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IU WOMEN'S BASKETBALL PRESS CONFERENCE

March 7, 2014
INDIANA SPORTS PAGE



Alexis Gassion

Curt Miller


INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA

Michigan – 82
Indiana – 57


COACH MILLER:  Obviously we're disappointed in the end result today, but you've got to give Michigan a lot of credit.  Our team has heard me preach not only in our regular season match?up with them but getting ready for this tournament game, that Michigan is the hardest working team in the league, bar none.  And they can take your spirit away because you work long in the shot clocks to defend them, and you get them to make a miss and then they can take your soul away when they get those offensive rebounds.  So possessions against Michigan can last 45, 50 seconds to a minute, and that really wears on teams, especially young teams.
I thought we played competitively for awhile, but we didn't play with the effort that is needed at this time of the year.  So we addressed it at halftime.  Really challenged our team to play harder.  We outscored them in the first ten minutes of the second half by five points and had a big possession with around 9:30 left in the game when our best player got a wide?open three to cut the game to seven, and unfortunately that shot didn't go in.
I think that would have really brought the whole crowd into it, gave us a home?court advantage at that point and a lot of momentum that the game would have been down to seven points with just over nine minutes to go.
But unfortunately, that miss, you could see some of the wind out of our sails and the effort that we had given so much in that first ten minutes of the second half you saw our shoulders drop and you see us get tired, and they immediately went on a 12?0 run to basically sock the game away.
A lot of credit to Michigan.  I have a great deal of respect how hard they play.  We're going to continue to learn from this.  We've had a great year, considering how young we are.  And we truly believe we will receive a post?season bid and we hope to receive a post?season bid and we'll prepare hard for it.

Q.  Alexis, can you put some perspective on this season?  You were unbeaten top 25 for the first time in decades and rolling along, still 18?12 is pretty successful?
ALEXIS GASSION:  Yeah, we definitely worked hard in practices and prepared a lot, and a lot of credit to our coaches because they prepared us so much.  I think we've gotten a lot better.  We're just trying to come together as a team and play better.

Q.  Alexis, was it hard for you guys down the stretch here ?? you know, I think you lost six of your last seven.  Anything you can identify that was a difference, or is it simply that, you know, the level of competition was just, you know, too hard to climb over?
ALEXIS GASSION:  Yeah, it got a little tough.  I think we at times got outworked, and you know, our shoulders kind of dropped, and you know, that was tough for us.  So yeah.

Q.  Alexis, how tough was it for you guys to kind of respond and make a run when it seemed like every time you guys would cut the lead to ten they would be able to respond and get that offensive rebound like your coach had mentioned?  How tough was it to kind of regroup when they seemed to be getting every second chance?
ALEXIS GASSION:  That's very tough.  Credit to them because they were very good in transition and they were getting all those rebounds.  Yeah, it felt like things weren't going our way, but we just had to try and come together and you know, play as one.

Q.  Alexis, just what was working for you offensively tonight?
ALEXIS GASSION:  Just trying to get out and run in transition, trying to take open shots and trying to get rebounds, offensive rebounds as much as I could.

Q.  Midway through the first half it seemed like you guys were getting stops on defense, just couldn't get those rebounds, keep the ball inbounds and just preventing those second?chance opportunities.  How deflating was that to get those stops but not be able to capitalize on them?
COACH MILLER:  Well, their offensive rebounding percentage in the first half was 50 percent, which is extremely high.  They shot 50percent from the floor but they got half of their misses back.  Again, one of the things that Michigan does is if they don't score in transition and you can get them to run a half?court play, they're going to be very patient, they're going to run the shot clock deep into the shot clock and take a shot.  And when you don't get that conclusion of your defensive stop with a defensive rebound and they get a second chance, those possessions end up lasting nearly a minute long, and that is really deflating and really deflating to a young team who has a fragile psyche, and we talked about that and we talked about having to play through those offensive rebounds.
But when they start to happen, and they've heard me preach and they've heard the coaches preach about what that can do to a team, it's really deflating.  I think that was a big part of the story.  They shot 50percent.  But more importantly, they got 50percent of their misses back.

