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March 28, 2016

Karen Aston

Lashann Higgs

Ariel Atkins

Imani Boyette

Bridgeport, Connecticut

Connecticut - 86, Texas - 65

THE MODERATOR: We'll start with a opening statement from coach and then take questions for the student-athletes.

COACH ASTON: Congratulations to Connecticut. A phenomenal performance I thought on their part, especially shooting the basketball. They shot the ball terrific tonight.

I felt like that we tried to give them as many looks defensively as we could, but they have an answer for just about everything that you give them.

But on the flip side of that, I can't say enough about how proud I am of our basketball team. It's a tough night for us, lots of seniors, lots of tears, lots of people that didn't want this to end. It's a significantly different looking team and different locker room than it was last year, when we played our last game.

I think it's a team that understands that they have moved to a different competitive level. And when you sacrifice everything that you have, it doesn't feel good and it hurts. And it's a team that didn't want this to end. But, I'm extremely proud of how we competed.

I thought that -- I do think as a coach, that all you can ask is for your team to give their best effort and everything that they have. I think everyone could see that our team was exhausting themselves trying to compete, and I just couldn't be any more proud of a group of young ladies than I am of Texas.


Q. Can you talk about the difference between a year ago playing UConn, it was a 51-point blow out and this game tonight? And I know you guys didn't come here just to compete, but what it says about the program that you've been able to take those steps.
IMANI BOYETTE: I'm in no means satisfied with losing by 20 instead of 51, but I'm proud of my teammates. Look who is sitting next to me, these are my babies sitting next to me. My babies carried the team tonight.

So by no means -- we're going to be here next year and the year after that. My freshmen led us in scoring. So I'm excited about what comes after this, but I'm frustrated that we lost.

Q. Ariel, the top-3 scorer's tonight were two sophomores and a freshman. Does this bode well for Texas? And what was the difference in the locker room, as coach said, between last year and this year?
ARIEL ATKINS: I think this year we expected it because of all the hard work that we put in through the year. The way that we talked to each other, our locker room culture, our practice culture, everything has changed. I think we worked so hard to be here, and I just feel like we deserved to be here.

Q. How important was it to kind of answer them in the first opening minutes? They hit a couple of threes, got out 6-0, and then you guys came back and were able to make it a game and not let them get way out in front.
IMANI BOYETTE: I think they do a great job of capitalizing on their runs, and we had talked about that. And I think it was a spurt in the second quarter, where we lost our game plan, and we let them extend the run, because we were answering in the first quarter. It's definitely important when you're playing UConn to not necessarily answer in terms of offensively, but lock down defensively and stay locked into the game plan with help side defense and staying together as a team.

Q. Imani, how much better is this team right now than a year ago, right now?
IMANI BOYETTE: I think this team is amazingly better. It's more so in the effort that everyone is giving. Everybody left it on the floor. I can't point to one person from the bench players to the starters that didn't leave everything on the floor. Some people that didn't even touch the ball, everybody put their heart on that floor. And as you can see, everybody's growing, like this year our guards carried the team, and we had post presence as well. So I'm excited to see what they do without me next year, and I'm just proud, frustrated, but proud.

Q. Imani, it's fresh, but could you put in perspective what your career has been for Texas and how you have seen the team grow over your time?
IMANI BOYETTE: It's very fresh. I don't know if I can answer that question. I guess you have to ask my coach or the players who came behind me. I hope that I was responsible for bringing -- I helped bring Texas back to the national prominence.

I hope when I leave, that they can say that I was a good teammate, and I helped, and I worked hard, and I did everything my coach asked of me. Honestly, like, I can never repay the University of Texas. I love this university, and I'm just so blessed to be able to represent them.

THE MODERATOR: All right. Thank you. We'll dismiss the student-athletes and open up for questions for coach.

Q. You said at the last game that taking that one step was the goal for this season. You took another step tonight. Can you talk about what that meant for your team to compete tonight?
COACH ASTON: I think that the biggest step between Saturday night and tonight was just the way they prepared, because you could tell that they thought they could win.

Hindsight, last year, I think the coaches, obviously, always try to prepare, but when you look at the difference in the mindset of our players from -- in preparation last year and this year, they thought they could compete. And it's all a mindset. It's a huge mindset, obviously, against Connecticut.

But I do think that we thought we could compete with them, and I think if you asked them right now, they would still think that. Because they have confidence and confidence comes from work. And they put a lot of work in.

Q. What does it say about your program, right now, where you're leading scorers tonight were sophomore, sophomore, freshman?
COACH ASTON: Well, I think first of all, it is a difficult game sometimes for older players to play in. I think when you know you're reaching the end of your career and that you might be playing in your last game, I've been a part of games like this, that the young players, they sort of don't know any better. So I think that they played terrific, but I also think that sometimes that comes from lack of stress, lack of pressure.

