2016 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship :: Arizona State Press Conference Quotes


COACH TURNER THORNE: Well, I can speak for our whole team and coaching staff. We're ready to play.

We've had a bit of a break here. It's been about almost two weeks since our last game, so we're excited to have an opponent. I think our region is just absolutely loaded.

Three amazing teams coming to Tempe: Obviously New Mexico State, 26-game winner, Wisconsin, Green Bay, Tennessee. So very, very excited for some fantastic basketball in Tempe, and I know just speaking for us, we're excited to play again.

Q. A lot's been made about what you guys have gained in this two-week, rest, practice period. Can you talk about that and what you've been able to sort of regroup and prepare yourselves for?
SOPHIE BRUNNER: Yeah, I think this last week, this past week and last week of practice was great for us. We just got back to doing what we know how to do and working hard and just getting that edge back and growing more as a team and doing things that we needed to do. 

The last two games that we played, they weren't anything that we wanted to be. So we kind of just got back to what we needed to do and did the little things, the fundamentals and really just got sharp.

ELISHA DAVIS: Along what Sophie just stated, getting back on the basketball court is really helpful and the rest is really helpful, but the time we had as a team to get closer and realize, like the bigger picture and our why and our bigger purpose, and I think that has allowed us to really take advantage of the extra time that we had to get better. So just our connectedness and our work ethic and increasing that has really allowed us to we think do what we want to do and what we need to do in order to win our game.

KATIE HEMPEN: I'll go off what Sophie and Lili said. Most importantly, I thought the time that we've had these past two week s is what we needed most, whether that was watching us break down film and seeing what we need to work on, the little things, like what Sophie said is what we really need to work on and just getting sharp again.

We didn't have much time to prepare whenever it was Pac-12 and we didn't have much time to regroup because it was back-to-back games. So I think these two weeks just really helped us lock down and get refocused.

Q. For all three of you what does it mean to be able to play this game at home?

SOPHIE BRUNNER: We're obviously very thankful for the opportunity to get to play at home and just in front of our home crowd, we're really excited about that and excited for them to see us play at home. We're just looking forward to taking the opportunity and making the best of it.

ELISHA DAVIS: I was going to say the same thing. It's beautiful to have a support system, especially at a very hostile time like this because everybody is playing for everything and it's win or go home. Just to have that support and be in a comfort zone for us is really's benefit and advantage.

Also, I would just say, a lot of the teams wish that they were playing right now. And so we were able to get a really good seed and we have to do something with that. So we're happy just to be here.

KATIE HEMPEN: I'll go along with Sophie. We're just very thankful that we're able to play at our home court. We have one of the best crowds in Arizona or in the nation, you could say. They cheer us on no matter what. And during this time, we usually get a bigger crowd than what we do in the regular season, and the fact that they are there to support us through thick and thin, it's a great feeling.

Q. Do you guys feel like going to the Sweet 16 last year, that experience, coming back with that experience, is going to be even more helpful to you this time around?

KATIE HEMPEN: I think any type of experience will help us throughout this whole tournament. Our freshmen got a lot of experience throughout this past season and to be able to use them during the end of our season is awesome.

We've had a lot of people step up, so the experience we had last year will definitely help, but I think what happened this year will even help us more.

ELISHA DAVIS: That's basically what I was going to say; that experience can help us with the growth of this year and just, you know, with the different pieces that we have and having to regroup ourselves and find out our new identity because we can't hang on to what happened last year.

So yeah, that is great, but it's a new year and it's a new start and it's a new team, and we have to continue to build from that.

SOPHIE BRUNNER: Going off what they both said, just knowing that where we ended last year we weren't satisfied with, so we kind of want to get back to there and then go further. So kind of used that in the off-season and the preseason, and now just having that edge and wanting to get better.

Q. You had such a great year for so much of the year but things went south the last couple of games you played. What happened exactly in those games that you maybe didn't do that you were doing earlier?

ELISHA DAVIS: Biggest word is "effort." That's what we think. When you don't work hard and when you don't focus in, a lot of the things that you want to get done will not get done. A lot of the things that you have been successful in, you won't. And the only reason why we were successful was because we worked hard.

