March 28, 2009
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THE MODERATOR: Coach, your comments?
COACH VERSYP: We need to get out on the court and shoot around and then we will be focused for tomorrow night.
Q. What have you seen from Rutgers as of late that's led them to make this surge?
COACH VERSYP: I think they're playing very, very good basketball. They've always been a great defensive team but I think they're clicking on offense now.
They have a system that they play but they have players that can make plays and Prince and Vaughn and Ray is shooting exceptionally well.
I think they're continuing to build confidence and for them to be able to play at home was good for them and got momentum going and they had to beat some tough opponents.
Q. Coach, sounds like from the advance ticket sales that this is going to be a highly attended tournament. It also sounds like there will be folks that are OU folks in the stands. I know you don't have to concern yourself with that the first game.
Can you talk about having an arena that is heavily attended in the regional, and maybe on the flip side is there any concern for a team in a regional?
COACH VERSYP: I think it's a huge advantage. I think you saw that around the country. People said there were upsets. If you think Rutgers was an upset with Auburn, Michigan State beating Duke on the home court 6 or 7,000 fans. It's great for women's basketball but there is a home court advantage with that when you have so many fans that are obviously cheering against you or for you.
But everybody knows it is what it is. This is women's basketball and this is NCAA tournament time. But I think if you're used to playing in front of big crowds, and you're playing, you know, to battle for a chance to get to the Elite Eight or the Final Four, you have to be mentally tough at this point.
Q. When you were a player at Purdue, Coach Stringer was the Iowa coach. What do you remember about her Iowa teams? Are you seeing a lot of that when you watch Rutgers now?
COACH VERSYP: Coach Stringer is obviously one of the greatest coaches in women's basketball and has done so much for our sport. As players, you never think you're going to be able to coach against people that coached against you.
She is an amazing person, done an amazing job, she has great point guards, has great defensive teams. If my memory serves me, I don't know if I remember that so many years ago, but she is a coach who knows what she wants. She has an incredible system and she brings in players that do it justice.
Her and the Rutgers team are playing great basketball right now and we have so much respect for them.
Q. Coach, Rutgers is known for their defense, they like to hold opponents under 60. What is it about that defense that's so tough to score against?
COACH VERSYP: I think they want to slow it down quite a bit. They like to be in the half-court offense and use the 30-second shot clock, and that will limit opponents to get fast breaks and a lot of points. I think that is a big part of it.
They can press you intently and it's aggressive. But I think they like to control the tempo and they have held people under 60, and we have done a very good job on our defense as well, so I think it's going to be a great defensive battle.
Q. You said that Rutgers is playing very good basketball right now. When you scout, do you look at the earlier games? Do you look at anything they've done prior to this period?
COACH VERSYP: Absolutely. You go back to January, February, then obviously the games that they've been playing. I think everybody -- you can't be playing great basketball year-round, maybe UConn, but we've had major injuries, and you want to be playing great basketball in February and March because that's when it matters.
Even Coach Stringer said it's not where you were, it's where you are going. And I think we've done the same thing. For them, you go back and see how they played against the Big East in January and February and see their tournament run in the Big East tournament as well, and you can just tell when players are getting out there and playing with confidence and things are just clickin'.
Q. Is that the only March difference, the confidence? Or can you sense that there was some sort of change?
COACH VERSYP: I think -- you know, I can't sense their team, I can only speak of my team. It's a mental aspect, a confidence aspect, it's playing together, going into second and third gear and I think that's what most coaches feel at this time but, again, I can't speak for them, I can only talk about what I've seen and what I've read.
Q. Coach, the Big Ten has been taking a lot of hits nationally this year, but the league has three teams in the Sweet 16. Your thoughts on the league getting some credibility back?
COACH VERSYP: I hope it does get a lot of credibility. I had someone say to me "I didn't think they were this strong until now," so people didn't respect us, we had to prove it.
Now having three of our Big Ten teams in it's going to show that we are a young league, and getting three in, hopefully people will start recognizing that we are a power league. Hopefully we're not fifth and sixth in that power league after this year.
But, you know, we have to continue to worry about ourselves and do the right things and hopefully those things will take care of themselves. But when you have new, young coaches in a young league, and we can do it this year, what we've done so far, I think it will make an impact in the future and hopefully people will recognize us a little bit more.
Q. Coach, I think it's a vogue thing on the east to say Purdue hasn't seen this kind of defense. What would be the thing that you would say that Rutgers hasn't seen that your team offers?
COACH VERSYP: I would say our defense. You know, we've been ranked nationally in the top 20 for our field goal percentage defense and we've kept teams with 56 points, 57 points, so we kind of do the same thing, we play a different style.
