NASHVILLE, Day Tres: Words, words, words, words
Okay, let's be real here — you're probably one of 48 people who'll read this blog today for all the obvious reasons:
1. The UConn men just won the national championship.
2. You're too busy reading Gavin Keefe's accounts of said championship direct from the Republic of Tejas.
4. You're town was seized by the roving gangs of UConn students moving southward.
(Yo, Norwich — you better fortify your flanks, cause they're a-comin').
We're contractually obligated to post blogs while here in Nashville, a town so bewitching that we'd like to run off and elope with it, so here's today's edition.
Rather than listening to us jibber-jabber about Xs and Os and other strategery, we're going to let the players (and coaches) do the talking so to speak.
Below are what we considered to be some of the best stuff from Notre Dame and UConn's respective press conferences on Monday.
UConn coach Geno Auriemma
• On whether it's a goal to make Notre Dame miss Natalie Achonwa more than it did against Maryland:
"I don't know. When players get hurt, sometimes that just opens up opportunities for other players. I remember when we played Notre Dame in the 2001 semifinal, we were missing Svetlana Abrosimova and Shea Ralph. People thought it was going to be hard for us to get to that point, to get to the Final Four, but we had players step up and played better than they had their whole regular season. So they're more than just one player. They're more than any one individual, and if they can continue to get contributions from their other three post players like they got yesterday, they won't miss Natalie at all."
• On how Notre Dame has changed with freshman Lindsay Allen running the point after the graduation of Skylar Diggins:
"The biggest notable difference is that both Kayla McBride and Jewell Loyd have gotten a lot more shots, a lot more opportunities, have been more involved in handling the ball. So in one sense it's made them even more dangerous. You can just see how hard it is to defend those two. They're not always necessarily waiting to get the ball. They have the ball in their hands a lot right from the beginning of the possession. And that's one big difference that I've seen in watching them play this year.
• On the game's key match-ups:
"Well, there's absolutely — I don't think — there's no matchup for Kayla McBride and Jewell Loyd. I don't think anybody in the country has figured out how to guard those two. And I'm not sure we're going to be able to guard them either. I think we've got to come up with a game plan where we've got some things they're going to struggle with trying to defend.
"The two teams are so similar. If somebody were to ask me what's the biggest downside to playing these guys tomorrow is that we're just too similar. We do a lot of the same things. That's always not good. I'd rather play somebody that's completely different than us that looks at what we're doing and goes, 'what? What is that?'
"They know exactly what they're doing. We know exactly what they're doing. So it's really going to come down to if one team shoots 55 percent from the floor, there's no way the other team is going to win tomorrow unless the other team gets every offensive rebound like Notre Dame did (Sunday) night."
• On what UConn could do to throw Allen off her game:
"I don't know. She's had a great year all around. Somebody asked me recently how come we have so many assists, and I said because every time you pass the ball, you're passing it to a pretty good player. And I wish I could have been Lindsay Allen this year and just come down the floor and make a decision — 'should I pass it to Kayla McBride or should I pass it to Jewell Loyd?'
"I think players that understand their roles and players that play their roles really, really well are a huge key to having a championship team. And the outside world probably doesn't appreciate it, but I'm sure her teammates and her coaching staff understand the impact she's had on their team. And we've got a pretty good point guard (who's) pretty good defensively. So we'll see.
The loquacious Stefanie Dolson
• On how the game of women's basketball has grown over the past few years:
"I think it has definitely grown a lot. When I was a kid I didn't even watch a lot of women's basketball. I knew Rebecca Lobo, and then Candace Parker and Lisa Leslie. I think the game used to be a little slower, pass and cut. Now I think it has evolved and transitioned to speed up and be closer to the men's game. I think you have players that can do things that others couldn't do. It makes it more exciting. For me to be a part of that growth of the game has been a lot of fun. When I graduate it will be fun to watch it continue to grow."
UConn's Bria Hartley
• On her experience with Notre Dame's Kayla McBride:
"I first met Kayla at the McDonald's All-American game. We rode over on the shuttle together. She is probably one of the first people that I've met and talked to. I remember that first year of playing USA Basketball with her, I loved playing with her. I am fan of her game as well. I watched her games. She's a really good player. She can affect the game in so many ways. Her freshman year, she didn't really play as much. Her sophomore year, her role wasn't as big. In her junior and senior year, she stepped up. She has really become a great player. She's developed a lot of different things in her game. …. I just kind of admire really good players that work really hard."
