What Naz Hillmon, Danielle Rauch and Leigha Brown said pre-South Dakota
We'd like to welcome student-athletes Naz Hillmon, Leigha Brown, and Danielle Rauch to the stand.
We'll open the floor to questions.
Q. Naz, South Dakota did a great job on other players. Does that add any extra fuel for you to prove that you're not going to be slowed down in the same way?
NAZ HILLMON: I would say that's something I definitely looked at. Watched a lot of film on those games, specifically with those post players.
Added fuel? I'm not sure. I just want to really go into there, try to play my game, do that as best as I can. Really try not to get away from what I've been doing all year.
Obviously, like you said, they did do a great job. So there maybe needs some adjustments from me to try to work around their defense, which was great in those two games. Really playing within myself and making adjustments later.
Q. Leigha, how difficult was it for you to have to sit out some of the key games down the stretch? When did you start feeling like yourself again when you returned?
LEIGHA BROWN: Obviously battling through injury is really tough for everyone, especially with the season we were having before.
When I went out, I had full confidence in my team and my teammates that they could still make a great season out of it.
Yeah, I'm still kind of finding myself coming back. It's tough being out, what, five, six games like I was. I think every game though I'm feeling more and more comfortable. My teammates and coaching staff does a great job of instilling confidence in me, making sure I'm ready, whether that's extra individual workouts, practice, getting some extra reps. I'm feeling confident definitely.
Q. Danielle, the transfer portal is an easy way to get out. You stayed. Why?
DANIELLE RAUCH: I'm sure not many of you have heard this. There's a saying at Michigan that goes, Those who stay will be champions. That to me has always resonated with me, something I wanted to accomplish in my four years here.
I'm not one for taking the easy way out in anything. Obviously I'm really fortunate to have had the opportunity to stay here and have the success that I've been having.
I think my teammates over these last four years have just been my best friends. What Michigan has to offer, you can't get anywhere else.
Q. Naz or Leigha, in what ways does Danielle energize this team?
NAZ HILLMON: That's probably one of the first ways I would describe Danielle, is just having so much energy and life in anything that she does. You can tell she loves the game, our team. She's very passionate.
When that's your point guard, it gets you going. Sometimes in those first five minutes where the wind is knocked out of you, you see Danielle screaming at the other team, it kicks in that other gear. Just like having somebody like that to lead you means the world, especially in those tough moments.
LEIGHA BROWN: Yeah, I think Naz kind of summed it pretty well.
Just having D, how passionate she is, like Naz said, as the point guard, someone that is supposed to lead the team, take them under your wing. I think she does a great job of that.
Like Naz said, it's kind of hard coming off the court if you're tired or something, to be down or to be exhausted, and you've got D chirping in your ear the whole time, I'm telling you you're not tired, just kind of being there for you. Yeah, she's a huge part of our team for sure.
Q. Leigha, they have two guards that they really go to. You have a little extra size on the outside. How do you match up with them?
LEIGHA BROWN: Yeah, I think we've been lucky enough to see some really great guard play in our season so far, whether it's in the Big Ten or some of our non-conference.
I think something that's made us really successful is being able to play team defense. Like you said, we do have some length and some size on them. Kind of using that to our advantage. Keeping our hands up, trying to be long on defense, and be physical.
I'm kind of just sticking to the things that's made us successful this whole season so far.
Q. Naz, how much family do you have coming here for tomorrow's game? What's been your mom's message to you throughout this tournament?
NAZ HILLMON: Yeah, I only have a couple of family members, I think just three this time. It was hard to get in and out of Wichita. The numbers are dwindling for me.
But my mom's message has just been to have fun. Sometimes that gets lost when you're putting so much pressure on yourself and you don't really enjoy every moment that you can. Especially being a senior I want to enjoy every single moment with this group of girls, playing the game that I love, and finishing out this season.
So, yeah, like I said, the numbers are dwindling, but we continue to make it, we'll have some more people coming.
Q. It's funny that you describe Danielle as the one having energy. I think you all play with energy and attitude when you're on the court. How do you balance that hype with staying calm so that you can deliver in the moments when you need to?
DANIELLE RAUCH: I think that attitude and that energy is something that defines our team in a way. That's what makes us so great.
Like you said, finding that balance and that energy, I think sometimes we can get lost in that, it can deter us a little bit, whether that be with the refs or with our opponent. Just staying focused and staying together when we're all on the same page, we're all feeling that energy, then that's when we're at our best.
Keeping in mind there is a fine line between it. I really do think, I like to call it that swag we have, that dog energy that we bring is definitely what makes us us.
LEIGHA BROWN: Yeah, just echoing off of Danielle. I think it does kind of define us as a team. I think that's what gives us an edge in a lot of the games, just kind of how physical and how intense, just how we play.
Like she said, I think sometimes we do kind of let it get, especially myself, kind of let it get into our heads a little too much. I think my teammates and coaches do a great job of trying to bring me down in those moments when I am getting a little too hyped up.
Yeah, I think it is something that does make our team really successful.
NAZ HILLMON: I think our balance is Emily Kiser. That's definitely one person who kind of keeps us grounded, she can tell us when we need to calm down a little bit.
Exactly what they said, trying to find that balance. We've had a lot of conversations about this within the team, finding that middle ground of being hyped and excited, but also playing within yourself, being smart about it. I think Emily definitely helps a little bit with that balance and she continues to do that for us.
Q. Naz, you obviously come from a line of great college basketball players, you came to Michigan wanted to create your own legacy. Your coach wants your jersey retired. What does that mean to you to look back on what you've been able to do at Michigan for the program as a whole?
NAZ HILLMON: Yeah, I keep getting these questions and it keeps making me reflect on my four years here, just how special it's been. Seeing some of that stuff about what my coach said about my jersey, knowing how many great players that she's coached and has been around, for her to say that means the world. That's someone who took a chance on me when I was 18 years old, wanting me to come to her university.
I'll continue to say that I'm not the player I am without my teammates and my coaches surrounding me, making me look as good as I do sometimes. I have two people right here who make me look really good, they get me the ball. Without them I wouldn't be able to get the accolades I have, the success that I've had throughout my years.
In terms of the jersey retirement, if that happens, you put the years of all my teammates on there, too.
Q. People root for the Cinderella teams. Are you expecting, anticipating maybe a few more people in the crowd rooting for South Dakota when you take the court?
LEIGHA BROWN: Yeah, I mean, I think just kind of subconsciously seeing on social media how many tickets they've sold or how many fans they've had at previous games. You got to kind of keep that in the back of your mind to think about.
I think we've been the underdog. That started last year when we made our tournament run. I think that's when we're the most successful. I think we're the best when we're playing with a chip on our shoulder. Yeah, we'll see what happens.
Q. Leigha, when you decided to come to Michigan, what did you envision for yourself? What has been your biggest takeaway here since you came to Michigan?
LEIGHA BROWN: Yeah, I think a big factor in my decision to come here was just how special. Granted they were already special before I got here, that's what kind of drew me here. I think seeing the potential, some of the things we could do here, make history like we have been doing, is definitely what I envisioned.
I couldn't be happier that I came here, super happy I made that decision, for sure.
Q. Hannah Sjerven, the main post presence for South Dakota, what is it that you have seen in her, what she can do against you guys?
NAZ HILLMON: Yeah, she's a physical post player, works really hard to get her positioning or to get the other post players out of positioning. Super hard worker, definitely someone that's going to make you work for everything you want offensively or defensively. Seems like a little bit of the glue to their team.
Definitely interesting. It will be a great matchup with anybody who's guarding her or whoever she's guarding. A lot of good things from film that we've seen about her.