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2009 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament
Second Round
Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio
March 23, 2009

Ohio State 64, Mississippi State 58 Postgame Press Conference:

Ohio State Quotes

COACH FOSTER: Great game. Let’s go to questions.

REPORTER: Jantel, there was that stretch there late in the second half where it just seemed like every possession the lead was changing back and forth by one point. What’s it like in a game like that when it feels like every possession means so much?

JANTEL LAVENDER: I think in some sense it’s frustrating and it can be tiring too because, I mean, you kind of want to stretch the lead. It’s kind of like a nail-biting game the whole time. But once — I think it was like that the whole game and it just came down to who wanted to win more, who was wanting to get defensive stops in a row and I think our team came together and we said we were going to get stops in a row and that’s what we did.

REPORTER: Sammi, what was it like playing against Alexis Rack and how hard did you have to play just to deal with her?

SAMANTHA PRAHALIS: She was really good. She kept hitting those quick threes. I thought she was a really good player. She was good getting into the seams, finding her teammates when she didn’t have a shot. I liked playing against her, it was a lot of fun.

REPORTER: Can you speak to the defense that everybody played on your team to keep them scoreless the last 6:43 of that game?

SAMANTHA PRAHALIS: What was the question?

REPORTER: They didn’t score for the last 6:43 of that game, how fired up were you guys defensively for this?

SAMANTHA PRAHALIS: We knew that, like Jantel said, we just needed to get a few more stops and we were saying we needed to get like three more steps and the post players were helping out real good to close the lean down, I thought we got some good blocks, so we just ran the passing lean, so I thought it was a whole team effort at the end of the game.

REPORTER: Star, can you talk about your offensive rebound, what you did to get that, what it felt like?

STAR ALLEN: I think my focus was if she missed, I had to go get it, I had to get the rebound regardless miss or make, I was on the ball the whole time.

REPORTER: When you grabbed that, how did you feel?

STAR ALLEN: I just felt great that I got it.

REPORTER: Star, if I could ask you, as a senior, there’s been so much talk about not getting out of the first or second round the past couple years, how does this feel now to be going to the Sweet 16?

STAR ALLEN: I feel good. I love the team. It’s the whole team. It’s a team thing. And as a team, I think we all feel great. I mean, I feel — I feel excellent because it’s been a struggle in the past couple years, we put that behind us and I think we look forward to that in the future.

REPORTER: Jantel, shooting free throws, you made two but you missed one, how were you able to collect yourself and make the two that finally broke the tie?

JANTEL LAVENDER: You just forget about the free throws that you missed previously, you go to the line, take a deep breath, make sure you do everything to make the free throws, bend your knees, pop to your toes and I just concentrated and I knocked them down.

REPORTER: Sammi, was this game more exciting than the first game was for you?

SAMANTHA PRAHALIS: Yeah, because it was closer and everyone was just really into it, it was like possession from possession, so it was definitely more exciting.

REPORTER: Sammi, after the buzzer sounded you kind of jumped into Jantel’s arms there, both of you, what was — what was going through your head when it finally ended?

SAMANTHA PRAHALIS: I was just really excited because Jantel’s such a big part of this team, she’s so good. I was just excited to win the game with her and with the whole team because we want to really go far and we don’t want the season to end because we like her a lot.

JANTEL LAVENDER: I feel the same. I feel — I just feel we were excited, ecstatic, because we got past these first two rounds and we know we earned them throughout the year and we played extremely hard tonight. So I think there was just a feeling of — I mean, not satisfaction, but just a feeling of excitement, you know, to just get back past these first two rounds and focus on the next two games.

REPORTER: Jantel, can you speak to the way Sammi kind of kept her composure against the pressure that Mississippi State was trying to put on her?

JANTEL LAVENDER: As a lot of people always say, I think Sammi is not like a freshman point guard, she plays like a senior and she has a lot of responsibility on her shoulder and I think tonight it showed her composure and it showed her matureness in the game for her being able to handle the pressure and handle the pressure to get us this victory tonight.

REPORTER: Star, did you come out with any extra fire or passion tonight? I mean, again, as a senior, you looked like you really had a little extra in you early on especially.

