BYU women's basketball met with media representatives today prior to taking the floor at Pinnacle Bank Arena for its 90-minute practice.
Coach Jeff Judkins
"First of all, we're excited to be here. It's something that my team has really never experienced, except for probably me since a few years ago we went to the Sweet 16, so we're excited to make it this far. We feel very excited about it, and I think we want to come out and play our kind of basketball and prove to not just UConn, but a lot of other people that we have a very good team and a great league. I know my team's been waiting for this a long time. We're excited to be here in Lincoln. This is a beautiful facility and it's really a great basketball town. We'll come out and get ready to go. We're excited for the competition, playing the number one team. I have a lot of respect for Geno (Auriemma), I've known him for a long time. He's what everybody is trying to emulate a little bit, so it'll be a great challenge for us."
On how daunting it is to play a team that's won 42 consecutive games
"It's very intimidating. They’ve been here every year, so they're not nervous or excited probably as much as we are. I just have to get my team to come out and play their game and not worry about that. I think this is what basketball is all about. Basketball is a crazy game that way. Anybody on any given night, a team can be off, foul trouble, injury, some team can be really on, so you just don’t know. They’ve definitely dominated this year, really the last two years. I was fortunate a few years ago to play against them with their really good team they had with Maya Moore and (Renee) Montgomery. We hung with them for a while and then their experience and talent ended up getting us, but my girls have heard it. I've tried telling them as a coach to just go out there, play your game and not worry about it and we'll see what happens."
On the anticipated reception he expects to receive from Nebraska fans after beating Nebraska in the previous round
"I hope we're not the villain. I hope they cheer for us and realize that we played a great game and Nebraska, their team is awesome. I was really impressed with them watching them and definitely playing them. Like I said, basketball is crazy, that's why you just never know, but I hope that they cheer for us and support us, know that we beat their team and that hopefully we can get some good fan support and get some energy. It's hard, it's really hard to beat somebody and their season is over with, because every team that gets to the NCAA Tournament is a very good team. You’ve had a lot of success for the past five months, and then all of sudden it comes down to two weeks, three weeks. But we're excited to be here. We've heard a lot about this arena. We heard a lot about being in the Big Ten, the tradition that Nebraska has and I know (Nebraska Head Coach) Connie (Yori) said to me 'Hey, I'll be at your game and I'll be cheering for you,' so I'm excited about that and hopefully we can represent our area very well.
On making it to the Sweet 16 and the task ahead in facing UConn
"First of all, nobody thought we'd be here or we wouldn’t have been rated 12th. We beat a really good North Carolina State team that I thought was very well-coached and the best inside players that I've seen in a long time, and then we turnaround and play Nebraska which was totally the opposite. They were more a perimeter team. Execution, ran their stuff, went through mismatches. Both teams defensively were different. North Carolina State was aggressive on us. Nebraska tried to play the percentages and pack it in, so we really had to come through this area in a totally different way. Would I want to play UConn now? No. I'd rather play them for the championship game and know we got to the Final Four, but everybody knows that you have to go through UConn to win a championship right now in women's basketball. You play them now or you play them in the championship, you're gonna have to eventually meet them."
On how daunting of a task it is to face UConn
Eaton: “Obviously, it is a task; they’re a great team and coached very well. I think that we have to focus on ourselves and prepare ourselves as much as we can to go out there and compete. That’s all it really comes down to. You can’t get caught up in all of the outside things. We have to focus on the moment and realize that it only takes one day, it only takes one game.”
On the blocking capabilities of both teams
Hamson: “Shot blocking is my favorite part of the game; I love it. The big thing is that my team is good too. In our last few games we’ve had well-rounded blocked shots and stuff. UConn is good at it too. They have the size and the ability. I think it will be fun to see how it goes. At least we are used to it a little bit playing it at practice against each other.”
On if they draw inspiration on the NC State game years ago
Beeston: “It’s funny that you say that because we’ve actually talked about it quite a bit. We’ve talked about it and anything can happen in one night. It’s just a matter of us going out there and playing our best and doing all that we can to showcase our talents and why we’re here. I think we’ve kind of been underrated the whole season so it has been really nice to come to such an incredible tournament and be able to be playing our best basketball. I really do think that we kind of peaked at the perfect time, so we’re excited.”
On the challenges of being a two-sport athlete with basketball and track
Eaton: “For me it’s not really too much of a challenge just because I feel like high jump and basketball are so complementary of each other. Two years ago I was told to take a break, but after a couple days I didn’t want to sit around anymore so I just got right into it. I find it very complementary and the coaches are very good about supporting me with that. All that matters is just staying healthy. As long as I’m healthy, I can do high jump. The university is very supportive of two-sport athletes. Jennifer plays volleyball and they really make it work. If you are good enough to do both then they say why not.”
On what UConn will do to take her out of her groove
Hamson: “They might do a couple of things. Things a lot of teams try to do is push me out and get me far away from the block. Other teams will double team; they will front me and have someone play behind as well. People have played me that way before so I’m just excited to see what they’re going to do and just be ready for it.”
On if the team expected to be where they are right now when they first saw thebracket
Beeston: “Obviously, we hoped for the best. We knew that both NC State and Nebraska were great teams. I’d never imagined ever playing UConn. Getting here has been just the perfect way to go out, both Jennifer and I are seniors. It couldn’t mean more to be playing such a high caliber team. More than anything, I think that we just want to go out and prove that we can play with the big dogs. As far as thinking that we’d be here for the tournament, I think that we didn’t necessarily know that we’d be in the Sweet 16, but we knew that we could come in and make some noise in this tournament. That’s what we’re doing.”
On if volleyball’s rising popularity is diluting basketball talent
Hamson: “I’m not so sure, I wouldn’t know the answer but it could be. I know that, for my high school at least, if you were tall then you’d play volleyball since we had such a great program there. Sometimes I think it can be that way but, I don’t know, I think there’s a lot of girls out there who just love the game of basketball. You know, you do what you do.”
On the reception of their team on campus
Beeston: “It’s been great. They’ve been so supportive and more than I actually realize, which is so great. Like you said, a lot of people have been stopping and congratulating our team and how well we’ve been doing. It’s been fun to see that support from the university.”
On being the Cinderella team and get media attention in preparation for a nationally televised game
Eaton: “It’s been really special for us and we’re really excited for the exposure to get BYU’s name out there and just to really show what we’re all about and what BYU’s all about. It makes it a huge experience. We’ve been a part of the NIT before, and it’s nothing like this. The NCAA Tournament is really special and we want to make it special.”
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