Practice Day in the Books for Women's Hoops

Practice Day in the Books for Women's Hoops

IOWA CITY, Iowa – The day before the first round of the NCAA Tournament is a miniature version of Media Day at the Super Bowl.

The four teams at each site have media responsibilities before they step on the floor for a 90-minuite practice.

The Hurricanes had the third practice allotment behind Notre Dame and UT-Martin and just prior to host Iowa.

Seniors Stefanie Yderstrom and Morgan Stroman joined their eighth year head coach Katie Meier on the press conference podium. The trio discussed the two-week break between games and what they have been up to since the ACC tournament ended on March 8.

Then it was off to the practice floor in the last full session before taking on Iowa in Sunday’s first round matchup that is scheduled to tip at 7:35 on ESPN2.

Miami covered a lot of ground in their time on the court and Meier will have the team prepared when it takes on the Hawkeyes.

The rest of Saturday night will see the Canes visit Olive Garden for dinner before returning to the team hotel for the day’s final film session. Lights out will is set for 10:30 p.m. local time.

COACH BLUDER:  Well, it’s great to be at home.  Obviously this time of year, still in the NCAA Tournament but to be at home is pretty special.  This afternoon was kind of weird. I’m at home cleaning my kitchen, not sure if that’s what most coaches are doing at NCAA Tournament time.  That’s what I was doing.  The team is coming over tonight for dinner.  Unusual day for us, as far as NCAA Tournament goes, the day preceding those.

We are really looking forward to having the opportunity to host and have this tournament on our home court.  It’s a great privilege for us to be able to host.  I want to thank our administrators for doing all the extra work that has going in to putting on a tournament like this, securing the bid and then also all the work that they have done in putting on a first‑class tournament.

I think the fans, the Hawkeye fans that come out are going to see some great basketball, and they are going to enjoy this national tournament here in Iowa City. 

Q.  The seniors want to leave a legacy and now that you’re in NCAA Tournament time, advancing past the first round, what does winning a game mean to maybe how you guys want to end your career?

JAIME PRINTY:  Since I’ve been here we’ve only won one NCAA Tournament game, and that was my freshman year.  Being able to play at home and in front of our own fans and on our home court is a huge advantage for us, and we are all really excited.  I hope we come out and win this first one so we have a chance to play again at home.

MORGAN JOHNSON:  It’s an amazing opportunity, any opportunity to get to play here on this stage in March Madness is really extremely awesome.  We are excited to play that game and as seniors we want to go out of this building ‑‑ one at a time, but we are excited for them both.

Q.  What have you seen from their center, pretty solid player.

MORGAN JOHNSON:  She’s really tall.  She’s 6‑foot-6, and she moves her feet well, gets up‑and‑down on the floor really well so transitioning is going to be key against her.  She also likes to turn and get this quick shot.  She’s a good shooter and just being able to pressure her is going to be really important.

Q.  Their coach kind of talked about, she thought the way to shut down the Iowa offense is to keep you from distributing the ball.  Have you had teams do that?  How do you counter?

SAMANTHA LOGIC:  Well, I think you can’t really focus too much on one player on our team.  We have so many different weapons, so many different games, that I don’t think a team can really completely stop our team stopping one player.  You definitely have to use the tools that I have around me to get our offense going and keep everything under control.  They can try to; but, it’s not just one player on our team.

Q.  They are a pretty good offensive team, what are you going to have to do to counter that?

JAIME PRINTY:  We need to play the style of basketball we like to play and get each other involved and really have a variety in our offense.  They also like to press a lot, and we have been working on that a lot this week, breaking the press with confidence and taking care of the ball.  I think that will be huge this game.

SAMANTHA LOGIC:  I agree, I think we do a good job moving the ball ‑‑ if we keep moving well and break their press (inaudible).

Q.  Having these tournament games here at home, does that seem to increase the amount of time when you guys are out and about on campus or at the grocery store, whatever?  Do people mention this?  Does it strike you as more of a local happening?

JAIME PRINTY:  Yeah, I’ve been out and about and a lot of people have told me they are really excited to watch you go and how excited they are that we get to play at home; that they are going to not have to travel to come watch us play.  That’s exciting and hopefully we’ll get great support from our fan base.

SAMANTHA LOGIC:  It’s nice to have it close to home and also for a lot of us, not a far drive for families, and that helps out a lot, too.  But our fan base is great all the time and having a national tournament hosting it, definitely hope will increase that.

