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March 6, 2017

Joe Tartamella

Aaliyah Lewis

Chicago, Illinois

DePaul - 59, St. John's - 41

JOE TARTAMELLA: Yeah, I thought DePaul did a great job of really making us uncomfortable throughout the whole game. I felt the first quarter we actually did a really good job and allowed them to really kind of break our back in the second. Obviously scoring four points is not a way that you want to stay in the game, especially going into half. But I thought they did a good job. I thought they -- it was similar to the first game we played during the year where they tried to take away a lot of the passing lanes, tried to frustrate us, not only just putting some of the length on Aaliyah, changing the vision of her and being physical, and then also just trying to really push us, and we got pushed out so far offensively I thought we struggled.

Credit to what they did to us, and we were not able to adjust enough on the fly to be able to counteract what they were doing.

I was happy that we fought a little bit in the third and then going into the start of the fourth, and then I also thought we were -- we looked a little bit tired. I thought both teams looked a little bit tired through the entire first half. Losing Jade in the first half obviously hurt our continuity, and so that was difficult to manage. I thought we did a pretty good job for a while. We held her to about 10 and then 12 and then it just got away from us a little bit toward that three-minute mark in the second quarter.

I'm really proud of this group. I think they've shown throughout the year that they have really grown as a group. I mean, beginning of the year we have two games out of the first three that we weren't able to close, and then I think from that point forward, we've done a really good job in our growth, including last night's game, and then coming into this game.

You know, it's the same thing I told them in the locker room, you want to play well even though you come out with a loss, and so we just didn't play our best, and that's part of what DePaul did to us, and then I thought we self-inflicted some of those wounds as they frustrated us.

I talked yesterday about not letting one end affect the other, and I think that happened today for us.

But listen, we have more games to play in whatever tournament that's going to be, and for this program, that will be a tenth straight postseason, which is a proud moment for all of us. Hopefully we're in the discussion for the tournament, and if not, then obviously we'll prepare for whatever tournament we play in.

Q. You still have basketball to be played; can you reflect on this season and a life without Danaejah and Aliyyah was going to be tough, but you've taken that leadership role. Can you tell me what that's been like for you?
AALIYAH LEWIS: Last year we lost two great players. But it's a new year, different players, and I'm proud of the people who stepped in this year as the wings to take on that role. They did a good job. I'm proud of them.

Q. What makes you think that this team still can do something in the postseason here?
AALIYAH LEWIS: Always got faith in my team. We still got a couple games left. We're just going to go hard this week in practice and just keep focus. Wherever we land, we're going to be ready to play.

Q. I had the honor of being there with the St. John's women last year in Waco, Texas, for the tournament, and I was watching you play, Ms. Lewis, and you definitely were taking some of that leadership role. You were leading a lot of plays and you were providing some great offense and defense. Going into this next postseason, how are you going to take some of the energy that you had last year and really spin it in a way that can provide a winning set of games this postseason?
AALIYAH LEWIS: I would just say continue to go harder. It starts with practice, practicing this week to see wherever we land. Just keep continuing to practice, bringing the energy. I'm a leader out there, so it kind of starts with me. If I bring the energy, my teammates will follow, and we'll be all right.

Q. Yesterday in the postgame press conference after you left, your head coach spoke about the importance that you've left on this program. What have you learned now that Big East play is over when you reflect about the program and what Coach Tartamella has meant to you?
AALIYAH LEWIS: Well, I actually thank him for giving me the opportunity to be able to be the point guard here. I've been playing three years starting point guard since my sophomore year, so you know, just continue the legacy. I've been in three postseasons since we've been here, a Big East championship. So I'm just kind of glad that I got the opportunity to do this, and just continue it to keep going. Whoever is after me, I hope they kind of do better than me. I always want people to do better than me, so I hope they get the chance to do better.

Q. You were kind of on the Villanova side of things tonight where the shots just weren't falling. Were there adjustments made after that second quarter to try and break down what DePaul was giving you defensively?
JOE TARTAMELLA: Yeah, I mean, we talked about trying to do some things to free up our entry to the wing and trying to set some down screens, get in some crossing action, and it's hard, we have a group that can do certain things I think on the fly really well and then other things that are a little bit more difficult, and so I didn't think we adjusted quickly enough in that second half, although I thought we made some good plays, and then there was a time where neither team scored for a while, and we had missed opportunity after missed opportunity. I mean, whether it was a transition lay-up, and we don't make a bucket or we settle for a pull-up jumper instead of being aggressive or running our lanes.

You know, I think the adjustments we tried to make, I mean, I think we did a good job in certain areas. In other areas we didn't. And part of that was due to fatigue. Part of that was due to frustration. I think from the ball not going through the hole as much as we had seen over the course of the year.

If you told me that we would hold them to 59 points, I probably would have signed up for it.

So the disappointing part is we just really weren't able to execute and never got in the flow.