STAR ALLEN: I think coming from the first game I had to boost up my energy. Coach kept telling me he needs my energy and he needs my energy, so I just thought me having a little extra fire in my belly, I’d be good.

REPORTER: Jim, just can you speak to the defense over those — well, for the whole game really in the second half, not only the way you kind of shut down Grimes in the second half, but the way they had to play defense to come back to win this game?

COACH FOSTER: At this time of year, defense is what’s going to win games. I mean, with this much intensity, this much on the line, shots some days are going to be there, some days are not, but your defense is going to be there the whole time. We had a blip of, I don’t know, maybe three minutes where we just didn’t defend that high screen well and once we made the adjustment, we talked about yesterday and today, we did a very good job of keeping the ball in front of us and stopping the penetration. I think Andrea Walker really did a great job of showing, blocked a shot or two, I think her presence was huge.

REPORTER: Grimes had 20 at the half, ended up with 22 in the game. Did you do something differently with her in the second half?

COACH FOSTER: We guarded her. We didn’t guard her the first half. She hit two transition threes where you could have gotten closer to her than the players were.

REPORTER: Jim, the last three seasons you’ve been on sort of the wrong end of the parity issue, you’ve been sort of Example A. Is it sort of a relief for you to get beyond and get to 16 or are you flat-line on this whole topic?

COACH FOSTER: It just gives people things to talk about, you know, during a recession, you know, tough economic times, when people have things to talk about, they can keep their mind off of what the reality is. That’s a great thing, that’s why we play sports. That’s what sports is. Everybody has opinions. And I knew I had a good basketball team this year. I knew I had a good one two years ago when Brandi Hoskins went down, 21-1, and I knew last year would be a rebuilding year and we still managed to somehow win the Big Ten and be cochampions. Each season is what it is and this is — I’ve said from the beginning this team would be different.

REPORTER: Coach, on Saturday after the win, you said the transition to focusing on the next game happened 10 minutes ago, so do you now, after this, quick run and turn on the TV and watch those two teams play?

COACH FOSTER: We’re going to play a clone of Mississippi State in San Diego State, maybe not as big, or a great Stanford team.

REPORTER: You had a home crowd here, you’re going to be going to California to play a California team, what do you tell the team to prepare for that?

COACH FOSTER: I really hope that the rivalry, if it’s Stanford, I hope the rivalry between Stanford and Berkeley is real and Berkeley fans will do anything to cheer against Stanford and they show up for us. If it’s San Diego State, great city, great weather, not that many will drive up.

REPORTER: Coach, could you talk a little bit about the contributions you got from Andrea Walker and Sarah Schulze?

COACH FOSTER: We’ve had a series of team wins and nothing has changed. Schulze gave us big minutes, attacked off the dribble and showed some of the other players that she has a knack at the end of a half for coming up with a big basket. And Andrea Walker, big players mature later, had an injury, had a surgery, all of a sudden the last eight/nine games she’s maturing as a basketball player. She’s just doing all the little things that — she’s a presence, seven rebounds, two blocks, a steal, a real impact on the game.

REPORTER: Jim, Rack is a really, really quick, fast player.

COACH FOSTER: Uh-huh.

REPORTER: Kind of the dual between her and Sammi, how did Sammi handle that?

COACH FOSTER: Well, she didn’t get up on her, got to give her a little cushion. I mean, she’s too quick and when she’s in the mode of going to the basket, you’ve got to have enough of a cushion to stay in front of her and you need help behind you when that high screen is coming and I think, again, when we jumped off, had a nice cushion and the post players did their job, it was a lot easier to defend.

REPORTER: More in a sense when they’re going full-court pressure and you’re getting the ball and Sammi is the one bringing the ball up and they’re all over her, do you feel pretty comfortable that she’s going to get where she wants to go every time?

COACH FOSTER: Yeah, she’s a great athlete. Jantel talked about her composure, how she sees the floor, her understanding. She’s not a freshman in that vein. She stays away from trapping areas. Genuinely makes good decisions and every once in a while she’ll get caught up in the emotion of the game, but for a freshman, just terrific.

REPORTER: Do you feel like you’re getting more challenges from the conference this year in games like the Purdue game a couple weeks ago?

