April 4, 2019
THE MODERATOR: Joining us is Oregon. We'll start with questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Sabrina, first Final Four. What has it been like for you? Business part with games tomorrow. What have the first couple days been like for you?
SABRINA IONESCU: I mean, it's been filled with a lot of fun. We didn't really know what to expect coming in. Just landing, having a red carpet laid out, us walking off. I think we've smiled so much this whole week, these last few days for sure. We're definitely just enjoying the moment, enjoying the experience and everything that it has to offer.
Now it's game time. We're focusing on the game. We're not really going to change who we are. We're going to enjoy and be appreciative of the position we're in.
Q. Satou, can you talk a little bit about you and Baylor? Baylor has been here before as a program, but this group of players hasn't. Do you have any sense of how the two of you being new to all of this is going to play itself out?
SATOU SABALLY: I just think that both teams are going to be really aggressive and appreciative of where they are. We're not going to take it for granted that we made it to the Final Four. We've come a long way and worked all the season hard for it. The same thing applies to Baylor. They're going to be thankful and aggressive in the game.
Q. For each of the girls. Sabrina, you have so many weapons on your squad. I want to know about Erin Boley, what she has meant to this team offensively all year long. Actually, if each of you can talk about her contributions.
SATOU SABALLY: Erin Boley is just an amazing player, most importantly an amazing person. She spreads the floor, like, opens up driving lanes for each one of us. People can't leave her open. She has the quickest release in the whole country. She's just really important to our team as well as a player and personality-wise.
SABRINA IONESCU: Satou kind of hit it. Just her ability to shoot the ball, be on every single night is something that we don't take for granted, especially as guards. That opens up the driving lane so much for us. Her length and size helps her at the forward position as well because she can pick and pop, she can set great screens, also get to the basket. That's what I think she's been improving on, not really relying on her shot as much, cutting, getting to the basket, free-throw line, rebounds. I think she's turning into a really complete player for us. I think she's just going to continue to get better every game.
RUTHY HEBARD: She has turned into a complete player. Her defense is really great, helps us a lot, too. For the post players, she gets us open a lot, spreads the floor, hits the threes. Overall, she's just a great person, a great teammate.
Q. Sabrina, last year I saw you and Kelly in the hallways in Columbus on this day. You had come off a tough Elite 8 loss. What were you thinking that day when you have to come here after you were trying to get here and you didn't quite make it? Do you remember what you were thinking that day?
SABRINA IONESCU: Oh, yeah. I remember it all. I remember talking, it was just me and the coaches that were here. I told them we were going to come back here and we were going to come back as a team. It wasn't fun coming alone, seeing the teams you played, seeing the buses get escorted while you're standing on the street watching, because I remember that like it was yesterday.
I knew that I wanted my team to experience the little things that I had experienced when I was here, getting my awards. Our coaching staff has been here, they wanted to bring our team.
I think we're really happy to be here as a team. Yeah, I remember everything (smiling).
Q. Ruthy, how did Sunday's game against McCowan prepare you to play Brown tomorrow?
RUTHY HEBARD: Yeah, Sunday's game was really fun. They're both two great post players, have great teams around them, too. I think Sunday's game got me ready, got me physical, in the mindset. I'm excited to take on Kalani tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, ladies.
We'll continue with questions for Coach Graves.
Q. Kim Mulkey said before how it's so difficult to get here. There are coaches who spend their entire lives coaching who never have the joy of getting to the Women's Final Four. You can now say that you're here as a coach. What is it like for you to get here? Have you had a minute to enjoy being in the Final Four for the first time?
KELLY GRAVES: Yeah, I mean, I'm enjoying it. There's no question about it. I actually had a chance to spend a little bit of time with Coach Geno last night. He kind of welcomed me to that club. That really meant something.
I think professionally, obviously, this is something every coach wants a chance to do. I was really emotional when I saw Tony Bennett, all the things that he said, because he's been working so hard his whole life to get there. It's a special time.
