POSTGAME QUOTES – South Dakota State

 

Aaron Johnston, South Dakota State Head Coach:

 

Opening statement:

“Congratulations to South Carolina. They played well. They’re a really great team and really well coached. They’ve got really good players in a lot of positions. They get people in the right spots and they don’t make a lot of mistakes. We had a 10-minute stretch where we let it get away from us, and I never thought we recovered. We got spread out in our half-court defense and gave up some shots that were too easy. Offensively, we got unraveled, missed shots, and committed some turnovers. We said in our press conference [yesterday] that we’d have to play well to win, and today we didn’t play that well. Some of that is us, and some of that is South Carolina. That’s the way the game went”

 

On the 10-minute mark in the first half, when South Carolina started to extend their lead:

“South Carolina’s really good, and they make a lot of plays. They have players who can make plays, regardless of what the offense or defense looks like. I think they deserve a lot of credit for that. On our side of the ball, we might have over-coached a little bit. We tried to change some things, and none of those changes were as effective as we hoped they’d be. Our half-court man-to-man defense wasn’t that bad. That was probably when we were at our best. In that 10-minute stretch, we played a little more zone and were a little more aggressive. That probably didn’t help us, and some of that falls back on me for some of the choices I made there. Looking at the stats, they got 52 shots, and we got 52 shots. They made eight more than we did. They made one more three than us and six more free throws. We talked about the offensive rebounds. They only had eight offensive rebounds, which is a low number for them. It was a 22-point game, so it wasn’t one of those that just got away from us in the end. At the same time, there were things we did well. They were just better than we were, so they kind of masked up some of the things we did well.”

 

On the difficulty of winning the first round as a 13 seed in the NCAA tournament:

“It’s a challenge. Our first year, we were a 7 seed, and that’s a much better position to be in, in terms of who we were playing against. When you’re one of those 13, 14 or 15 seeds, you’re going to be playing top-20 teams. We’ve played them in the regular season, but obviously, playing them is much more difficult than playing a team that’s 40th. We’ve played the kind of non-conference schedule that it takes to get a better seed, but the difference between a 13 seed, and say, a 10 seed is probably just two wins for us. We’re not talking about having to go back and reshape and redesign everything we do. It’s just a couple more wins in our non-conference games, or in our conference. Then you get into these games, and you just have to play better. I still don’t think we’ve played a great game yet in the NCAA tournament. As you mentioned, as a 13 or 14 seed, we can play great and still lose, because the teams we’re playing are so good. I think it’s OK for our players and coaches to feel good about what we’ve done, and still be disappointed that we haven’t taken that next step. I think that’s how we probably should feel, and we’ll keep plugging away until we get there.”

 

On the graduating seniors on his team:

“Ashley [Eide], Katie [Lingle], and Leah [Dietel] have been rocks for us. Ashley was a 1,000-point scorer, and her numbers show the kind of player she was. Katie and Leah never really had the numbers that Ashley had, but they’re a couple of tough-minded leaders. All three of them played a lot throughout their careers. They’ve been a part of a lot of wins. This year they won 25 games. I know it’s been a while since we won 25 games. A lot of people feel like it’s just a given. South Carolina’s got 25 wins too. It doesn’t mean that we’re the same team, but my point is that it’s hard to win 25 games. Those seniors helped us do that. I feel like we’re in a better position now than a year ago after we lost in the NCAA tournament. I can find a lot of ways we’ve improved. Some of them showed up today, and some of them didn’t. Those three seniors have helped us move forward, and we’ve talked a lot about that throughout the year.”

 

On giving his seniors the opportunity to play in the NCAA tournament four years in a row:

“It’s the other way around. I think they give that to us. I don’t know that we always keep that in mind. As coaches and people in athletics, we take too much credit, and it’s the other way around. We wouldn’t be sitting here talking about four or five in a row if it weren’t for our players. They’re the ones that bring that to us and to our fans. They create those opportunities. It’s great to be a part of that and to work with people who are so committed to doing things right in so many different areas of their lives. That puts them in the position to be great players too. I enjoy working with people who have that kind of dedication. These seniors have that, and no doubt, our future players will have that too.“

 

On how he will fill the departing seniors’ roles and continue winning:

“We really do have good players coming. Our next two classes are excellent, and we’re kind of done with adding players to those classes. We’ve got young players who are ready to take big steps forward. Megan Stuart, Mariah Clarin are a couple of them. Gabby Boever and Megan Waytashek are only sophomores. We bring back Tara [Heiser] next year, who’s a senior. Steph Paluch is a senior who sat out this year. Hannah Strop’s going to be a great senior. I feel really good about the future. The one thing we lose with these seniors is that toughness. I’m not saying we don’t have that next year, but it’s easy to see talent. We’ve got a lot of that coming. You just don’t know if you’re going to have that toughness. That’s something that has to play itself out. I know we lost that this year. I know we can get it, but I can’t say that for sure next year. That would be my biggest concern going forward.”

 

PLAYERS

Katie Lingle, South Dakota State Center:

 

On the way the game played out:

“They were just really getting to the basket and making layups. We were fouling them so they were making free throws too. That was about it.”

 

On second chance points:

“I think they are just a really tough team on the boards. Some of those girls average three or four boards a game. It is nothing different. If we were to do it over I would just say we need to be tougher. There is not much else you can do on rebounds. It is a battle and one person is going to get the board and the other is not.”

 

 

On reaching the NCAA Tournament four years in a row:

“It has been an incredible experience. Honestly I have been so lucky to play for coach AJ and all the other coaches and for such a great program, especially my teammates, who have been like a family. I couldn’t ask for a better group of friends or a better school in general. Just making it to this point has been special. Playing with these girls you want your season to go on as long as possible because we have so much fun and we all love each other.”

 

Ashley Eide, South Dakota State Guard:

 

On matching South Carolina’s early aggression:

“Early on we came out with a lot of aggressiveness and we had a lot of ball pressure. Around that 10 minute mark [in the first half] we were not as aggressive defensively. They started getting more layups, more penetration and more fouls. They were getting a lot of easy shots and we were not making our shots.”

 

On playing her final game:

“It is just a really emotional time. We are very fortunate and blessed to have this experience like we did. That coming to an end is a tough situation. I love everyone here to death so thank you very much.”

 

On the fan support:

“It was very special. We have had a great fan base. Everyone has supported us. They were here today and it means a lot that they would make the trip out. It is not an easy thing to do. I just want to thank them for everything they have done for us.”

 

Tara Heiser, South Dakota State Guard:

 

On what they expected from South Carolina:

“We knew coming into the game that they were a team that was very aggressive attacking the hoop. I wouldn’t say that they were quicker than what we thought about them. Our game-plan was to try and keep them in front of us. They just got too many open looks and layups.”

 

On looking ahead to next season:

“We are going to miss Ashley [Eide], Katie [Lingle] and Leah [Dietel]. It is always difficult at the end of the year to say goodbye to the seniors. I think we have a good team below us. We have some good recruits coming that can help us fill these girls’ spots. One thing we are looking for is taking that next step for our program. I think today we did do that. The result was not exactly what we wanted, but I would say we are in progress to that next step.”