March 8, 2006
Coach Jeff Mittie: First off, I want to congratulate Wyoming. They've got a great basketball team. Joe's team, he's done a fantastic job with them.We knew that the lead that we had was not safe because of how they play. We held we did such a great job defensively early in that game. I felt like if offensively we could continue to score, that would be key because I knew their offense wasn't going to remain at, I think they were at 12% first half.All in all, pleased with the victory. We've had three great games with Wyoming. This was just another one of those.
Question: Do each of you guys feel like this maybe solidifies you for an NCAA tournament bid? Most people say the Mountain West is going to get four bids.
Natasha Lacy: I really don't think anything solidifies us for the NCAA bid unless we win the tournament. We're not counting on this win or any other win in the past. If we win the tournament, that's an automatic bid. We'll get in the tournament.
Adrianne Ross: And I agree (smiling).
Question: Did you think your steal pretty much solidified the win?
Natasha Lacy: Again, I wouldn't say it solidified it, but, I mean, it was kind of a back breaker. They're excellent shooters. Any given day or any given time, they can hit a couple threes and get right back in it.
Question: Was that one of your better defensive games?
Adrianne Ross: I definitely say the first half was. I know we came out second half not as we wanted to. We wanted to come out just like we did the first half.Doing such a great job in the first half, it helped us out in the second, gave us a little cushion. So, yeah, definitely the first half.
Question: What does it do for you as far as the NCAA tournament is concerned?
Coach Jeff Mittie: Well, I don't know what it does for us. We beat another quality team, another quality win down the stretch. We've had a pretty good stretch run here.As you know, my thought process on this is that we want to win a Mountain West conference tournament championship. So, our focus is on that.I believe that our league, and I'll talk about the league, I believe that this league has six teams that could be deserving of a bid. Now, nobody thinks we're going to get six, and I understand that. But four to five, I think, is reasonable.I think we've got to be careful across the country. In my opinion, when we've been in the past, and you look at teams that have made it, RPI wise, our league is very strong. Wyoming is very deserving of a very good look here.So, I think that our league's going to sit very well at the end of this. But I don't know necessarily what it does for us. I think it's another good quality win. As you know, we've played a very, very difficult schedule. Hopefully we're reaping the benefits of playing that difficult schedule now with some victories.
Question: Talk about Natasha's play down the stretch.
Coach Jeff Mittie: She was frustrated early in the early part of the second half. We set her down a little bit. We felt like we could get her inside on the post. That's what we wanted to do.She came back in and really was assertive. I thought our team did a great job of getting her in the low block. You mentioned the steal at the end, I thought the steal was huge. Three point play, finish it off, allows us to do some things differently defensively. Really puts the pressure on them.So, yeah, her play down the stretch was critical. We really went to her on every possession. She was an option the last four minutes.
Question: How does that compare to how you have been doing this season?
Coach Jeff Mittie: Compared to how we've been doing this year (smiling)?
Coach Jeff Mittie: We have not defended the three very well. That's the nicest way I can put it. That was the best defense we've played on the perimeter year long. I think we're eighth in the league at defending the three. I think we have good perimeter quickness. We haven't coached it very well, obviously.This team really played well tonight. I thought they came in. I mean, we were all over Zavecz all night long. That's a very good player to hold 1 14. She got a lot of rebounds. We made Bolerjack work for her nine points. They really Taylor attacked us in the post, but we were willing to allow some one on one play down there as long as they didn't hit the big play on the perimeter. I thought our team really executed a good game plan. They made a game plan look very good.
Question: Did you see anything defensively, because you had Wyoming frustrated in the perimeter, did you see something on film going into the game?
Coach Jeff Mittie: Well, I wouldn't say we made some changes defensively. What we're doing is we're switching a lot of those motion screens. Wyoming and Utah use a lot of those flair screens, they use a lot of slip screens. We were having trouble defending that, staying with our player.Now, the disadvantage of that is that when they get a mismatch on the perimeter with Zavecz on like Lohse, we've got to do a better job of helping. I think our team has grown in that defense. We made that switch about maybe halfway through conference. We're really just now only in about our fourth or fifth week doing it, so we're really starting to play it pretty well.I'll say this, another thing, too. Our first year in the league, we've got to get a feel for some of these. Hopefully we're getting a little better feel for some of the talent in this league, because this is a very talented league. Zavecz and Bolerjack, both times they've really hurt us. We did a good job on them tonight.