The reality, I haven't really had a chance to kind of dwell on that a whole lot. I think I will when it's all said and done. For us, as soon as we were done Sunday, we had preliminary scouts that night on both Iowa and Baylor. For us, it's another workday. We've got to keep grinding until that last game.
Yes, in some way obviously very fulfilling. I'm super happy for the team. I mean, that's why we do it that they have a chance to experience this. As a coach, I think you have to wait until everything settles, then you might have a chance to appreciate it more.
Q. Some people have called you the Warriors of women's college basketball. The team you're facing is post-centered. How would you describe the contrasting styles?
KELLY GRAVES: You mean warriors in that we're tough, that kind of warrior?
Q. Golden State.
KELLY GRAVES: Okay.
We have plays that I guess resemble some of them. Steph Curry gave Sabrina quite a shout out yesterday. I thought that was really cool. You know what, yeah, she's a lot like Steph, how he's a conductor, is always a threat to make a huge play, make those three-pointers.
We don't really break their film down and try to be like them. We've kind of developed our own style. It's happened over the years for me. This team just gets it. They know how to play pick-and-roll basketball, they know how to spread the floor, they love the three-point shot. It does really help we have a hammer inside like Ruthy that we can go to if we need it. I don't know if DeMarcus (Cousins) has quite gotten to that level yet. He's still looking up to Ruthy, I think.
Yeah, it is a fun style. I hear that from a lot of people. We get a lot of coaches that come watch us practice, college coaches as well. I think they try, because it is a fun style, they want to adopt it. These guys just know how to do it well. Proud of 'em.
I love watching them play.
Q. Do you remember being in the hallways last year as everything was going on around you, what you were thinking?
KELLY GRAVES: I think when you get as close as we did the last two years, yeah. There's part of you that pangs for being in that position. I remember being with her when one of the buses went whizzing by, a shootaround or a practice. She took it hard. She took it hard.
I didn't as hard, but it's certainly something I wanted to have happen for this group. I knew we were good enough and we were almost good enough in the past, but not quite there.
But I've been coming to these Final Fours for a long time. It wasn't quite as difficult as it was for me as it was for her. That was her first time.
Q. We saw Taylor wasn't practicing. Did she have a setback? Do you have to rely entirely on Maite and Sabrina?
KELLY GRAVES: Game time decision on her. She was getting better. With something like that, you just never know. Yeah, she'd been practicing a little bit. We decided to let her lay low today, give her more strength hopefully for tomorrow.
Q. What do you think Geno and Muffet and Kim know about this experience that you don't know yet?
KELLY GRAVES: A lot. They've been here, done that. I'm that new kid on the block, so to speak. I've relied on a lot of my coaching colleagues and friends to kind of help me through it. They gave me some dos and don'ts, some tips, including Dana Altman, our men's coach, who was in the Final Four two years ago for his first time. He gave me some really good words of wisdom, some insight.
That's really all I can go on. I've been watching these for a long time. Until you're actually here, you don't know what the experience is really like.
Q. I asked the girls this. Your thoughts on Erin, what she's meant to the team, how much she's matured as a player into your team.
KELLY GRAVES: Well, what I love about Erin is she's an efficient player. The night she scored 31 points at University of Washington, she did so on four dribbles. Kind of Klay Thompson-like. You mentioned the Golden State Warriors, that was Klay Thompson-like. She took seven total dribbles. She had three rebounds where she took one dribble out. That's what we need. We have a lot of players, Maite, Satou, Sabrina, are comfortable off the ball, but they're all very comfortable with the ball. You need that one player who really doesn't have to have the ball in their hands.
She stretches all the defenses. Allows Ruthy some opportunity to roam inside one-on-one. As our players said, they allow Satou, Maite and Sabrina some driving lanes. We need that, we're not the quickest team. The more space we can create for ourselves in the halfcourt, the better.
