Nov. 3, 2012
Q: What was your impression of when Alex (Bentley) and Dara (Taylor) on the floor together?
A: We were pretty fast. They can get up and down the court and it really pushes tempo. It allows Alex to sometimes get on the receiving end and be a finisher as opposed to simply a distributor, and she's pretty good at finishing so it gives us a little of versatility. The ability to have two point guards, two play makers, two people who can score, and make plays for other people, I think it is a good luxury for us to have.
Q: Would you say you are happy with the way the team performed?
A: I wouldn't say happy. I'm satisfied. We have a lot of kinks to still work out. We played well in spurts. It's November, so that is to be expected. We need to get those spurts to be longer, when we are playing well and playing smart. I though we had stretches where we didn't play as smart as we are capable of doing. I think we didn't make great decisions and there were times where we got away from the game plan a little bit just because we got a lead. We have to be a little bit more disciplined on both sides of the floor but I am satisfied with where we are. One of the things we need to get better at: We gave up a lot of offensive rebounds. That is still an area of concern for us. I thought our effort on the defensive end was a lot better. And certainly having Nikki (Greene) play the way that she played and Mia (Nickson) play the way she played, we had a lot more balance overall. But we have to do better on the defensive boards and we have to execute our offense a little better.
Q: How does this team compare to last years team?
Q: From the offensive side, we only saw you guys take four shots from beyond the arch. Was the accountability of that the size you guys had inside?
A: The confidence is a little higher than it was at this point last year. At this point last year, we were not sure how good we could be, and at this point this year, with everybody coming back, we feel pretty good with the chemistry on the team. Everybody knows what each person is capable of doing on game day. The confidence in each other is higher at this point than it was last year.
A: A little bit of that. One of the things we have talked about is that we know we have a good three-point shooting team and people are going to drive us off the three-point line. And that's fine. We are not going to be a slave of the three-point line. We are going to take what the defense gives us. If they give us layups, we will take layups. If they give us 15-point jumpers, we will take 15-point jumpers. If they give us threes, we will take threes. I don't care how we get to 95 points, we will take it. Whatever the defense gives us, we will take it.
Q: You had a number of different combinations of lineups, how satisfied were you with the way the pieces fit together?
A: It was a little bit of trial and error and it is one of the things we have had the luxury of doing. The adjustment we made at half time for Nikki (Greene); she defended more on the perimeter in the first half, and in the second half, she defended inside, guarded more on the inside. I think she had a little bit more of a comfort zone defending inside than she did on the perimeter, so we tried a lot of different lineups to get on a rhythm. California (PA) made us play four guards, probably more than we will during the regular season, but I thought we were able to still execute and do the things that we wanted to do, even when we played our small lineups. But that is one of the luxuries we have. We can play small, we can play big. There will be times where we can play two bigs at the same time. I think we did that a little bit at the end with Nikki (Greene) and Talia (East) being on the floor at the same time. We have a lot of versatility and I think that is going to help us when we are playing our non-conference games, when we are playing different styles, different sized teams, and different make ups, and certainly when we get into post season teams. You never know who you are playing against. I think we have a lot of weapons and a lot of pieces that are versatile. We can mix and match to compete with whoever we are playing.
Q: What can we expect from your post play this year?
A: That was one of the things I think we can do a better job of. We didn't really take advantage enough of our size tonight, in terms of getting the ball inside. I think that one of the things I saw today was when we did get out post touches today, that they were pretty productive and teams are going to work hard to keep the ball out of Nikki's (Greene) hands if she's playing the way she played tonight. I am pretty confident in our post game. I am confident that they can be productive when we give them touches. We need to bee diligent and discipline when executing our offense and make sure they get the touches that they need.
Q: How nice is it to see an alumni come back and coach the opposing team?
A: It's great to have her back. We played them when she was an assistant coach for the game. Before the game, I was asking her how it was like to move up to the big chair. And she said, "Oh My God, it's so different!" We laughed and joked about that, how it's different when you move from assistant to head coach. She is doing a great job there with California (PA). I am happy to be able to bring her back so our fans can see her and watch her grow as a coach. That is fun for our fans and our kids to see her in that role.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about what it's like being on the floor with Dara and maybe how your role changes? What are your impressions of playing with another point guard?
A: I love playing with Dara. I know when she steps on the court, we're about to be playing a lot faster. As you saw in the game we had a lot of fast break opportunities because we get after it on the defensive end and it turns into transition points. Her bringing up the ball is nice because I like playing the twosome, so it's a good look.
Q: I know it's only one game in, but how do you feel this team compares to last year's team?
