DePaul Team Meets the Media Before NCAA Game

Depaul Blue Demons womens' basketball coach Doug Bruno and his team met with members of the media on Friday. Read what they had to say before Saturday's NCAA first round game against #7 seed Marist.

An interview with:


THE MODERATOR: Let's welcome our representatives from DePaul University. Our student athletes are Allie Quigley, Missy Mitidiero, and Caprice Smith. And the head coach for Marist, welcome to Baton Rouge and to the NCAA tournament, Doug Bruno.

Coach, would you like to open up and we'll go from there?

COACH BRUNO: Somebody asked me the other day where's Marist? In Chicago, somebody told me that. And I said, "115th and Pulaski." And I said -- That's where Marist High School is.

I knew it was in New York, but I wasn't sure where Poughkeepsie was. But I am very sure that Marist is a great basketball team. The players that return -- very rarely when you prepare for a NCAA tournament can you prepare by starting with last year's tournament games. And, yet, the experience in which this Marist team didn't just beat Ohio State but they really kick's Ohio State's butt pretty good last year and they kicked Middle Tennessee's butt pretty good last year and all those players are back with that experience.

This is just an excellent Marist basketball team. We are excited to be in the NCAA. We are fired up to have the opportunity to play. But, boy, we really understand just how good this Marist team is.

Q. Rachele Fitz has given MAAC teams literally fits all season long. What have you seen on her on tape and what are your thoughts on what you've seen?

COACH BRUNO: She is an excellent basketball player, well-deserving of her MAAC player of the year status. She is a classic example of don't be deceived by the looks because she's got those long arms. She's just got an uncanny ability to get the ball to the basket and into the basket and just an excellent player.

We coached a player that was a three-time All-American a couple years ago named Khara Smith. Khara didn't exactly look great in an airport, but she just did it on the floor. And that's exactly what Rachele Fitz does. She is an unbelievably productive, inside basketball player. She is not the only inside one they got either. Dahlman and Smrdel are also excellent inside players.

Q. Allie, when you were a freshman, DePaul was in its last season in Conference USA. How much of an upgrade in the competition level have you seen being in the Big East?

ALLIE QUIGLEY: It was definitely, like you said, an upgrade in competition. Every single game is you got to bring your game no matter what. From the bottom to the top, you never know what's going to happen in the Big East. If anything, it made us better and I think it made all the teams in the Big East better just to have the better competition. So ...

Q. Coach, your team coming in here -- the great game y'all had against UConn at home towards the end of the year where you came up just a little bit short playing a team like UConn, number one in the country, the No. 1 overall seed, what have you taken from that game that maybe has helped you build, even though you are in the Big East conference with them but a close call against them in that type of game towards the end of the year? How does your team build on that coming into the tournament?

COACH BRUNO: I believe that game did give our team confidence. I think our very tough end-of-season conference schedule was -- we looked at it coming down the stretch. We had six games to play regular season, and those six games included at No. 11 West Virginia, at Georgetown -- and Georgetown would be in the NIT if they had made our tournament. That's how good Georgetown is playing right now.

At Rutgers -- Notre Dame was No. 14 at home. At Rutgers in the game in which Coach Stringer was playing for Number 800; UConn at home; and at Seton Hall. And we approached the team and said we can look at this as a death march or an opportunity march. There aren't going to be six games in the NCAA tournament that are going to be a lot tougher than that.

So I think the West Virginia win at West Virginia kicked it off, and I think all six of those games have given us confidence. One of the big criteria about the NCAA which you see people write -- and I think the committee says they look at -- is how you finish at the end of the year.

If you look at our record at the end of the year, we didn't finish with a glowing record from a numbers point of view. But just to the point of your question, I think we did play our best ball down the stretch of the season and the beast that is the Big East didn't let that exactly be a great record. But I think the confidence gained by the UConn game in that stretch should have us prepared.

Then we went to the Big East tournament and had to play a very good Marquette team and beat them to get into the tournament and another UConn again a week later. So you talk about those eight games, and I just really think they should have us prepared. Every game has a life of its own, however. Just because we did that, played that, Marist is -- the Marist game is going to have its own life here tomorrow night.

Q. Coach, there seems to be certainly more parity in the men's game, the men's tournament, than the women's tournament. Do you think for the women's game to grow, as I'm sure people like you who have been it in a long time would like to see in grow in terms of popularity, you have to get away from it being Tennessee or UConn all the time? Or maybe those people get more attention than they should? What are your thoughts on that?

COACH BRUNO: I believe we are reaching parity; and at the same time, this season, you know, it really didn't -- UConn just did have a great year and that's after losing two players.

But I think the game is reaching -- is becoming a much more equal game. It is -- there are more players and all the players can't go to just a couple schools. The game itself is improving from top to bottom. So I just really do think that they're -- the parity is coming into the game, and I think it will continue to just get better as the game continues to grow. As the young women start playing, it grows exponentially every single year.

I can't deny the fact that there is a couple dominant teams here this year, but at the same time I think everybody -- look at this opponent of ours, this Marist team. I mean, it is just an unbelievably great job they're doing at Marist. They're just an example of a team that's put themselves in the top 16 just one year ago. These three players here went to the Sweet 16 two years ago; and, you know, I think that speaks to the parity right there.

Q. Caprice, Coach kidded a little bit about not knowing where Marist is. When you do play in a major conference like that and your opponent here in the tournament is one school that you don't know much about, how long does it take you to familiarize -- put it the other way, do you forget about all that once you get into the preparation and so forth for the team and respect what they're doing out on the court and what they can do?

CAPRICE SMITH: The first thing that popped into my head when I heard we were playing Marist was watching the game they play last year in the NCAA tournament. They were a Cinderella team. I think they took their momentum from last season and stepped it up this year and went on a great 22-game winning streak.

So we can't take for granted anybody's conference. We just know that they're a great basketball team and they're ranked and we're not. We just got to go into the game with a chip on our shoulder because we're the lower seed.

COACH BRUNO: If they can dominate Jessica Davenport the way -- Marist dominated Jessica Davenport a year ago. That's a State Farm All-American -- still getting used to Kodak not being here -- a State Farm All-American top ten player in the country and Marist dominated her. It wasn't a lucky game plan. They dominated her.

Q. Coach, do you allow your team to visualize or talk about making it to the Final Four or is this something you try to stay away from? Having that dream of making that run that everybody wants to make?

COACH BRUNO: You can't achieve what you don't see. But once you get here, it's a one-in-a-row, six-time tournament. You can't get there without the focus of one in a row. I mean, there's no way we can be sitting -- we have not even looked at, none of us, no coach, has even looked at an LSU tape.

Again, please forgive me, Denise Taylor, Jackson State, all right? I don't want to assume that.

But, again, none of us have even looked at one tape. That's how important the one-in-a-row factor is here in this tournament. All's we've looked at is this great team. Marist is a great -- it is a quintessential basketball team. They play basketball the way basketball is supposed to be played; the way they share, the way they -- they just make the extra pass; the way they have inside-outside balance.

And the other aspect of Marist is they don't -- when you don't have a player as dominant as Sylvia Fowles or Candace Parker, at first glance -- or Maya Moore or some of the great players in our league, at first glance, they might appear not to look at that level. But when you study and continue to study, this is an excellent basketball team and they're just -- they just play so well together.

I want to thank everybody, thank the committee members who are here, for all the hard work you do to put this tournament together and just thank the media for covering women's basketball. The question about parity and getting more people -- getting the game covered is great.

Ted, it is great to see you again even though we don't come down here to play Tulane every year. It is still nice to see you down here.

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