This is a companion piece to an interview with point guard Abbey Ellis. You can read that here.
Cal Poly Women’s Basketball is currently having their best season since 2018, and after their potential Cinderella run in the Big West Tournament was ended early last year due to COVID-19, the team is looking to make a splash in the conference tournament as the No. 6 seed.
The success of this season has come in large part from players like senior forward Kirsty Brown, who leads the Big West Conference in offensive rebounding. Brown discussed how the team is clicking so well this season and how they are looking forward to the conference tournament.
Reporter Austin McLellan interviewed Brown and organized the interview into the Q & A below. Brown’s answers have been edited for length and clarity.
In a season that is anything but normal, what has kept the team’s spirits high in moments of adversity, like games being canceled?
Just knowing that we’re all in it together. It’s definitely been tough, having to isolate ourselves and everything, but we’re okay knowing that our whole team is doing that and that we have people that can be a shoulder to cry on.
Knowing there are people who we can talk to and get advice, get feedback, get anything from, I think that’s definitely made us stronger, we’ve just come together and responded to that really well.
What has been the philosophy of the team over the second half of the season and heading into the tournament?
The biggest thing has definitely been our defense. We always talk about how defense creates offense and if we’re having an off-shooting day our defense can still grind out that win for us.
Our team does better when we get some great stops and convert those quickly on offense, so we’ve definitely been super focused on our defense and making sure to adjust to teams that do more transitions, or teams that are more attackers, or teams that have great three-point shooters.
No matter what it is, we really focus on each team and adjust ourselves to their needs, while still playing our hard “up in your grill” Cal Poly defense every game.
The team seems to have some awesome energy with one another this season, why do you think that is?
I think it’s just the chemistry that we have with one another. We all love each other on and off the court so I think we’ve all gained a better understanding of each individual person and what their strengths and weaknesses are.
For instance, if I give the ball to (sophomore guard Maddie) Vick I know exactly what she’s going to do. She’s going to drive in and get me an awesome dump pass or do her little floater right over the top. I think our ball movement is great because nobody’s trying to do everything themselves and I know if I don’t have a shot, but Willie (sophomore guard Maddie Willett) does I’m going to get it to her and I know she’s going to shoot that three.
What has been one of the top moments of the team from this season so far?
I am going to have to say that buzzer-beater to beat Long Beach. With such a super close hard-fought game the day before, when you keep the No. 2 team in the conference under 50 points for the first time this season it’s awesome. It really showed that all our hard work paid off in those games.
How has the team been feeling as you head towards the Big West tournament?
We’re just going to take the tournament one game at a time. People aren’t too nervous, I think we are more excited just to have these opportunities to keep playing. Knowing that most, if not all of the Big West games this season have been so close shows that anybody can win it. No matter our seed, we know we can come in and beat any team.
UC Davis is the No. 1 team in the conference right now. What is it going to take to beat them in Las Vegas?
We talked a lot after those games against them, and we think the key is just being disciplined and making sure we’re running our lanes, that we know the plays, and just being able to execute both offensively and defensively.
I think we did a much better job during the second game. But we need to be able to execute, make our shots, and make better shots. I think our energy was great for both games so that’s something that we will want to keep consistent. We’re just looking to make our shots more on offense, and then we’ll be able to get those wins, no doubt.
What is going to set Cal Poly apart from the rest of the conference at the tournament?
I think it’s going to be our defense. We’re going to pressure them, we’re going to go for the steals, we’re going to really adjust to each team, and we’re going to be going hard no matter our opponent. But ultimately, I think our defense is going to be hard for other teams to get by.
Regardless of what happens in Vegas, what do you want this season to be remembered for?
All the adversity that we’ve had to go through this year and how we’ve managed to push through it all and still be in the great position that we’re in right now.
Obviously, it’s been very, very challenging with no fans and having to test three times a week. There’s so much going on to just make sure that we can play, but the fact that we’ve been able to take all of that in stride and just keep pushing really shows when we win.
Who on the team do you think is going to surprise a lot of people in how they play in Vegas?
I’m going to have to go with Maddie Vick. I think some people still underestimate her.
She’s racking up the assists every game and I think she can be really sneaky. She’s super disciplined, she goes super hard, and has such high energy all the time. With this being her comeback year from her ACL tear, I think she’s surprised people and it’s just going to continue to keep surprising people.
Anything else you think fans might want to know heading into the tournament next week?
We definitely have unfinished business in that tournament. We know that we’re very determined and we are going to try and get back to that point we were at last year and then push through it.
We’re there to win a championship, not just there to have fun in Vegas. We are there for that Big West Championship, we’re trying to go to the NCAA Tournament so just be ready.
We’re going to do everything we can.
After defeating No. 3 seed Long Beach State in the first round of the Big West Tournament, the Mustangs will take on No. 2 seed UC Irvine at 3 p.m. on Friday, March 12.