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March 5, 2018

Carolyn Kieger

Allazia Blockton

Chicago, Illinois

Marquette - 76, Creighton 70

CAROLYN KIEGER: First of all, I just want to say how proud of my team I am. That was a really fun game to coach. But I've never seen this level of focus in a team that we've had so far at Marquette in those timeouts down the stretch. As a coach, when you see that level of maturity, and you see that look in your eye when you know you're not going to lose the game, that takes a big weight off your shoulders.

And I thought our team really grew up tonight. We hit adversity. Creighton gave us a great game, a great punch, and we got down there and we weathered the storm and handled adversity.

I obviously can't say enough about the young woman sitting to the right of me. What a game. That's what the Big East Player of the Year did, and she did it in a huge fashion. Three assists, zero turnovers, four steals, that's big time. When you have that, and you have that level of player, it makes you look good as a coach, so, thank you.

But just extremely proud of my team, and honestly, huge defensive stops, and that's been achilles heel for us the last couple years is locking down on defense. I think that's what won us the game the last four minutes.

Q. I talked to Coach a lot over the course of the season. One of the big things she said was she felt like you guys finally understood how good you can be. It's something she's always preached as a coach. But not until this year did she feel you guys really understood how good you could be. At what point in the season do you think you and the other women on the team understood what our potential could be like?
ALLAZIA BLOCKTON: I think a big turning point in our season was when we were in Cancun and we took Tennessee down to the wire in overtime, and that's when the light bulbs started popping. We were all like, yeah, we can do this. Like Tennessee's one of the best teams in the country, and we took them down to the wire. That just boosted our confidence.

That translated into practice, and we started practicing with a little more of a chip on our shoulder because we knew we dropped a lot of close games. So I would say that game was a turning point in our season.

Q. 32 points for you tonight, and as Coach said, no turnovers, three assists, four steals. You played like a woman on a mission tonight. What was your mindset coming into the game?
ALLAZIA BLOCKTON: I give it all to my teammates. Yesterday I struggled shooting from the field a little bit, so they just boosted me up all yesterday and kept my head in it for today. I knew we had to get this win, so I just did whatever it took. My teammates had my back throughout the whole game, so it's just a testament to them and my coach too.

Q. Also a lot of assists there for Amani, including a couple plays after that timeout where they ran. What was Amani doing today to get involved?
ALLAZIA BLOCKTON: Like I always say, Amani's a silent assassin. She can get to the rim, she can shoot the ball, she can dish it. Our chemistry, we've been playing together since fifth grade, so we have a special chemistry on the floor. She always knows how to find me, and I always know how to find her, so that's a big thing.

Q. With going into the second title game with a lot of the same group, how much does it help to have pretty much your entire team coming back from last year?
ALLAZIA BLOCKTON: It's a huge confidence booster. We all came in together, so we obviously have a lot of chemistry together. So if we keep our heads clear, we focus, we follow the game plan, we're hoping for big results.

Q. Then early on you really got going when nobody else was. What did you see that your team found out?
ALLAZIA BLOCKTON: With our team, you never know who is going to be hot on a given night. Obviously I had the hot hand tonight and my teammates did a good job of finding me. Down the stretch other people had the hot hand, and I think we do a good job of that. When somebody's hot, we keep feeding them the ball, and try to keep getting them going.

Q. I talked to Coach about this topic a few times throughout the course of the season, but from a player's perspective, how have you seen the team evolve mentally over the course of this season, and just how have you guys been able to play through adversity and hang on to get a win in a tight game like today?
ALLAZIA BLOCKTON: It's just great. Honestly, we're not even the same team we were two weeks ago. We progress every week. Every practice we're getting better and better. Just to look at our film from when we played Creighton a second time, it wasn't that long ago, but it's day and night. Just we keep our heads in it, and we keep our mental up and we listen to Coach, obviously. She knows everything.

We're a great group of girls and we're really close on and off the floor, and I think that attributes to a lot.

Q. Just your development and involvement as a player, last year you shot 25% from three. Today you knocked down five for five. Just what kind of work did you put into that part of your game, and how have you seen your confidence grow?
ALLAZIA BLOCKTON: I got confidence because I know I put the work in. So after practice I'll say I get a lot of extra shots in with the regards and just it was all about me feeling confident enough in myself to knock it down in the game. This year I think that's what you see a lot. Like I'm just taking the open shot and not even thinking about it and just letting it fly.

