Sunday, March 19, 2017

Transcript: Ohio State Head Coach Kevin McGuff, Kelsey Mitchell, Linnae Harper, Post #4 UK Hoops 68 vs #5 Ohio State 82 Second Round ~ 2017 NCAA Women's Tournament Lexington Region Memorial Coliseum, Lexington, Ky

Kevin McGuff, Ohio State Head Coach 

On Linnae Harper…
“She obviously was unbelievable today and she’s such a great kid and a team-first player that somebody else might have been trying to make this about themselves coming back to the place they transferred from, but not her. She just wanted to contribute to our success today and she was unbelievable. She played extremely hard, she made big plays, she moved the ball, and just had an overall amazing performance. She’s a really unique player because she’s the best rebounding perimeter player I’ve ever coached and so that allows her to do things like what you saw today.”

On having a season low in turnovers…
“We had stretches where we were really good on offense. Part of our issue was that we were settling for perimeter jump shots too much but overall our execution was excellent today, it resulted in a bunch of good shots and low turnovers.”

On what he told the team between the third and fourth quarters…
“I just told the team to get back to the things that we were doing. Kentucky has a great team with great players and they did a good job with giving it to Evelyn and Epps for a stretch. During that stretch, two things happened - we weren’t as good defensively, we gave up a couple of key rebounds and then we settled for jumpers. So what we talked about in timeouts was getting back to balancing our offense, making sure we get to the free-throw line and get to the rim, and ten we have to buckle down, get stops, and get some tough rebounds. We had been doing then but then we got away from that and that’s where they made a big run.”

On a freshmen guarding Makayla Epps…

“That was by design, that was who we wanted on her from the start. Our plan was to run multiple people at her and try to keep a fresh body on her to make it tough on her for 40 minutes. I knew we weren’t going to stop her, she’s too good for that, but we really wanted to make her work for everything that she got. Our depth was a big part of the game today. We had some people come off of the bench that played great roles and ultimately down the stretch I think that we were a little more fresh than they were because of our depth.”

On having Shayla Cooper on the court…
“It’s a process and it doesn’t happen overnight but obviously once she joined the team right around Christmas I knew we had somebody special. But, this doesn’t happen overnight that she’s going to play in that first game and play to her maximum potential. So it has certainly evolved throughout the course of the year and I think probably more important than her, our team in general has played our best basketball from February now into March. We have played great basketball in February and just had the feeling that we were kind of peaking as we headed towards March. So I’m excited about that and hopefully we can have another great week of preparation, come back down here, and be ready to go on Friday.”

On establishing control at beginning of game…
“We had a great practice yesterday, so I knew we’d be ready. We had a great film session, great practice and the assistant coaches came in before the game saying that if we played like we warmed up we were going to win today. I just think our kids were really focused, locked in and ready. Kelsey didn’t have her best game against Western Kentucky so the last thing I told her was to remember that she was the best player on the court so she was ready and got us off to a great start. Our kids were just really fired up and we knew we had a big challenge in front of us against a great Kentucky team on their home floor so our kids were really focused and motivated to play well today.”

On grading Tori McCoy’s performance… 
“Tori was outstanding, she was great. I think Evelyn’s a great player. She’s so quick off the floor and she’s just an elite rebounder, one of the best in the country. But I thought we did a great job defensively. I think Tori’s length really bothered Evelyn. We just let her get too many rebounds after she’d miss shots but you cant keep her off the whole time, she’s just too good to limit her rebounds.”

On coming back to Lexington for the Regionals…
“It’s good. Hopefully we’re comfortable here but we’ll get back today, take tomorrow off, and start practice and preparation on Tuesday for whomever we play.”

On Stephanie Mavunga’s return…“She’s close to coming back. She’s out of the boot, moving around and I think she’s really close. So I’m cautiously optimistic but we certainly wont know until probably later in the week.”

Kelsey Mitchell, Ohio State Guard

On what it took to secure the win after Kentucky cut the score to one point ...

