Caitlin Clark and the Hawkeyes talk Sweet Sixteen with the media

On3 imageby:Kyle Huesmann03/23/23

HuesmannKyle

Q. Caitlin, a lot of opposing coaches have talked about your passing a lot recently. I’m curious, it seems pretty obvious you can work on shooting individually, but how do you work on becoming a better passer?

CAITLIN CLARK: Yeah, I think it’s not really something you can just go into the gym and work on. I think I’m lucky enough to play at a school where we go into practice every day and we compete. We play a lot of live basketball, and I think that’s the best way to get better at a lot of things.

Even working on lowering my turnover numbers, I think that was a huge thing is just playing basketball. We always play pickup in the summer when you can’t work out with your coaches as much. So I think that’s the biggest thing.

But honestly, I played soccer from a very young age and I think understanding angles and reading angles is something that helps your passing. I’m able to anticipate a lot of things and know where I need to get my teammates the ball and on time. So I think understanding angles and anticipation is just like the biggest two things that help me be a good passer.

Q. Gabbie, you and the other two starters, other than Monika and Caitlin, have really taken on big roles this season and over the last couple seasons, they have grown. How have you been able to grow into that role to help kind of elevate this team?

GABBIE MARSHALL: I think, obviously, people are going to focus on Monika and Caitlin, as they should, and I think, really, it’s harder for teams to guard us when we have bigger roles and we know that. I think especially after that Maryland game at Maryland, we knew that we had to step up and we had to knock down shots. They were focusing on Monika and Caitlin, and the supporting cast had to step up.

So I think we’ve done a great job at it, and Monika and Caitlin are great at finding us and giving us the confidence to knock down the shots when we’re open.

Q. I know coach was talking about how Georgia and Colorado play different types of defense, but is there anything that you can take from that Georgia game and playing a team that really prides itself defensively into the game tomorrow?

MONIKA CZINANO: Yeah, I think we all talk about kind of how lucky we are to have this path in the NCAA tournament. I think defensively they all do a great job. Obviously I’m a little bit more focused on post play, but Georgia plays with two bigs, so does Colorado. That’s not something we normally see in the Big Ten very often.

So having that aspect, just having a lot of height down there in the paint kind of clogging it up, I think we’re really lucky to have played Georgia and have that experience under our belt for Colorado. But it’s just going to be a physical game. They’re going to try to speed us up a lot. Just kind of playing how we know we can play is going to be huge for us.

Q. You just talked about how you faced Georgia last week. They played two centers. Colorado does the same thing. What similarities do you see from those two? And how does the matchup just all together kind of be similar to last week?

MONIKA CZINANO: I think it is super similar. I think that for me and Mckenna having that under our belts, just the physicality of it more than anything. When you play with two centers, we both have to box out harder, crash harder, all these different things, and it kind of adjusts our game a little bit, adjusts our shots a little bit. So having that under our belt, just kind of having a sense for the physicality of it, is really helpful for us.

Q. Someone asked Coach Bluder what game was kind of a trigger for you, a turning point, what win, and she said it was the Maryland loss just before the Indiana game and all that. How was that a turning point and how were you able to get things rolling again after that?

CAITLIN CLARK: I would totally agree with Coach Bluder. I think that loss kind of stung a bit. We understood a lot of people are going to go back and watch that film and have a blueprint of how to beat Iowa. We knew we needed to change some things to be able to not let teams guard us like that.

We were happy we got another shot at Maryland to show you can’t just take two players out of the game and beat us. I think Gabbie and McKenna, Kate, even our bench play Hannah, Sydney, Molly, I think they have all stepped up in big ways and I think we all understand too that if we want to win two games here, we’re going to need everybody. It can’t just be a couple people. It’s got to be all five players on the floor at one time.

Whether that shows up in the box score or not, you need to be dialed in and do your role. But would I totally agree with Coach. I think it was the Maryland loss. Everybody knew that we had to elevate our games to a different level. And understanding people are going to watch that film and think they have a way to beat us, and I think we understand it now that — we have seen about every defense you can throw at us, jump, zone, man-to-man, pressure, full court, every press. So I think finding confidence, and we’ve been successful versus basically every defense. It’s just executing who we are.

