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April 3, 2016

Steve Gomez

Kellyn Schneider

Haley Fowler

Nicole Hampton

Indianapolis, Indiana

THE MODERATOR: Joining us is head coach Steve Gomez, student-athletes Nicole Hampton, Haley Fowler and Kellyn Schneider.

COACH GOMEZ: What a tremendous opportunity. We appreciate all the attention just from coming into town. It's been overwhelming. Thank the NCAA for combining it this year. I know it's been a lot of trouble. More than we deserve. But we feel spoiled. I hope our girls aren't playing spoiled tomorrow, playing hungry. A great opportunity off an incredibly good opponent, and hopefully it will be 40 good minutes of basketball tomorrow to watch. But I just say thank you for taking the time to give us this honor.

Q. This is your first year of NCAA postseason eligibility after your program's success as an NAIA school. Talk about, I guess, what it means to not only enter the championship game undefeated but to really set a trail for the future of the Lubbock program?
HALEY FOWLER: I think we're all just really thankful for this experience. We start out two years no postseason, and this being our first year, we're just very thankful for the team that we have and how well and successful we've been, and it's just been a blessing for us.

NICOLE HAMPTON: I think it's really cool just to be a part of that foundation that got to start off the DII program, and hopefully we'll come back in a few years and get to see what work Coach Gomez has continued to do. But we're just thankful to be here and to be together as a team enjoying this journey.

KELLYN SCHNEIDER: I definitely agree with Haley and Nicole. It's cool to be able to play past our conference (indiscernible) a certain date really exciting fun experience.

Q. Can you talk about recruiting and what you did to try to sell the idea of you're not going to be able to play in the postseason but were going to be able to play in Division II?
COACH GOMEZ: That's a good question. We want to build our program not on how far you get to go in the postseason but what you do every day because we don't want this season to be considered a success if you get to play in the national championship game and if you don't it's not.

We really didn't have to change anything recruiting-wise. We told the girls that were there, this is the situation. We're going to take two years, and I offered all of them, if you would like to go somewhere else and play in the postseason, we'll be glad to help you. But all of them were sold out to the school, to what we stand for as a program.

A lot of it is the relationships on the team, because if we were just selling postseason players, that's going to be pretty empty in the long run. So what we want to do is build a program that is going to have long-term impact, more than maybe a medal or a trophy.

So it wasn't hard for us. Obviously the recruiting, NCAA has a bigger footprint, a bigger stability, because the NAIA, a lot of teams have transitioned from the NAIA to DII over the years. It was a good move by our athletic department and our administration that solidified the program and has given us long-term stability.

As far as what it changed for us from what we did in the NAIA, the type of kids we recruited, the way we approached the game, nothing really changed. And we don't want to market, hey, we went to the national championship game so come to our school. We want people to come to our school because they want to be in the environment that we have as opposed to selling wins and losses.

Q. Coach, kind of on the subject of recruiting, you guys have not only been able to do it with -- I guess you had a chance to recruit a lot of kids from the metroplex, from the Houston area if you wanted to, but you've done a lot of this with players, specifically from the Lubbock area, and if not that, the west Texas area in general. What's it been like for you to see that success considering that fact?
COACH GOMEZ: I think like people in this area, Indiana basketball is obviously known around the world. West Texas girls basketball is known very well also, I would think. The Texas Tech years, how strong they were. And even continually now in the high school ranks a lot of teams that win the state championships come from west Texas. There's a lot of successful, solid high school programs out there, those coaches that teach fundamental and skill and teach teamwork, and so the smart thing for me to do was to get those players and let them play. Just to find the good players that know how to play so I don't have to do much and let them play together.

And so that's what we've tried to do is take the best players from our region of the best schools and put them together. Kids that could play at another level. They could play at a DI level but hopefully they want to come to our school and be on the team with these teammates.

Q. Can you just describe what this weekend has been like for you in this kind of environment, what's the coolest thing that's happened to you so far this weekend and how thankful are you to be at this kind of a venue?
HALEY FOWLER: It's kind of been surreal for all of us just to be here. I don't think anyone on our team has got the opportunity to come to Indianapolis. And so everything here is just kind of like our eyes are huge and we're like little kids seeing stuff for the first time. And we've had a lot of fun.

And I think for me, personally, I really enjoyed getting to go to Butler's Gym and just the history of that and getting to shoot around in there and be with the team. That's always fun.

NICOLE HAMPTON: For me, I think my most favorite part has been when we first got here and just getting welcomed at our hotel. We felt so welcomed by the NCAA and by everyone. And also it's just cool to be with my teammates, because most of them haven't got to do postseason. There's only been four of us who have done it. And so just to be with them during this journey and make those memories is something that I'll always cherish.

