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March 16, 2018

Amy Williams

Jasmine Cincore

Maddie Simon

Hannah Whitish

Austin, Texas

THE MODERATOR: Coach, if you'd like to begin with an opening statement.

AMY WILLIAMS: We are extremely excited to be a part of the 2018 NCAA tournament. Our team, it's been a little while since we've played a basketball game it feels like, so we are very, very eager. We've been talking all week about having a sense of urgency with this incredible opportunity that's in front of us. We're just excited to get out and have a good practice today and to be a part of this tournament.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for our student-athletes.

Q. Hannah, looking at the stats, it looks like there's no superstars, it's more of an all-for-one mentality. Tell me about the makeup of your team.
HANNAH WHITISH: We talked about at the beginning of the year our team motto we were going to go with is 'family'. I think the way this team has played offensively and defensively this year has definitely followed that up.

Yeah, there really isn't one person that kind of takes over. Everybody plays a role. We all do it very well.

Q. Who among you said at the beginning of the season you're going to make the NCAA tournaments after last year? And why did you feel that way?
JASMINE CINCORE: We were still transitioning from a new staff. We had a lot of new players come in. We were very young. I just saw something great within this team. We've made a huge turnaround, as you can see.

Q. Jazz, you've been to the NCAA tournament before as a freshman. Does it mean more now as a senior?
JASMINE CINCORE: I would say yes, it does mean more. Freshman year, a lot of things are happening. This time, after having some seasons under my belt, going through four completely different seasons to this one, means a lot more.

Q. Maddie, the Big Ten, how did that prepare you for bigger games that you're going to start playing tomorrow?
MADDIE SIMON: I think the Big Ten is an amazing conference with tough teams we play every single game. You can't take a night off, and every game is going to be a challenge. There's going to be a lot of girls that are athletic, that can guard, that can score. I think the Big Ten has really prepared us for whoever we're going to face.

We talk about Arizona State being a tough defensive team, a tough rebounding team. I think that's what we've saw every game in the Big Ten, so I think we're ready for that.

Q. Do they remind you of any one team that you played?
MADDIE SIMON: We talked about how they actually remind us of ourselves. They're balanced. They like to do some of the same things we do. We see that as a good matchup for us, being similar to us.

Q. Jasmine, what has been the single biggest difference between last season and this one?
JASMINE CINCORE: I'd go back to what Hannah said. This time we came up with the word 'family' and everyone is pretty committed to it. You saw the determination on everyone's face in the pre-season for us, to be determined not to have a season like we did before. That's the biggest difference.

Q. Hannah, what would it mean to the program to move forward to the Sweet 16?
HANNAH WHITISH: I think we're just going to take this one game at a time and do everything we can to control every game we can.

Q. Let's say, for example, you do win these next two games, what would it mean to go that far?
HANNAH WHITISH: I think it would mean a lot to everybody on this team, especially with the season we had last year. It would mean so much.

Q. Hannah, what kind of goals did your coach set out for the team? Where was this team's ceiling?
HANNAH WHITISH: At the beginning of this year, she wanted us, and we all bought into it, every game we wanted to be the hardest working team on the floor. As long as we did that, we were going to like the outcome.

Q. Maddie, you're from Lincoln. Your mom was an athlete at the University of Nebraska. How much does this mean to you now?
MADDIE SIMON: This means a lot to me just watching this Husker program be successful, when I was a little girl watching. It means a lot to be able to be a part of that with some amazing girls.

Q. What is your background as far as your mother played sports here?
MADDIE SIMON: My mom ran track and field in the '80s. Being from Lincoln, I've just been around the program for a while.

Q. This is a big weekend for the city of Austin, biggest music festival in the country. Do you plan to stay out till 1 or 2 in the morning listening to music?
MADDIE SIMON: Maybe if we advance to the Sweet 16. Until then I think we're going to get some sleep and try to prepare for the game.

THE MODERATOR: We'll dismiss the student-athletes.

We'll continue with questions for coach.

Q. What did you see as the ceiling for this team? What did you think was possible this year?
AMY WILLIAMS: To be quite honest with you, we had a meeting in the summer. A couple of the girls were kind of leading part of that meeting. They were talking about what we have to do to get to 20 wins, 20 wins, 20 wins.

