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March 26, 2016

Alexus Atchley

Katie Collier

Mike Neighbors

Chantel Osahor

Kelsey Plum

Talia Walton

Lexington, Kentucky

THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us for the press we\'re joined by Mike Neighbors, Kelsey Plum, Talia Walton, Chantel Osahor, Katie Collier, and Alexus Atchley. We\'ll begin with questions for the student-athletes and turn it over to questions for the head coach.

Q. You come all the way back east, you get to play Stanford yet again. What about this match-up has you excited for tomorrow?
KELSEY PLUM: Well, Stanford\'s a phenomenal team, they\'re coached by Tara VanDerveer, obviously, one of the greatest coaches in college basketball, men\'s and women\'s, they\'re going to have a great game plan, and they\'re going to have players that are trying to execute that game plan, so we have our work cut out for us. We\'re really excited about this opportunity, and we\'re going to go out there and continue to try to do what we\'ve been doing this whole tournament.

Q. Talia, you\'ve played Stanford twice before, very different results. Other than one game being at Stanford and one game being in Seattle, what was the difference in those two games that caused you all to play so well one game and lose the other?
TALIA WALTON: Going there, obviously it\'s hard to go to that arena and play, they did a great job against us. And I think a lot of credit goes to them. But I don\'t think we played our best basketball there. And coming back to Seattle, it was tournament time, and that\'s when everybody rises to the occasion. So we\'re going to try to do the exact same thing out here. Again, it\'s another tournament. But just like they\'re going to have a great game plan, we will have one as well.

Q. Chantel, Rebecca Lobo was tweeting about you last night, saying, "Watching Chantel makes me smile every time I watch her." I\'m curious, you have an unorthodox game. I don\'t think anybody would dispute that. What are some of the different ways people have described your game over the years? Anything that stands out?
CHANTEL OSAHOR: I think people try to be nice. They say my game, my shot is interesting. It is unorthodox. So it\'s like whatever. If it goes in, it goes in. But I think people like it because it\'s not something you see every day.

Q. How would you guys describe the way Chantel plays?
KELSEY PLUM: I would say she\'s kind of a mix Draymond (Green) meets Boris Diaw from the Spurs. That\'s kind of the only way I\'ve thought of it. Yeah.

TALIA WALTON: She\'s definitely unlike any other player I\'ve seen or played with, but I like it. I\'ll take it any day.

KATIE COLLIER: She\'s so passionate and always herself out there. She\'s our hype man. Yeah, our hype man. Have you ever seen her go boom? Oh, you\'re missing out.

MIKE NEIGHBORS: She\'s a chess player playing basketball. I\'ve said that before, and I haven\'t come up with anything better than that yet. She\'s a step or two ahead of the rest of us. It didn\'t take long to see that from the first time I saw her to what I see on a daily basis. It doesn\'t cease to amaze me, and it does make you smile. I think Rebecca nailed it on the head, it brings you joy.

I guess people don\'t watch film on her, I don\'t know. This is what she does, she\'s been doing this now for three years, and people are yet still surprised. I\'ve had a number of coaches say to me, We show our kids film, we tell them, we tell them, we tell them. But they don\'t believe it until they see it for 19 (points) and 17 (rebound) and 5 (assists).

Q. Katie and Alexus, something about that game down at Stanford, on paper it seems like it\'s the most disappointing performance of the season. Does it make sense then that you guys have been, I don\'t know, say a different team, but you\'ve obviously played a lot better. Is there something about that performance down there that changed anything for you guys, if you think back a little bit at that game and what happened that night?
KATIE COLLIER: I don\'t know if it was a turning point for us, but we recognize it wasn\'t our best game. I don\'t think we\'re stuck on that game, but we saw the next game, kept playing better, and we showed up and played really good in the tournament.

MIKE NEIGHBORS: Do you remember that game? That was the game that Lili Thompson went off on us? It was my fault, it was my fault. We said we weren\'t going to guard Lili Thompson, bad plan. She had five 3sin the first quarter. That was the difference in the game. It was even from that point on. There was no turning point. They had scored 31 points in the game before at Arizona State. They weren\'t shooting it well. We were going to take a calculated risk, and I looked pretty dumb that night after the first quarter.

She was Player of the Week that week, by the way.

Q. What role have Chantel and Kelsey played for this program in terms of when you took over and setting the tone on the court and just shaping what you want UW to be?
MIKE NEIGHBORS: Yeah, both of them had the opportunity. They had their letters of intent given back to them by the university that week when Kevin left to go to Ohio State and the transition was being made. My first two, and Brianna Ruiz was coming in as well. I reached out to all three of those kids. I had different conversations with each of them. Kelsey\'s was pretty cut and dry.

I actually went to see Chantel and make sure that she understood that our plan was the same, that there was going to be no change in what we had seen in her future. So them sticking with the new coaching change, it gave me confidence that we were headed in the right direction. Then for them to stick through the mistakes I made as a first-year head coach, a lot of kids will transfer in this climate and these days and they just stuck around and stuck around just kept digging in, battling, and getting to know each other better.

