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March 3, 2017

Dawn Staley

Doniyah Cliney

A'ja Wilson

Greenville, South Carolina

South Carolina - 72, Georgia - 48

THE MODERATOR: I'd like to welcome South Carolina.

Coach, if you would start us off with an opening statement, please.

COACH STALEY: I thought we came out the gates ready to rock and roll, pushing the pace, not allowing Georgia to play at the pace that they had been successful playing against us.

I thought we took advantage of the space that was left by Alaina Coates not being able to play today. But we look forward to having her hopefully tomorrow.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.

Q. A'ja, with Alaina not being here, how much did you take it on yourself to supply that boost and get to the free-throw line?
A'JA WILSON: It's hard filling in the spaces for her. She contribute as lot for this team. I give it all to the guards. They've been hitting shots lately. It's been opening up the post. With me and Kiki now being in there, they're still dragging on us, but it's not as bad.

It's just the guards hitting shots and opening it up for us.

Q. A'ja, Dawn talked about how important it was to get a good start. How important was it for you to set the tone early and get this thing going?
A'JA WILSON: It's very important, especially in post play. I think the first five minutes are the biggest minutes in the game. I think we came out with a lot of energy. That really showed in the end of the regular season, is that we have a lot of energy. That's something we handle very well. I think when we're playing with a lot of energy, we come out and play our best basketball.

Q. Doniyah, you were very aggressive today, career high in points. Is that something you've tried to be more aggressive with in the season or just for this game?
DONIYAH CLINEY: I mean, I look to be aggressive every time I get the chance to when I get into the game. So today I just knew I had to step it up to fill in for Alaina Coates. If I did get in for Kiki, make some offense.

Q. Can you talk about Kiki, looked poised.
A'JA WILSON: She did great. Kiki's game is really forming into its own. That's the biggest thing. Like coach said, Kiki has been working hard in practice. I think that's where it really starts. You can see it translate over to the game. Kiki is my roommate on the game. You ready? I don't know. She came out and did her thing. I'm very proud of her 'cause the sky's the limit for her.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, ladies.

We'll continue with questions for coach.

Q. Dawn, I think saw Coates come in towards the end of the game. Where was she for the first part? What is the problem? How is the ankle progressing?
COACH STALEY: We elected to keep her at home for more treatments with our doctor, Dr. Guy. I think having her in the building now gives us a lift.

She just got here maybe two minutes before the end of the game.

Q. Coach, in reference to Coates, is still day-to-day? I know you are hopeful to have her tomorrow. Without her, how important was it today to conserve the legs of your starters moving forward in this tournament?
COACH STALEY: She is day-to-day. I haven't talked to our doctor yet. We'll talk tonight about what her status is, where she is, how the treatments went.

I think it's important for us in tournament play to be able to spread the minutes out a little bit. I was very encouraged by what we saw, that our starters got us off to a great start. Then we went to our bench, they took it to another level.

I think they understand, the people coming off the bench, where we are, that they're needed. They're more focused in on being ready when their number's called.

Q. Dawn, you said after the Texas A&M game your team played together, very well. Another game where they played together here. What is it about them when they feel adversity that they do rally around that?
COACH STALEY: Well, I think they're just a resilient group. We've been practicing with the small lineup a lot, even before Alaina got hurt. Once A'ja got hurt, we played the smaller lineup because we got some good looks out of it.

This team, whatever they've thrown their way, they've handled all season long. It's the mark of a really good team that's able to take advantage of those adverse moments.

Q. Coach, talk about now the tournament being here in Greenville, is it any different having a bigger fan base or not having to travel so far? How do you compare it to other tournaments?
COACH STALEY: Well, I think it's closer to us. I think the proximity to our hometown plays a big part. But we draw well no matter where we are. Jacksonville, we drew pretty good. To have it in the state of South Carolina is a tremendous thing, very convenient for our fans, very convenient for a lot of the teams that are participating to get here.

It's a great city. We got great weather. But I think the biggest thing is we got great competition. This is the SEC tournament, where the best basketball is being played against women's basketball teams, players, programs. Why not bring it to a great place that's been a great host to the tournament. Hopefully we can keep it here.