Q. Caitlin, I know you’re probably not focused on the scoring record right now, but since we are in Seattle, I’m curious if you have met Kelsey Plum, if you have a friendship with her, and the similarities that you see between the two of your games.

CAITLIN CLARK: No, I’ve never Kelsey Plum, but I’m a huge fan. Obviously, an amazing college player and more amazing pro and NCAA all-time leading scorer, led Washington to the Final Four. So somebody I really admire. But I did not make that connection. But she is tremendous. I love watching her play. I think she plays with a fire, a passion, that I try to play with and emulate.

So definitely somebody I love having on the TV and obviously I feel like she’s taken her game to the next level every single year. So she’s been fun to watch and kind of one of my idols.

Q. For Caitlin or Gabbie, how does their guard, Sherrod, impact their play on both ends?

GABBIE MARSHALL: Yeah, she’s really fast and quick. She loves defense. She’s going to get up in your shorts. She’s going to pressure the ball. She’s going to try to get in your head. She’s going to run through passing lanes. But I feel like we — it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. She plays with a lot of energy and passion, and she is that leader for their team. She’s going to drive in the paint hard and she’s going to find her posts, but I think if we just really lock down on defense and play hard, we’ll be fine.

Q. Curious about your soccer comment. What position did you play and what was kind of your style?

CAITLIN CLARK: Definitely not defense. I was the forward. I scored the goals. But soccer was the first ever sport I played and I actually played all the way through my sophomore year of high school. It was really hard to give up, but in Iowa, soccer is in the spring, which was when AAU basketball was, so I had to make a decision.

I honestly probably could have gone on and played DI soccer too, but decided basketball’s probably going to be a better route for me and it worked out well, but I definitely miss it. I had a lot of fun watching the World Cup and stuff. But do I give it a lot of credit for foot quickness, reading passing angles, things like that. So I loved getting to play it, and it was the first-ever sport I played.

Q. Monika, how will having Hannah back help with that double-post defense?

MONIKA CZINANO: Oh, it will be such a tremendous help. I just think that — I’ve said it so many times today, but it’s so true, that Hannah having the ability to come in at the 5 just throws a type of offense at the defense that they’re probably not used to seeing. I’m such a traditional back to the basket post. I never dribble, really, if I can help it, and Hannah dribbles. It’s so dynamic. Such a great rebounder.

So I think it just gives the defense two completely different looks that they have to be ready for. So having her back is so, so helpful in that regard.

Q. Caitlin, you guys are focused on March Madness, but there’s always a lot of conversation around you and Aliyah Boston and the debate for Player of the Year. I was curious if you knew Aliyah at all and what you kind of think of the conversations that go on around that award.

CAITLIN CLARK: Yeah, I do know Aliyah. She was my teammate on USA Basketball. I think the debate is really good for women’s basketball. But I think I’m focused on winning games and really — I understand the people that vote for those awards, those are just their opinions and things like that, it’s not all of America casting their votes on who they think should win National Player of the Year. And really the only opinions I care about are my teammates and my coaches and what I have of myself and the confidence I have in myself. But like I said, I think Dawn Staley said it really well last year, we need these conversations for our game. That’s what grows it. It shouldn’t just be one person, end all, be all. It should be, there should be conversations. Because that’s what hence the game grow. You see it on men’s side all the time. You never know who is going to win Player of the Year, things like that. So more than anything I think it’s really good for our game, but at the same time I’m just focused on getting my team to Dallas.

Q. Caitlin, you’re really introspective on stuff like this. Colorado’s the closest team here. They still had to come 1,300 miles. With the two sites, nobody’s close to Seattle, just your thought on what maybe could be done to make this format a little bit better?