“With a team like that (Kentucky), you can’t let them get off but they did. One of the things that started that run for them was our defense and not getting rebounds and stuff like that. We tried to do our best in that instance to stay on the boards, get all the 50-50 balls, keep playing as hard as we could and I think we did that down the stretch.”

On getting out to a hot start but being limited offensively in the second half ...
“They changed things defensively so I had to get it inside to Shalya (Cooper) or whoever the four-man was and we played from there. We mostly got ourselves relaxed as far as them making that run and we got ourselves in the position to be as relaxed as possible and continue to run offense. So giving it up was one of those things that needed to be done and I think we stayed with the game plan and made sure that happened.”

On the importance of getting out to a big start on the road and containing Epps ...
“We’re in Kentucky. We’re in the state of Kentucky and a player like Epps, she’s a fantastic player and so you always want to try to make things alittle more difficult for her. Although she still plays good as possible and played a great game, we tried to do as much as we could to limit her shot selection and limit some of the things the team wanted to do.”

On being the Big Ten 3-point career leader as a junior ...“All I can say to that comment is ‘survive and advance.’ It’s no longer about myself, it’s about us as a team and I think we want to advance as much as possible in this tournament. We want to survive in the toughest games and I think we need to stay together at this time.”

On if this game felt like the Maryland game where they had a big lead, lost it and had to take the game back ...
“The atmosphere is always crazy when you play big teams like that. When we were at home it was a big game and we played a great team at home. Then we came here to Kentucky, playing them on their home floor so the atmosphere and the environment was crazy. That’s what we play basketball for, that’s why everyone in America plays for, it’s the world of sport. Games like this and times like you can only be grateful for and so I think the environment only made a great atmosphere for us and we showed that we can handle certain situations.”

On McCoy’s key points down the stretch…
“It was fantastic. I gave every one of my teammates a hug. I was like ‘thank you’ because there was so much in that environment going on and people may say things about how our freshmen can’t make plays in crunch time but I think Tory (McCoy) did an amazing job and Asia (Doss) did an amazing job. I always look for my teammates as far as knowing what they an do. I think everyone on our team does something special. You guys heard me say that before and I actually believe that and I think that showed today.”

On if the team came out with a chip on their shoulder…
“I don’t know if you call it that but I do know that we needed to be focused, we needed to be dialed in. We were playing Kentucky at Kentucky. They have fantastic players. They have players like Epps and you have to be as focused as possible playing a person like that. You have a player like Evelyn (Akhator), fantastic player, fantastic program. You have a coach who has been in situations like this so I don’t know if it was a chip on the shoulder but we knew we had to be as focused as possible.”

Linnae Harper, Ohio State Guard

On beating Kentucky on its home floor with 12 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists ...
“There’s no words to even describe it. Just being back here on the court was a good feeling and getting a win overall was great for our team.”

On if it would have been easier playing this game somewhere else or if there was value in the experience ...
“Just looking in the moment right now, here with our team and the preparation we put in for this game and how well we played, that was the main thing for me.”

On almost having a triple-double ...
“Honestly, I didn’t even know until a few minutes ago but it was really about the energy. I know how tough Kentucky is as a team. They play hard for 40 minutes and I think that was one thing that I focused on coming into the game and that was bringing as much effort and energy that I could.”

On if knowing Kentucky’s team was an advantage ...
“I wouldn’t say it was an advantage because it’s March Madness so every team is going to play at their best. As far as our team, we just really focused on preparation and playing as hard as we could. Kuddos to our coach, he put us in the best position that we could possibly be in and our team just being very cohesive and staying together.” 

On if this game felt like the Maryland game where they had a big lead, lost it and had to take the game back ...
“I think both teams are great and are great programs. I think it just goes back to how we prepared for both games. (We had) a consistent effort on the glass, rebounding was a big key in both games.” 

On Ohio State’s defense…
“I think it was really us staying poised. I knew it was going to be a battle for 40 minutes and that it was going to be a good game. (It was also) attention to detail and trying to do the little things to stay as calm as possible so that we could stay on the right track.”

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