Q. Bianca came off the bench and gave you a spark, got the team going. How important was her performance today?
COACH STALEY: It was great. Bianca has been in a precarious situation where sometimes she starts, sometimes she comes off the bench. She's been real focused in on whenever he's inserted into the game, she's always ready to play.

Today I thought especially she came in and gave us a boost. She took it to another level by applying a lot of pressure on Haley Clark, as well as facilitating and getting other people involved.

I thought she did a great job passing the ball off, down low, to A'ja to give her some easy buckets. When you have someone with that kind of experience, she's used to playing in these type of games, she's our most experienced guard. When we can get contributions from Bianca like that, she makes us instantly a better team.

Q. You mentioned the team taking advantage of the space. Did you have to tell them to look for the open space or is that something that natural aggression helped them take advantage of?
COACH STALEY: It's something we've been working on, to allow our players to play off what they naturally do. Allisha is able to go downhill a little bit on the floor. Kaela is getting used to putting that ball on the floor, getting to the basket, which I like, being very, very aggressive. All of them. Bianca, even Ty Harris is being a little bit more aggressive.

It's something that maybe we probably should have done a little bit sooner, but you don't know. When you have two SEC-conference players like Alaina Coates and A'ja Wilson, they've been very successful to our program, for our program, you want to make sure you keep them happy, you keep them being as productive as they are.

Q. Talk about the team's defensive performance. Do you feel the way they played in this game that they can string this along into the NCAA tournament?
COACH STALEY: I thought we did a really good job, especially in the first half, just being ready to go. I thought by us having played Georgia two other times, we have their tendencies down pat. We take what they want to do first or second away, have them rely on playing off of a broken play.

I thought we were keyed in on the game plan, executed it from a defensive standpoint, played to the pace that we needed to play to get the win.

Q. You have said for years Gamecocks, Lady Gamecocks. People call you Lady Gamecocks. What can you say to get those people to stop?
COACH STALEY: Call us winners. I don't care what you call us. I want to be able to win basketball games. I'm not into the semantics. We have a very good basketball team. Maybe it's the gentlemen that are calling us Lady Gamecocks. It's chivalry, what they're doing.

You don't like Lady Gamecocks?

Q. I like whatever you like.

Q. You guys were the early game today. You get to see the rest of the teams playing for the rest of the quarterfinals. What are the advantages that you're done for the day? What is the scouting presence going to be like for the rest of the day?
COACH STALEY: It's what we've been used to. When you're able to get into a certain comfort level, we've been the No. 1 seed for the last four years. When you can get into a routine like that, it surely helps you to plan your day.

Now we can sit back and see who we have to play, then we can plan for the finals. You got to see the big picture. As coaches, we do have to look ahead a little bit for preparation. Having played the first game allows us to see how it all pans out for the semis.

Q. Why start Kiki today? How far has she come since her last start?
COACH STALEY: I started Kiki today because I just thought we needed a boost off the bench from Bianca. She's been playing well. It wasn't a fly-by-chance. Kiki has been prepping herself for a moment like this, if given the opportunity to start her if something happened, that she would be ready for it.

I just thought she was ready. Sometimes it's just intuition as a coach to say, Let's capitalize on what she's been doing. If we start Bianca, we never know. We would have missed this performance by Kiki.

Q. Unlike a lot of the other games that happened in the previous season, you are only going to get a little over 24 hours of recovery. What is going to be your message to the girls so they can rest a little bit, make smart decisions to be ready for tomorrow?
COACH STALEY: Well, our plan is to have them watch half of the semifinals game -- I'm sorry, the Kentucky-Alabama game, get back, get some rest, have our training staff get them a lot -- I see a lot of cold baths in their future. Then we prep a little bit tonight with film and a walk-through at the hotel.

It's something that our players are used to, having been in the situation before. But some of them are freshmen and first-timers. Our older players will get them in tune with what needs to take place in order to recover quickly.


COACH STALEY: Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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