COACH FOSTER: I said that at the end of the conference tournament. I said that the Big Ten was better than people thought it was, that the Big Ten was deeper this year than it’s been since I’ve been here, that Northwestern and Michigan made you work very, very hard and that one of the things that I felt when I came from the SEC, the SEC had tremendous success in the post season, I thought it was because the conference was deep and you had to play every night, and I think that’s what has transpired in the Big Ten this year, and I think you’re seeing it by the results, that you had to play every night, and as a result you come out of it tougher and prepared and relieved you’re not playing the same people.

REPORTER: Jim, I’m sure it’s a lot of drudgery shooting free throws in the middle of winter and trying to get the kids to concentrate on them and everything, can you use this where you don’t score a field goal for the last 7:45, whatever it was, to say, here’s why we do all of that, here’s what the benefit is?

COACH FOSTER: I think some things you say and some things you don’t have to say. I think the players realize why we do the things we do on a regular basis and attention to detail is one of the catch-all phrases for a good basketball team and the detail comes in many, many respects. We didn’t pay attention to detail inbounding the ball twice and had to eat two timeouts, but we paid attention to detail on our defensive assignment the last eight or nine minutes of the game, and as a result it became more difficult for them and we — Sammi’s ability to take the ball to the basket and Jantel’s strength on the low block, we’re going to get to the foul line. Again, we have made more foul shots than our opponents have attempted, but that’s the way we play.

Mississippi State Quotes

REPORTER: Coach, I guess I’d start with the fact that no points in the last 6:43, I guess, Ohio State’s defense changed up or something you guys needed to do a little better or how would you assess the last six, seven minutes?

COACH FANNING: You have to give credit to Ohio State because they did a job and they ended up scoring. I think that our minds changed a little bit. I don’t think, when you have the turnovers that we had that were self-inflicted, then I think that we played nervous. There were some misshots that were just shots that we typically are going to at least draw iron and I just don’t think we were composed down the stretch in score time situations.

Defensively I didn’t think that we guarded a couple of times as we needed to in terms of just letting them go to the bucket, putting them on the free throw line, they did a good job getting there. When you — the free throw line was very important to us in the last basketball game and it was very important to them today, but unforced turnovers, I think, down the stretch and just a confidence together, I don’t think that we had the same look.

You have to find ways to win ball games and you have to keep it simple and I felt like when they made a couple of big plays, they got a good, strong look, a confident look, and then I think that we backed off at that particular point. I think that we fought for the whole game, but I don’t think that we played smart down the stretch in terms of just, say, the confidence that we have to have.

You can’t give up offensive boards and they came up with a couple of offensive boards, I think, that were keys and we needed that. We needed putback. We had several offensive boards, but I don’t know how many and-ones we got out of it. We have to do a better job of getting position. I think some of our fouls, we have to get our feet in the right position and get our body in the right position. We have to have great help. When you have a player like Lavender in the middle you have to do a really good job helping and rotating, so we just didn’t get the job done.

They got the job done and the little things down the stretch. I do think probably the bottom line is unforced turnovers and a couple of blockouts and that changed the four-point lead, 58-54, into where we didn’t score the rest of the game. And you have to be able to have composure during that time and this team should learn from that and it should make them hungrier and understand the importance of how we have to stay focused.

You have to believe in yourself individually, you have to believe in each other as a team. That’s how we got this far, got to this point. And so this is where we grow up and this will help us win a game next year.

REPORTER: Alexis, I want to ask you the same thing I asked Coach about the end of the game. You guys don’t score for the last six something in the end of the game, did you see something different from Ohio State? It seemed like they were coming out fronting a little better, getting some help. On your drives, did you see that or do you agree with Coach that maybe it was you guys being a little tentative or not being as composed as you were?

ALEXIS RACK: I don’t think they changed their defense. They probably jumped out a little further, but I think I still could have gotten to the rim and I guess I just tried to do too much instead of just going to the goal and, you know, moving the ball on offense.

REPORTER: You felt like you were making too many moves instead of —

ALEXIS RACK: I felt like I was holding the ball too much.

