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"It's great to be back home. We literally just rolled in about 20 minutes ago. What a great trip, a tremendous opportunity for our players, not only to play three games in three days and play some great competition and beat a team on their home court in Hawaii, but some great bonding, a great opportunity to be with the football team and watch their game and have some success. It was a great trip. And we're sitting at 4-1. We're very pleased with that. And take the day off and we'll get back to work for the rest of the week."
Lisa, what were you most pleased with in the games this weekend, anything that maybe, since we all didn't see the games, that you were real happy with?
"I think our bench production certainly stands out statistically if you look at that. You go back to our first game and Idaho State, we had a great strong start, tremendous first half, and Idaho State cut back in. We didn't flinch at all. We had people step up and perform very, very well down the stretch and sustain the victory. Come back the next night against Hawaii, trailing at halftime, never panicked.
"The look at the team's face is much different this year and I'm very proud of that. We had our backs against the wall. (Janese) Banks has fouled out. Danielle Ward has fouled out, and Ashley Josephson is injured. So, we have our reserve players in the game with two and a half to play, tie game, in a very hostile environment. And we sustained it and some names like Kjersten Bakke comes up with a power put back to seal the victory. Jolene (Anderson) has a steal. And we just do some little things with Shari' Welton, Akiya Alexander on the floor doing great things for us. So I'm very pleased with our bench.
"Again, yesterday was the third game for all of us and every team in the tournament. I thought our team looked pretty fresh. I mean our conditioning is good. We're tired right now, but played a hot DePaul team. That in my mind, I thought we played fairly decently the first half and just had some trouble scoring in the second half. DePaul's defense was very stellar and they are ranked for a reason. We'd like to have that second half back. But unfortunately, it's a loss, but a great measuring stick for us and one that we'll learn from and take the positive from this great trip."
Talk a little bit about the second half last night against DePaul. The first half, like you said, you guys were three, five points down, but was it just not connecting and not being able to cut through their defense or just the scoring droughts just killed you?
"Well, we didn't score for six and a half minutes (to open the second half). We had a free throw in there. And we had opportunities. We had good looks at the basket, both inside and outside. Didn't shoot the ball well from three. And in this tournament they ran the experimental rule, 10-second backcourt and the deeper three-point line, so that, it may have had a slight effect, but we didn't really concern ourselves with it. So from the three-point shooting, percentage-wise, for the weekend, the three-point line was deeper.
"But on the other hand, we missed some opportunities. We just didn't capitalize. We were out in transition. And had we made some of those early baskets and scored in that scoring drought, it would have made a bit of a push. I also thought having had an opportunity to cut it to 10 inside of six minutes would have given us some momentum, but we just couldn't push it over the edge."
You mentioned Josephson. What's the extent of her injury?
"She played the next day. She was fine. She started and played I think 19 minutes in the next game."
Talk a little bit about the upcoming games this week, two Big East opponents. Is there a rivalry, Wisconsin-Marquette women, like the men's teams?
"I think a lot of people would like to look for that. Terri Mitchell and I are very good friends and Jon Cain used to be an assistant with Donna Freitag here, so there's some mutual friendships there. On the other hand, it's an in-state game. You know, it's a border battle if you will. It's, not a border battle, but an intrastate rivalry.
"And Marquette is a great team. They got us at their place last year. They played very well. They've had great post-season experience and success. Terri has done a nice job.
"They've got a tremendous point guard in Carolyn Kieger, who I've known a long time. Christina Quaye is a big player inside. And they're off to a decent start. We look to get back home to the Kohl Center and demonstrate this improved basketball team that I hope that I see. We need to get rested and get our legs back. And then we bring in Notre Dame on Sunday. So we have two very tough opponents at home, teams that we've played on the road in the last two years that we hope that we can have a different result this time."
You mentioned Kjersten having a pretty decent tournament, especially in the Hawaii game where she had that big bucket. Did anybody surprise you or anybody have an extremely good tournament besides Anderson or Banks in particular?
"Well, I just think we're fairly consistent. I mean, Annie Nelson gives you eight boards, eight points a game. Jordan Wilson I thought played pretty decent yesterday, came ready to play. Danielle Ward has been steady. We started her for size reasons. She put up some big numbers for us, gets out in transition as she demonstrated here at home. You can go right down the line.
"I thought Akiya Alexander gave us tremendous defensive pressure on the ball. She also was able to run the show without turning it over. You can go right down the line. Caitlin Gibson went in against Hawaii, against their big post players, went right at it inside. So we gained some valuable experience and we went to our bench. We had to rotate 10 players in each of the games. And that will pay very positive dividends for us down the stretch."
You've talked before about getting some early confidence for the team, getting wins to help breed that confidence. Are you seeing that, even especially with this trip, that each day there's more and more excitement, enthusiasm from the kids in coming to the gym for practice for a game just because of this early success?
"It's an amazing difference in the locker room when I talk in a pregame speech. And the dynamics and the passion, I'm starting to feel it back from more. And I, you know, you don't want to go back and talk about the last two years, but on the other hand, there's a different pulse in the locker room now.
"We tweaked our defense a little bit going into DePaul's game last night to make it look more like a zone feel, but we were in player defense, and that's a great tribute to (assistant coach) Tasha McDowell did a great job on the scout.
"When we look at our team in practice, or, we just got off the bus and some were up there wanting to talk and how can I do this and that. They want to get better. They want to be good teammates, a good, a successful basketball team. But I feel that pulse in the locker room. It's very hard to explain. But it's two-way, without even being verbal. And hopefully that's sending that heartbeat and that passion the same direction that we all want to go."