Coach Joe Legerski: I think this is a game where, you know, I talked to my team early about trying to grow as a group. Sometimes you start winning games throughout a season, and we had a tremendous season to be able to win 20 games, second time in school history. So you kind of get ahead of yourself.Then it steps up into tournament play. Once again, you realize how many sophomores and freshmen you're playing with that are trying to learn at this level. I thought TCU really came out strong, took the game to us. In the second half, we were able to try to get it down, but they always seemed to have an answer once we get it to three or five points.
Question: Erin, early on you guys were struggling shooting. How much of that do you feel maybe you had some nerves or tightness going, how much do you think it was shots not falling?
Erin Hicks: We were definitely nervous coming out tonight. Our focus wasn't quite there at the beginning. We needed some shots to fall for us. They weren't doing that in the first half.You know, we came out second half, had a little run there for us. We just needed a couple more plays, a couple more shots to go for us.
Question: Was some of that nerves the pressure, knowing that you had a chance for an NCAA berth, that you really had to get this game in order to keep that probably viable?
Erin Hicks: Yeah, nerves. You know, going to NCAA nerves. Mountain West Conference tournament. Nerves, it's a good team. We knew that coming in here, you have to win the first game to go on and play.So it was all, everything, coming into this game.
Question: Hanna, talk about your night. You had 15 rebounds. You did everything great. Unfortunately, the shots weren't falling. Did you concentrate on trying to do other things at the same time?
Hanna Zavecz: You know, I was just trying to make my shots. They just weren't dropping.I think, I don't know, I thought my focus was there, but obviously that shows in stuff like shooting around the basket. I just got out there and tried to play my hardest, and I guess after a while there, my shots weren't dropping. So I did try to focus on other things to help out the team, just try to get a win, however I could.
Question: When you fell behind, obviously you have shown the belly to come back all year long like this. Was there something that said that you guys tried to realize that you just take a little timing to get back in the game?
Hanna Zavecz: Yeah, we go by a system of trying to win in four minute lots. I think that's a big part of our success in coming back when we're down by so much just because we don't look at the bigger picture, we try to take little steps towards it.So, yeah, that's what we've been doing all season. I guess we just didn't make enough plays today.
Question: Do you both feel like you are still deserving of an NCAA tournament bid? If you are, would you sort of make your case right now for that bid.
Erin Hicks: You know, we'd like the NCAA bid. But anything we can get right now is what we're going for. NIT would be great for our program. Anything we could get is what we're going for.
Question: How do you feel your NCAA status is now?
Coach Joe Legerski: You know, that's something that's not in our control. What we talked about as a group, you have to make it as difficult as possible on the committee. By doing that means you need to win basketball games.Once again, I think the talk for the last four or five weeks around Wyoming has been that we've been playing almost at tournament level for that stretch to get here. Over the last, I think it's 12 games now, only two teams have defeated us. That's TCU and Utah. For this group, they have to play hard every night to be able to compete.Once again, you know, whatever's going to happen post season wise will happen. We just didn't make it as difficult as what we could have tonight.
Question: Looking at tonight's game, one thing you always stress is just keep shooting. Was it hard at all to convince Hanna and Jodi to keep shooting even though it just seemed like there was a lid over the basket?
Coach Joe Legerski: When they got up 25 out of 59 shots, I think they're doing what I ask of them. You know, that's our style. We're going to shoot that ball and we're going to shoot a bunch of threes. We don't have, you know, the 6'2", 6'3" person inside to be able to play in the post. I thought Michelle Taylor did an excellent job tonight. I thought she created the run in the second half for us.We rely on being able to shoot from the perimeter. When you look at it, you know, Erin Hicks kept us in the ballgame and gave us those opportunities. She goes six of nine from the field, four of five from three. She's the only one that made three point shots for us tonight. You're not going to win very many ballgames when we don't have more people step up on the offensive end.
Question: When you got off the really rough start shooting, obviously TCU was shooting lights out. The combination is always deadly. You came back and played much better defense. Talk about your defense in the second half.