REPORTER: For either of you, was the pace in the first part of the game what you prefer and was it hard to adjust as it got down to more of a slower game? Did you like how the first half went, I guess, and would you have liked to have seen it stay at that pace.

TYSHEKA GRIMES: Yes, of course we would like to have seen it happen, but when we came out the second half, we had the same mentality as we did in the first half, it just didn’t happen like we planned, you know. I believe that there were some things we did different that affected us in a negative way and I believe that — and I have to give a speak to Ohio State and things like that, but I believe that we hurt ourselves in the second half more than, you know, what they did to us.

REPORTER: Are you back next year?

TYSHEKA GRIMES: Yes, I am.

REPORTER: Coach Fanning was talking about how you learn from this and you’ll win a game next year because of this, do you feel like that, that this team’s going to learn something from this?

TYSHEKA GRIMES: Oh, yes, sir. We’re going to be hungrier next year. We’re going to come back. We started the season off real good this year, you know, undefeated in the preseason, we plan on doing the same thing next year, you know, coming out with a chip on our shoulder, you know, that’s like a motto that we live by, we have a chip on our shoulder, things like this. We have to come out next year with the same mentality, we’ve got to come out wanting to be in the Sweet 16, wanting to end up in the Final Four in a championship game, things like that.

REPORTER: One more for you. The first half, 20 points, can you talk about how good you felt and, I guess I’ll just ask you about that.

TYSHEKA GRIMES: First half, it was just like things were happening for every last one of us, you know, on the team. We were rotating right on defense, everything was happening good for us on defense. There were some mistakes we did, our assist/turnover ratio, I don’t know about that, but I believe in the first half we did good with that, you know. Everybody had — everybody touched the ball. Everyone was touching the ball. I felt hot, I guess you could say, I felt hot. My teammates were getting me the ball. But in the end it’s all about teamwork and we worked as a team today. We just didn’t come out with a win like we should have, like we felt like we should.

ALEXIS RACK: She just didn’t want to brag on herself, but when Ty is hot, she’s hot. She was hot and we knew to get her the ball. That’s it.

REPORTER: I guess I’ll ask what I asked them. The pace in the first half, seemed like you guys came out fearless and were really taking it to them. I assume that’s what you would have wanted to keep up the entire game.

COACH FANNING: We wanted to attack the bucket. We wanted to try to get the ball to the rim and pressure defense. In the second half, I know we did — at times it looked like we were a little tentative, but I think Ohio State, of course they picked up and I mean we tried to maintain the same intensity. When it was 58-54 with three minutes or whatever to go, I think that it’s still a ball game, and so whatever — you know, we were down two with that kind of pace at halftime and we were up four with three minutes to go, so whatever pace it’s going to take for us to be successful, that’s what we’re trying to figure out along the way. Both teams were missing some shots and then it took them a while to get it tied up or to get ahead. But the second half, we did — they shot under 40% and shot 42 for the game, and I know that’s something that we try to work very hard is to hold a team under 40% for the game and for us to shoot above 40, and we didn’t do our job, defensively, I think when that happens.

And then we need to outscore our opponent on the free throw line and we need to outrebound them. We were one short on the rebounds and then didn’t get to the free throw line like we needed to and put them there. Assist/turnover, it needs to be positive, so those are just fundamentals regardless of who you play and where you play and what kind of game it is at half, versus the other one, you need to figure out what you need to do based on people that are on the floor. But we tried to — we wanted to attack it and run as much as we could. They do a good job getting back, we may be quicker in a couple positions, but they do a good job pushing the ball and they know how to play well and they guard you hard.

We didn’t set angle screens correctly and that’s something that we have to work on and teach better and it’s obvious how they’re going to go under on it and we just didn’t get to where we needed to be to allow our people to get a few better looks. But anyways, this is a game we learn and hopefully this does help us win more than one game next year relative to just, you know, toughness and how you have to play when the games are on the line and play in a tough environment.

But it was a good opportunity and I’m proud of how hard we played the last two games here. I felt like this whole year that we have been shy of a 40-minute game relative to effort all the time and hopefully we are growing up and have a lot of these kids back and they’ll reflect on that, and like she said, be hungry in the next season and know how you have to prepare in the off season to be there, and when you get to this point again, take your team further the next year.