March 9, 2005
An Interview With: WYOMING COWGIRLS
JIM MILLER: Coach, we'll let you begin if you want to just make some opening comments.
COACH LEGERSKI: It was one of those ball games that we've had with UNLV all year and we ended up defeating them by three at our place, they defeated us by four and then they ended up getting us again today by five, but all three ball games were possession-by-possession type ball games, and we just need to make a few more plays than what we were able to finish up with today.
To start the game, to be down by 13, I give credit to a young group of players that refused to give in and make a ballgame out of this, and for that I'm very happy for them and pleased for myself that this team is developing that kind of attitude.
Question: This is for both of you. Do you feel like when the game is tied a couple times late that one of those shots goes that kind of turns it around, sometimes you just need to lead to go from there?
Ashley Elliott: I think definitely if we would have hit one of those threes it would have changed the momentum. We were fighting back the whole time, but we just weren't really able to get ahead. It's so much harder for you to shoot when you're down by 2 than when you're up by 2. It could have changed the game but the shots didn't fall but we shot them with confidence, and that's all you can really ask.
Hanna Zavecz: I agree with Ashley. It's a lot easier to make shots when you're up. We had a majority of the crowd on our side tonight, so that would have erupted the stadium, we just really needed one of those to drop.
Question: Toward the end of the game over the last five minutes, Ashley, the last shot you took was the three that rimmed out at the buzzer. Did UNLV do anything in particular to try and limit your touches?
Ashley Elliott: You know, I don't think so. They put a little bit of pressure on the whole game, and we just weren't able to come up with some shots down at the end. They put a little bit more pressure on me at the outside, but we still had our open shots, and they just weren't falling, so you can't ask for anything else.
JIM MILLER: At this point we'll open it up for questions for Coach Legerski.
Question: Coach, what made the zone so effective during the first half?
COACH LEGERSKI: Well, we're not a zone team, and probably for the people that follow us, you're probably as surprised as most people to see us do that. You know, we have a tough time matching up with people. We don't have a great deal of size inside, and so at times that's something that we knew that we had to go to, and then you just hope that they don't make shots.
I thought Erin Hicks did an unbelievable job of making plays off the wing because they were trying to go high and low on us and she probably came up with two or three big steals in the end of the game, and we just tried to make sure that we never created a situation where they were able to go one-on-one and we were able to make the zone a little bigger and try to rebound out of it.
Question: You guys were able to take that shot to hit the lead and they come back and make a couple three pointers. When you talk about momentum, that's really what lifted them the last couple of minutes?
COACH LEGERSKI: When you play in what I call championship play, one game in and out, you win the ballgame, you go home. Players need to step up and make plays at big times, and when we were down one with about four minutes to go, Hanna had a good look at a three and Erin had a good look at a three and neither one would drop for us, and then they did make their play, so you have to give credit to Vegas for stepping up and making plays when they needed to make the plays, and I thought that was one of the differences in the outcome of the ballgame is who could make a play in the last three and a half minutes of the ballgame.
Question: Last season you won your first tournament game in the Mountain West Conference history, and it was such a step forward for the program. I wonder if you could elaborate -- I know this isn't going to be a step backwards. How do you approach that heading into next season with a young team?
COACH LEGERSKI: We're in there thanking the seniors for all the effort they gave to kind of get this foundation built and to remind them that this was the first upper division finish for a Wyoming team in eight years, and so even though when you come to tournament you want to keep moving on, I have to put the whole year in perspective sometimes and I'll probably do that about a month from now, but it was a heck of an effort by a young group of players that's trying to change a mentality of Wyoming, and as I've mentioned to people, I think the Mountain West is as good as what it's been.
This league is getting tougher. We talk about improving, but it's difficult to move up in the standings just because of the strength at the top, and what this is doing is we're just trying to close the gap in ballgames and trying to make sure that we're one of the competitive ones, night in and night out.
JIM MILLER: Thanks, Coach.
An Interview With: UNLV LADY REBELS
JIM MILLER: We'll begin with UNLV head coach Regina Miller. If you want to begin with some opening comments, then we'll open it up for questions for the players.
COACH MILLER: Sure. It was a battle. It always seems to a battle every time we play against Wyoming, really any team in the league. Again, it gets back to anyone can win this tournament who's able to execute. I thought that we started the game fairly strong, and then we were able to go on a run. I thought it was from the intensity of our defense, and that triggered a lot of our fast break opportunities, and then the half court offense, I thought, we executed fairly well, and then they went to a zone, and we became passive. You just don't want to play passive against a standard 2-3 zone. For the remainder of the half, they really changed the tempo of the game. We started to play more half court. We're a full-court team. Again, a lot of that is created from our defense. Their zones slowed the tempo down, we didn't execute against it. We needed to get the ball in certain areas, and not until after the half were we able to make those adjustments. We anticipated them playing zone all of the second half, and they did, and I thought we did a better job of getting the ball to the middle, trying to hit the corner some and I thought Brittney Thomas hit a couple of big shots down the stretch.
JIM MILLER: At this point we'll open it up for questions directed to the student athletes, we have No. 20, Brittney Thomas and No. 22, RanDee Henry.
Question: Can you talk a little bit about those two three-point shots that you hit, extremely huge and kept the momentum going for your team?
Brittney Thomas: Early in the game I was a little off. Mentally I wasn't all the way 100 percent there, and hitting 3s, hitting shots, is what I bring to the team, and I just relaxed and put it down just like it was another shot in practice and it came out good.
Question: You guys have been pretty up and down all season. You've had some really great moments and not so great moments. What's the difference? What do you do better when you're playing well and winning?