They did a good job with Aaliyah, and we'll see those similar things again, and we've got to be able to counteract it, and other players are going to have to step up. It just wasn't on Aaliyah. I mean, we had multiple players struggle, and it's hard to win a game when you've got sort of that quicksand happening to you where you just -- it's just snowballing. The harder you're trying, you're still sinking, and I think they were really trying hard, but we just were not able to get ourselves stabilized.

Even when we got to the line, I thought there were a couple times where we could maybe connect. We weren't able to do that.

The adjustments we made, we tried, and then again, we picked up fouls again that would adjust the lineup. We were concerned about certain match-ups specifically. Obviously the addition of January back, of how we were going to be able to counteract that without having Imani Littleton and her versatility, but Maya has been really good and Crystal had played really well.

They did a great job tonight, and like I said, I mean, I don't think anybody gave us a chance yesterday, but I'm proud of how they've played, and to be ready for that game and then to execute was great, and then I thought we lacked that level of energy when we needed to raise it to the level that DePaul was bringing it to, and I thought it was a physical game, as well. They were letting us play a little bit. I thought both teams were getting calls that probably weren't going their way, so to speak. But that's part of the game in the postseason. You've got to be able to play. It's just how it is.

You know, I think it was probably that way on both sides. We have to regroup, get healthy, get rest, and then prepare for the postseason.

Q. Not to hamper on offense too much, but the bench definitely struggled only being able to produce two points in the entire game. Obviously we're talking a lot about tournament play, depth is always something that's extremely critical. Looking forward, how are you going to be able to kind of make some adjustments to better utilize the bench?
JOE TARTAMELLA: I mean, we're short-handed now, so our depth has taken a hit. Our players have done a great job for the most part of being ready and engaged when they have to play. We started a different lineup today than we have, played a little bit smaller to try to counteract some of the mismatches, so to the question you guys asked me the other day, looking at the film we felt we could make an adjustment.

But again, when you make that adjustment, it affects other things, as well. So you've got to take everything into account.

I mean, we have to continue to understand that every day we step on the floor in practice and whether it's shoot-around practice, we have to execute the things that we go over, similarly to what Aaliyah talked about last night about following the game plan and letting the game plan fail them and not failing the game plan.

So we've got to continue to do that and prepare just like we would for any other game.

Q. The perception in the preseason was that this program was going to be in a year of some rebuilding and you were picked in the back half of the conference. How proud are you of this group for putting a 20-win season on the board?
JOE TARTAMELLA: Yeah, this group has surprised me in many ways, both good and probably on the other side, also. They've been great. They're disappointed right now. They lost the game. That's what happens. You're going to end on a loss most likely at some point in the year, as you progress. I've been doing this a long time now, and so I've -- you have the elation of success, and then you have the feeling of not real failure but just that you came up short and it just wasn't good enough in that game, and you want to play well.

For this group to be able to get to 20 wins, to I think be in every game, today was probably one of the bigger -- it might have been the biggest, I don't know. I think we've been in every game all year, whether it was Miami, Arizona State was a weird game, but we didn't have Akina. But these guys have fought. They've played hard every game.

That's the biggest thing that we talk about, you've got to play hard. So I couldn't be prouder of a group. Picked sixth, finished tied for fourth, to be able to win the 4-5 game, being able to sweep a couple of teams that were close to you, maybe one ahead of you, one right behind you, and then being able to get that win yesterday. So I think we've done a really good job.

I look around the country, there are teams that you look at on paper we have better wins than some teams that are already considered to be in the NCAA Tournament. But we know also that it's not an easy thing to do, it's selection. I witnessed it. I went through it. I saw it in the mock stuff. But I couldn't be prouder, and I think there are -- when you look at the development of Alisha Kebbe as a freshman, you look at the development of Akina Wellere, Crystal brings you a different dimension to the game and how she can change it from her energy and defense, those are the bright spots.

Maya Singleton obviously stepping in for Imani, Imani being able to come back next year. So I think we've got a lot of things to build on where people maybe thought we were going to slide off because it was and Aliyyah and Danaejah, Aliyyah and Danaejah. They forget about Lewis and Jade. Aaliyah Lewis has been a rock -- she said she started for three years because she dispenses the 10 that she started as a freshman. But she's been pretty much part of the mix the minute she stepped on campus.

And so those kids, I'm proud for -- I'm happy for them that they're able to leave as winners and they're able to, I think, feel really good about what they've accomplished. They've been a part of four 20-win seasons since they got here. I mean, that's a great accomplishment for them but also for the people who have played with them, the kids who have been through our program.

I'm really proud of this group, and I think that wherever we land, we have an opportunity to make a run, and I think they'll be ready for it.

So I've been really pleased. I mean, I'll be honest with you, I didn't know what to expect this year when we came in, not that the year is over yet, but I wasn't really sure, and then losing Tiana right in the summer, losing Sandra midway through the year, losing Imani, which teams have had that similar injury bug in the league. Next person has got to step up and you've got to play.

Really proud of them. Just really, really happy for those seniors that can leave as winners.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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