Coach Joe Legerski: We've been able to challenge people all year and try to get in a transition game where we get up and down the floor. I thought we were able to do that in the second half. We had a chance to cut it to three, and we missed the front end of a one on one. We then once again had it at six, got the ball on at out of bounds play at point blank range. We missed the lay in where we could have cut it to four.I think those things are more deflating to a team. I thought we played aggressively, defensively. Hanna was big on the glass. She was not making shots. We all know that. But to come up with 15 rebounds is completely dominating one phase of the game. I was very pleased with that effort from her.But we need her to score to win. There's only so many, I should say, runs you in you to come back. I thought we did it when we cut it to five. We let it get back up. We cut it again to six. We just needed to make a couple more plays.With a young group, hopefully we learn from this and in the future we're back with, once again, 20 wins and being able to maybe get a win in the Mountain West Conference tournament.
Question: You have a very young team. What do you hope this experience tomorrow will affect them in setting the tone for next season?
Coach Joe Legerski: What I really hope is that the young players understand they still have to keep working. They want to get back in the gym. You cannot just relax at this level. The Mountain West Conference, it's the best that I've been associated with. I've been involved with these schools for roughly 20 years now. This level of competition has really stepped up. I feel we can play with the best teams in this league. But you have to play at your best to get wins in this league.I thought TCU played very well tonight. They made the big plays. Whenever we did make a run, somebody for TCU had an answer. I just wish them the best of luck as they continue playing.
Question: Because you only have six or seven players really getting all the minutes in these games, have you felt like maybe down the stretch the last couple of games they've been gassed, they don't have the legs under them?
Coach Joe Legerski: We talk about that all the time. As you build a program, it takes your recruiting classes to get everybody in place. I told the young group in there today that I'm looking forward to the day when we're not counting on freshmen or sophomores to do the bulk of the work.The kids work so hard to give themselves a chance to win. I've always been taught that, you know what, you're going to ride your horse until your horse can't go any more. I know we do that with Erin Hicks and Hanna. When you look at it and there's 40, 39 and 38 minutes out of Jodi tonight as well, I just think that's the best chance for us to win. And for those players, they deserve that, even if all of a sudden we're out of energy at the end.
Question: NCAA tournament aside, how would you encapsulate this season?
Coach Joe Legerski: I tell you what, if somebody would have caught me back in September and said, You're going to get 20 wins and have the possibility of post season play, we would have advanced to March 8th. I wouldn't have worried about anything else.That's the hard part. If it doesn't hurt to lose, then you have not invested enough in what you're trying to do. I have a group of players over there that they're investing in it. I have to try to remind them where we've moved this program. We're going to keep this program going. We're going to keep building. We really felt we were on a five year plan. All of a sudden, we jumped way ahead of schedule. We just got to try to keep them focused and keep getting players in here to be able to contribute and compete. I don't see the Mountain West Conference backing off in talent. We're going to have to just continue to step up at Wyoming and do the best we can.
Question: You mentioned you knew TCU would make runs in the second half, especially Natasha Lacy, you contained her pretty well in the first half. What was she doing in the second half, what were you doing in the second half?
Coach Joe Legerski: I think what ends up happening is great players make great plays. You cannot sit there and count on the fact that at some point in time they won't make plays.She creates huge problems for us because she has the ability to go inside and post up your point guard as well as she can shoot the ball on the perimeter. That's what you have, when you have somebody who has that kind of leadership, to be able to step up. You know, we're looking at a TCU program, and I don't know the numbers correctly, but I believe they've been in the NCAA tournament the last five straight years. Now, if I've slighted them on that, I apologize to TCU. But they're a veteran team that is used to winning and used to playing at a very high level. That's what we're trying to get done at Wyoming.
Question: Talk about your fans tonight.
Coach Joe Legerski: Wyoming fans are the best around. When we started getting on a roll, they kind of fell in love with this team. They would show up. When you see how hard Erin plays and Hanna and the efforts they give every night, you could hear the crowd. When we started making our run, they really got behind their group.I think that energizes a team. I just feel for them as well because, you know, they were hoping for a run here. If we're fortunate enough to be in post season play, I know the Wyoming fans will be there again for us. I think that's something that is going to continue to grow because they definitely have an effect on a basketball game. Once again, I can't say enough about the Wyoming fans.