LISA BLUDER: I mean, obviously very excited about this game. Almost scoring 100 points out here tonight. We shot the ball well from all areas, 2, 3, free-throw line. I think we had 23 assists on 30 or 25 assists on 33 baskets. I love that style. Really sharing the ball really well. Only have 11 turnovers today so that was great to see. I thought it was a really good game, especially with a couple weeks off. You’re always worried about that rust, and I don’t think we really showed any signs of that today.
But I really want to thank the crowd that came out. Our fans were amazing. Our fans — and they braved parking problems today, they braved rain, and they still got here. We are so appreciative of them. Just come again on Sunday. It’s going to be easier. No hospital traffic and no rain let’s hope.
Q. In the second quarter kind of late on, there were a lot of passes to Monika, and it really seemed to make the game separate. It was like a seven point game and you scored like seven straight points. How important was that to the game?
CAITLIN CLARK: Yeah, I think it was huge. I don’t think she had taken one shot before that. I’m not totally sure, but I know going into halftime she was 4 for 4 and she’s the best field goal shooter in the country so we want to get her the ball as much as we can. It did create separation. I think she’s the best big in the country, hands down. I’m always looking for and I think she knows that. She always has here eyes up looking, and we really needed to get involved there. I kind of knew that and I was just looking for her there especially there at the end of the second quarter.
MONIKA CZINANO: They came out from the jump. They were already doubling before they could even get the ball inside. I think as the game goes on it’s hard to come double and leave my teammates open. They’re all deadly, all four of them. Once that kind of settled down and we were hitting from the outside, it made it a lot easier to get it inside in that second quarter, and I think that just getting everybody involved, including me, was huge.
Q. Caitlin and Monika, I think you guys outscored them in transition 34 to 2. It seemed like everything was working well offensively, and Coach was just talking about how she was a little worried with some time off. Can you both talk about how things were clicking? 12 three-pointers and you had that kind of transition game.
CAITLIN CLARK: Yeah, I think transition is always our best offense. We want to get to that no matter what. Obviously defending in transition is an area that we can still improve and get better at so it’s great to hear that we only gave up two points in transition. But yeah, I think that’s our best offense.
I thought we got a lot of great contributions off the bench. Tomi shot the ball well, Addy came in, so that always helps, as well. But yeah, overall our transition offense when we’re doing it the way we should and when we get stops on the defensive end, that just leads to our transition offense. Hands down our best offense and that’s what we like to get to the most.
Q. How key was it to come out and do what a 2 seed should do and just kind of take the drama out of the game early?
MONIKA CZINANO: Yeah, I think it was huge. Just kind of coming off from this break, getting our legs under us again, just kind of getting a feel for it. It wasn’t really that long of a break, but it kind of feels like it when you go from playing games every two to three days. All of a sudden having that, I think that was huge, and I think it just built confidence for everybody, whether they were a bench player or a starting five member. Everybody got shots up today and was hot, so it was just really good for confidence building in the future.
Q. Monika, you’ve played with players who tip the court, with Megan and then now with Caitlin. First of all, what did you take away from working with Megan all those practices early in your career? And second of all, completely different position, different types of players, but how do they kind of — how do you notice them taking control of the game the way they have and do currently?
MONIKA CZINANO: Yeah, I think with Megan, the biggest thing overall was her work ethic. She never did anything halfway. She did everything 100 percent, whether it was coming in in the off-season to shoot, during the season, everything, she gave it her all. And that was really inspiring to see as a freshman and just kind of realizing that this is what it takes to be really good in this conference, this highly competitive conference. She was just an amazing person. She built everybody up, too. That was probably one of the largest things I got from her.
And then yeah, obviously her and Caitlin are very, very different but they both are amazing at what they do, and their greatness really brings people around them up.
I remember playing with Megan, she made everybody on the court better even being a 5, and Caitlin just even amplifies that even more because she has the ball in her hand so often. Playing with that caliber of teammate just makes everybody better, no matter who you are and no matter what position you play, you gain a lot from playing with somebody like that.
Q. How did you guys sleep last night?
CAITLIN CLARK: I slept really well, honestly. I don’t know if it was — it was kind of dark and rainy outside, so I don’t know. I slept good. I was just excited to play and come out here and play in front of these fans, obviously incredible. I know it’s only going to be even better on Sunday when we face Creighton and we’re just super, super fortunate to have that kind of support from this community. It’s not like that everywhere else. I get the chills every single time I run out of the tunnel and they roar. It’s super cool.
