March 8, 2008
COACH MERCHANT: We're proud of what we accomplished today. We played Minnesota twice, and lost to them both times. We struggled to defend this group of kids (Minnesota). We have worked diligently. These kids have worked really hard at their scheme and the things that they do. They're key players, and I thought we did a great job. It was just a great win for our team.
Q. Allyssa, can you talk about those final four minutes and what you talked about in the timeout going into it and what happened afterward?
Allyssa DeHaan: It was huge down the stretch. Everybody just kind of came together on defense, we made some huge stops and that kind of transitioned into our offense. Everybody just stepped it up and elevated their game and it was a great win.
Q. Allyssa, what was it like for you? You had to sit for more than 17 minutes in the first half and you didn't get off to the greatest start. What was going through your mind? What were you doing to stay in the game?
Allyssa DeHaan: It was frustrating from the bench. I was trying so hard and my team did so great and they played so hard and they fought for the whole first half and I just owed it to them to come out in the second half and really give everything I had. Everybody just stepped up and we all just came together.
Q. Allyssa, do you think you benefited from sitting on the bench? Not that you want it that way, but you were pressured at the end and it seemed like you were calling for the ball down the stretch.
Allyssa DeHaan: That was an advantage sitting for 15 minutes in the first half. I was fresh and I could run and I think that did help us out.
Q. Brittney, can you talk about the job you did on Emily Fox tonight?
Brittney Thomas: I think it was a team effort. It took a lot of hustle, but we decided to start switching ball screens so she wouldn't get any open looks. We did it on a couple of players, [Katie] Ohm also, so she couldn't hit the three either. I think we just really frustrated her because she had to work so hard for every basket that she got. I played on her most of the game, but like I said, it really came down to the fact that they set a lot of screens so our posts were stepping up and they weren't scared. They stepped up to the challenge and guarded her as well. We just made her work really hard and I don't think she was used to that.
Q. Alisa, talk about that three-pointer and how big it was for the team?
Alisa Wulff: We must give a shout out to Allyssa [DeHaan]because she's such a great post. She's really unselfish as well. She saw the double team come and I called it to her and she kicked it back out. I know my coaches and my players have all the faith in me to hit that shot. I do it in practice, so when it came to the timing I was really glad that I hit it. Again, thanks to Allyssa for kicking it out, because we really are an unselfish ball club. We just fought so hard tonight. I'm so proud of this group. It really means a lot to be a Spartan tonight, for everybody who was in the stands, the media that comes here, everything. We are just a really, really proud group.
Q. Allyssa, I saw more fire and more emotion in you tonight than I have in games in the past. Is that something new?
Allyssa DeHaan: Well, I've been trying to work on the whole emotional thing this whole season. I think it's the whole March thing. Once you hit March, there's this feeling in the atmosphere, you can't describe it until you're a player. We're trying to get our freshmen to understand that. Once it's March, every time it's you're one and done, this is it, this is our last time for our seniors to play, and you want to go out and give them everything you've got.
Q. Alisa, you got a chance to go back and finish your career with an NCAA Tournament. Talk more about what this Big Ten Tournament means to you and your career and what you want to do here in the next few games?
Alisa Wulff: It means a lot. I think this team has come such a long way and just the fact that we hit that streak near the end of the regular season. We came in today and got the big win which really means a lot. We are really going out and playing our butts off and fighting for every possession and playing like it is do or die. We might have got an NCAA bid based on this game, but it's all about taking each game as if it's your last and going at it really hard. We just look at every team as a challenge and we're looking forward to that challenge and stepping up to the plate and winning a Big Ten Championship.
Q. Looking at Allyssa, she seems to be completely different and more confident than when she first came to Michigan State. Obviously you've only been here for a year, but to see her comfort level, being 6-9, playing college basketball, getting the kind of attention
she's getting, what have you seen from her since you came here and started this program?
COACH MERCHANT: I've seen her grow a lot in this season, and I'll tell you mostly because when Aisha Jefferson got hurt, they were a nice dynamic duo. Aisha took the pressure off Al [Allyssa DeHaan]. Aisha is the emotional one, she's kind of the tough one down there and whatever Al did or didn't do, it seemed like AJ was there to clean up. And they worked really well together and now I feel like when AJ went down, it was Allyssa who had to step up; she had to come into her own. That's a tough thing to do when you're a sophomore, and obviously she's on a lot of watch lists, and rightfully so. That's a lot of pressure on someone like herself, and then you add in the fact she's also a pre-med student, so she's got pressure in the classroom, too. I'm really proud of her and her development in terms of the emotional side. The play will take care of itself, but I really feel like this year, because it has been mostly her that everyone keys on, she's had to really grow and develop not only the physical side but the emotional side, and I think that's been the biggest change for her.
Q. Coach, Allyssa picked up two really quick fouls, and you had to take her to the bench. After that, Minnesota did not seem to take advantage of the situation. How important was it to be able to keep her and protect her for the second half?
COACH MERCHANT: I think that was big. You have to credit this group of kids. Obviously Allyssa [DeHaan] is a huge part of our offense. As a team, we don't put up a lot of numbers offensively. We're not a high-powered offense, and when you take our leading scorer out of that, it can be a little scary at times. What we did do is defend them. We gave up 74 and 81 points against them earlier this season, so we knew if we could just fight defensively, we felt like we had a chance. Maybe it worked to our advantage. When I sat her down, I was like uh-oh, but a lot of other kids stepped up. She was fresher down the stretch, so that made a big difference.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about how important this win is for you guys? In the big-picture, everyone has been saying that this is the game that you needed to get into the NCAA tournament.
COACH MERCHANT: With any team that plays in March, you just want to keep anything and everything you can in your own hands. We're going to play an Illinois team that's got it right in their hands, too. They're here to win this thing and get to the NCAA Tournament and we're here to do the same thing. One thing I know is that we can't control what other people think about us. All we can control is what we can do on the court. Our kids did a great job of fighting tonight and keeping our dream and our faith alive.
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