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March 23, 2018

Dawn Staley

Albany, New York

THE MODERATOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to Albany, New York.

THE MODERATOR: Coach, if you could share your thoughts.

DAWN STALEY: Excited to be a part of the Sweet Sixteen, playing Buffalo, and doing it here in Albany. We got in yesterday, city seems pretty popping, though I haven't been a part of it, but just coming from the hotel to here and coming into the arena, just getting really excited about what's going to take place tomorrow morning.

Q. Is it kind of a tough adjustment to be playing so early tomorrow morning at 11:30 instead of an afternoon or evening tip?
DAWN STALEY: Well, we had a few days in between having a late start on Sunday and now. We practiced a little bit earlier yesterday just to make sure that our bodies can adjust to playing early. Once you know, and we knew in plenty of time to psychologically prepare for it. So I think our players, they just said today, it seems like a really long time since we've last played. So they're champing at the bit to get out there and play a little bit.

Q. Your thoughts on Buffalo, and are they a team that can play with a little less pressure because they're the lower seed?
DAWN STALEY: I think from sitting where I sit and you sit, we could probably say yes. But this is about history for them. It's about us continuing to make history for our program, and it's a bid to go to the Elite Eight. I think we all want to continue to play. We all have aspirations of winning the National Championship.

When the ball is tipped up, I think it's anybody's game at that point. I don't think our kids are playing with any extra pressure. I think the pressure is what you put on yourselves. Obviously we hope to put a little bit of pressure on Buffalo with our defense and ability to kind of control the tempo of the game.

Q. With all the top remaining teams having tall post players, do you think that may be the determining factor of who will eventually win the National Championship, is how the bigs play? Could you also talk about the evolution of Azura Stevens' game from being a perimeter player to an inside player?
DAWN STALEY: Well, I would say this, in order for you to win and continue to win in this tournament, it's guard play. There is somebody that has to get to post the ball. Obviously, they do have to dominate when they get it. But I think with probably any team it's determined by what the guards do. Not necessarily shoot the ball. They have to facilitate, and they have to understand what's a good shot, what's a bad shot, where the ball needs to go. So the decision-makers are the guards. For post players to have great games you definitely have to put them in positions to be great and to be dominant.

As far as Azura, I think Azura has shown that she can play on the perimeter. I think what Geno and his staff are doing is they're showing her where the higher percentage shots are. I don't think they're taking that ability to shoot from the outside away. They're just adding to what she already does. I think it's a great segue into having a great career and some longevity after her college career is over. So in the pros, she'll be more of a complete, versatile player.

Q. In terms of straight seeding, you're counting the position last year where Quinnipiac was a lower seed that got to the Sweet Sixteen, how different is Buffalo from Quinnipiac where they basically get a game in their backyard?
DAWN STALEY: I think Buffalo was more, probably, your traditional style, where they have their point guard running the show and distributing and facilitating and scoring. Quinnipiac is more of a system, like a positionless team. I think Buffalo has great guard play. They play extremely well together. They make the extra pass. They know exactly where they want their shots to come from, and they're just relentless in transition, going to the boards.

So they're a lot different makeup than Quinnipiac. But we're looking forward to it. We're looking forward to the challenge. We're looking forward to playing them in somewhat a home-court advantage. It should be an exciting game.

Q. Can you talk about A'ja's development through her career, and more specifically this year and what she's added to her game this season?
DAWN STALEY: Well, with A'ja, every year she's gotten better and better, just from a skill set standpoint, from a leadership standpoint, and for understanding what she needs to do, when she needs to do it.

I think with A'ja, we've just kind of expanded her ability to bring the ball up the floor, just put the ball in her hands. Obviously, she was surrounded by a lot of great players in her first three years. Now you're seeing her play, take her game to a higher level knowing that she doesn't have as much talent as she was surrounded by in previous years. Good players make adjustments, and A'ja's made an adjustment to carrying our basketball team and doing it at a very high level.

Q. Two questions, first big picture. There are two 11 seeds still playing. You coached for a while at a mid-major school, Temple. Is it the natural development that there are some other teams, mid-majors advancing this far? Second question, Champ didn't make the trip for you, any reason you didn't feel like bringing him up here to Albany?
DAWN STALEY: First question is I was at a mid-major. The struggle for me was to make the tournament and then advance through at least the second weekend of the tournament, and you need talent. You definitely need talent. I think ten years ago when I was at Temple, you really couldn't get the talent. I think mid-majors are getting more talent at their respective schools by way of just recruiting a little bit better, recruiting a little bit differently, and also just getting the players that could play your style of play as a coach. And you're seeing some 11 seeds and maybe watch, you know, Central Michigan and Buffalo. If you pay attention to them, they play a certain level above other mid-majors, in that they spread you out, they're super selfless, they play well together, and they're well-coached. When you have those combination working for you, you advance. It's not by surprise.

As far as Champ, Champ is a warm-climate puppy, so that's why he didn't make the trip.

Q. I'm not sure if you know, but have you gotten a pretty good response from ticket sales, people from Columbia who might be coming or USC fans in this area that might be coming to the game?
DAWN STALEY: I have not. I think on Twitter I got a couple people that said they got their tickets. A couple people are from this area. We just need a few of them because they can get pretty loud no matter where they are. So we should have a good amount of people in the stands cheering for us.

Q. The fact that you have these higher seeds, 11 seeds coming in and knocking off people, is that good for the women's game, maybe creating more excitement? Like we've seen with the men's tournament every year, a lot of people like to watch for the upsets?
DAWN STALEY: I think it is good for the game. I think anytime that you can show some parity in our game on any level it's always good. The fact that Buffalo and Central Michigan are here, playing in the Sweet Sixteen, gives other coaches hope to keep on coaching. It gives them a little boost of energy to know that it could happen. It can happen. You can get out of the first week and on to the second week and compete at the highest level.

So I'm happy for the parity that's very apparent in the NCAA Tournament on our side, and the men's side as well.

Q. To follow-up on Doug's question. You said mid-majors were recruiting a little differently. Could you sort of expound on that a little bit, please?
DAWN STALEY: Yeah, if you look at Buffalo, they have a lot of international players on their roster. Sometimes you have to go that route in order for you to get some quality players. Because when it's all said and done, you think it's a fair game, whether you're coaching in a Power Five or a mid-major, but when it comes down to it, it's not. To be able to play for a Power Five school, it's always greater in most people's eyes.

So some coaches prefer to go a different route, and it's worked for them. Obviously, if we could recruit internationally. I would welcome international players on my team as well. It seems like that's the route we need to go, because we keep losing out as well, even being a Power Five school.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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