MORGAN JOHNSON:  We all went to the men’s game last night and got a big standing ovation.  You can tell that the Hawk fans are really here to support athletics, whether it’s men or women’s basketball.  They have been supporting us this whole time, whether it’s Tweets or on Facebook.  They have done a great job showing us they are here to support us all the way through.

Q.  It’s been 16 days since you’re last game, and I know Coach has been against a long layoff; the Miami people said they embraced the break, gotten a lot better.  What in your mind ‑‑

SAMANTHA LOGIC:  Well, we have focused on what was hurting us a lot, especially against Nebraska in the Big Ten Tournament like boxing out, which we’ll really need to focus on tomorrow.  We have been going through all of our stuff and everything like again.  On the defensive end, especially, I think we have been focusing on improving ourselves in that aspect.

MORGAN JOHNSON:  A lot of what Sam said; we worked on, everything, back to basics a little bit.  We just continued to grow with the program, go back to those basic fundamentals and work on those every day.  That’s been really good.

JAIME PRINTY:  A lot of times during the season we don’t have time to work on yourself because you’re always getting ready for the next opponent.  That’s what we could do when we didn’t know didn’t know who we were going to play yet, we focused on ourselves and worked on things that could make a difference in these upcoming games, so I’m pretty thankful for that.

Q.  At the men’s game, you were wearing ‑‑

MORGAN JOHNSON:  Yeah, everything’s completely fine.  It’s just totally precautionary.  Everything’s good. 

Q.  Before the end of the season, you lost five straight, you beat Indiana, Northwestern and you beat Northwestern again.  In that win streak there, did you start to see what we had seen from the team earlier this season?  Because it looked like with the struggles that was not looking good for your tournament hopes at that point.

COACH BLUDER:  Well, it’s all how you look at it.  I look at we won four of our last five; I look at it the other way around.  In our last four‑game stretch, we had two games against Top‑25 teams, and we had three games that were on the road, and we went 3‑1 in that series.  I think that’s really good.  At the end of the year, we got things together, played very well, ended up winning four of those five games, so I think things are good. 

Q.  So much of what any season comes down to is what is done in March.  How much do you talk about that?  Like Jaime said, you had the one victory when she was a sophomore.  How much do you talk about that; hey, let’s make a run or what do we do to make a run?

COACH BLUDER:  No, we don’t talk about making a run.  We talk about winning one game at a time and that’s all that really matters is the next game that we have ahead of us.  We are just happy to be playing at home.  Yes, we’d like to play two games at home, but right now it’s all about one game at a time.

Q.  What’s on the menu?  You said the team was coming over for dinner tonight.

COACH BLUDER:  Well, you know, some of the favorites.  I’ll give you a hint:  I’m not cooking, so they will like it, and they probably won’t get sick, so that’s good.  A little lasagna, a little chicken, good stuff.

Q.  You’ve had time to kind of spend a week on Miami, what’s the scouting report on them, without giving too much away.

COACH BLUDER:  They are an excellent defensive team by looking at their numbers. They are an excellent defensive and rebounding team.  Their center is very good.  She has been playing really well, especially in the last few games.  Her numbers have really gone up.  She has been shooting the ball very well in the paint.

Their press is something that we have got to be thinking of because it’s something they have done a lot of, and we have seen it on and off during the year, but not consistently.

 Q.  There’s a number of coaches who have kind of proposed the idea of playing the first couple of rounds ‑‑ home court situation.  Why is it important for a team to have the opportunity to host games?

COACH BLUDER:  Well, everybody complains that there’s not enough parity in women’s basketball, and this is the only way we are going to develop more parity is by having more home sites and not just the same 16 sites every year.

If we do that, that’s the way it used to be, and we went away from that because it wasn’t good for our sport, so I don’t know why we would go back to that and it wasn’t good and we went away from it.  I think we want to continue to grow our game.

We have to grow parity, and that means improving the teams that are 16‑100 or 16‑50, and those are some of those people that get to host now.  And the top‑16 are definitely getting their share of host opportunities, as well.

COACH MEIER:  Everything that has been done in the history of the sport, really neat for our players to understand the half court, how it started, so we are really embracing that.  We are very, very thrilled to be at such a classy site, so I want to thank the University of Iowa and the NCAA committee for the bracket.

 Unfortunately, we are a little bit used to playing on someone’s home court, and it’s not anything that is, you know, a detriment.  We love crowds.  We love playing in big moments, big games, and we have done it all year in the ACC.

So we are ready for this. We really feel, of all the teams, I think in the nation, we have had a long time since we have played a game, but it’s been great for us.  Sometimes I haven’t felt that way in this position, waiting so long to play an NCAA game.