RanDee Henry: I think pretty much everything is just on us. We know what we're capable of as a team, what we're good at, what are our strengths. So just pretty much coming into this tournament, we couldn't sit back on what happened in the past. You know, this is a whole new start. It's pretty much everybody starting over with new records, so we just wanted to come in and focus on the games that we had at task and take them one at a time and not relinquish things from the past.
Question: Could either one or both of you talk about the rematch you're going to have with UNM?
Brittney Thomas: I'll start. It's going to be a game. We took them on at home, beat them by 3, went there, lost by 3. It's going to come down to who executes, and we're planning on it being us overall. It's going to be a fight, though.
RanDee Henry: It's definitely going to be a game. It's about playing smart and doing what we do best because we know it's going to be a game that we have to compete and every single position is going to count.
Question: Ladies, what was it about the zone that had you guys kind of off there in the first half when they switched to it?
RanDee Henry: I think initially that they pushed so far up on Sheena, they were really worried about her penetrating their zone because she does it so well. So we really had I to sit back and find the open areas, and it's disgusting, and time-outs because they were leaving the middle wide open because they were pushing out so far trying to trap, and we really made the adjustment at halftime, but it was just initially our coaches informed us where the open spots really were in the first half and we were able to get some towards the end of the half, and that's where we were able to make that adjustment at halftime.
JIM MILLER: Ladies, you can be excused, ladies. We'll now open it up for questions for Coach Miller.
Question: Coach Miller, Ashley Elliott, the last shot she took in the last five minutes was the three-pointer that rimmed out at the buzzer, did you do anything special, really try to limit her touches?
COACH MILLER: Well, our focus on Ashley has been all year when she gives the ball up, really make her work to get it back. She's the type of player who's going to play 40 minutes, has played 40 minutes all season, so she's well-conditioned. I think as Ashley goes, Wyoming goes. I think she's a great player. She's someone that we focus on defensively. We didn't really want to double on her because there are other three-point shooters on the team. Hanna does a nice job for Wyoming as well as Hicks can shoot the three with their foot set, and we know Taylor is a penetrator. I thought at times we got too close to her with the dribble and allowed her to penetrate past.
We knew a lot of their scheme was dribble, kick it to the three point with their feet set, and Ashley heard us. At that point in time in the game we thought that we had worn her down a little bit, and we are a fairly good-conditioned team, and your shot is a little different when you're tired, and if you don't -- usually shots that rim -- go in and out and stay down, you're not using your legs, and she was a little tired at that point, so advantage UNLV. It worked out for us.
Question: Could you talk about the strides that Wyoming has made under Coach Legerski? Obviously they seemed to be going in a real positive direction.
COACH MILLER: Tremendous strides. I have a great deal of respect. I think when we prepared for Wyoming, we think of playing against Utah in some ways because they run similar offense, a lot of motion cutting, a lot of moving without the ball, a lot of almost screens, something that we've done has been to trap some of those and taking people out of their flow offensively. I think Joe has done a tremendous job moving the program forward.
I felt like since he's taken over, players play to their strengths. They're running their offense with a purpose in mind and they know who the scorers are, who's going to get screens and who's going to get rebounds, and I'm not sure if that was the case prior to, so you can tell the big difference is going to be competitive day in and day out.
I would think in the league we're probably the team that's most similar, especially when they go with a small lineup.
Question: Your team has not been a great free-throw shooting team, but not bad. Tonight you really shot lights out from the line. Is there any explanation as to why?
COACH MILLER: I have this philosophy that you have to finish free throws -- finish lay-ups and make all free throws. That's something that we talk about in practice. We shoot a lot of free throws. We don't run when you miss free throws. I think sometimes coaches have a tendency to do that and I think it reinforces the negative. We just shoot more.
We had a game against BYU a couple games ago and we couldn't make a free throw, 6 for 15, lost by 3. The game before we were 14 for 15, shot 93 percent. Again, I think a lot of it is confidence. I think you can win and lose a lot of ball games by making and/or missing free throws. It hurt us against BYU, it helped us today.
Question: I just wanted to ask you about the match-up with New Mexico, and I guess what it takes to beat them. Obviously there have been some close games this season.
COACH MILLER: Yeah, most of our games have been close. I mean, New Mexico is playing well, they've played consistent, they've been fairly healthy all year and they're playing with a lot of confidence. I'm not going to give you the magic plan, but in some way we have to disrupt their flow. I think a key player for them who has played well has been Marsh. She's been a little bit of an X factor, even as a freshman. She posts deep. She has the ability to shoot that little turnaround jumper and she's a tremendous offensive rebounder and she rebounds the ball defensively for them. She's probably to me their most aggressive player. If they come out and play a little zone, I would anticipate they're going to play a zone, we'll have to attack it and attack it with confidence.
I think overall New Mexico is a finesse type of team with the exception of Marsh, and we have to play to their strengths, and I think the team that does that the best in their style of play is going to win this game. It will be a battle. I anticipate that it will be a battle.
Question: Your kids thrive off the UNM crowd. They seem to be the only team in the pit that can take it for 40 minutes. Usually teams come in and love it for 30 minutes and hate it the last ten.
COACH MILLER: It's a tough play to play, in the pit. I've always used the analogy that they're red, we're red, their offense. Just block out what they might say against you. We shouldn't hear that anyway. But when you look in the stands there's a lot of red, so we think of them as rebels instead of Lobos. I think if you focus in on what's happening on the court, you know, you are not distracted as to what's going on off the court and around you. It's a great atmosphere to play in. If you're a player or competitive in any way, and I know that New Mexico has a lot of fans here for this tournament, you thrive off of that. You know, you thrive off the fact that, hey, we've built this, people are here to watch us play, now let's go out and perform. I think if you're a competitor you thrive off of that. You do not let it distract you.
JIM MILLER: Thanks, Coach.