We've played Big East, ACC and different styles, and we try to do that especially at Purdue. Our nonconference schedule we play one of the toughest schedules in the country, and that's to prepare our players for the national scene, just not the Big 10.
So I think our defense and our style of sharing the basketball and having great balanced scoring -- we don't have one go-to player, we have a lot of balanced scoring.
Q. It sounds like this is going to come down to who controls the tempo, just to hear you talk and Coach Stringer talking.
COACH VERSYP: Absolutely, that's going to be a big key. They know we like to run in transition as much as we can. Last week, playing against UNC, we had to control the tempo because they wanted to run more than we do, and here we've got to push that a little bit but that stems with our defense.
We have to defend and get the board so we can run, but I know it will be a defensive battle, but I think both programs and both point guards are going to have to really -- it's in their hands to control that.
Q. FahKara had the nine turnovers, do you break that down in film or are you confident she won't do it again?
COACH VERSYP: No, I say a lot to her. Halftime or the time-out. She and I get very close.
But she is the key, she is our energy, our leader, our focus, our defensive stopper.
She brings so much to the table that a lot is on her shoulders and she plays -- her and Lindsay play harder than anybody. She has to calm down and settle down at times. So there is definitely -- she gets an earful whether it's a time-out or halftime, where I can have more time to discuss things.
She is going to make turnovers, we talk about "bad" turnovers, or if there is such a thing as "good" turnovers, but if somebody picks her pocket and scores, if it's kicked out-of-bounds, we can set up our defense and we have a lot of confidence in our defense.
Q. Coach, you told us you were the underdog, why?
COACH VERSYP: Nobody talks about Purdue, no one thought we would be very good a couple of years ago and we went to the Elite Eight.
We don't have the stress, the pressure, we can relax and our kids have a quiet confidence about them, they're determined. But I don't see a lot of stuff about Purdue, so it's great.
Q. Was it like that when you were a player?
COACH VERSYP: Um, no, Purdue was in a major national scene and been there for a long time, all in the '90s and the 2000s, I think it's media markets, a lot of different things.
But we're still one of the top-10 winningest programs in the country. It's just continuing to have that respect and we're in the Big Ten, I think that's part of it. They always talk about the Big East and the ACC and doing the things we did this year.
I hope people will start recognizing the Big Ten, now we have Ohio State, IU, Iowa, Michigan, so many stepping up to the plate. We always talk about you have to earn everything. Just because there is a name on your jersey doesn't mean that much. We're playing for the people that played before us.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you for your comments.
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by our student athletes, FahKara Malone and Lindsay Hylton. Questions?
Q. FahKara, Coach said she feels like you guys are the underdog. Are you trying to take that mentality into this weekend?
FahKara Malone: Yeah, I think so. I think it's less pressure if you go in there feeling like it's you against the world and to go out there and have fun together and bond together closer. It's worked for us on the road a lot this year. She tries to keep that going through the tournament.
Q. Lindsay, do you know Kia from USA basketball? If so, give us a story and tell us what it's going to be like going against her?
Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton: I love Kia, she is a great person. I played with her for two years, in Mexico City and in Russia, she is a great friend, it was a great experience.
She is very physical and I do know she is a great player. I'm excited to see her and see how she's been and to catch up. She is a great friend. When I tore my ACL, she was there to help me and I think it will be an interesting match-up.
Q. What is it about Rutgers that makes them so good?
Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton: I think they're athletic, big, long. Their presence of being so athletic and large is that they're intimidating. If we play our style of basketball and execute the game plan, we should be great.
Q. Lindsay and then FahKara. When you look at Rutgers, do you see similarities at least in mentality, what they try to do and what you guys try to do?
Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton: Yeah, I think they like to slow things down in certain situations in a game and we like to do the same thing, we're not a fast-paced team. There are times to run and times to slow down and execute your offense. It's a balance of who is going to execute and take care of the ball, we're both well coached.
FahKara Malone: Like Lindsay said, they do a good job of controlling the tempo. They don't look rushed very much in the half-court, so our defense is going to have to be huge and pressure them as much as we can.
When they do a fast break, they're efficient at it and their pressing does a good job for them when they're behind, which is what we try to do sometimes, so there are a lot of similarities so it will be a battle of wills and who can execute.
Q. FahKara, when you look at that backcourt, what do you think are the biggest challenges for you? The keys?
FahKara Malone: The keys for me are rebounding. They have two stocky guards that are extremely strong and they do a great job on the boards, and for us to be successful we have to box out.
For most of the games, especially against North Carolina, it's the post players that do a great job of crashing as does their backcourt. They don't get too far out of control and we have to do a lot of pressure defense and a lot of boxing out.