It takes you a little longer to get to know Chantel. She\'s not as open with her feelings, so it took a little longer. But we developed a relationship through her freshman year that was really, really solid. Obviously what she brings to us not only on the court but the off-the-court stuff that these guys are talking about, the team, the great teammate that she is, how hyped she does get, and how they rally around her. They really take care of each other, and those two guys are a huge part of that that came in in that first class, along with Brianna who is not here because of her injury and just had surgery.

Q. When this regional was announced the teams that got attention, Notre Dame and Maryland, had Final Four streaks going on, Kentucky looked like they might not have to leave Lexington to get to the Final Four. Not a lot of people are talking about yourself or Stanford. Did you think from the start this was a potential match-up in the regional final, that you might see Stanford again or are you surprised by the match-up we have here?
MIKE NEIGHBORS: I think all those teams deserve the credit that you\'re talking about. They\'ve certainly earned that in the past. I think we kind of did fly under the radar out west. I think when I looked at the bracket, the first thing I noticed was we were in there with Stanford. It was going to happen. Anytime you get multiple teams, four or more teams in there, you\'re going to have somebody in the same conference in the same bracket. It ended up being us, but that did jump at me, that would be great if it was us and Stanford, and that would guarantee a Pac-12 team in the Final Four.

As it played out, obviously you don\'t look at it and go, oh, yeah, we\'re going to win it at Maryland. I didn\'t look past Penn first of all, because that team had a really, really good team and really good season. I didn\'t look that deep at that point in time. But as it started to shape up, it seemed conceivable. And after we won last night, it didn\'t surprise me one bit that Stanford played as well as they did. They\'ve been playing really well.

Our league was balanced this year. A lot of different styles to get you ready for tournament play, and I think that 18-game schedule that we played really prepared everybody in our league. I think we\'ve got a few teams sitting at home that beat each other up in the middle of our league. I think Oregon\'s still alive deep into the NIT. And I think had they not had just a devastating injury to one of the greatest players in the history of our league, I think they would be in this tournament as well.

Same thing with USC. Had a couple unfortunate things happen at their place, where I think we could have had multiple -- as many as seven teams in the tournament this year.

It\'s not a surprise to me that the league is having success. It was a concentrated effort from about, four, five years ago where we really sat in a room and developed a plan and all the coaches had great thoughts on it and the league really, truly did care about trying to raise our profile. It\'s kind of fun to see happening.

Q. You know the pulse of the locker room. Given what is possible tomorrow, is this something that you kind of have to try to put into context for them?
MIKE NEIGHBORS: Not with this group. Some teams I think you would have to try to kind of explain things to, but this group, they\'re pretty into it. They understand the gravity of the situation and they\'re students of the game. You can just tell by the way Chantel and Kelsey talk, they know what\'s going on around all of basketball. So they certainly get it.

I\'m not sure the moment\'s hit them yet. It hit me this morning for the first time answering a couple text messages that you\'re a game away from playing in the Final Four. As coaches we make all these plans, hey, let\'s get together at the Final Four, let\'s talk at the Final Four. Somebody said, if we don\'t get a chance to talk because you\'re playing, that\'s when it hit me. It\'s one game away from that.

So I think these kids probably get it. So the worst thing I could do is screw it up by giving them my opinion on it. So I\'ll get out of their way and let them figure it out.

Q. What is different about short prep time when you know a team as well as Stanford?
MIKE NEIGHBORS: For us, that\'s how we\'re kind of built. We\'re built around terminology and language in our system. We don\'t do a whole lot of tweaking. So we could literally talk through this. We wouldn\'t even have to walk through, if we don\'t need to. And with the Pac-12, we play Friday-Sunday, so we\'re used to having a day in between in prep.

So it\'s business as usual. We\'ll talk about it a lot more than we\'ll run today. If you came to our practice, it would not look like a practice. But it\'s what we\'ve been doing since January. So there will be a very routine feel to it, and I think that\'s an important part of these kids being in a routine that they\'re comfortable with and trying not to get too far away from that to magnify the situation, because in all reality, it\'s just another game like we\'ve been playing.

Q. Based on what happened last night we\'re guaranteed two teams seeded 4th or below in the Final Four. Obviously this game has one team going for its fourth national title. What\'s it say for the improved depth across the game that there could be two four seeds, could be two seven seeds in the Final Four?
MIKE NEIGHBORS: Yeah, I think it\'s happening in our game in the year -- has there been an upset in the men\'s Sweet 16 yet? I don\'t think there has. I don\'t think there\'s been a lower-seed win. But I still don\'t think there\'s a lower seed. I think the higher seeds have still won. In the round of 32 there were some, and obviously some in the first round, but in the Sweet 16 I don\'t think there has been. You\'ll have to check my exact math on that.

But I think it\'s great for our game to have some new faces out there. We\'ve all read it\'s the UCONN Invitational, and I have no problem with that. We all marveled at what Jon wooden did back in the day at UCLA. So I think we should embrace what\'s going on with UCONN. Somebody\'s going to be the team eventually that stops that, I think. But I do think it\'s good for our game to have some conversations going on with some new faces, some new players and new programs. I think it helps raise our profile in recruiting on the West Coast, and if we can continue to keep those great players on the West Coast and give them a reason with our Pac-12 Networks going now, the TV is available, and I think it gives us the profile that we need to continue to recruit the athletes to compete with the teams on this side of the Rocky Mountains.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports


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