To be quite honest with you, inside I was really thinking that might be fairly lofty goals with everything considered.

As I watched them, their work ethic, the number one most asked question I've received this year was, What was the key to your turnaround, what was it, how did you go from seven wins to 21 wins. Honestly, I watched them work extremely hard from the time that our final buzzer went off one year ago, all post-season.

The commitment was really made mostly in strength and conditioning. They spent a lot of time working hard with a new strength and conditioning coach who pushed them beyond what they thought they were capable of. Because of that, it built confidence.

That confidence started to show up in some early games on the road at Kansas. In the second half we came together, held them to 12 second-half points. They started to kind of see that confidence that they were having. Some of those things paid off with some road wins that kind of just made them start to believe.

It's truly been like a snowball effect of just that confidence in each other and that chemistry and commitment. Nobody really having egos. A selfless team, a team that puts each other first. They're genuinely excited for each other's successes. It's really led to an outstanding conference season for us and a great turnaround for the expectations.

Q. The student-athletes mentioned when they see Arizona State on film, it reminds them of themselves. Is there another team in the Big Ten that plays the way Arizona State plays on both ends of the floor?
AMY WILLIAMS: I haven't really thought of any of our Big Ten opponents that really remind us as much. One thing we have a ton of respect for is obviously them being the No. 1 scoring defense in the Pac-12 conference. That's something that we wanted to really pride ourselves in, as well.

I think they maybe apply a little bit more pressure than we do. Right now they are exactly rebounding-wise where we would strive to be, so... We like to kind of think we mirror them, but I think they're a slightly better rebounding team than we've proven to be all season, and we know that rebounding will be key in tomorrow night's game.

Q. Is there any significance in coaching against Charli Turner Thorne?
AMY WILLIAMS: Other than the fact I've looked up to her in this profession for a very long time. I can remember my first Division I coaching jobs. I was one year at the University of Texas San Antonio, then I became the recruiting coordinator at Oklahoma State University. I've just watched her teams for so long, really admired everything she's been able to do, her stability in a very unstable profession.

To me, the first time I made the NCAA tournament as a head coach, the other bench was Tara VanDerveer. Now I'll be going up with Charli Turner Thorne, another iconic coach in our profession. It's rewarding, it's fun. Really excited about the opportunity.

Q. You played at Nebraska for four years. Now you're coaching there. Do you have any connections with the Longhorns or the city of Austin, this building, that you remember?
AMY WILLIAMS: Other than the fact that when I coached at UT San Antonio -- well, when I played at Nebraska, this will date me a little, I played two years in the Big 8, two years in the Big 12. Only two times. The one time we came to Austin during my playing career, I had just blown my knee out and I didn't make the trip, so I was home. I never played here as a player.

Definitely as a coach when I was at Oklahoma State, we came to Texas on a couple of occasions. I was here many times to recruit at the high school state tournament.

Other than some recruiting ties and in my one short year that I spent at UTSA, we enjoyed coming to Austin quite a bit. But no other real ties.

Q. You were a walk-on at Nebraska. Dad is a coaching legend in South Dakota. Did you ever imagine you would take Nebraska as a head coach to the NCAA tournament?
AMY WILLIAMS: I feel absolutely just amazing. To be honest with you, I kind of pinch myself almost every day when I walk into work. Incredibly honored and humbled to be the head coach of the university I played for and represented and poured blood, sweat and tears into the program. Just incredibly honored to be a part of it.

So happy especially for our seniors, but really for every one of these young women to have this opportunity to be playing in the NCAA tournament.

Q. The talent level of the high school girls basketball in this state, how would you describe it here?
AMY WILLIAMS: Incredible. Texas is absolutely loaded with talent. There's lots of very quality college programs for them to pick from right in the borders of their own state. I know my previous head coaches, when I played at Nebraska, had a lot of success recruiting in the state of Texas.

Since we moved to the Big Ten, we're still working hard to convince those Texas kids that Nebraska is not that cold, not as cold as they think.

Incredibly talented state here. A ton of respect for the high school basketball coaches, the level of play, the talent that's down in this area. It continues to amaze me.


FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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