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March 6, 2016

Joe Tartamella

Danaejah Grant

Aliyyah Handford

Chicago, Illinois

St. John's - 65, Georgetown - 52.

JOE TARTAMELLA: You know, I thought we really grinded the game out. I thought we knew that the game would be tight, would be full of runs up and down throughout the game. It's been like that for the two prior games we played against Georgetown, which is pretty typical of our Big East Conference games during the year.

I thought we started the game very well. I thought we kind of hit a lull a little bit, got a little stagnant in the second and turned the ball over a little bit too much going into the half, and I thought we really fixed that as we moved forward, kind of held it even in the third and had a great fourth quarter. I was very proud of our effort. Obviously it's a big game for us on many levels, so excited that we were able to get to the next round, get a little closer to the championship game, and then to watch these two young ladies obviously play very well for us as they normally have done, along with the rest of our team, so we'll go enjoy this for about a minute and get ready for tomorrow.

Q. Danaejah, you got to the rim a lot tonight early and often, and in transition, half-court offense, it just seemed like you really got to the basket with ease. What was it about the Hoyas' defense that allowed you to get to the rim so easily?
DANAEJAH GRANT: I just saw openings. I wouldn't say that they were flawed in any area, I just was able to get into the gaps. I think I do that well, so that's about it.

Q. Aaliyah, 2,000-point scorer. When you look back on your years at St. John's, what really stands out to you? 2,000 points is a lot of points.
ALIYYAH HANDFORD: I wouldn't have got there if it wasn't for my teammates. They helped me out a lot, so I think credit to them. Other than that, it's a great goal -- not a goal, sorry, a great way to leave St. John's, with 2,000 points, and come back and my name is still there.

Q. Aaliyah, what exactly did you guys want to do going into this game to really stop Georgetown, and then how did it play out that you were able to only allow five points in the fourth quarter?
ALIYYAH HANDFORD: We wanted to go out and play as a team, which we did, and we stayed focused. We didn't let anything get to our heads. Us playing as a team helped us a lot.

Q. Danaejah, to have the experience, the amount of it that you, Aaliyah, Aaliyah Lewis have, what does that mean on a stage like this?
DANAEJAH GRANT: It means a lot at the end of the day. You know, it takes us far. I think when there's crunch times, we know what to do. We have people that can step up, people that can make certain plays. It's not all about scoring. You know, smart plays like getting deflections, holding the ball, whatever the case may be, I think our experience at the end of the day carries us over.

Q. Danaejah, Jade Walker, six points, seven rebounds. Maybe it doesn't always exemplify in the amount of points she scores, but how important was her boost that her game went on?
DANAEJAH GRANT: Incredibly important, just her presence, being able to get down low and draw the double-team, make good passes, just drawing the defense towards her, and I think just her presence down low is amazing.

Q. Aaliyah, you're going to match up with DePaul, you're taking on the top seed, the Blue Demons. What exactly when you play a team like them do you have to do to be able to not only compete but for you guys to come out with it tomorrow, what's going to need to happen?
ALIYYAH HANDFORD: We have to control how we play. I think we have to go out there and just focus and play as a team like we did tonight. If we go out there and play as a team, unselfish basketball, we will be able to beat DePaul.

Q. Aaliyah, you started off the game right out of the gate, 11 points. I believe it was your team's first 11 points. What allowed you to have that success?
ALIYYAH HANDFORD: I saw a lot of openings, and every time I got the ball, I sort of got to take it to the right, and I did, so that gave us a lot of energy, and everybody else chipped in. I think that's what we needed.

Q. Danaejah, how does Aaliyah's game complement yours and vice versa?
DANAEJAH GRANT: It really just opens up the floor. You know, when she gets off to a good start, then the team starts to focus on her, so then I'm able to open up and have opportunities to the rim, shots, whatever it may be, vice versa.

Q. All season long you've been able to get to the basket, and I'm just wondering, in tournament play, things start heating up and players really come out and shine and both of you did tonight. Do you have a sense amongst the both of you that you can get to the basket really whenever you want?
DANAEJAH GRANT: I believe so. I mean, I'm confident in my game, and I don't really need much room to get to the basket, so once I see a little opening, I can kind of maneuver my body to get to the rim.

ALIYYAH HANDFORD: Like she said, I'm confident in myself. If I feel like I can go, I can go, so I'm going to go. If I've got the open lane and I know I'm stronger than someone, I'm going to just go.