In this particular matchup, if they decide to go with Lauren Cox or Kalani Brown on her, she does play technically our four spot, they're going to have to guard her in the perimeter. So that's an advantage I think for us.
At the same time she may, and probably will at times, have to guard one of those inside kids. She just doesn't have the length they do. It will be a fun chess match there. I would echo what they said, great kid, great teammate, awesome student, just an amazing representative of our university. I think she exemplifies everything that's good about intercollegiate athletics.
Q. Has she talked to you about the Notre Dame connection?
KELLY GRAVES: No, not much. We haven't really gone down that road, no.
Q. What do you think it will take for Hebard to be successful against Brown in the post tomorrow?
KELLY GRAVES: 40 minutes of extreme effort, focus and concentration. She's got her work cut out for her, whether she's guarding Cox or Brown or whomever inside. They're tremendous players, All-Americans. She's just going to have to suck it up and do it like she's been doing. I thought she did a terrific job on Teaira McCowan last week. Kristine Anigwe is in our league, she's had to guard her, too.
She'll hopefully get some help from the rest of the team. In the end, she's going to have to sit down there on that block and try to keep them as far away from the basket as possible.
Q. You mentioned you talked to some people like Dana (Altman), got advice. Do you want to share a point or two of the dos and don'ts this weekend?
KELLY GRAVES: To a coach, they said, Have a great time, enjoy it, especially for your first time. We hope to be back. But there's never an assurance of that. That was an overwhelming theme perhaps.
Secondly was, Be yourselves. Don't put in that special play, that new defense, just do what's gotten you there.
Number three, they said make sure you take care of your tickets. That's a pain in the butt. I did. I told the team that first night before we get on our plane to come to Tampa, make sure the ticket situation is done.
Last, this media, just expect to get a bunch of questions. That's just part of it. They said, Just enjoy it, just go with it. I had some wise person say, Just steer into the skid, steer into the skid. Did I get that right (smiling)? So I'm steering into the skid, yup.
Q. All four of these teams left standing have really had to rely a lot on their main five players to carry them. How rewarding is that for you as a coaching staff to get this far into a season with that as your reality? What does that say about this group to kind of carry that weight throughout a whole season?
KELLY GRAVES: Well, that was the first question I had at the start of the year. Were we going to be able to stay healthy? For the most part we were. We lost Ruthy for a couple games during Pac-12 play down the stretch. We realize she's very important to us. We dropped those two games, the only two games we lost in conference play.
For the most part, we've been just blessed with great health. I credit our training staff. They've been wonderful. Our nutritionists, our strength staff. Then as coaches we've tried to manage that. It hasn't been easy at times. But I think we're as healthy as we've been in a long, long time here. So credit to those young women for taking care of their bodies through this grind. It is a long season. We started October 1st. I don't know what today is, but it's April sometime, right (smiling)?
Q. It's April sometime.
KELLY GRAVES: All right. That's a long, long season. They've been wonderful. We still stayed competitive. You still have to to stay sharp. But, yeah, we've been blessed with good health. Knocking on desk -- plastic -- but good enough (laughter).
Q. You mentioned you've been here several times, not as a participant. What can this mean to your program overall in the long run, the exposure, being here?
KELLY GRAVES: It means a ton. Oregon has got great athletics, there's no question. It's an awesome academic institution, as well. For us to get here, it validates, number one, our vision as coaches, number two, the kind of talent we've been able to attract. I think number three, just going forward, people knowing that this is a program that's not going anywhere. I think we're here to stay.
Again, I give my staff a ton of credit. They've worked their butts off, carried my sorry butt most of the time. They've just done a great job in attracting talent. The coolest thing about it, people like Doug Feinberg call me back when I text him saying I need to talk to you. It's pretty nice. Charlie Creme, he'll answer my texts now. I think Geno said it best, You're a Final Four coach. Also said that gave me the opportunity to say anything I wanted (laughter). I'll use some discretion there. I'll leave that to him.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
KELLY GRAVES: Thank you very much, you guys.
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