MONIKA CZINANO: Yeah, I stared at the ceiling for a while. I’m going to be honest. Eventually I fell asleep, but I think I just — having a sold-out crowd, there’s nothing like it, and having experienced it once before, you just — you have a taste of it and you just want it every time.
I hope Hawk fans with come out on Sunday, but like Coach Bluder was saying, thank you to everybody who showed up today. It was so awesome.
Q. Caitlin, as loud as it got today, you had 15,000 people pretty quiet there when you were limping around for a quick second. Obviously whatever happened there wasn’t serious, but what kind of happened on that exchange?
CAITLIN CLARK: Yeah, I think I was probably just a little out of control myself and then kind of took a tumble. I just hit my knee wrong on the floor. Coach Bluder always wants me to stay on my feet more, but I think I’ve done better as the year has gone on, but I’m all good. It’s part of basketball; it’s just how it goes.
Q. Caitlin, how well are you and Audrey going to get along the next couple days and how much are you looking forward to this matchup with a team that you’ve watched a lot growing up?
CAITLIN CLARK: My cousin and then obviously Audrey playing at Creighton, I really idolized her growing up. She played at Dowling and went on to play at Creighton, and I thought that was the coolest thing ever. I remember I went to Oregon State to watch Creighton play. They ended up going to the round of 32 and I was just her biggest fan growing up. I loved basketball. I think she’ll be rooting for me a little more. I hope so. We’re family.
But no, I think more than anything she just wants the best for me. She was here today, and I’m so glad I could have my support. I had a lot of family here today, and that’s what it’s about, and our family just loves being around the game of basketball. It’s really what we’ve done our whole lives. It was awesome.
Q. Monika, you mentioned playing in this kind of environment before; does it add to any pressure or does it lessen the pressure given that it’s the tournament and you’re playing in front of your home crowd?
MONIKA CZINANO: No, I mean, I think it makes it so much easier knowing you have that amount of people cheering for you and kind of motivating you along. If things kind of get a little rocky that they’ll be there to pull you back into it. I think we’re just so lucky. I really think we come out of the gate 15 yards ahead of the other team metaphorically. But it’s just so much fun, and it’s an experience I’ll never forget.
Q. A lot of young girls in the stands today; what’s it like playing in front of them and being role models?
MONIKA CZINANO: Yeah, I mean, it’s just super inspiring. I remember being that age and just kind of looking up to the young women playing and just thinking how cool it was. And then all of a sudden you grow up and you’re in those positions. I think it’s just so awesome to see them, to hear their stories. They’ll all come up and be like, I have a tournament tomorrow, I wear your number. It’s so much fun and it’s so cool to see.
Scroll to Continue
Iowa just really cares about the sport of basketball but they really love girls’ basketball, so it’s just super cool to see.
CAITLIN CLARK: Yeah, I think it’s one of the coolest things that you get to do. But I feel like I was just that little girl. I grew up around the game, I was those little girls. I was always begging my dad to take me to basketball games, college basketball games. No matter what it was, I always wanted to be around the game. I know both of us and our entire team always make time for them and we love their support. We’re always around them, summer camp to season.
Yeah, it’s super cool, and any way we can inspire them and love the game and really grow the game. I think our team does a really great job of that. I think that was the most kids we’ve really had all season today. The tunnel was just packed with kids. I try to make time to high five every single one of them. That’s really what it’s all about, inspiring the next generation, and I think our team does a tremendous job of that.
Q. You had a lot of contribution off the bench today; how do you think that’s going to help your depth going forward?
LISA BLUDER: Yeah, I love that we had that contribution off the bench. You know, the contribution off the bench is really important when you’re playing two games basically within 48 hours when you can go to your bench. First of all, everybody feels really good about themselves, but second of all, it really is important to give your starting five some rest, some leg rest so they can come back on Sunday even harder.
Q. This matchup with Creighton is interesting because you guys do play each other every year in a game no one gets to watch, but you’ve also met recently in an NCAA Tournament game. What comes to mind when you think about this matchup and what it’s going to be like on Sunday?
LISA BLUDER: Yeah, my thought is why the heck do we schedule them every year on our home court and let them come in here and have that game? That’s kind of what my mind is going through right now. I know they feel very confident coming out here because they play here every single year in that closed scrimmage. They won today against a Colorado team.