• On what challenges Notre Dame's Kayla McBride presents:
"She goes out there and plays with a passion that sometimes is unmatchable. She's able to score in a lot of different ways. She can hit the three. She has a really nice pull up. She's able to score inside as well. When you're a player that's kind of is able to score in so many ways, it's hard for defenses to limit you. When she's aggressive, she's great."
• On if Kayla McBride has swag:
"She always has a swag about her. I've been saying that since I met her. I think when you see her out there on the court, she just plays with this confidence that really makes her even better than she already is. I think I try to have that same confidence as well when I'm out there playing the game. We just love playing basketball. We want to go out there and have fun. It's just the kind of way we were brought up. Just kind of enjoying the way we play."
Notre Dame's Jewell Loyd
• On competing in an historic game:
"It is awesome anytime you are a part of history and changing the outlook of the women's game. That is something we have tried to do for a long time. It is good for women's basketball. We are excited and we know everyone is going to be watching the game and watching history."
• On how Maryland's size will help them prepare for UConn:
"Well Thomas and Stewart are very different players. (Breanna) Stewart is a better shooter and she is bigger. The strategy is still the same. For me, it being the first thing they see before they turn to score; always be there and make them feel uncomfortable."
Notre Dame's Muffet McGraw
• On what makes them a good passing team:
"I think we recruit to our Princeton offense. We want players, especially post players, that are really good passers. On the guard side, we like unselfish players. So I think we have those as well. Our assist to turnover ratio is among the best in the country because we look for each other. We don't care who scores; we just want to win. So we're always willing to make that extra pass. I think that can separate you from other teams."
• On the match-ups:
"I think (Breanna) Stewart's a real match-up problem for us. She's somebody that's hard to guard because of her inside/outside ability. Their size creates some match-up problems for us. They have a great transition game. They really like to get out there to that long outlet and get down the floor in a hurry. So transition defense will be a big factor too."
• On how her team has changed after Diggins graduation:
"I think we're different because of our balance. I think we have more people that are doing more things instead of relying on one person to handle the ball 90 percent of the time. Now we share the ball in different ways.
"I think we're harder to guard, because you don't know who is going to be on the attack when we outlet to so many different people that you have to prepare for.
"I think our post game is so much better with the addition of Taya Reimer. I think that our bench has played extremely well with Madison Cable and Michaela Mabrey really giving us great minutes all year long.
"I think we're a much deeper team, and I think we're the type of team we can sub one person out and still have a pretty good balance on the floor."
• On how to stop Stewart:
"I don't know that you can stop her. I don't think you can. I think she's just a great player who — she can score in so many different ways. She has so many more ways she can beat you at different times during the game. So I think we have to hope that she doesn't go off for her career high, but as far as stopping her, I'm not sure that's possible."
• On how her and Auriemma are alike and different:
"I think we're very different. I think basketball-wise, maybe philosophically, we have some things in common. Sharing those Philly roots is a commonality in our personalities. I think we both like to play the same kind of game. I think they're running a lot of the Princeton offense now. They're running a lot of the same kind of things. So I think that type of game I think appeals to both of us.
"I think we both take pride in our defense as well as our offense, and we're probably sort of perfectionists in that we want the team to be great on every given day. I'm a little bit more of an introvert. He's quite the extrovert."
UConn's Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis
• On whether Notre Dame can consider itself an underdog as an undefeated team:
"You can't consider yourself an underdog when you are undefeated and I just don't see them as an underdog. I just don't see how that applies. There are people who think they should be number one just like us, so that's not an underdog to me."
• On the team's sluggish starts to begin the last few tournament games:
"I think the focus for us is going to be to just come out an attack. Don't settle for outside shots from the beginning and try to see how they can guard us off penetration and off the dribble and try to get them into foul trouble hopefully. If that doesn't work, going inside out is always a great way to get your offense going and develop continuity."
Notre Dame's Kayla McBride
• On the rivalry with UConn:
"Those types are games are just fun; fun for fans, and fun for us as basketball players. It is good for me as a player. It is fun, it is intense, and I think Geno has done a great job. I got to know him a little bit during USA Basketball, so to be able to go up against the best, if you will, is a fun thing."
• On where the dislike of UConn comes from:
"We are very competitive and it always seems to come down to the wire, but it is just a different feeling when you lose to UConn. I don't know if it's because of the rivalry or because it is just so intense but it makes it more than any other game. I like and have respect for their players, but as a program and a player on Notre Dame, I dislike them."
UConn's Breanna Stewart
• On the rivalry with Notre Dame:
"I don't think that we are very fond of each other. I think everyone knows that, but at the same time we still respect each other."
• • • •
That's all for now
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