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March 16, 2018

Charli Turner Thorne

Courtney Ekmark

Kianna Ibis

Robbi Ryan

Austin, Texas

THE MODERATOR: Coach, if you'll open with an opening statement, then we'll take questions for our student-athletes.


We're obviously really happy to be here. It's always an honor to compete for the national championship. We don't take that for granted. We're very appreciative of the NCAA Selection Committee and love Austin, Texas.

Really proud of this team. We've had our share of adversity this year. With those seniors on our roster, people are like, Oh, kind of a transition year. It's been so much more. This group has continued to break records this year for our program, really represent our program in every way.

We just announced yesterday that every eligible player on our team, eight of them, made the all conference, all academic team. We're really proud of that.

But we're happy to be here. Nebraska is a formidable foe. Very similar, I think, tough defensive team. A lot more depth than us, but really can score the basketball. Obviously they just keep getting better and better and better as the season has gone on.

We're excited. That's the way it should be in March. Every game's going to be a fun challenge.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for our student-athletes.

Q. Robbi, the Pac-12, very tough conference. How has the conference play driven you towards going forward in the NCAA tournament?
ROBBI RYAN: Yeah, our conference is tough. Every game can go either way. Depends who shows up that day. It's been great for us, a great learning experience. It just prepares us for any game we have this season, especially now in March. Every game we've had this season has been a tough one. We've had to earn every win.

Q. Courtney, after you lost Haines early in the season to the injury, how did the team have to change, or did it change, to make up for her loss?
COURTNEY EKMARK: I think any time a team loses a player, it's something that you have to adjust to. We always talk about the importance of evaluating and adjusting.

I think we just had to pull together, and everyone just had to step up a little bit more. It actually could help us because we knew we were missing a good player. I think that really pushed us all to be better.

Q. Kianna, what is it going to take to beat Nebraska?
KIANNA IBIS: I would just say it's going to take a lot of hard work and effort from each and every one of us. Everybody has to step up. But it's usually not about the other team, it's always about us, what we can control.

Q. Kianna, you spent some time with Maddie Simon. What do you have as far as stories?
KIANNA IBIS: I haven't gotten to hang out with her a lot. I just know a little bit about her. She's really friendly, really cool. That's all. That's all I really know.

Q. For any of the players, you led the Pac-12 in scoring defense. How would you describe the mindset to your defensive approach? What do you think you do best in limiting what teams can do offensively?
ROBBI RYAN: We kind of play a pressure-style defense, really try to bother their team, not let them do what they want to do. I think that is a very key aspect to our defense, what makes other teams struggle.

KIANNA IBIS: Like she said, we really emphasize on making teams uncomfortable with our defense.

COURTNEY EKMARK: I think they pretty much covered it. Definitely focus on it a lot.

Q. Courtney, what would it mean for you guys to leave here Monday night with a victory and go to the Sweet 16 for your school?
COURTNEY EKMARK: Well, I think we're just taking it one game at a time. We're focused on our first game first. Obviously looking forward to making a run. That would be awesome.

It's a great time of the year. Anything can happen. We're playing well, so we're excited.

Q. Robbi or Kianna, how does the experience of going through last year, taking South Carolina basically to the last minute, help you in preparation for this year?
KIANNA IBIS: I would just say it shows no matter what ranking somebody is, we know if we can control, we can control, we can hang with any team out there.

ROBBI RYAN: I think it makes us even hungrier this year. We were so close last year. I think we're just coming back, really trying to focus, just finish it out, finish strong.

THE MODERATOR: We will dismiss our student-athletes. Thank you for your time.

We'll open it up for questions for coach.

Q. You lose your point guard, and you have the number one and two players in the Pac-12 in assist-to-turnover ratio. How does that happen?
CHARLI TURNER THORNE: Sabrina was more of a combo guard for us, but she did play the point.