KELLYN SCHNEIDER: We always have so much fun together on road trips, and we've taken a couple really cool trips this year but this one has been so awesome. So many cool things to see and so much history here that it's just like they said it's opened our eyes to much more than what we've seen and it's been really fun to experience it with my team and my coaches.

Q. Nicole, Alaska-Anchorage obviously has a reputation for high-pressure defense, picking you up full court and has forced a ton of turnovers this year. Maybe from what you've seen on tape, what is the challenge for girls like yourself and Kelsey, senior guards, to handle that pressure, and how important is that going to be to the outcome of this game?
NICOLE HAMPTON: One of the main points is pressure defense. I love it when people press because it gives me more opportunities to find the teammates and hopefully get transition going. Coach Gomez does a great job of making sure we all have two to three outlet passes and these two right here are actually my go-to girls when I need the middle or someone in the back. So I think the main thing is just staying calm and not letting the pressure rush to us and just making a solid decision.

Q. For those of us not familiar with Lubbock and the Heartland Conference, if the players could just discuss the style of play, because I know you've been known to put up a lot of points, and how does your style of play compare with other teams in the Heartland and for that matter the entire South Central region like the Lone Star and the Rocky Mountain?
HALEY FOWLER: We like to control the tempo of the game, and I think we've done a really good job of that this year. We like to kind of get up in people's face, not as much as Alaska, but we like to put the hammer down, I guess you could say, just go out fast, and I think we get a lot of points when people try to press us. We don't look like a fast team. It's kind of deceiving, I guess.

NICOLE HAMPTON: With our Heartland Conference, towards the end of the season, once we started playing people the second time around, they try to slow it up and use most of the shot clock. And we really like to keep the tempo going. And so Coach Gomez adjusted a little to that and maybe changed the pace of the game that would get more points scored.

KELLYN SCHNEIDER: And in the South Central Region we were all really excited to see how we matched up with some of those teams. And I think that we did a really good job of executing the game plan that Coach Gomez gave us, and just coming out, trying to go 1-and-0, like Coach Gomez tells us to do, and just playing without fear and playing to win instead of not to lose.

Q. Obviously this tournament this year bringing all the divisions together -- I guess this could be for any of you guys -- but have you had the chance to meet up with UConn considering how it all started back in the exhibition, and I guess what was that like?
COACH GOMEZ: Luckily we didn't meet them on the court this time. We got to see them the Friday night event. You get to see them. We didn't do a lot of mingling and hanging out. I think some of our girls took pictures with them. Again, like the first time, we got a chance to see them. I think this morning we're walking in to eat, and they're walking into Panera Bread. There's obviously brushes with them.

We're huge fans of what they did. They started the year off by beating us by 56 points. I appreciate it so much, because it was the best drubbing we have ever taken. It got us off to a good start learning how to compete with the best.

Again, we'd love to -- I hope we're not starstruck and googly-eyed at everybody we see. They're great competitors, a great team. We want to watch them and succeed tonight because they're excellent. We want to try to be excellent at our level. We haven't had a chance to do much interactive with them. But it's certainly neat to know, hey, we played them.

Q. How important was it that you guys played that Florida Southern game in the Elite Eight and had such a close game, something that you guys really hadn't experienced much this year?
COACH GOMEZ: I think both of our teams have won on average of victory, margin of victory, close to 29 points, Alaska and ours. Over the course of the year, there's no time to work on end-of-game situations. You can do it in practice, but practice can't simulate what a game is like.

Last game at home two-point game midway through the fourth quarter that I think we won by 11. That was a good experience. But the Florida Southern game was a game we were sort of in quicksand the whole game, never getting to play, do what we do. So it was really gratifying to win a game we didn't play well against a really good team that I thought they played a very solid game against us, but we were able just to gut it out. And it was more of a character-gutty win than an executional win. So it was good for us. And the next game I think we played a little more loose and relaxed. And hoping tomorrow we're just going to come in and have fun and play.

Q. Coach, they talked about it with Nicole earlier. But Alaska obviously is going to be very high pressure on defense. What have you talked about and what was your message to the girls this week to maybe sustain some of that?
COACH GOMEZ: What we just have to do is make a solid decision with the ball. Don't be in habit pass mode where you think where it's usually going to go because they're going to take away those plays and it's going to be staying on balance but being aggressive. We don't want to become passive and careful. We want to be aggressively solid and keep the game moving. I mean, we like to play fast. We're not fast. You've seen these girls, they're not fast physically. But mentally they think pretty quickly and they work together quickly, and that's what we need to do tomorrow is really have everybody where they need to be making the play.

There's not going to be a lot of margin of error. So we're going to have to be really sharp. So I say just the ball handling decision is a big thing. And setting our defense, transitionally defensively, not letting them open the court up and making sure we're set on defense. They've done such a good job of it. That's what they've done all year.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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