Creighton is — I’ve known Jim and Connie for 30 years. Connie and I go back to Lawrence and St. Ambrose against each other. Neither one of us have too many secrets really, and I know they’re going to be well prepared. I know they’re going to play their hearts out. So it’s going to be a great women’s basketball game with a lot on the line.
Q. Getting back to the end of the second quarter there and getting the ball to Monika in, I think, three straight possessions she scored, how important was it to the game’s flow that she was involved? And then also that she produced the way she did, because it was I think a seven-point game at that point.
LISA BLUDER: I’m just kind of disappointed she didn’t get more shots. She’s six for six, she’s perfect from the field, she’s perfect from the free-throw line, six for six. Why are we not giving her more shots? That’s what I want to know.
You know, she can take over a game inside. She’s so talented. But yeah, we’ve got to give her the ball a little bit more, too, to let her go to work.
Q. Obviously it looked like defensively things weren’t working out early on. You gave up some shots in the zone, but once you got into those passing lanes, it seemed like — Caitlin herself had three steals, 10 steals total as a team. What do you like about the defensive performance tonight?
LISA BLUDER: You know, I thought that our zone was really good. It’s great because at the beginning of the year our zone wasn’t very good. It was something we could not really use. Now in the Big Ten Tournament and here we’ve been able to use our zone.
To me that protects your legs a little bit, as well. You don’t have to play all those screens.
I was happy with that. Mary Crompton got an early start for them. She had eight points. But then after the first minute of the second quarter, she never scored. So I really credit my team for identifying somebody that was really hurting us and really doing a good job of keeping the ball out of her hands.
Again, we changed up some defenses in the second half, and I thought that was good, too.
Q. Coach Bluder, you had mentioned the importance of giving the starters as much rest as possible. Obviously today with Tomi scoring 13 points and Addison coming out and having some big moments including that buzzer beater toward the end of the quarter, I’m just wondering if you could emphasize how important your bench is in critical moments like this.
LISA BLUDER: You know, Tomi is a senior, and I think she’s playing some of her best basketball of her career right now, which is good, and it’s also sad. But I have so much confidence in her shooting the ball, and she gives us a good defensive spark, as well. I feel like she just has added so much to our bench play.
Addy has just gotten better all year, from freshman — she’s learning to be a little more aggressive. We have to keep working on that. But I’m really happy with the way that she’s developing, and I think she — she alters some shots defensively. She’s the tallest woman on our team, and when they’re going against the zone and having to shoot over her, you can see them altering their shots, and that’s a good thing for us.
Q. Obviously it’s not easy for somebody to replace somebody like Megan, but for Monika, the last few years to lead the country in field goal percentage and to do what she’s done, what kind of conversations did you and Jan have with her early in her career because trying to replace somebody like that can be really difficult if you’re not mentally able to accept it.
LISA BLUDER: Yep, you know, she did do a great job of being a sponge and learning from Megan her freshman year. But it wasn’t pretty her freshman year. I will tell you that. She worked hard on changing her entire shot form between her freshman and sophomore year.
When you’re 18 years old, that is really hard to do. She did it, and it wasn’t pretty. When we went to Spain and we played overseas and we were like, oh, my goodness. And all of a sudden a light bulb went on that fall, and I think she was like third in the country in field goal percentage shooting her third year. I think she was two baskets — two made baskets away from being No. 1 in the country her sophomore year. Amazing. Could we have ever predicted that? Absolutely not.
You can’t predict something like that.
Since then it’s just — she just keeps working, and now she wants to pay back to Addy what she learned from Megan, so she’s being a great example, as well, every day in practice.
Q. It looked like Gabbie had a really good game today. The last few games before that, she hadn’t necessarily been getting up a lot of shots, not necessarily making three-pointers. How big is it to get her going from behind the arc?
LISA BLUDER: Yeah, the more weapons you have, the harder you are to defend. Everybody knows about Caitlin and Monika, so man, when those other guys are contributing like that — when McKenna, Tomi, Kate hit a three tonight, Gabbie — okay, where are you going to put your focus. It just makes us an offensive juggernaut, and we love it.
I love it when those guys are hitting their threes. I have so much faith in all of them. They’re all really good three-point shooters.
I know some games it doesn’t seem like it, but we see them in practice every day. I know what I have. I’ve got a really good shooting team.