Dec. 29, 2012
Lindsay Gottlieb Opening Statement:
"Obviously this wasn't the best offensive display of basketball that we've had. But I was proud of our team that even not on our best night, when we didn't have our best stuff, I thought that we battled through and I thought we had to do that. When we did it collectively really well. I thought that early on, as really great players tend to do, you want to do it all yourself and I thought it took us a while to get into a flow. But hopefully we will get that little bit of a Christmas hangover away from us and learn something from this because we know we have a really big stretch coming up. I will say that George Washington came out here and played really hard. Jonathan Tsipis is their first year coach, but it's not surprising to me how hard they play; he is one of the best in the game. I think he is doing a great job and I know they will be very successful in the Atlantic 10. So we were glad to have them out here and are looking forward to getting better from this game."
Coach you had to call a quick timeout within the first three minutes of the second half, obviously, but they did seem to come back.
Gottlieb: "We talked at half time about having a seventeen point lead, but not feeling like were controlling the game enough, not feeling like we were having enough fun. I know that sounds kind of silly, but we're at our best when we are generating that kind of spirit. And I thought that we had too many lulls. Sometimes you are going to miss shots, we actually shot the ball really well in the first half, sometimes you are going to have some calls go against you, but we have to have a consistency of demeanor and effort. So I thought we came out of the start of that second half wanting to do that, but it didn't quite go our way in the first couple of minutes so I wanted to end that quickly and just get them refocused. I thought our seniors in particular kind of lead that charge. I thought Eliza (Pierre) gave us great energy minutes; she can do that better then anybody in the country. And I thought these guys, Layshia (Clarendon) and Talia (Caldwell) fed off of that as well as the team. It wasn't our prettiest, but we think there are some good things to take away from it."
It seemed like after the timeout that they closed to within eleven, you tried to get your offense going but the defense really seemed to pick up a bit. Is that something that being an elite team they realized or was a key substitution that sparked that?
Gottlieb: "I think they have a really good feeling and understanding that when you're not in a good flow offensively, the best thing to do, the easiest thing to do, the most effective thing to do is to just dig in on defense because you get out of your comfort zone that way. If your shots aren't falling you can still talk on defense, you can still get into a stance. And for us, the way that we play, we're best in transition, so we know if we are going to get stops it's going to lead to easy looks on the other end and I think that's what happened."
You've seen a lot of zone here in these nonconference games, is that what you expected coming into this season now and how are you going to respond to that looking forward to conference play?
Gottlieb: "Last year I got the job, you want to put in your offense, you want to put in your system, and we probably spent 80% of our time working on man-to-man offenses, and then we saw 90% of zone last year. So coming into this year I know no one can match up with our post players, we have very fast guards, so we know we are going to face a lot of zone, and I think we average a lot of points. I think we are successful against zones, I think we are confident against zones. I thought tonight GW mixed up their defenses pretty well and I think it kept us off balance a little bit. I think we never quite got into the offensive flow that we wanted to, but I wouldn't attribute that to them playing zone and we weren't ready for that. We're always ready for zone. I think it was more just GW doing a great job changing things and us never feeling exactly comfortable, which may be expected with a week off."
To the players, you guys came in with high expectations of California and now you have the best start in program history, just your path from where you were your freshman season, WNIT Champions, to where you are now, do you guys have any feelings or emotions about it?
Clarendon (Layshia): "It means a lot. Sometimes I'm a little bit taken aback by it when I'm like wow we're number eight in the country. I know rankings are relative, but just kind of the struggle that we've been through, I think we appreciate it so much more, especially as us four that have been here, the seniors, just seeing that process through that kind of underachieving a little bit, being WNIT Champions sophomore year, and then last year beginning to pick up. So to see it coming into place is a really good feeling."
Gottlieb: "I can just speak to how proud I am of this senior group. I think that they would agree with me, we're only just beginning. I mean no one is satisfied with a good start, I think we know that the important stuff is ahead of us. But what I am so proud of is that they make it look ordinary, they make it look routine, and they have changed the mindset of everybody in the program. We just expect now to step out on the floor and win games and practice at a certain level and I think that says a lot about who they are. I am not surprised at all. I knew them as high school players; I knew the class that Joann (Boyle) brought in, what potential they had and I just think it was such a disservice to them when people called them underachievers and things like that; it just wasn't their time yet. They went through some rough spots and now they've embraced this moment and I think everything that came before it and when you have that perspective from these very bright and personable young women, I think they almost appreciate every moment more so. It will be interesting for Boyd (Brittany) and Gray (Reshanda) and Hartman (Justine) who come in only knowing this. That's a different experience for them, which I'm glad, but I think these guys bring a really good perspective because of some of the rough times."
Talia, I know that the guards get a lot of attention on this team from the national level, but the forwards and the posts are really the ones who anchor this team with the rebounding, in my opinion, and there will be a target on your back during Pac-12 play. How does that change your mindset? As a senior, what does that mean going into Pac-12 play?
Caldwell (Talia): "I haven't been trying to think about Pac-12 play until now because it was like every game is the most important game. It just feels good to get through preseason one chunk at a time. So now, looking forward to the Pac-12 I mean as a team, we know our identity, the posts rebound, we have a great floor rotation, everyone is great, and we compete hard in practice. We just know what we do and we know that we need to do it better and that we need to do it cleaner and harder and just be consistent all year, keep that same energy and love and enjoy the game.