The sophomore class for us is pretty special, pretty beyond their years. They got complete baptism by fire. Like Robbi said so eloquently, a possession away from knocking off South Carolina.

They've really been asked that a lot this year. I think it's just their maturity, all their experience they got their freshman year to come back, be decision makers, and be more consistent.

Q. For those of us who don't get to see you play a whole lot, can you describe the defensive effort you put forth.
CHARLI TURNER THORNE: We've been a little different. It's funny listening to these guys. We're not pressuring that much this year. We played a lot of zone. You don't know what we're going to do this year because we don't have the depth, so we've had to be more strategic.

We've done a lot of different things this year with the same results, which I'm really pleased and proud of. We've traditionally been one of the top two or three teams in the Pac-12 for defense.

This year, we shoot a little bit better. We've scored a little bit better than in some years. Our defense has stayed steady. I think it just depends on our matchup. Obviously Nebraska, it's hard. It's not like just Gulich, like Oregon State, one or two players. They really can score at all the positions.

But we pride ourselves on great position defense without fouling. Much like Nebraska, just working hard, not allowing people to play to their strengths.

But I do think it's funny. We're kind of known for that. Really this year, it's been a little bit different. The team has adjusted game to game really well. If we say, Hey, we're doing this this game, they just bought in, went with it. It's really helped us this year.

Q. A question about Nebraska. They're tied I think for the biggest turnaround in the country. What does that tell you about the mentality of your opponent?
CHARLI TURNER THORNE: Well, they're confident. Yeah, I mean, obviously anybody getting their seed, having the success they did in a BCS conference, is a team that's playing well together, that knows who they are.

They have a very good level of toughness. You see that. You see it not just in their record, but obviously in this day and age you get every game that people have played except their closed scrimmage. There's nothing you don't know about an opponent.

It's funny because we had a couple common opponents, Buffalo. I saw them, I watched that game, they were a different team. Even Washington State, they're a different team. Now watching them, whew. They have improved immensely and really have come together.

Q. I think it was Robbi who talked about how close you got last year to get to the Sweet 16, how it hurt. How does that experience shape your team coming into this?
CHARLI TURNER THORNE: I'm glad you asked them. I'm glad she said, We're hungry. Obviously as a coach, it's really their mindset and their passion that is going to drive the team from this day forward.

They're a fun group. They have both. They have the tough mindset. My 14-year-old son is like a basketball savant junky and kind of a math whizz. He's done the analytics of everything.

Mom, you've played the most top 25 teams, tied for third in the country, blah, blah, blah, this, that and the other thing.

Really, there's nothing this team hasn't seen. They do believe in themselves. They know they obviously have to play well and stuff. We've had a lot of tough environments, a lot of tough teams this year. This is another opportunity for them.

Q. Kind of a local question, but do you have any history of playing in Austin or against Texas, period?
CHARLI TURNER THORNE: Yeah. When I was a GA at Washington, I remember we played here. Actually, when I was a senior at Stanford, we lost here in the Sweet 16. I think back in the day, it was Tara against Jodie. As a G at Washington, we came here. I just remember we needed trash cans at the corner of the court because we had two kids with the stomach flu. I remember Amy Mickelson having to go to the trash can during the game and throw up.

We played early in my career here a couple times, we've done a home and home. We've done a home and home scrimmage. That's the most recent experience we've had with UT is closed scrimmages, to be honest. Ironically we're trying to get one set up for next year. Ironically we're trying to get one set up with Nebraska next year, so go figure.

Yeah, I mean, a great environment. Great basketball town. Great place to play. Obviously hostile environment, but a fun one. Karen has just done an unbelievable job here getting this program back to really where they've been in the past, a national championship-caliber program.

Q. You come in with the SXSW music festival going around. Have your players wanted to go downtown?
CHARLI TURNER THORNE: The coaches might, but... No, no.

Bad timing for us. We're kind of locked in right now. I think we'll just kind of use our playlist on our iPhones and go with that this weekend.


FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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