Q.  I believe you've tripled the number of victories this season from what you had two seasons ago.  It may be difficult to get a few more and get into the NCAA tournament.  I mean, what specifically do you think that Indiana needs to do next year?  I think you have two extra Big 10 games, two to, say, climb up to 8?10, and that might get you in the mix?
COACH MILLER:  Well, you know, certainly it's a process.  And you know, we believe we certainly moved ahead of schedule this year and surprised ourselves even and exceeded expectations which was a mantra for us all year, to try to exceed expectations.  But if you're not human if you don't get a little greedy, and after our start, I felt like we got a little greedy.
There was nights in the Big 10 that we were out?talented.  What is discouraging for us are the nights where we feel like we're outworked, because that has nothing to do with talent, and there's some really talented teams in this league with scars.
Michigan beats you with a team approach and an effort approach, and those are the ones that are discouraging because they don't put a superstar out there.  They are just workmanlike and I've got a lot of respect for Michigan when they do that.
We've got to continue to recruit.  We believe our freshman class will form a strong foundation to build upon, but we've got to continue to get better and better players.  We don't have a top?100 player in our program at this point.  You can't look at not one other roster in the Big 10 that doesn't have a top?100 prospect coming out of high school on their roster.
So we're proud of what we did.  We've exceeded a lot of expectations.  But we've got to improve our talent level.  We've addressed shooting.  We rewrote a lot of record books in improved shooting.  We wanted to improve skill.  We have four really talented shooters coming in.  Now we have to get more athletic and bigger.  That's not going to happen next year.  We're going to be undersized and really skilled.  But in the future we've got to get longer and we've got to get more athleticism in our program.
But we've addressed shooting.  I said if we would address that first, our skill level will improve through recruiting, and I think it has and it will with the incoming class we have.

Q.  You talked about Michigan being a hard?working team.  Was that just the biggest thing inside for them was just them outworking you guys?
COACH MILLER:  They really execute and take high?percentage shots.  You know, they're really patient.  Their shot selection is fantastic.  They don't force.  They pass up some open shots at times to get better shots.  They share the basketball.  I mean, literally when they get into the game if you can stop them in transition they run about three plays consistently.  Three.  They don't throw a big playbook at you, but they understand if you take this away, we're going to do this.  They're a very smart team.  They don't over?coach it.
They're very good at what they do.  They share the basketball, and they shoot a high percentage because they share the basketball and they take good shots.
Sometimes we force shots.  Sometimes we take too quick a shots.  And if you watch consistent tapes on both team teams, you'll see that.  When we're making shots we look like a million bucks, but at times we can force some shots.

Q.  Coach, six times during the second half, your team had a chance to cut the deficits to single digits but each time Michigan seemed to respond.  What made it so difficult to sort of get over that hump?
COACH MILLER:  Well, we had to expend so much energy to get ourselves in that position that again, for the first ten minutes, almost nearly ten and a half minutes, we had outscored them in the second half by five points.  That only got it down to ten.  And I'm telling you we missed a huge three with about 9:30 left on that clock to get it to seven.
And I think the momentum would have really changed.  But now you've played nearly 11minutes and you've only been able to cut the lead to ten.  They're looking up and giving our heart and soul out there, and we still only cut it to ten.  Eventually they're going to make a run, and that 12?0 run in that moment took it from ten and potentially seven with that made three, to all of a sudden it was 22.
And it was over and probably looked a lot worse than it was because we really competed that first ten or 11minutes of the second half.  We ran out of gas.  But I hope they learned how hard it is to play at the effort that we need to play with.

Q.  Obviously you like to run and get out in transition.  They tried to take that away, how did you feel about the pace offensively?
COACH MILLER:  Well, we couldn't get defensive rebounds, so we couldn't run as much as we want.  I thought when we did get defensive stops, which included a rebound, and we got out, we had some looks, we had some openings and mismatches that we liked early in the shot clock.  But they shot a great percentage for the night, 50percent for the game.  They offensive rebound a high percentage of their misses.
There just wasn't enough opportunities to run against them that we wanted, and that plays into a Michigan game.  The possessions are lower, and it plays into their game, and they played well.  They played well.  I don't think our freshmen understand night in and night out how hard.  They've never been in the Big 10 Tournament, and the one thing that I asked them to believe me is the intensity rises from Big 10 regular season to Big 10 Tournament, and this is going to be harder and harder.
I hope they see how hard you have to play in Big 10 Tournament time.  I've been associated with five teams that have won conference tournaments.  I understand how hard it is, and I hope now they see that.

Q.  Coach, were there unique challenges bringing this team home over the last month after such great success to start with?  You said such a young team just trying to get them to understand it's not always going to be that easy to win games?
COACH MILLER:  You know, the unfortunate double edge of having such a great nonconference and then upsetting Iowa to go 14?0, they didn't have much adversity, and so they thought it was going to be pretty easy.  You know, and I don't think they thought they were going to run through the Big 10, but they thought maybe they were a little bit better than they were.
And we kept on talking you know, what's coming and who we're playing and you've never seen Maggie Lucas and you've never seen Jordan Hooper and you've never played in front of 8,000 on the road.  And until they experienced it, I'm not quite sure young teams totally buy into it.  And our seniors hadn't had enough success to really for them to believe you know, the seniors saying, hey, we know what's coming.  Do you guys understand?  So you know, the hard part is that we never want to give back any of those wins.
We're really proud of our start.  It's the highest rank Indiana's ever been ranked in the history of the program.  They can never take that away from us.  But it did not set us up to have much adversity until mid January.  And I'm not sure we always handled that or understood what was coming.  But I'm proud of the year.  I really believe we're deserving with our RPI and our 18 wins that we're a post?season team, and we're going to prepare for two weeks to hopefully receive a bid to the WNIT or the WBI, and we'll go out and represent not only Indiana but the Big 10.


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