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March 3, 2017

Cori Close

Nicole Kornet

Monique Billings

Seattle, Washington

UCLA - 77, ASU - 68

THE MODERATOR: Coach, an opening statement, and then questions.

CORI CLOSE: Thank you, media, for being here. It's so huge for our sport and the city of Seattle. I just think this is such a well-run tournament and I know a lot goes in behind the scenes, and we need our media to really make it a national event, so we appreciate that.

Also, congratulations to Arizona State. They're going to have a great run in the NCAA Tournament. I just have so much respect for the way they play and how hard they play. They're always a team that plays better together than you would think in their individual pieces. So excited to root them on in the NCAA Tournament.

That's why this win means something to us. We beat a really good team in Arizona State. It's not easy to get a team three times in a year, especially not a good team like that. But really proud of our team. That's as well as we've executed all year in that first quarter. They came out in zone, a lot of people have been zoning us throughout the year. We put in some new things recently, and we really executed to perfection.

I thought Monique Billings really set the tone for the game. Other people will talk about her points and rebounds, but what she did on the inside to draw two and three people, how hard she posted when she created driving lanes with her seals that created outside shots for Nicole, I really thought her intensity on both ends of the floor really set the tone for the entire game, and I thought she was consistent all the way through.

About a month and a half ago, we looked to Nicole Kornet, Kelli Hayes, and Paulina Hersler in the eyes and said we are going to go as you guys grow. And to see Nicole Kornet's growth over this last month and a half has been absolutely a joy to watch. But it's not been without sacrifice and hard things. So I'm really proud of her just stamina and perseverance, and it's fun to see it pay off the way it did today.

Q. I know you you'd like to bottle that first quarter --
CORI CLOSE: Absolutely.

Q. -- and just pour it out whenever you need it. It was pretty even the next three quarters, but that part of it? It's really hard to keep that type of pace when you're that far ahead for an entire game?
CORI CLOSE: Well, I think it is hard. That's why there are not very many elite teams. That's what we seek to be. We seek to be an elite program that knows how to sustain that kind of focus and intensity, no matter what the score says. I don't always think the score, whether you're up or down, is always a reflection of how close to your potential that you're playing.

So it is. It's very difficult to maintain that edge. We have an edge to start the game. Like everything mattered. Every pass mattered, every screen mattered, everything mattered. As we stretched out that lead, it is more difficult. If you want to be an elite program, you have to be willing to do the difficult things.

Q. Monique, what were you seeing from the ASU defense that allowed you to draw that pressure inside?
MONIQUE BILLINGS: They really just concentrated the middle of the key, I would say and just really brought two, three people to me. So I had to be strong with the ball and look for kickouts to Nicole or Jordin and just make the extra pass.

Q. Nicole, when an offense gets rolling, and the shots start falling for almost everybody, is that kind of contagious though that you kind of get into a flow? You wish it would go 40 minutes, but at times like that, it's nice to happen, but can you feel that?
NICOLE KORNET: It's definitely contagious. As soon as one goes in, especially when it's your first shot, it's just give me the ball. It's going up. But when K.B. hit shots, when Kari hit shots, when it's falling, it's just fun. You're together, and it's the most cohesive time to be that team. Obviously the hard part is when shots aren't falling. But tonight especially in the first quarter, it was just fun to be out there and playing with these guys.

CORI CLOSE: I think it's really easy to talk about the 26 points we had, but I think the more important thing was the 7 points we held them to. I think it really is our defense. So, we said hitting shots are a bonus. The when you get defense and you defend and you rebound, that's really what we were most excited about in that first quarter.

Q. Early thoughts on Oregon State tomorrow night?
CORI CLOSE: They're just really good. We have two great match-ups. Obviously, we have confidence, and we beat them at our place, and we had a good game up at their place. Even when we lost Jordin Canada in the second quarter, I thought that was the start, honestly, of our role players really learning how valuable they are and how capable they are.

And I thought we actually fought really hard, won the third quarter. We were a couple plays or a couple baskets away. But they do such a great job on the defensive end trying to control the shot selection, trying to get you into mid-range, low-percentage shots. It's going to be important that we hit a couple jump shots, honestly, because we're going to need to pull them away if we want to play to our strengths. I thought they did a really good job of trying to play Monique up there. But the great thing about Monique is she spends countless hours watching film and learning from her experience.

You know, they had their punch, and she'll have her counterpunch, and we'll see who learned the most.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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