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NCAA Women's Basketball First Round Practice Day Quotes - Penn State

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March 22, 2014


First Round · News Conference Day
Bryce Jordan Center · University Park, Pa.
Saturday, March 24

Coquese Washington, Penn State Head Coach:

Q: What are your impressions of Wichita State?
A: First off, they have had a great season. They've been very successful, 26 wins, a record number of wins for their program. They are back-to-back MVC (Missouri Valley Conference) Championship. They're extremely focused. Their coaching staff is outstanding in my opinion when you look at Jody Adams, Bridgette Gordon and Dana Eikenberg, Penn State Alum. What they've accomplished as players in their career carries over to their coaching. That's the first thing that steps out is that they are a very successful team, and playing with a lot of confidence. Their players play with a lot of confidence. They're very aggressive defensively. They mix it up, press a lot and do a lot of things to try to keep you off balance. Then on the offensive end they have players that can create their own shots. With the player of the year in the conference in (Alex) Harden and (Jamilah) Bonner they both can put a lot of points up on the board. They are very good at creating their own shots and creating shots for their teammates. Michelle Price is athletic as a post player as we've seen all year. They present a lot of challenges. I definitely think that defensively we have to play at a high level and as the players have said that's something we've been working on for the past week or so, having a higher execution rate with our defensive principals.

Q: You mentioned Dana Eikenberg, What are your first impressions of this being a homecoming of sorts for tomorrow's game?
A: I think any time you can come back and play at home, whether you are a player or coach, it feels good. I am sure that their players and their staff have a little added incentive to play well and represent well coming back to Penn State and bringing Dana (Eikenberg) back home. I think it adds a little spice to this first and second round site.

Q: How are your freshmen reacting to the NCAA experience?
A: They are so giddy! When you have so many of them, they get really excited and they have no idea what to expect. That's why it's really good for Maggie (Lucas) and Arielle (Edwards) and the rest of the seniors to put this into perspective. When you ask Maggie (Lucas) and Arielle (Edwards) about their freshman year nobody on the team had been to the NCAA tournament, so it was all new for everybody. That's what is really good for this team is that the upperclassmen can help the freshman understand what's going on and how things are going to go. That excitement that they have is good for the team.

Q: What have you done and what have Maggie (Lucas) and Arielle (Edwards) and the rest of the seniors done to prepare the freshmen for the game on Sunday?
A: The thing that's different is all of this. The media and practice times and wristbands, that's what's different. You are on your home campus, but you can't go to certain spots and you can't use doors that maybe you'd normally use. That's what's different. But once we get on the court and start playing the game, the game is just like every other game we have played all season long. You want them to understand that tomorrow at 12:45 is no different than any other time and to have that kind of comfort level playing to calm down and relax and just play basketball.

Q: When you look at Maggie and all the records she has, how would you sum up her career and how do you think the seniors will remember this tournament?
A: She's had one of the most storied and acclaimed careers in the history of Penn State. She will be in the conversation, she'll be one of the names heard when you talk about the Penn State greats. Maggie Lucas' name will be on that list. Her impact on our program has been phenomenal. Her impact on this program began before she even stepped foot on campus when she verbally committed to Penn State. That helped other people that wanted to play with her; it helped them decide to come to Penn State as well. So, her impact on this program has really been incredible. I know she wants to have, and we want to have, an outstanding NCAA tournament, but her impact has been... I can't even put it in to words. I'm just blessed and fortunate to have had the opportunity to coach her over the past four years. It's been an unbelievable experience for me.

Q: How do you keep your players relaxed, focused, and rested for such a long break between the Big Ten tournament and tomorrow?
A: Well, this team does a good job of keeping themselves loose. I think the tournament itself brings a different level of intensity. It's March Madness; everyone wants to be a part of it and everybody is talking about it. All the commercials are about March Madness. Warren Buffett is getting in to March Madness. So it's not hard at all to get them focused and prepped because this is what the whole country is talking about right now, March Madness and Cinderella stories and all that kind of stuff. They're excited and they're intense and they're ready to go out and play.

Q: You mentioned the defense being a big key. Have you seen that focus ramp up?
A: Our practices have been very intense. I think the time off was good for us because they got a chance to rejuvenate and give the requisite level of intensity in practice coming in to the tournament.

Q: How important is it for you to take advantage of your size advantage in this ball game?
A: I think it would be great if we could take advantage of our size. But you have to play the games as they come; whatever happens happens. But, we'd like to certainly let our size be a factor, especially on the backboard.

Q: How have these seniors prepared differently from when they were freshmen in 2011?
A: I think there's a different level of understanding of how hard it is to win in the NCAA tournament. Every team is good. If you make it to the NCAA tournament, every team is good. The games are competitive and the understanding of what that means and how you have to prepare is different for them. They understand that on a deeper level because they've experienced it.

Maggie Lucas, Penn State #33, Position: Guard

Q: You guys played [in the tournament] here as freshmen. How does it feel playing at home as seniors?
A: That was our first NCAA tournament. We're as excited as ever, but I think we're a lot more calm and we have that experience now. We're a lot more relaxed and we feel pretty good going in to it.