A: We were talking a little bit and Maggie pointed out that in last year's exhibition game, we gave up a lot more points. We definitely buckled down, which was great, because during the offseason that's what coach was really telling us we need to get better at. That's what we tried to get better at day in and day out during practice. I love my teammates for stepping up on defense and holding them to 39 points today. We have a lot to improve on, but we're going to be good. We're going to get there.
Q: What would you say the expectation is this year? At the end of the year, what would be a solid finishing point?
A: We just want to be playing our best at the end of the year. That's about it. We're going to try and get better each and every day, but as long as we're playing at our highest potential at the end of the year, we're going to be happy.
Q: What was it like for you today? Did you feel like you got more comfortable as the game went on?
A: Yeah, definitely. I was a little, I wouldn't say nervous, but I was really excited before the game. It's been a while since I've been able to play a game. My teammates played great so it was easy for me to get comfortable throughout the game.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about playing with Alex at the same time?
A: Like Alex said, we play really fast. I haven't really gotten a chance to play with a point guard, especially with one of her caliber. It's great for us to be able to get up and down the floor and our one-two punch is pretty incredible, so it's nice.
Q: What was your overall impression of the exhibition today?
A: I thought we played really hard. The great thing about a game like this is that it gives you an opportunity to see things you can work on for the next couple weeks early in the season. We had to get on the boards a little harder and execute a little more, but overall I thought we played pretty well. We did a lot of great things. We got out and ran and we defended pretty hard. It was a good opportunity to learn.
Q: How much was the concentration on playing well defensively?
A: Defense is always a focus for us. We know we have enough offensive firepower to score. It's just a matter of if we're going to get out and defend and stick to our principles. Going into this game, we felt like if we got out and pressured the ball, we'd be successful.
Q: What changed for you in the second half? Before the break you had three points and three fouls. In the second half, you had 15 points and zero fouls. What changed for you in the second 20 minutes?
A: Going into halftime, I recomposed myself and as soon as I walked out of the locker room, I talked to Coquese and asked for adjustments and after that I played with a clear mind and started focusing on what needed to be done.
Q: What did Coquese suggest for you to adjust at halftime?
A: Just play our team defense. If I get beat, rely on our help side. Keep my hands off the guards because I was playing the reposition.
Q: Nikki, I noticed you shaking your hand as you left the court. Is there any injury?
A: No injury.
California (Pa.) Head Coach Jess Strom
Q: What did you think Alex Bentley?
A: Just from afar, I've loved Alex Bentley from the day she came as a freshman I said she's going to be special. She's going to be really good. Honestly, I was trying to focus on my point guard, but watching them over the past couple of years, especially last year, she's a really good one. I'm proud to say she passes on the tradition; she fits right in there. Also their backup that played today, she's going to be pretty nice too. They have a good team, from the point guards all the way down. I'm pretty excited to watch them throughout the year.
Q: You never had the advantage of having somebody that was a backup that could keep you from playing 38 to 40 minutes a game. What kind of advantage do you see that as for them this year, having two kids that can handle the ball?
A: It's always nice. Honestly, I didn't want to come out so that was okay by me. I don't think it was okay for Tanisha Wright. It's nice, especially with foul trouble, you don't know what's going to happen with injury, it's nice to have two people that can come in and you never know when one's going to be having a bad day so two is always better. And they can play at the same time. I'm sure she's going to do that too. They're both very good.
Q: What was your general impression of their team? Could you compare them very well to the last time you guys were ranked eighth in the preseason back in 2004? Could you compare them a little bit?
A: I think the teams are different. I think we played different. The one thing that stands out to me that is alike is that Maggie Lucas reminds me of Kelly Mazzante to a T, a lot of similarities. But I think our team was different but it's the same excitement, it's the same energy, it's that Penn State feel. It's a lot of preseason excitement right now. I'm anxious to see, they just got picked to finish first in the Big Ten and finish back-to-back like we did. It's nice to look back and see a lot of similarities and the winning tradition is back, it's really nice to see.
Q: Did you ever imagine yourself as a head coach? What's it like to be back here and being a head coach?
A: No and I think the people that knew me back then would say the same thing. No. Honestly, I didn't know what I wanted to do it. Out of school I started coaching and I stayed in it. I couldn't imagine doing anything else. Being the head coach and being in charge is like a dream come true, it's awesome. These kids work so hard and it's a joy to come to work everyday and just teach. That's the best part. Coming back here, even when the bus just pulled on campus, it's the same feeling you get. It's like you never left but it's a little bittersweet and sad and to be on the other side it's sad but it's nice. It always feels like home, it feels like you never left.
Q: Do you find yourself saying some of the same things Annie Troyan used to bark at you?
A: I say everything the same from "ladies, line up" to five in 30's that we run. Honestly it's exactly the same and we run practice the same ways. I swore when I was here I would never do that, I would never make them do that but I make them do that.