So for us as a team, we just met and said, our effort in all areas on and off the court did not allow us to do or to finish strong how we wanted to. So we just worked on just getting better for the effort.

KATIE HEMPEN: I would agree with Lili, just our effort, I thought a few of us played into like our -- mentally fatigued. These past two weeks, our coaches really helped us get back into how tough we are, remembering how tough we are, no matter how we feel. And our team, our program, is all about toughness and how we can incorporate that into the game of basketball, and like I said these past two weeks, we realize how tough we are and how tough we will be these next hopefully three, four weeks.

SOPHIE BRUNNER: Yeah, I agree with both of them. And then, I think we've we just got away from who we were. I think that's why these last couple weeks really helped us because we got back to who we are. It's easy to get away from that, so I think, like I said, just getting back and getting to the gym was the best thing for us, and just being a team and doing little stuff as a team was what we needed and we're just excited for this next upcoming game.

Q. You guys always focus on yourselves a lot but what have you learned about New Mexico State and what are your thoughts on the key things to defeating them?

SOPHIE BRUNNER: Obviously they are a great team otherwise they wouldn't be playing in March. We know that a lot of key to this game is just playing great defense. You know, keeping them in front of us, they are a great penetrating team. Just doing the little things, boxing out, not falling, and then just taking care of the ball are going to be the big keys to this game.

KATIE HEMPEN: Some big, important keys is just rebounding. Our team likes to say that rebounding wins championships. The fact that these past two weeks we really focused on our rebounding and getting to our spots, I think that's going to really help, but also, like Sophie said, New Mexico State is going to be a really tough team. They have a really great record. And we don't look at numbers next to the name, because obviously the last two games of ours, the numbers don't matter.

ELISHA DAVIS: I would say the key, other than having good defense, is our communication. Just because they do run dribble drive and it's really hard to have the correct, I would guess you would say, help side or be in the right position. So we just have to communicate and work together and work really, really hard. And then also just running them. I think when you are playing a team and you don't allow them to do what they want you have to tire them out, so our key is to run and run and run and bring the pressure on defense, as well.

Q. How concerned were you when things went south at the end, and what were you trying to do these last two weeks to get them back on track?

COACH TURNER THORNE: I don't think I was as concerned as most people are, because people keep asking us, and we were just tired. I think the players alluded to it. We had, I think counting Seattle, that was four out of six weeks on the road, the six-day trip and a five-day trip and the better, higher-end teams on the second half. If you look at our schedule, we held up pretty well, but we did run out of gas. We were just spent I thought.

And we tried to fake it (laughs, cheering) but that was it. This is a team that they didn't get caught up in the hype. It's just not who they are. So it wasn't anything else. And also, the other big thing is the lack of practice  time that they mentioned, because we do, we're kind of an energy team, we play really hard. We don't have quite a deep a rotation as we've had some years, so we take a lot of time off. We win two, we take two days off. We really only had a day and a half of practice per week with a really light day in between games, and it caught up with us. That's why they said, yeah, we need to get to the gym, we need to get to the gym, and we did. We just needed to get some good, a week and a half of practice and just getting sharper in probably every area, really.

Q. When you watch what's happened the last two weeks, what stands out that tells you they are ready now to play at their best. What do you see that indicates that to you?
COACH TURNER THORNE: Well, I do think that we are just more rejuvenated. We've got some good recovery time and I think we're sharper basketball-wise and we've had time to kind of just, again, get reps offensively, defensively, and got a little scrimmage game in against our scout team. 

So I feel like we've just had time to get better. And really, this team came back, before they took the weekend off, and before I could say a word in our first team meeting, they said, "Coach, we met, we met yesterday, just ourselves. Bottom line is, we're not playing hard enough. It's effort."  And like to me, that says so much about this team, because there's so many excuses. We did have a ton of road games. We were tired. We weren't practicing enough, but they didn't go there. They are just like, you know what, we just got to work harder. And I think the comment about, well, the coaches helped us. We worked them hard (laughing). We're like, our toughness muscle atrophied a little bit. We've got to get going. And they saw it, after the first day, they were like, yeah, you're right. They came back every day, especially our veteran players, just good energy, good leadership, it's a lot of practice. So again, we're ready to play. But this is -- I mean, I'm excited for March Madness. This has been a really fun team to coach, because when they can tell you, when you're making more excuses than they are, simply put, that's impressive, because people that know me know I don't really do that.