CAITLIN CLARK: Yeah, I mean, obviously this is really new, so I think it’s a learning experience for all of us. I liked Seattle so far. I get to play in the arena that Sue Bird gets to play in or played in. I think that’s pretty cool. But I don’t know, I think there’s going to be a ton of women’s basketball fans here in general, I think. This is a city that supports women’s basketball. Sure, would I love to be closer to the Midwest where it was a drivable distance for Iowa fans? Absolutely. But say if Washington was here right now I’m sure they would say the opposite. So I’m not going to complain about being in the Sweet 16, I’m honestly just really happy to be here. But would I love it if it was in Iowa City? Yeah. But it’s not. But I’m just here, I’m ready to play basketball, doesn’t really matter where it’s at.

Q. Your — in your region, there’s been upset. Duke lost, Stanford lost, Texas lost. All on their home court. Instead of taking that as, hey, look at the way our region just opened up for us to make a run at the Final Four, is it more kind of a maybe kind of another thing to get you focused on, hey, if we don’t bring our best game, this region has already had a lot of upsets and we could be the next one?

CAITLIN CLARK: Yeah, I think, absolutely. And I think we understand that really well. We lived that last year when we lost in our home court. So it’s sometimes hard to watch other teams go through that, but I think that’s what makes March Madness the best season or the best post-season tournament in all of sports. There are those upsets, there’s Cinderella teams, there’s teams going into 1-seeds and knocking ’em off. That’s just going to draw more people to the game. That’s what’s going to have people talking about the game. I think more than anything it gives us an understanding if you don’t come ready to play you’re going to go home and I think that’s what makes this tournament so fun.

Q. You teased it already, but you landed, you had a little bit of fun in Seattle and you just came off of practice. So two-parter question: How did it feel to walk into the arena and onto the court for this practice and then what’s it been like for you in Seattle so far?

GABBIE MARSHALL: I think it’s a special feeling. Obviously there’s 16 teams left and we’re one of the 16 teams that gets to still be playing basketball. So I think, honestly, we’re just excited for Friday and just blessed to be here and just happy to be here, honestly.

MONIKA CZINANO: It’s a beautiful city. We got to go to the gum wall last night which was kind of fun. This is the furthest West — or we went to Portland, but second time furthest west I’ve ever been. I think a lot of people on our team are similar to that. So we’re having a lot of fun. It’s a really special trip. It’s definitely a business trip, but it’s cool. Our coaching staff does a good job of kind of letting us see the culture of the places we go to a little bit. So it’s really fun and we’re really looking forward to the game.

CAITLIN CLARK: I think the arena is awesome too. It’s built down into the ground, right, like Carver Hawkeye Arena. It’s got good vibes then.

Q. When you were talking about the Maryland loss being that turning point. Was that something where it was like a spoken thing, like the team had a get together and really just discussed how you move forward, or are you all just so kind of connected that it was almost unspoken where you just knew what you needed to do to move forward. How do you specifically come together after that?

MONIKA CZINANO: I think it was a little bit of both. I think it was honestly embarrassing what happened to us at Maryland and we all knew. When you get 30 pieced on the road it’s not fun. So I think it was kind of a group thing. Obviously we had meetings with Coach Bluder and stuff and our coaching staff does such a good job of kind of routing our focus. And we had Indiana coming up, which is another big matchup. So I think it was just, we talked about it, yeah, but all of us knew we needed to change if we wanted to make it further than we’ve ever been before. So, yeah, a mix of both.

CAITLIN CLARK: And Maryland’s a tremendous team, let me add.

MONIKA CZINANO: Yes, yes.

CAITLIN CLARK: You know, it’s always fun getting to compete against them and they’re a very hard team to play on the road. I think we understood that and I think we just understood that wasn’t an accurate representation of what our team is. I think wanting to change that — and I believe our season could have gone one of two ways when we played Indiana at home. We weren’t playing for a Big-10 regular season title anymore, but the game still meant the same to us. We were coming in there to win for our seniors on Senior Day in front of a sold-out Carver, our fans still showed up for us. And we won on a buzzer-beating shot but we felt like we played a dominating game against them the whole time. I think we’ve been able to ride that momentum throughout the Big-10 tournament, the first two games of the NCAA tournament and we’re bringing that here too.

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