Story Poster
Wes Moore
Camille Hobby & Aziaha James
NC State Women's Basketball

WATCH: Moore, Hobby, James Discuss NCAA Tournament

March 16, 2023
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NC State’s Wes MooreCamille Hobby, and Aziaha James met with the media ahead of the seventh-seeded Wolfpack’s matchup versus 10-seed Princeton in the 2023 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament.

NOTE: Click on each respective thumbnail to watch each press conference in the player above.


Wes Moore
 

Opening Statement

Okay. Well, it's great to be here in Utah, a little bit of March gladness. We're excited about the opportunity. Obviously, a lot of good teams here, starting with Princeton and, obviously, Gardner-Webb. We could have flown out here with them, I guess. And Utah obviously has had a great year. So we're excited and looking forward to playing against Princeton.

On Princeton’s success historically as a double-digit seed...

Well, first of all, they have won 15 straight, so they have got a lot of momentum and they're playing really well right now. You're right, they have got a lot of postseason experience. So they're well coached, well prepared. I guess you start with the point guard, [Kaitlyn] Chen, obviously had a great year, averaging 16 points a game and scores at all three levels. So you got to be concerned with that. But I think their balance too. Just all their starters just about are nine or 10 points a game behind her, and so they're all a threat. So you can't just focus on her too much and let other people get going. Then [Ellie] Mitchell, unbelievable on the offensive boards. I think 116 offensive rebounds this year is scary. So we'll have to try to limit their second shots. But, yeah, I mean, again, we have -- we've been a little inconsistent this year, up-and-down, and so when that happens, you're going to play a really good team in the first round. So Princeton definitely fits that description.

On the Princeton defense...

Yeah, you know, our information that we use, Synergy Info and things like that, I think Princeton's defense is like 16th best in the country. They just do a great job of helping, getting in the gaps. They try -- for the most part they don't foul. They make you have to hit the shot. Again, great job on the defensive boards as well limiting you to one shot. But probably the biggest thing is just the help. I mean they're really aggressive helping from the weak side. So sometimes it's hard to see that person over there. So we're going to have to be very aware of that weak side help. And the pick on the ball, they will switch quite a bit, sometimes 1 through 4, sometimes 1 through 5. Will show big some with the 5. So again they keep you off balance, keep mixing up what they do and giving you different looks. So, yeah, very impressive defensive team.

On James’ progression...

Yeah, you know, I'm old school, as you can tell. I'm used to you recruit high school kids and they come in and may take 'em a little while to make that jump from high school to this level of power 5 basketball. But I like seeing 'em develop and grow and then continue to expand their roles. Aziaha has done that partly because of her just pure talent, athleticism and ability to score the ball. She's done a lot of good things and obviously we're right now a little short handed and so really everyone on our roster is going to play a part and going to be important to our success ahead. So but, yeah, Aziaha's, her assist to turnover ratio is good. She scored at all three levels as well, being able to go off the bounce, the pull-up and also knock down the three. But, yeah, exciting to see her progression, even just this season from early in the year to where we are now.

On Diamond Johnson’s availability...

Yeah, not looking good. I think she's still experiencing pain. We'll see. But not progressing as quickly as we would like. So we may not have her available. So obviously our leading scorer, second team all ACC, definitely someone that makes a difference. But again, still experiencing some pain, I believe.

On having players that have reached the Sweet 16 and the Elite Eight and if that experience will help...

Yeah, you hope that that does. Obviously having been here before, our seniors have been to the Sweet 16, or as you mentioned the Elite 8 the last three years. So they have had quite a bit of experience there. Most of the players that were here a year ago were with that Elite 8 team. Now, again, they're in different roles and have a lot more say in playing time and our performance out there. But I think it's a combination, that experience and then also our schedule. I mean, I think last time I checked we had the No. 2 strength of schedule in the country. So we have gone out and played some great teams. You hope that that helps you as well. But this is a new season. So in some ways you toss all that out and it's who comes with the passion and the energy and competes. Because it's win or go home. So it's a different level. But, yes, hopefully that experience helps our whole team maybe feel a little more comfortable.

On the team’s energy in practice leading up to this game...

I think our practices have been good. After going back and looking at the film from the Syracuse game, I mean from the Notre Dame game, you know, I might have been a little bit hard. I mean, I do think it was obviously a disappointing day for us. I felt like the Syracuse game we came out and played really well and then for whatever reason -- but part of that is we just didn't shoot the ball as well in the Notre Dame game. Obviously we let one of their players have a big game and that always disappoints you. You got to be able to play good enough team defense that one player doesn't dominate the game. So, but, yeah, our practices have been good. We gave 'em a little bit of time off. We came back in and shot and lifted and things like that a day or two. Then we had a couple of practices where we could really focus on us before the bracket came out. We knew who we were playing and now we've had a couple of days to focus on Princeton. So, yeah, I think it's been good. I think the energy's been good. We're excited about being here. Like I said, you only get so many of these opportunities. You can say, well, we didn't have the year we wanted, especially in conference play, again, we were on a little bit with a roller coaster, but at the end of the day we are here and we're still playing and there's probably, you know, 275, 280 teams that would love to be in our situation. So we're excited about playing.

Camille Hobby & Aziaha James
 

On approaching her fourth straight tournament appearance...

CH: I think that we're just really excited. We know this is going to be a team effort and every team that's made the tournament deserves to be here and is extremely talented. So we're just trying to go into it with a positive mindset and just be really excited that we are here.

On the Wolfpack’s defining characteristic...

AJ: We had some downfalls during the season, but just building chemistry with each other and the bond and being positive and encourage each other in practice and stuff, just help us get that positive mindset, like she said, to do great in the NCAA tournament.

On her mindset going into her second straight tournament, now the starting point guard...

AJ: Basically just being here for my teammates, for myself, as well. Just playing how coach wants us to play, but just having fun with it. So, yeah, just attacking it every day, every step of it, just one step at a time.

On her role increasing throughout the season...

AJ: At the beginning of the season, I really wasn't really playing that much, but just keep practicing and working hard and stuff like that, just to get to the role that I am right now, just helping my teammates. And, yeah.

On the name for her fake pass...

AJ: Well, coach calls it the wizard of Zaza.

On how the ACC Tournament experience and its aftermath helped the team...

CH: I think it just gave us some time to just think about the things that we want to do better. Obviously the ACC tournament is in the past and we just got to keep moving on from that. We learned a lot about ourselves and the team, even from the coaches. So we just kind of go forward from how we feel as players and just keep going. It's the only option we have at this point so, yeah.

 
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