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March 5, 2018

Chris Gobrecht

Kaelin Immel

Cortney Porter

Las Vegas, Nevada

Air Force - 68, Utah State - 54

CHRIS GOBRECHT: I think that if we hit shots, you're in trouble, because we do play good defense, and we've always played good defense. That's what keeps us in games, and today we did an exceptional job shooting the ball, and I think it just makes it very hard. It can be pretty deflating to a team to have to work that hard to score, and then we're able to score the basketball.

I know that Utah State was missing a very good player in No. 5 Shannon Dufficy. She's important to them, and I think that we -- I don't ever like to see anybody be hurt, but I do think we were fortunate that they didn't have her today.

I think it was just a combination of a lot of those things, and people playing well. I thought Dee Bennett really played well. It was interesting because somebody had asked me before the game, are you worried about this team, because we have so many freshmen on this team. Are you worried about them being nervous about a tournament and all this, and I said, not really, we handle distractions pretty well.

But we also have three seniors who have been down this road and have been at this tournament, and this is their fourth year being at this tournament. Those seniors are very, very important for just our whole sense of well-being. Cortney and Dee and Erika Chapman. It was very nice to have Erika Chapman back. She was injured in our last game.

Q. For either one of you, you guys close the regular season with the worst three-point field goal percentage in the Mountain West, and you end up closing the first half five of six from long range. What was the difference today? What were you seeing out there, the chemistry you were finding? Was it just open shots? Was it just got in a groove? What seemed to take place out there today?
KAELIN IMMEL: I don't think anything special happened. I think Emily Conroe can just hit threes, and she did that tonight. And sometimes I can hit threes, and I did that tonight. I hit a couple. Yeah, I just think some days are a little hotter than others, and yeah.

CORTNEY PORTER: Well, I didn't shoot any threes, but I just think we had a lot of energy today, and we had a confidence. We knew that if we shot it, it was going to go in, and if it didn't, we kept shooting.

Q. On the defensive end, you seemed to shut down a lot of their passing lanes, and that seemed to get frustrating for them. When they did have time to set up their shots, they were manufacturing their baskets. But on the defensive end what were you seeing? What did you scout and what did you remember from the regular season and how were you able to play so well as far as the defensive end?
KAELIN IMMEL: Well, I think every game we approach it the same way, and we know we're going to get in passing lanes, we're going to put pressure on the ball, that's just our identity. We're a defensive team and we try to hold teams to like a certain scoring total. Yeah, tonight was the same as every other game we've played. We're just trying to keep teams in chaos, I guess.

Q. Cortney, dominating win over Utah State, congratulations. Your prize is playing the top seed of Boise State Broncos tomorrow. What do you do to keep your mind grounded?
CORTNEY PORTER: We'll celebrate for maybe a little bit, maybe an hour longer, but then we know Boise State is a tough team. They won the regular season championship, and we know that they're going to come after us, so we'll just, like we said, go into it like any other game. And if we can play defense and hit shots, we'll be okay.

Q. Cortney, we've been watching you since obviously you were a little freshman at Bonneville, and I'm just wondering, now that you kind of look at kind of your last few games, however long they may be here, how would you kind of summarize your career?
CORTNEY PORTER: It's been a journey, that's for sure. But this is the best way to end it. I love this team, and we've had so much fun, and to be able to get this conference win, that's just icing on top. But we're not done yet.

Q. Coach, you've been at some pretty big programs. You come to Air Force, I believe this is your second year --

Q. And you're doing your best to turn this program around. This is their first tournament win in seven years, I believe, first one since 2011. Talk about the pride you had watching that team play -- it just looked like everything was clicking. Talk about their play today; you couldn't have asked for a better performance at either end of the court.
CHRIS GOBRECHT: Well, I agree with you. This has been -- we've watched this team grow throughout the year. It doesn't surprise me that they are at this point now. We had to -- as we started the season, we were essentially starting all over again, and when you are building a program, you first have to sort of dig yourself out of wherever you were before you can actually start building something, and that's what we did the first couple of years.

And now we felt like this year we were at a good starting point that if we could have this team buy in to what we're trying to do, which they have -- and that's what I'm most grateful for, they have bought into the effort that it takes to play that kind of defense, they have bought into the team mindedness offensively, they've bought into -- we have three great seniors who have just been through so much with this program and done a lot of losing. And we're excited to have those freshmen come in who could score the basketball and help us be better, and yet they continued to do their part.

And so as we -- we saw ourselves getting better and better, and we were so close. If you took games decided by seven or less points, I think we figured we would have something like 16, 17 wins. That's how close we've been throughout the season.

So you knew that that point was going to come when -- it was going to tip and we were going to break through a little bit, and that's what happened now going down the home stretch.

Q. Same question I posed to the girls: As far as your experience in coaching some of the programs you have and seeing some of the talent you've had, how do you get their mind right in terms of the confidence that they used today to say, hey, we can go into tomorrow, we can beat the No. 1 seed? What's your role now?
CHRIS GOBRECHT: I think -- I'm a very straight-up kind of a coach who just says, here's the challenge, this is what we need to do, and you know how they say, an optimist thinks the wind will change, a pessimist thinks that you never have a chance, and a realist just adjusts the sails. And that's what we do a lot of is just adjust the sails. We don't run away from what our liabilities are, but we know we have some real strengths.

So we are just very straightforward with them. This is what we're good at, this is how we're going to get it done. You heard Kaelin talk about identity. That's a huge part, I think, of building my program. You have to figure out what your identity is, and then you have to be sure that everybody buys in to that identity, and they have done an awesome job at that.

So we just -- we're just going to keep on being the same way. We're really not going to change or try to figure out some sort of major motivation speech. They are such real down-to-earth kind of kids. There's not much that rattles them, you know, and I think that has a lot to do with them being at the Air Force Academy. We were talking about distractions and things, and they don't get too distracted. I think they're so used to being able to do tough things while having -- in a difficult environment that they just sort of carry on.

So they have fun playing with each other. They really have fun being together. I'm very grateful for that. They're just a special group of kids, and they have a good time. This freshman class is -- even our bench kids, our what we call culture kids, they are so good about playing their role and supporting the team, so everything that you hope will happen -- they just had a lot to learn. That was -- they just had a lot to learn, so they learned it.

And hopefully we can build from here and just keep getting better and better every year. That's the plan.

Q. You mentioned two things there with your seniors and your team defense, and it seems like Cortney kind of embodies both of those things with the senior class and then is such a good defensive player. What has she brought to this team?
CHRIS GOBRECHT: Well, my personal bias, she should have been the Defensive Player of the Year. She leads the conference in steals. We ask her to guard everybody on the floor at one time or another. She's a tough -- she's tough, she gets rebounds, and she just doesn't back down from people. And that's -- if you're going to be a great defensive player, that's job one. Toughness is not defined by what you dish out, it's by what you can take, and she's probably our toughest kid. She just takes it, and she doesn't care. She doesn't care how much contact, how physical it might get, but the thing that's pretty exciting is that she was not a -- she wasn't into defense when I got here, not at all. And I'm so proud of how she has grown as a defensive player, and again, she leads the way in saying, this is how we're going to get it done, let's go.

And then No. 10, little Venessannah Itugbu, she's just -- talk about a kid that takes a licking and keeps on ticking, that's her. That poor kid just gets beat up every night, but she just always comes back for her. When you have those types of people modeling that -- Erika Chapman is another one, very, very tough kid that doesn't back down from anything. When they're in there and they're willing to model that, that inspires everybody else, but Cortney certainly leads the way on that.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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