You're not lacking confidence, a 10 and 1 start actually makes it a little easier for you to enter conference now and say okay we played some ranked teams, we're going to be playing a lot of ranked teams coming up, is that the confidence that you needed to make the 10 and 1 start?
Caldwell: "I think it's more about knowing that we handled business. Of course the duke wasn't our best showcase and we know we'll see them again or a team of that caliber, but it's more about we handled our business. Not looking at this as a whole, but each game are we getting better? And I feel like we've been getting better and working harder in practice, both with coach pushing us harder in different ways. We've already had a season already in this preseason. That's what feels really good. Seeing adjustments in games like this where it isn't our prettiest, we'll look at film and tweak new things and get better at new things. It was just a good process and a way to get the job done."
Lindsay when you first saw the conference schedule and saw at Utah, at Colorado, Stanford and at Stanford, that's got to be as tough as possible of as anybody. But for three games in five days how do you prepare for matchup, and deal with the fatigue and stress involved?
Gottlieb: "I think just going back to the previous questions, we've prepared them the best that we could with this nonconference schedule. The basketball IQ on this team is the highest that I have ever coached and they understand and I can look at them and say when we get on a plane and go to Utah that hey we've gone to Northwestern and played a tough game. Then we take the next plane to Colorado and say we've drove three hours from Old Dominion to Duke, we've done these kinds of things before. But I think with this nonconference schedule we've tried to challenge them in different ways and the best thing that we can do heading into this tough stretch is say that we need to raise up our level, but we are also ready for this. And that's been kind of the mentality all year, not cockiness but hey we're setting these goals because we are ready and then now as Talia said, I push them harder to say if this is what we want, we have to do these things in practice. So it's a tough stretch. I knew Utah and Colorado were going to be good, I've been really impressed with how they have come out and beat people. Last year we the mountain trip, we knew it was really hard, we came away with two wins, but we recognize how good they are and then obviously coming back and playing Stanford, the number one team in the country. We are looking forward to it. It will be hard but we're really looking forward to that challenge. I think these guys step up when the stakes are highest."
It seems like you guys have multiple people who can step up at different times. Boyd seemed to have a little bit of an off game tonight and I saw you had pulled her out of the game and you and coach Smith (Charmin) talked to her briefly. What did you say to her?
Gottlieb: "We have a young point guard. I talk to her as much as I possibly can, it's part of the growth process and she's very receptive to that. What I was talking to her tonight about was that she's made herself and elite player and so just having her handle the ebb and flow of the game. If her shots aren't falling, if calls aren't going her way, still being that leader on the floor and that the team relies on that and she was really responsive to that. I thought she bounced back and made some really critical lays. But we talk to all of them. You feel like those learning opportunities are so huge when you have a young point guard and I love that about Brittany. She likes that coaching."
Eliza (Pierre) was causing all sorts of havoc out there. What's it like going up against her in practice? Is she always like that causing all kinds of problems for you guys?
Clarendon: "That's one of the great things about our team. Coach always says that if you can score against Eliza you can score against anyone in the country, with our post players, if you can box out Gennifer Brandon then you can box out Chiney (Ogwumike). So having that high caliber of players, like someone who stop me on defense you can play anyone in the country. It means a lot and it goes a long way, so I think it just makes us that much better to have those high caliber players in our practice. We also go against guys and we go against each other to which is even harder. We know the play, we know what we're going to do, we've kind of been doing that lately and I like it. It really challenges us."
You guys can probably be considered legitimate challengers for the Pac-12 championship this year but are there any specific goals, other than the Pac-12 Title, specific goals for the team, or benchmarks, or individual goals for the players?
Gottlieb: "I always talk about trying to be the best version of Cal Basketball that we can be. That we have such a special group, talent wise and chemistry, that we do ourselves a disservice if we are any less than reaching our potential. What that is, who knows? But we have set goals to win a championship and I say that with all due respect to the number one team in the nation who has won umpteen championships in a row, and five straight final fours. There is no one who respects them more. I'm never surprised when they beat other teams because we know how good they are. But that's the goal that we've set. In addition to that, we want to go as deep into the post season as we can possibly go. I have said to them that we want to go until somebody beats us, not until `was that a final four? I hope so.' `Is that an elite eight?' I feel like we walked into Notre Dame, into South Bend last year and they beat us. They were really good and we gave them a challenge, but I didn't feel like `Oh gosh we let that one get away.' We want to get to the point where we match up with someone and they have to give it everything they have to knock us off and I hope that's never because I think this team has unlimited potential. But we're first talking about the Utah game and then we're talking about getting better the next day and then Colorado, and they have been so good at focusing on the moment that makes talk about a championship relevant because you can't do any of that if you don't take care of business in these first eleven games and now the next stretch that we have coming up."
Given that you finished the nonconference part of the schedule, is there anything about this team that has exceeded your expectations? Or are they ahead of where you thought would be when you first got together?
Gottlieb: "I am very conscious of putting together the schedule and do we have enough RPI stuff, am I giving them experiences that they are going to take, but I never look at it and say `gosh we should be 10 and 1 or we should be 9 and 2 or 11 and 0.' I will say that I am not surprised. I believe in this team more than anyone because I see them every day and I know what they are capable of. I think the balance is something that I'm really proud of. I think that we have found multiple people in double figures are something that I'm really excited about. I think our ability to sometimes play through the post and sometimes have it be Layshia scoring 28 whatever it may be, that's the stuff that were excited about. In addition just their mentality of allowing me to raise the bar and them coming with me on that journey because we are not going to reach our goals if we stand still at any point and they understand that."