The older ones, it's a difficult night when you know it's coming and you know that you have to play a certain way for it not to come. And our seniors, I think you could tell how they feel about Texas, and I think you could tell their passion for their team and their teammates.

I think I said this yesterday, when someone asked me, what we had to lose, I think it was you. Someone asked me, maybe it was Fran, I don't remember who it was, they asked me, were we going to go into this game feeling like we had nothing to lose, and I still feel the same way. We had a lot to lose. Our team did not want this to be over.

Q. Given what you just said about how difficult this game can be on seniors, can you just talk about the way UConn's seniors played. Are they just a different group?
COACH ASTON: Well, they have been there and done it, so they understand what that pressure feels like. They have a confidence level from the experiences that they have had that's unique.

And then you can't deny that they're talented. I don't want to take that away from them also, that they're extremely talented. But they also have that level of experience that takes them probably mentally to a different place.

Q. With all the stuff that's gone on in the last couple days with Shaughnessy and Geno and the talk about UConn and winning by such margin. The one thing that I thought was that your team got lost in the shuffle and that your team deserved to be here and wasn't getting enough credit. Did you use this in any way to talk to your team about the differences between people, the way people perceive other teams and growing the game or did you just not, try not to pay attention to it at all?
COACH ASTON: Well, I think that in the age of social media and Internet, I don't have to tell my players a whole lot. They read everything that everybody else reads. So I sometimes feel like that it's overkill to talk to them about all the things that they're already reading, unless I think that in some sort of way it might motivate them.

But in this particular instance, I really tried to focus on our team, and I do agree with you that we did get lost in the shuffle. When you have conversations and nobody even discusses our team, and we were 31-4 coming into this game, it's disappointing that we didn't have anybody even interested in talking about Texas, because I think we are a phenomenal basketball team. I do. And I wouldn't say that -- I didn't say that last year. We weren't. But I think we are really good. And very easily could have been in the Final Four had we gone in a different region, you never know about something like that.

But I do think that we deserved to be talked about. And, therefore, my focus was more on preparing them. I mean, I thought that if we prepared, that we could compete. So, I didn't pay much attention to it yesterday.

Q. Imani was pretty passionate just now saying what the University of Texas has meant to her. What --reciprocate that, what has she meant to the University of Texas?
COACH ASTON: Well, she's taken our program to a different level. She and the other seniors and all of the people that along the way in these four years that committed to getting us to a highly competitive level. And Imani was sort of in the forefront of that because she was the premier recruit in that class. There was a lot expected of her, and I think she delivered, and she delivered in an instance where she was always constantly having to fight injuries and it would have been very easily for her to check out. I think if everybody really understood the struggles that she's had. And she has something in her, and I think what was interesting about what she said is she hoped that they thought she was a good teammate. And out of everything she's evolved into, that's the most special thing to me as a coach, is what kind of teammate she has become. Because in the beginning, she had some quirkiness about her and nobody really knew how to take her and I don't know that she knew how to be a teammate. And she has become a great teammate. And I think they would all say that about her. So I'm probably as proud about that as I am what she's -- her numbers. But her numbers speak for themself, too.

Q. You talked in your opening statement about how the locker room is different from last year and hurt more in a sense. Does that help you guys going forward with the group you're coming back and coming in that the off season will be, okay, we're close to making that next step to being in the Final Four and in the elite group?
COACH ASTON: I think that any time you take steps forward it's motivational. And I said that the other day. You can look at situations and when you're successful, and they're either going to make you complacent, or they're going to motivate you. And I do not see this team going in any direction other than being motivated. They don't like this. We have a lot of competitive young players that want to be great.

We have a tremendous recruiting class coming in, so I do expect that this will be very motivational for them. I don't look at it as something where they think, oh, great, we did this, and now we don't have to do anything. I think they understand we're still not there. Real close. Really, really close, but we're not quite there.

So I think that should be the motivational tool for them is that we don't have a ring. As much as 31-5 sounds unbelievable, and I do think that we were an unbelievable team and had an unbelievable year, we still don't have a ring. We are still chasing championships. So, we should be highly motivated. That's what you're supposed to do at Texas.

Q. Address your transition defense. UConn usually gets the ball, gets out in transition. You guys were able to keep them to a half court. How important is that moving forward for the teams in the Final Four to make them play offense in the half court?
COACH ASTON: I was really pleased with that. I appreciate you saying that, because they're phenomenal in transition. I think some of it had to do with the fact that we didn't turn it over a lot, and they get out in transition very quickly when you turn it over to them. So I think that was a piece of it. We only had seven turnovers in the first half and, obviously, seven in the second.

But they were -- they're just terrific in the half court, too. But it does kind of somewhat make you feel like you're staying in the game if you can take away their layups and take away the baskets that get the crowd into it, and I mean, easy uncontested baskets. So I do think that we made them work for some things. But 12 threes is too many, for sure.

THE MODERATOR: All right. Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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