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March 22, 2018

Karen Aston

Kansas City, Missouri

THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Coach Karen Aston the Texas Longhorns coach.

KAREN ASTON: Excited for our basketball team and program to be in the regionals again in particular in Kansas City where as the bracket came out our team was excited about the possibility of playing in Kansas City just because of location and the ability for fans and families to be able to potentially get in the car and drive to see some good basketball.

I'm excited about that. I think Kansas City is a great host for women's basketball. We've obviously been in the Big 12 tournament in years past and love the environment that Kansas City brings for women's basketball. We really appreciate what everybody's done thus far.

Our team, I'm really, really excited about. As I looked back on film of the first two games I thought that our team played at a pretty high level and played with a lot of enthusiasm and energy. When you look forward to the game against UCLA, I think that's a common theme that will be necessary to be able to compete with a team of the caliber of UCLA. We're looking forward to the competition and, again, super proud of our basketball team.

Q. Coach, can you talk about Brooke's growth and what she has meant to this program and when you look historically where she rates I think it's pretty high; and Jordin Canada, UCLA's point guard. I think both of those players have had huge impacts on their programs.
KAREN ASTON: Absolutely. Those two point guards committed to their respective programs, I think, to fairly new coaches at those institutions; and I know for us, Brooke bought a vision from our coaching staff and she knew that we saw something really special in her when maybe others didn't. I think she trusted that vision. What she's done to elevate our program is pretty priceless, really, and I would say that about all of the guys that we recruited as we first took over at Texas.

I think you have to look at the point guard position, and most often they dictate sort of how your team plays and how competitive your team is. You know, what Brooke has developed into, Michelle, as much as she might not even want to admit it, she's sort of the quarterback and she is the personality of our team. When we are flowing really, really well, Brooke is playing really well and she has a little smile on her face sometimes when we are really playing well.

When she struggles, sometimes we struggle. So I think that is a reflection, probably, of a point guard. Your team usually goes as they go. Again, not discounting a lot of other players on our team; but she is, as a lot of people call point guards, she is the "head to the monster."

I would say the same thing about Canada. They mirror each other as far as what they've done for their programs. Obviously, Cori would talk about Jordin, but we have played each other so often you can see the play of Jordin and the play of Brooke and they left their high school teams as prolific scorers. They have had to evolve into leaders and Brooke has had to figure out, okay sometimes I need to facilitate and when do I need to take shots and take over. She has grown in her decision-making of what is the timing of when to take a shot and when to get other people involved.

Q. Coach, I want to ask you about two players. Lashann was a great high school player in Austin three years ago. Japreece Dean was a great high school player in Austin three years ago. What was your thinking as a recruiter when you were looking at the two of them? Did they have any rivalry? I think they played in different leagues or districts?
KAREN ASTON: I think you would probably have to ask them if they were rivals. I definitely saw Japreece play and the thing that strikes me right offhand, you know, just the immediate evaluation of her is how competitive she is. She proved that during her time at Texas Tech and has impacted UCLA's team immediately. Lashann and Japreece are different. Japreece is a point guard that is playing off the ball right now because of Jordin Canada, and she is definitely a point guard. I think Lashann is sort of the opposite of that. I think she is a scoring guard and a combo that most often is the most comfortable at the wing position where she is now. I'm glad you brought up Lashann because our seniors have garnered so much attention that it's hard to not put her up there with them as far as how impactful she has been on our team this year and the difference in her as a basketball player from a cerebral standpoint and a skills standpoint.

She has just put so much time in and when I say "time" I'm talking about she has put time in to grow. She has become such a great decision maker and she has just really been one of the difference makers on our team.

Q. Heading into that Arizona State game you were talking about how they handled Nebraska on the glass 49-27. Then you guys go out and outrebound them 40-19. What does that say about your game plan and capitalizing and executing that?
KAREN ASTON: I think execution is a great word. We knew they were a great rebounding team. We watched them play live and the coaching staff saw film on how good rebounders they were and the team aspect they brought to the table.

I thought that we countered that. When you look at Brooke having ten rebounds it's not because she is skying over everybody it's because the other players are doing their jobs and she is sort of sweeping in and picking up the loose balls. I think it has to be that way when you're playing a great rebounding team. It has to be a great team effort. Sometimes we get caught because we've been fairly good rebounding all year long our guards will get caught leaking out because they want to run in transition and you just can't do that in postseason play. You can't do that against really, really rebounding teams and we're going to see that again tomorrow night.

Q. Karen, obviously this isn't a conference game, but you've seen UCLA enough, you had the scrimmage with them before. Is the preparation almost akin like you would prepare for a conference game simply because of the personnel and the knowledge of what Cori has and her program?
KAREN ASTON: I think it's a good comparison, and I think one comparison is we played Oklahoma December 28th or whenever that was and then the last conference game. A dramatic amount of time between those two games where the teams had changed dramatically from the first time we saw them. Obviously it's been many more months since we played UCLA in that scrimmage, and they have additions to their team. Japreece does make them very different. We have a subtraction in Audrey and an addition in Joyner, so we are both very different. But there are aspects that you could say these are reminders of who they are, but on scrimmages you don't spend a lot of time on scouting. But there is some familiarity. These guys have been playing against each other for a long time. They know each other.

Q. Coach, four in a row for you to be in this situation. A lot of people in Austin think that this particular team is better equipped to make it to the Final Four than the previous three. Maybe it's the way they're playing now or maybe it's the experience factor with the two guards. Your thought on the chances of making it to the next level?
KAREN ASTON: Well, I definitely don't want to discount the team two years ago that was defeated by UConn because I thought that was a pretty good basketball team that unfortunately was in the same region with Breanna Stewart and I thought it was a team that was playing at a high level in postseason play, and I do think our team is now.

Yes, the difference could be that we have three experienced guards, where that team, Brooke and Ariel were very young and they were impactful on that team but they were freshmen. So our three starting guards have had a lot of experience and scenarios and that's very helpful. You look at a player like Jatarie White who I think gets overlooked for the impact that she has had on our team. For me as a coach I feel strong about how she has anchored our team this year.

Even though she's new, she had some very valuable experiences at South Carolina. She is mature. She is new to our conference and new to what she is doing right now, but she is a very mature basketball player that understands game plans.

So maybe we are a little bit more mature, but I think that it's always the same once you get to the regionals. It's a pretty high level of basketball. Competition is extremely high.

We can talk about our two seniors and UCLA is going to talk about theirs and how much experience they have, so I think it's going to be a great match-up and very likely intangibles and role players will be the difference.

Q. Coach, you talked at the outset about Kansas City being a great host for women's basketball. Can you share your thoughts about the Big 12 tournament returning to Kansas City?
KAREN ASTON: I'm very excited about it. Again, I'm saying that knowing that somewhere down the line the men could move. I understand that's not a given that both tournaments will be in Kansas City, but I had the privilege of being a part of Texas when I was an assist be assistant coach with Jody when the tournaments were here and I just remember it being a very good experience. I don't have anything negative to say. I'm not disappointed that it's coming back. Do I wish it was in Dallas all the time? I'm not going to say no because Dallas is closer to Austin, but I do think I have a very positive memory of playing in Kansas City and the overall experience that we all had in the Big 12 and in particular the experience of possibly having the fan basis be in the same place. As you talk about it, you want to put fans in the stands. You want the student-athletes to play in front of a lot of people.

I think if that's the way that that happens, then that's positive for not only the student-athletes but for our league. I'm excited about it.

THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you very much. Good luck.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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