Q. What's your impression of New Mexico State? What stands out watching them?
COACH TURNER THORNE: Well, they are obviously a very good offensive team averaging about 70 points a game, very balanced. Our team just hit on a few things that probably, being a little close to their chest. I mean, they know they are going to press. They are kind of like Syracuse. They are a pressing team; they are going to press no matter what. We played Syracuse earlier this year.

So we have experienced that. They mix up their defenses a lot more than a lot of teams than we've played.

That's something when we said, take care of the ball, just be ready to handle their press and changing the  defenses. I mean, they play hard. All of Mark Trakh's teams play hard, so they are going to be aggressive. They are going to play hard. And then offensively, I think they have got three seniors, I think they are a fairly veteran team that plays really well together. And they do a great job with the one-more-pass, just creating for each other. They do a great job of spacing the floor, just isolating, taking turns, kind of taking you one-on-one. Mark always does a great job with his team offense.

So great offensive rebounding team. Play fast, they will transition on you. To win 26 games, you're obviously good at a lot of things. Yeah, I feel like they are a Pac-12 team, I really do, after watching them on tape. You've got to guard everybody. There's not anybody -- you don't have to guard, everybody is a threat. Even coming off the bench, they have got some really good scorers and they are a good rebounding team. They play both sides of the ball hard. So should be a great game.

Q. You mentioned Mark. Is that an advantage to each of you that you have coached against each other before?

COACH TURNER THORNE: Well, I guess. We know each other. I'm like, oh, yeah, yeah, oh, yeah, yeah, from SC days, some of the playbook and the style of play. And obviously he has a lot of familiarity with us.

So I kind of like going into the NCAA Tournament with no familiarity, and especially with the other team on us, so they obviously have that a little bit. The players don't, though.

Q. We were just talking about Tennessee having their lowest seed in history and you have your highest. What does it mean to you to be seeded this high?
COACH TURNER THORNE: Well, when we have our banquet and we talk about everything this team accomplished, that is certainly an outstanding accolade for this group to have achieved that in a year where I think there's a lot of parity. There's sort of UCONN and everybody else, and for us to really be regarded that highly and to have built that resumé, because I think we did build a resumé. 

I know I was a little surprised on Selection Show, but when I really stepped back and thought about it in our schedule and who we had played and beat and all the top teams on the road, I was like, yeah, okay, we did deserve this.

So you know, I'll keep joking, now we have to do something with it. In and of itself, I think it's just a great accomplishment by this year's team.

Q. Touching on the seeding a little bit more, when it came out, lots of excitement and a little surprise  when you found out you were the 2-seed. How long did you enjoy that moment and to turn the page to get everybody really focused again?

COACH TURNER THORNE: Yeah, we don't -- we're pretty much focusing about five seconds, and it's like, getting on -- because the numbers don't mean anything. It's just like they said, never buy your name if you're ranked. It doesn't mean anything. This seeding doesn't mean anything.

In college women's basketball, the parity, I don't think that unless the people that really watch it and are in it every day and coaching it and recruiting and stuff understand how many really good teams are out there. Other than that, I don't think a lot of people do. And you know, I was talking to Mark a little bit, I was a little surprised at their seeding. I thought they should have got a 14 or a 13. So I don't think -- basketball is all match-ups. All of these teams are really quality teams. You sort of look at it for half a second and go, oh, cool. And then you're like, New Mexico State, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Green Bay. Then you just move on and look at match-ups and how you're going to beat those teams.

Q. You played Green Bay last year and you're familiar with Tennessee. What do you think is going to happen in the first game? Does that seem like --
COACH TURNER THORNE: It's going to be a great game. Oh, my gosh, I think that's going to be -- I think they both are. But they are very different teams. Both very talented, very tough, very well coached. I think it's going to be a great game, and yeah, it's going to be fun.