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March 5, 2018

Jerry Finkbeiner

Rachel Brewster

Olivia West

Las Vegas, Nevada

Air Force - 68, Utah State - 54

JERRY FINKBEINER: It was kind of a double whammy for us. Air Force obviously came out and shot the ball really well, played with a lot of poise. I thought coming into the game today, I thought there were two or three teams that were pretty hot coming into the tournament, and one was Air Force, based on their win against Wyoming last week.

So we beat them at our place two weeks ago, knew it was going to be a good game, but they just really came in just really ready to go.

The other part of the double whammy, we got -- just literally before we took the floor, got news of one of our players, Shannon Dufficy, our leading rebounder and kind of our pressure release passer is out with a knee injury. So she didn't play tonight, and that hurt us. But that's what I mean kind of a double whammy.

Air Force was totally, totally ready to go, and we had kind of a tough emotional transition before we took the floor. But I thought we still had enough to win, and obviously credit the Air Force on that one.

Q. Olivia, you had really sort of -- you came alive in the fourth quarter especially, but when they shoot the way that they did and you're not expecting that, especially you're talking about the conference's worst three-point field goal percentage team, and they shoot the way that they did and you get in a hole like that, one that you're sort of out of your control, they're just hitting shots, is that tough mentally, especially with what Coach said, hearing the news of your teammate?
OLIVIA WEST: Yeah, absolutely. I think it was difficult because we were -- like it was unexpected. But I think that part of that good shooting was from our lack of defensive effort. And I think as a group, we needed to group together and like just be like, okay, we need to like steady this wave of, like, good shots that they're hitting, like lucky shots, and then, like, we need to just stay with it, but like obviously we couldn't do that tonight.

Q. Rachel, seemed like they were shutting down the passing lanes a lot and they were really frustrating you guys in the first half especially with their defense. Talk about their defense and how they were so disruptive.
RACHEL BREWSTER: Yeah, I mean, they're a great team at doing that, and they work really, really hard, and they were just denying us in the lanes really, really hard. And we should have taken advantage and had more back doors and everything, but we kind of got rattled with that.

We, I think, should have stepped up and been a bit tougher and kind of been able to work through like the hands in our face and them being up in our face and everything and just tried to tough our way out of it.

But it was really difficult to just be able to pass the ball and execute our offense because they were just so in our face. But that's the way they are, and that's how they play. They play really hard. There wasn't really a surprise there.

Q. Rachel, you guys didn't take a lot of threes. I think you took three the whole game. Do you think that lack of outside perimeter game affected you guys' ability to score on the interior at all?
RACHEL BREWSTER: I don't think so, I think it was just their pressure on the outside. They were always in our face, so we weren't able to get the outside shots off, and I think that kind of opened us up inside actually. We had a lot more drives and a lot more inside looks than I think we would usually have. We didn't convert on as many of those as we should have. But yeah, I think it wasn't really a big deal for us, we just needed to get to the basket and be tough and finish our shots inside.

Q. Looking forward, you guys don't have any seniors on the team, so you bring back pretty much everybody on the team. Where does this team go forward in terms of improvements looking forward to next season?
RACHEL BREWSTER: Yeah, we were just talking in the locker room. We're still a young team this year, but next year we're not going to be a young team anymore, so we just have to learn from what we've done this year and what has worked and hasn't worked and just individually be accountable and work hard in the off-season, and when we get back, we'll be ready to go and just work on team stuff, and hopefully it'll all come together next year.

Q. Same question: As far as their shooting is concerned, Air Force, when they come out and fire the way that they did, you had called a time-out, tried to collect your team, but what do you tell them? How do you overcome something like that?
JERRY FINKBEINER: You know, it's hard because the game is all about momentum, and Air Force, they're just sharp from opening tip. I think where we failed, and it's kind of a year-long thing. It's really hard to explain. But if you reflect back how many lay-ups we missed in the first quarter, we missed a lot of lay-ups, and those hurt. They're just like turnovers, and when I think the very first -- maybe the second time-out, Air Force was like seven for nine from the field, and we were like six for 12, but we had a deficit already just because we missed our little lay-ups that we worked pretty hard for. They're deflating emotionally and they're deflating with our game plan, and then as we got into that hole, we had to do the adjustments, and Air Force stayed with their game plan.

So we went to the adjustment mode, Air Force stayed with their game plan, and that's really hard to overcome when you kind of get out of your comfort zone.

We've had two good games with the Air Force, and we told our girls if the game is in the 50s, 60s, they've got a really good chance to win. We had to try to put the game in the 70s, and we only scored 54 points. Again, their one-on-one defense on the ball was really good today. It was a lot better than it was a week and a half ago.

Q. I believe Olivia scored 11 of her 13 down the stretch in the fourth quarter. As big of a deficit as you were in, it's got to make you obviously feel good that as young as the team is that they never really gave up, they did what they could to show some resiliency. Just talk about this team, what differentiates it from maybe the past and how special this team is.
JERRY FINKBEINER: Okay, I appreciate the question. Last year it was well documented we were the youngest team in all of Division I. This year we were one of the 10, I think, youngest teams in all of Division I. We don't have that excuse anymore.

I told the girls in the locker room after this game that it's all about now, experiences learned and maturity in this offseason coming back. Our senior night was for our one male manager we had. That was our senior night last week.

We'll have two seniors next year, and we'll have a group of juniors, and so -- but it's more than that. We've got to make shots. We've got to play better defense, and we've got to be better prepared come tournament time. Yeah, it's been a good year from the standpoint of -- I heard the Air Force coach talk a little briefly at the end, we've got a really good character group, high fiber group, really good student-athletes, on the student part, and so if that means anything, which it does, I think there's going to be some maturity in this off-season, and we'll be ready to go next year.

Q. You've talked before about this team, you've been trying to focus on more of a hurry-up style of offense and employ that on defense. Do you think the team was able to employ that in this game, playing a hurry-up style?
JERRY FINKBEINER: We tried, but credit the Air Force. Man, they just really made the game physical, and we didn't respond to it with our ball handling. We didn't respond to it with our screen setting.

They were just in our face and really made us back up and retreat a little bit, and especially we missed lay-ups early and just could never get our game going, and then we made all the adjustments.

Man, that's a good question. All I can say is credit Air Force. Man, they're hot right now, and like I said, beating Wyoming last week, knocked Wyoming out of a No. 1 seed, a league championship, and my first thought was, uh-oh, they're hot coming in. We thought we were in a good place coming in. We beat -- won two games last week at home and thought we were in a good place, too, but Air Force just was a better team today, as everybody saw.

Q. So there are a lot of passes that ended up as turnovers. There were 13 steals by Air Force. Do you think that had to do with their effective defense, as well?
JERRY FINKBEINER: Yeah, I have to credit Air Force with everything they did today. They made shots that a couple times I just kind of shook my head like, wow, that's not in the scouting report. And then they defended our ball handlers. We thought we were quicker than they were in the one, two and three guard spots, but today we weren't. They just ran the game today.

Again, after the first quarter when we couldn't make our little shots, had a 10-point deficit, it was all uphill, and we couldn't make the adjustments.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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