it at people. She's had a great couple of weeks. I felt that she started the fire and Aisha (Jefferson) caught on and then Kalisha (Keane) caught on, and I thought Mia (Johnson) was really big for us in a couple of spots. I give Cetera Washington a lot of credit for this win from the tip. She had a look in her eye and she played her heart out, and a lot of people came along and joined her.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE QUOTES

Forward Alysha Clark

On Allyssa DeHaan blocking the whole time... I expected her to be on me the whole time. Coach said they would probably put her on me to counter the lack of size. I know she is 6'9 and I'm only 5'10 so she is going to get some blocked shots. You can't stop going at somebody just because they're bigger.

On Michigan State making the runs they made... We knew they were going to have their runs. They're a good team and they didn't get here by mistake so we knew they'd have their runs. I think the mistakes we made on defense are what really hurt us. Missing match-up assignments, not getting rebounds and rushing our offense, all of those really hurt us. They took advantage of that and it hurt us.

On MSU drawing charges on purpose... I think they did. (Aisha) Jefferson got a couple of charges on me and I think they were looking to do that. I'm pretty sure their coach stressed that to them in good defensive position to take a charge and it's my mistake for continuing to go in there with four fouls so they did a good job on that.

Guard Chelsia Lymon

On the last four minutes... The last four minutes we kind of rushed our offense a little bit. We went away from things in our offense that were working. Then they came back and went to their power players which were (Aisha) Jefferson and (Allyssa) DeHaan. They capitalized on us making mistakes on offense.

On the final play... The final play was set up and we ran it just like coach drew it up. Brandi Brown somehow didn't catch the ball and threw it out which made the time go by a little bit faster when she threw it out. We threw it back into her, and I think she had another chance to make a shot, but she just missed the ball.

On the height of MSU... It didn't bother us much. We knew coming in that they were a big team. I think a lot of times, in my case, we were trying to get the ball away from them with lay-ups and we were missing them and they were blocking them. Coming in, I knew they were going to be tall but I don't think it played too much of a big difference because we've been playing teams that have been taller and bigger than us all year.

On Alysha Clark fouling out... Coach puts us in different scenarios in practice and when she fouled out I didn't think twice about it. I knew someone else had to step up. It had been awhile since she fouled out so it was a quick adjustment and we had to find out who was going to make the big play down the stretch. We passed it to the person we wanted the ball down to.

Head Coach Rick Insell

Opening statement... I'm very proud of the season our young ladies had. They played hard and we hate to see it end this way. Michigan State played a good, tough game and did some things to us that they had to do. They were successful and you have to give them credit. They did a very good job. I'm also proud of our young ladies for coming into this environment and playing as tough and as hard as they did.

On defensive mistakes in the second half... They had a couple of defensive assignments and traps set on the left sideline and down in the key trying to get a cheap basket. Then it was a put back on a rebound and then the three. Anne Marie (Lanning) and Jackie (Pickel) needed to get some help on that and they gave it to their best three-point shooter. It was the first open look she had all day and she knocked it down. In games like this, you can't have breakdowns like that and we did, which was uncharacteristic of us. They took advantage of them and that's what a good team is supposed to do and they did that late. It was a heck of a time to have those breakdowns. Games like this hinge on a play or two, and you don't know if they come early or they come late and these plays came late.

On Alysha Clark's play... I felt like she did a really good job early. To start the second half, which was uncharacteristic of us, we came out and she was facing the basket from 14 feet away and the big girl got in her head a little bit. I'd say she would have gotten in my head, too. She came out and faced the basket and that opened her up for some charges and they took a couple. There was a block coming off one of our inbounds plays that I thought was questionable. I think they maybe held her there, but it could have gone either way and they called it a charge. I saw her kind of get emotional with what was going on and I thought that might be trouble down the stretch. Then she attacked the basket, which she is supposed to do, and she got the charge.

On the team's last offensive possession ... I felt like we opened Anne Marie (Lanning) up on the wing out there and she came off and made the right pass to Brandi (Brown) and then she kicked it back out and when she kicked it back out it took more time off the clock, but we didn't have any more time outs. We went back into Brandi and I think the big kid might have deflected the basketball but I'm not sure. We entered the ball high and probably shouldn't have entered the ball high, but she was a force in there. If you had to look at one thing, every time they took her out we were able to have our way. They had to keep her in and she played 33 minutes and that's more than she's been playing. You have to say that she the difference in the ball game.

On Alysha Clark's streak of 25 straight points... Our offense is set up where we're going to enter the ball to that position whether it's Alysha or Brandi (Brown) or whomever. They make decisions off of that. Michigan State did a great job with the big kid underneath in altering her shot. They also matched up outside with our shooters. We didn't really get any open looks. I think Jackie (Pickel) got two open looks there late, and she knocked one of them down and the other one rattled. I think at that point we might have been up seven when that shot rattled. If that three goes in, we're up 10 with less than three minutes to go. So their strategy worked. We don't really look at that situation with who is getting all the points. If Alysha is scoring, we're going back to her. On the team's three-point shooting... I would have liked to hit a few more. Everybody on our basketball team has the green light. We may force some shots sometimes that we don't need to. A team like us that has the size that we have and we haven't got a whole lot of lack of quickness, we have to take advantage of that. The difference in the basketball game was the big kid. Anybody else they put on Clark meant she had her way. When you have the 6'9" kid in there that is making her have to alter her shot and not having to foul her and you'll able to match up outside, it shuts us down on what we want to do.