Q: This is your last tournament. Is that good pressure to have?
A: It's good pressure to make sure you work a little bit harder for your last go-around.

Q: It's been quite some time since the Big Ten Tournament. Take me through the last couple of weeks of what you've been doing. Do you take time off?
A: We had a little bit of time off but we got right back at it. We got a chance to work on ourselves as a team and we really pushed each other. We feel good about the progress we made during that time.

Ariel Edwards, Penn State #23, Position: Guard/Forward

Q: You guys played [in the tournament] here as freshmen. How does it feel playing at home as seniors?
A: I would agree with Maggie. It's great to finish the same way we started; it comes full circle. We're just excited to go out there and play.

Q: This is your last tournament. Is that good pressure to have?
A: I think it's good pressure to have. I think our team is attempting to respond to the pressure, so it's good to play with a chip on your shoulder knowing it's your last shot. You feel like you want to do your best because it's your last chance.

Q: How much time have you spent working on defense since the Big Ten tournament? A: We spent a lot of time on defense; it's definitely been a focus for us. The best teams play great defense and that's something we've been working on.

Dara Taylor, Penn State #2, Position: Guard

Q: Since Monday, how has the week gone and how has the excitement level built?
A: We are really focused. We haven't looked too far past this first game; it's really been our focus. This whole week we've really just been preparing.

Q: Everybody is saying they like to press a lot. What do you see of that and how does that affect you?
A: They are a very talented team and they are very strong at the guard position. They're very athletic and they like to press a lot. They like to speed the game up; they play fast. That is going to be a strong point in the game, just handling the pressure.

Q: Is there anyone that you have played already that looks similar to them at all?
A: I would say Illinois; just the fast-paced, up-tempo, very aggressive defensively.

Kaliyah Mitchell, Penn State #15, Position: Guard/Forward

Q: What has this experience been like so far since you have found out whom you're playing on Monday?
A: Pretty great. It was my first time ever watching the selection show and I enjoyed myself. Since then, we've just been cracking down on things we need to fix on defense and stuff. We've really been focusing on defense, trying to get that together, and looking at our opponent and trying to figure out what the game plan is.

Q: Is it strange to be on your home court and have to use different entrances and stuff?
A: Yeah, before you could just walk into the building. Now you have to get your stuff checked and get a wristband. I like being at home and with it being my first year, I like the home court advantage.

Q: What have you guys learned since the tournament? Can you put a positive spin on that last game?
A: What we've learned from that game is not to take any team lightly because any team can be beaten on any given night. You've just got to go into each game focused and ready to play and not underestimate anybody.

Q: Have the seniors given you any advice for what it might be like for the first time?
A: It's like a regular season game, but just that you have to work harder because the game is going to be tougher because everyone is trying for this to not be their last game. We just have to go out there, be focused, and play hard and aggressive.

Q: What do you think is the toughest part of playing Wichita State?
A: I feel like when we prepare, we don't prepare for the team, we prepare for ourselves and we fix things that are wrong with us. If we aren't doing something great, we try and fix it and work hard.

Talia East, Penn State #5, Position: Forward/Center

Q: What do you know about Wichita State so far?
A: I think Wichita State is a very aggressive team. I think they hustle really well. They do what they do well. I think it's important for us to come out very aggressive because we know that they will.

Q: What's been the emphasis on defense this week?
A: The emphasis on defense has just been to tune things up. To make sure someone helps out when it's needed, to make sure we are talking; communication is key. We are just making sure that we're prepared.

Q: How different does this feel as a senior than as a freshman?
A: I still have the same feeling as a freshman. I'm nervous and excited and I am ready to go and ready to play my best basketball. So I am excited about that. It's the last hoorah and I'm a little bit hungrier.

Maggie Lucas, Penn State #33, Position: Guard

Q: How do you feel about being compared to Kelly Mazzante?
A: I don't really look at it as beating her or anything; she was a great player. This next game is important to me and the team and we have been preparing these last couple of weeks. We are excited to get out there.

Q: How much would it mean to you if this team could go on a run in the NCAA Tournament?
A: That's what everyone dreams about and everyone really has good chance. Everyone in this group is really strong; we know Wichita State is a strong team. The biggest thing is to focus on one game at a time and that's what we are doing.

Q: Did you guys get to go home at all in these last two weeks?
A: We got to go home for a couple of days, just to relax, but then we were right back up here and getting after it pretty hard.

Candice Agee, Penn State #1, Position: Center

Q: How was the team after the Big Ten Tournament?
A: We just looked on the bright side; there is always a silver lining. We feel that everything happens for a reason and we have learned these reasons early on. The NCAA Tournament is now very important to us.

Q: How do you feel about your defensive schemes?
A: I think we just went through a tough spell for a little bit, but we are just trying to get back to our normal ways.

Q: Is there a sense of "doing it for Maggie"?
A: I think we want to do it for all of the seniors. We are trying to make the most out of what we have and we are really happy for all of our seniors. We are trying to make the best out of the time we have left.




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