Q. For both of you. Do you think your transition game is something that you can utilize as a strength tomorrow night?
FahKara Malone: Absolutely. Coach has been stretching that, trying to get out on the open court but being smart when we do it. Against North Carolina we got out of control at the beginning, but second half we ran what we wanted to and slowed it down when we needed to.
We're very good in the open court in transition. Hopefully we can use that to our advantage.
Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton: I think it's a matter of knowing when to run, when not to. Like FahKara said, at times we've been really good and other times we've been out of control and taking care of the ball and slowing it down when we have to and other times capitalizing, whether it's a turnover or a fast break.
Q. When you get to this point, do you know the back stories of the teams that you're facing? Do you read about them, do you know that Rutgers has been anything in particular this year?
FahKara Malone: I don't know much about Rutgers, I know they've had an up and down season, similar to what we've had. What I know is that I've seen them in the national championship in the Final Four, and I want to be able to push my team forward in that situation, knowing that they've been here as well as we have, so we have the experience level that we both have is going to be big in this situation.
Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton: Same thing. (Chuckles.)
Q. Lindsay, in the year you were having a free-throw shooting slump, how do you bring yourself out of it? Do you shoot 100 each day or -- FahKara says no, but --
Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton: FahKara. Coach tells us certain weeks when she wants us to shoot free-throws, to get there and shoot a couple hundred during the week. Once you miss a couple, it's what makes me go down and you're thinking about it too much, it's a confidence thing.
Toward the end I've been able to step up and hit free-throws for the team, and I think that's building my confidence. Hopefully it won't become an issue here and in the future. But I was the only one that missed free-throws in the last game.
Q. FahKara, after you have a nine turnover game like you had Monday night, what's that conversation like with Coach?
FahKara Malone: You know, it was weird because I got on the bus and Coach gave me a hug and said "great game," so I don't know. Against a team like North Carolina, I don't expect anything less from myself.
I mean, the game is so fast tempo and that kind of atmosphere, it kinda happens, even though some were just knocked off my foot, I don't know what happened there. But I know I have to do a lot better job going against Rutgers because of the way they play.
With North Carolina you get so many different possessions that it doesn't seem as big, but against Rutgers you may only get half of those. Taking care of the ball is going to be huge for me as much as controlling the tempo for my team.
Q. You talked about experience earlier. Y'all have five fifth-year seniors?
Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton: No, three.
Q. What kind of a difference does that make? What do fifth-year seniors bring?
FahKara Malone: A lot of stories. They bring experience because they've been in the tournament almost every year they've been here, so they can tell us how it is, and they can show us different ways to handle different situations.
I know a big thing, not only from those five seniors but from the fact that we have three juniors as well, our starting lineup has all been to the Elite Eight and that's huge for us. Knowing that we've been here with all these people helps us to be more confident in what we're doing.
Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton: I think not only confidence, just helping out the younger classmen and helping them through this situation because it's all new to them. So helping them through it and teaching them.
Sometimes they have the nerves and may not have a great game, but we're here to talk to them and help them to just play their style of basketball.
Q. Lindsay, the ticket sales for this thing are going through the roof right now. As players, would you rather play in front of a crowd even though they may be rooting against you? Or would you rather have a more neutral setting?
Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton: I actually like to play in front of fans no matter who they are rooting for. A dead atmosphere is not good and it lulls us to sleep. We've played in situations like that before.
Having fans, you want to hush 'em up and you want to play better. Having the fans is great, no matter what.
FahKara Malone: Like Lindsay said, it's nice because even against fans that aren't going for you, you just get that shot and that quiets them for the next two minutes or something. So it's exciting whether they're cheering for you or against you.
Q. FahKara, your coach, she seems to have a little bit of a chip that you're the underdog because everybody keeps on talking about Rutgers and you don't get the same media attention. Do you feel that way? Do you feel that the Big Ten doesn't get credibility, that people talk about Rutgers and not you?
FahKara Malone: I think so, she brings that to our attention because we don't focus on the media or anything like that because one day they're for you and one day they're not.
We try to focus on ourselves and what we're doing. A lot of times I feel like the other team gets more credit than we do, but I know it helps Coach and she feeds off the rest of us to go out there and want to prove ourselves every day to everybody.
Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton: I think just like she said, it's fuel to our fire. We'll get some media information and she'll show it to us and use it as motivation. Nobody thought of us last week, so -- and here we are. Anything can happen. Even though we have the higher seed, that doesn't mean anything.
THE MODERATOR: Ladies, thank you for your comments. Best of luck to you tomorrow night.