Q. Coach, you also had post game comments about Aaliyah's accomplishment tonight, but I just wanted to follow up with that. When you brought Aaliyah in until now, what kind of progress has she made as a player and what are you most proud of about her accomplishment tonight?
JOE TARTAMELLA: I mean, she's improved so much over four years. When I first saw her out of high school, I knew she was extremely talented, so did a lot of people. But she's a special player. To watch her growth over time, she's such an explosive player, and someone asked her a question about how does she get to the rim, and she's one of the few kids and probably the only kid I've ever coached who somehow is guarded and somehow finds a way to get open, and that's her own talent. She has this ability to separate like no one I have seen. When she is finishing what she's been doing for her whole career, she's a tremendous player. And the proudest thing for me is just watching her growth as a person and watching her grow up in front of my eyes. And I can't believe that in a few weeks it'll be over. She's the first kid that I recruited as a head coach, and I can remember the day when I got the call.

She's been a member of my family. She will continue to be a member of my family along with the St. John's community. They love watching her. People tell me all the time she's their favorite player on campus. It's amazing to hear those things, especially when you're talking about the growth of our game and getting people excited about women's basketball.

She's electric. She's going to be a pro, along with Danaejah. She's really shown a lot of growth in every area, and a lot as a person. So for me that's really important, especially where she came from and what she's been through.

Q. What did you guys do defensively in the fourth quarter to only allow five points?
JOE TARTAMELLA: I don't know. Help me out. They just did it. I'm just kidding. We played harder. We played more -- I thought we rebounded the ball. If you look at the game, we gave up too many second-chance shots that caused either them to get to the free-throw line or to get a second opportunity. We got back in transition. We were able to score a little more, so it allowed us to get back. We also were able to get to the free-throw line a little bit more, which I thought helped us again, not allowing them to get out in transition.

We still came in with the same game plan in the fourth quarter. We didn't adjust a lot other than our lineup a little bit. I thought Crystal Simmons was tremendous for us today. I thought she was great. If you want to look at a difference, that was one of them. And then I thought Imani Littleton and Jade Walker gave us good lift. I thought Aaliyah and Danaejah and the rest of the group, they wanted to win the game. The fourth quarter, it was closing time, they wanted to win the game. So I would say that.

Q. You guys out-rebounded Georgetown 36-31. Georgetown is if not the best rebounding team in the conference -- again, was it just effort? What allowed you to have such success on the boards?
JOE TARTAMELLA: I thought early we didn't do a great job and then I thought we did a better job. We made them take tough shots. I thought the second half we did a great job staying in front of people containing and making them have to try pivot through us. We caused some travels, some turnovers. I thought we added much better positioning. We positioned ourselves much better to rebound the ball in the third and fourth quarter, which I thought helped us, from the standpoint of whether we were switching and staying underneath or we were making them take tough shots. That was the main emphasis. If we don't rebound the ball, we're going to lose. We know that. That's been an Achilles heel all year, we've got to rebound the ball. I think just more attention to detail and kind of locking in and knowing we've got to get the ball.

Q. In the last meeting against DePaul you guys were able to close a double-digit deficit to about a five-point deficit and you missed out on some chances to tie the game. What will it take in terms of executing for tomorrow's rematch?
JOE TARTAMELLA: Yeah, we kind of played the same way twice. We let them beat us up early and were able to come back. We've got to be able to -- they're so good offensively when they execute. They just move, never rest, do a great job of reading and reacting, they push the ball, got great motors on their players and they can shoot it. Again, it comes down to making sure we're guarding and we're doing the right things defensively and getting back, and then we've got to be able to score. We haven't done a good job in the last -- I can't even count the games, four or five games, of adjusting to things that we're seeing sometimes on the offensive side. We need to get great efforts from a lot of players. You heard the young ladies up here talking about playing as a team. You've got to limit their high octane offense, and you've got to be able to score on them at times, too.

You know, they're a great team. They've led this league. They've been the benchmark. We've all been fighting to get there, and we all will continue to fight to get there, and that's what this is all about. That's what the postseason is all about, games like tomorrow, and that's why our league has been so good this year, and we've proved over the last three years what this league is capable of across the country, and you look at our non-conference wins across the league, it's been fun to watch.

Georgetown is a much better team than they were last year. Marquette is a much better team than they were last year. All of these programs have moved up, which has helped our league.

I continue to -- I've said this before, I'm extremely proud of my own image at this point of starting in the Big East and then being able to continue with it as a head coach in kind of the restructure. We have proven this year that we are right there along with the football five.

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