But this particular team, and my entire coaching career, I’ve not had a team that wanted to get better so much.  Every opportunity they wanted to get better, they embraced, every practice:  Coach, let’s watch film; Coach can I have time; Coach, give me something to work on; Coach, what can I do differently in the NCAA Tournament that I wasn’t doing all year.  That’s my team.  They missed a lot of their spring break, spent a lot of time together, spent it in the gym and they have been happy.

For me, I know that we have done our job in terms of we are ready to play our best basketball of the year, and we know we have got a great opponent ahead of us in the University of Iowa.

Q.  Morgan, what have you seen in Iowa’s post play, specifically, Morgan Johnson?

MORGAN STROMAN:  They have really nice size and are versatile.  They can come out and shoot a 16‑, 17‑foot jumper, and that’s really all I’ve seen on film.  We are just going to use our quickness to beat that.

Q.  How do you excel playing a low game in the tournament?

STEFANIE YDERSTROM:  I feel great about it.  Like coach says, playing in front of a big crowd, and I’m just excited.  I’ve never been to Iowa before, and it’s something different, and that’s what the NCAA Tournament is about.  I’m excited.

MORGAN STROMAN:  Same, as well.  Just excited to be back playing.  It probably didn’t really matter where we were playing.  I am ready to play.  No more practice.

I love practice, though, but being out there on the court and with my teammates, it’s exciting to be back out there.

Q.  Coach Bluder has been pretty adamant the last few years about not liking the time away between the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA.  Seems like a lot of the big conferences, including the ACC, do play that same weekend.  You seem to be embracing it; how come?

 MORGAN STROMAN:  It’s just time to get better.  We have so much time off where we can have our team chemistry and get better individually and just enjoy the moment before we get in the game, but then you have that anxiety where you are just so ready to play again.

It has its ups and downs but it’s time to get better as a player and as a team.

STEFANIE YDERSTROM:  I agree, just embrace that opportunity to get better in the tournament.  Anything can happen so you have to get ready.  You can’t really change it, so you might as well just make the best out of it.

Q.  Coach, Iowa has been a little streaky.  In what you’ve seen, what is the key when they are playing well?

COACH MEIER:  I can’t tell you everything ‑‑ Samantha Logic is critically important.  That Purdue game, they are unbeatable when she plays that way.

I thought that was one of the best responses by a women’s basketball team the entire season, where they had their backs against the wall, coming off a five‑game losing streak, and their demeanor and mentality.  They were so determined to win that game, and that’s what kind of launched them into the postseason.

I look for stuff like that.  I have a ton of admiration for a coach and coaching staff that can get their kids off the mat like that and get that response, at Purdue.  That was by far her most incredible game of the year.  That’s the first thing that jumps out at me is her play.

Q.  You’ve beaten Duke and Penn State; when you’re playing well, what in particular are you doing well?

COACH MEIER:  You know, details, communication and toughness, that’s it.  So we have a young backcourt.  We’ve been spoiled the four years prior; I knew who had the ball and I didn’t have to call many plays, or they made it on the fly.

This year, it’s been in the details and communication.  Those things go hand-in-hand, the communication, a quiet team is a certain team, a loud team is a certain team, and that’s where we fluctuate, and that’s when we don’t play well versus we do play well.

Our toughness is something that I think, you know, there’s no question in those particular games and games where we really, you know, let’s just say out played our ranking or something like that, we were tough as nails.

Q.  I think you have some ties to the University of Iowa, some siblings.  Can you explain that?

COACH MEIER:  I don’t know if you want to know this ‑‑ I wanted to come here.  My high school coach, he had to bring me in ‑‑ I have two sisters ‑‑ well, anyway, I could give you a whole bio.  But, Brady Bunch:  Widow and widower got married, eight of us, and two of them matched up as twins and they went through school.  I had two sisters that graduated that both came here and then I had a brother that’s two years older than me that came here.

I spent a lot of time here.  I did all the trips in the van with mom and dad.  True story, my high school coach said:  I think you’re kind of good, because some schools are looking at you, where do you want to go and I said, University of Iowa, because I was so close with my family, and I had so many siblings.  Iowa was great at the time but I probably wasn’t good enough ‑‑ I’m not bitter ‑‑ (laughter).

Q.  Who happened to be the coach at Iowa?

COACH MEIER:  Coach Stringer.  I still have the letter ‑‑ no, just kidding, I don’t.  (Laughing).