Q. I thought Natisha was huge today. You look at the stat sheet, she only had 8 points. It seemed like she had way more. It seemed like every shot was a huge shot. What impact does she bring to your team when she's playing with so much energy and always makes a big play on either end?
CAROLYN KIEGER: Yeah, I think she's an x-factor when it comes to energy. When Natisha's playing with her swagger, as we call it, but when she's playing with that look in her eye and that chip on her shoulder, it fires everybody else up.

Tonight I thought she did it on the defensive end, which says something about her growth. Obviously she only had 8 points, but right before halftime she had that huge steal and finish, and she came up with three huge blocks tonight. So she just never gave up on a play. She had hot hands and she did it on the defensive end, which we really needed to to handle Lamberty and Agnew.

Q. Do you think the fact that you guys played in the championship game last year, does that have any impact on playing tomorrow in terms of your level of conformability or is it a brand-new slate?
CAROLYN KIEGER: I hope so. Year two, I think we got our feet under us a little bit. I don't think the pressure will be there as much, not on our home floor, and being here the second time around I think she'll feel like we've been here before, which we obviously have. So now it's going to come down to who has the better game tomorrow night because obviously both two teams that we're about to play, could possibly play, are very good. So we need to show up and be confident and go into the game knowing we can get it done.

Q. Second straight Big East Tournament Championship game for you guys. What's it mean for the program and how does it make you feel?
CAROLYN KIEGER: Yeah, especially being alum. When I got the job I had a vision for where this program could go. As a coach, you don't know how quick it's going to be. But for my staff and my players, I'm so thankful that we're being rewarded with our hard work the past four years. We've done it the right way, and we've put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this rebuild. To have two back-to-back championship seasons or games, I should say, hopefully seasons, it just says a lot about the culture of the program and my players and my staff.

I couldn't be more proud of where Marquette basketball is and where it's going.

Q. Can you just talk a little bit about the versatility? It seems like one game Amani is going off, and Allazia today had a great game. When one person's down, it seems another steps up. Can you talk about that?
CAROLYN KIEGER: Absolutely. I think we're one of the most versatile teams out there in the country. We have literally six people that could go off for 20 any given night, and I don't know how many teams in the country could say that.

So for us, I think that's the level of trust they have in each other, and the fact that a majority of them have been playing together now for three years that that's also a brand of basketball that you don't see much, you know. That teams get to grow up together and stay together. So they do have this connection on the floor.

As a coach, it's really fun to watch. I think the best thing that our staff is able to do is sit back and watch them grow up together and trust each other in the process.

Q. Allazia seems to be showing a lot of versatility and ability to be going five for five from distance and get a lot of rebounds. What does that ability give to your team?
CAROLYN KIEGER: The fact that she had four steals tonight I think says where her game has come. I've been preaching it to her. She has that ability to take over any game at any given moment, and not just from scoring.

You saw her rebounds tonight. You saw her level of focus on those pick sixes as I call them. But for her, when she's playing that locked in and that focused, that takes a lot of pressure off her teammates and Amani can play free, and Erika can play free. So I think for them, they do a great job of relieving pressure from each other.

Q. It looked like you tried to speed them up and had some mixed results. You did get some turnovers out of Lamberty. Just talk about defensively what you were trying to do with the press?
CAROLYN KIEGER: Yeah, I thought Creighton did a great job with our press tonight. The first two times we played them we were able to turn them over a little more than tonight. They were obviously ready for that. But our team feeds off our steals and our defense. So even if we're not getting turnovers, it still gets our energy up. So when you see us pick up full court, it's not as much for turnovers. It's for us to get the pace up and for us to be locked in defensively.

Q. As far as Lamberty, she played okay, but did get some turnovers that are kind of uncharacteristic?
CAROLYN KIEGER: Yeah, I thought our team did a great job. She's a phenomenal player. She's the one that scared me the most coming into the game because she is so versatile with her assists and rebounding and what she's able to do. So I thought our team did a good job of handling her and keeping her in check tonight.

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