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March 7, 2016

Joe Tartamella

Danaejah Grant

Aliyyah Handford

Chicago, Illinois

St. John's - 75, DePaul - 66

JOE TARTAMELLA: Couldn't be prouder of our effort. Obviously a very tough place to play with the stakes, what the stakes were in this type of game, to be able to perform at the level that we did against a great team. It's fun to watch, and that's what you want to see when you get into the postseason.

I thought we did a great job of keeping ourselves in the game even when they made a couple runs that went to the half with two back-to-back threes, started the third quarter hot. We were able to sustain their runs, and then being able to really have the legs and the energy in the fourth quarter to kind of take over. I think as I was leaving, they told us we made the last 11 field goals. That's a big-time way to play in a big moment.

So happy for our players and for our program to have an opportunity. Again, I think it's two in three years to be able to have a chance to win a championship. This is what these ladies have worked for all year, and this would be a great moment for these two young ladies to my right to be able to finish their career with a championship, so we're excited to get ready for tomorrow.

Q. Aliyyah, your coach talked about before the game that this was going to be a big-time environment and to use that to your advantage. What was it like playing in that environment tonight?
ALIYYAH HANDFORD: Credit to DePaul. It was just great just having fun out there. We stayed as a team. We stayed focused, and most of all, we played defense.

Q. Aliyyah, you had 23 points today, and on the 20th point I saw you flex over to the crowd. Can you talk about the confidence that you had tonight.
ALIYYAH HANDFORD: Yeah, I was just happy for me and my teammates, and we was on in the fourth quarter, and we kept going, and we never let down. We just kept picking ourselves up, each other up, and when I scored that bucket, I was just more than happy because we kept getting up.

Q. Aliyyah, I haven't seen someone take over a game like that in a while. Just what kind of switch went off in your head or what were you thinking at that time when you just completely went off?
ALIYYAH HANDFORD: Hey, this is our last year, and we fought all year to get here, and I just was -- I was just in the moment. Like something just clicked, and I just went off.

Q. Aliyyah, this is a tremendous victory for you. Where does this one rank in your career?
ALIYYAH HANDFORD: You know, I'm speechless right now. I'm just happy at the moment. I don't know. I'm speechless right now.

Q. You've always been a defensively-oriented group throughout this season. How exactly did you slow down DePaul tonight?
ALIYYAH HANDFORD: We know if we turn over the ball they're going to get out in transition, so we had to stop turning over the ball, which we did, and we just stayed focused and just played great defense.

Q. Danaejah, you guys combined tonight for 43 points. Just what is it that has made you two such a dynamic duo?
DANAEJAH GRANT: I think we just complement each other. When she's on, the defense tends to focus on her, then it opens up lanes for me, and vice versa.

Q. What would it mean to give this program tomorrow night a Big East championship?
DANAEJAH GRANT: It would mean everything. I mean, this is the highest achievement right now in this moment, so I mean, just it would be great to send us off with the championship and get him his first one, so I'd be proud.

Q. Coach, before that run in the fourth quarter, there was a mini-run you guys went on towards the end of the third quarter. Tell me about those back-to-back turnovers you managed to get that led to lay-ups that were uncontested?
JOE TARTAMELLA: Yeah, I don't probably remember the particular ones. I think we were able to get a deflection or get kind of a dig-down on their bigs, on their entry passes, so we just kind of got -- because of our activity, we got the ability to get a steal and then be able to run out. The biggest thing is we were able to finish.

I thought there were a couple plays probably during that, too, where -- I mean, we made some plays that I haven't seen us make in a long time over the last few weeks where we recovered with such ferocity, and then the ability not to foul, along with we got a little bit lucky a couple times on some deflections and some steals. I thought Aaliyah Lewis made a huge play: It was a three-on-one and she got a steal and then we got open lay-up on the other end.

So those plays are huge momentum swings, so I thought we did a good job getting some deflections. We had great activity, and that's kind of been a staple for us. If we can do that, it's a lot easier. We scored 75 tonight, which has been hard for us, so that's part of the reason why.

Q. I asked you last night about how the last game ended with DePaul with late-game executions. Just from an emotional standpoint how does it feel to be on the other end of it now, especially in a big situation?
JOE TARTAMELLA: Yeah, you always feel good when you can get a win. You know, our players were very focused at shoot-around today, especially when they woke up, coming off last night's game. I thought we played really hard. At halftime I told our players, I thought we played as hard as we've played all year, and we were down six. That just shows you where you're at, but you gave up back-to-back threes.

I thought we did a great job, a lot of energy. This team has a chance to be special here for everybody in our community, and we hope we're able finish it off. You can ask for anything else other than having a chance to win and be in that game tomorrow night.

Q. It might not be fair to call it a rivalry, but St. John's and Creighton have kind of butted heads in big situations, especially in the Big East Tournament the last couple years. It would seem fitting that you two are meeting here with another high-stakes situation.
JOE TARTAMELLA: Yeah, you know what, I've said this year after year; I have so much respect for Creighton and Jim's program and what he does. It just seems like we just find a way to match up against each other every year in the Big East Tournament. I mean, they are as hot as you can be. They beat us up at home last week. They're playing very well, very much together, and that's why they are where they are right now.

To see what they've done in the last two weeks, obviously they're very hot, and so yes, we've played against each other and we seem to find these moments, so we hope that we're able to show the rest of the country again what our league is about tomorrow night in the championship game.

Q. The senior day game was obviously fresh in your mind. From what you recall from that match-up and the kinds of things they were able to do to get that victory, what do you think the keys were to dropping that game and adjustments you can make tomorrow night?
JOE TARTAMELLA: You know, I don't know. You look at how they play, we beat them at their place, they beat us at our place. They're a very disciplined team who can make outside shots if they get hot. It's a difficult situation for you. McGrory is playing very well, Faber is playing very well, but their other guys are great, too. If you forget about Lamberty, she's going to hurt you. If you forget about Owens, she's going to hurt you. They do a great job running offense the way they execute, similar to DePaul, similar to what Villanova does to you, but they're playing with a lot of confidence.

So for us, we've got to play our game and be able to make adjustments from the last one and come out tomorrow night and play with high energy and play with discipline, and just like any other game we prepare for. I don't know if that helps you, but that's what it looks like.

Q. There have been games where you've struggled to score 34 points in a half before. Today you finished the fourth quarter with 34.

Q. What were some of the things you saw as far as the flow offensively that led to that hot stretch?
JOE TARTAMELLA: You know, we made shots, but we also created easier shots for ourselves. We made some tough ones, I mean, during that last stretch, but I thought we created some easier ones for us. I thought we did a much better job at the free-throw line. We made seven threes; we don't make seven threes. For us that's a big piece to the game.

Akina Wellere I thought had her best game in a St. John's uniform tonight. You forget about what Dee and Aliyyah do. Dee as a double-double and you think it's normal. It's not. The kid played her butt off. I thought Aaliyah Lewis was tremendous and we needed her to be.

I thought we were able to make the shots we needed to. We made big shots, shot clock winding down, big shot. They were in the moment, and they need to stay in that moment I hope for one more night.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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