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March 25, 2018

Cori Close

Monique Billings

Kelli Hayes

Jordin Canada

Kansas City, Missouri

Mississippi State - 89, UCLA - 73

THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by the UCLA Bruins, head Coach, Cori Close, her senior athletes, No. 3, Jordin Canada, No. 23, Kelli Hayes and No. 25 Monique Billings. Coach, your thoughts?

CORI CLOSE: Well, I think I've said this before, but this is the hardest time to put words to what's in my heart. It's just really difficult to, on the one hand get through your disappointment because we believed and expected to win and at the same time there is no way to reflect the depth and pride of my love to the young women to my left as well as our entire program.

It's hard right now because we are so sad. I didn't want to stop coaching them. I wanted to have a chance to coach this group for another day but the reality is that they have had a historic season. I've asked them all year to have an "I will" mentality and to put the team above themselves and at every turn they have made the right choice.

I love 'em. I'm proud of 'em, and there is nothing that could happen today. Mississippi State is a great team; they executed at critical times, and I give them a lot of credit. They're a really good basketball team. I couldn't be prouder of the foundation, the culture, the way they have represented themselves on the court as amazing basketball players but as students, as givers in our community. They have set the tone for what UCLA is all about.

Q. Maybe each of you, you've all commented at various points that you came to UCLA to start a legacy. Do you feel like you've done that and maybe you could talk about that?
JORDIN CANADA: Yeah, of course, we have definitely left a legacy here at UCLA, just the things that we have accomplished over these past four years is something that we will always remember.

Regardless of the results tonight, that overpowers this loss. As much as it hurts we can't really overlook all the things that we've done for this program and that's why we came here. I wouldn't trade it for the world. I'm just proud that I was able to start something, create something with the girls to the left of me and the players that I played with, past and present. It's truly special and something that I can't take for granted and I will always remember.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: I definitely agree with Jordin. I would say we put our mark and stamp on this program. We created a legacy that was already here but we added on to that and built. For my teammates in the years to come I know that knave a lot more to keep building toward. I think we set the foundation for that and they have good things to look forward to.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: The word "legacy" is a powerful word. Most people think of it as banners and winning tournaments. Yeah, those are great. But legacy is the person that you've become and the growth that you've made and our team has done that and we've done that. The past four years we've been here we built that legacy with our program and ourselves, it's that's part of a legacy. It's not always wins and losses. It's how you impacted people on and off court and we've done that. You can see little boys and little girls looking at us and adults, and how we have impacted these lives. That is part of our legacy that we've left on people. It's really exciting to see that with these girls.

Q. Jordin, can you address Mississippi State's defense, particularly in the first half when you fell behind by 16 and the second part of that, how you kept attacking and didn't let up in cutting it to six late in the game?
JORDIN CANADA: Yeah, I mean, Mississippi State's game plan was to pressure us and try and get the ball out of my hands and Japreece's hands and I thought in the beginning of the game we kinda had a little lull where we couldn't run anything or execute on the defensive end. In the second half we calmed down a little bit and we knew that we were going to get back in this game if we just continued to attack and run our offense and run the floor and push the tempo. I thought we did a good job, better job, in the second half of doing that.

Q. Monique, I was wondering if you could tell me what going up against Teaira McCowan was like? I know it was a big focus coming in and on the boards she was a bull and a handful tonight?
MONIQUE BILLINGS: Yeah, she is a monster and I knew that coming into the game. It's tough playing against really big girls but I fought. I tried to do the best that I could and tried to take her off the boards and tried to box her out and I definitely had my hands full. It was a challenge. Much respect to her.

Q. Jordin, I know you won't use it as an excuse but can you describe what happened to your elbow and how it was feeling in the second half; and for Kelli, after the game I saw you comforting Michaela. What did you tell her and what was that moment like for you?
JORDIN CANADA: I remember going to the basket and my arm got caught in between two girls. It was obviously very painful but our athletic trainer and our doctor think it's a sprained elbow. Just have to go back next week and get MRIs and x-rays and make sure that's exactly what it is or better. I didn't try to let that affect me. I tried to play as hard as I could in the second half and gave it all I have.

KELLI HAYES: I think it was Lauryn. I was just comforting her and you see upperclassmen and you want to represent our program well and we have a close relationship with Lauryn and I know she wanted it bad for herself and for us and I know it is hard up there and as an upperclassman it being my last collegiate game I wanted to feel for her. But at the end of the day I'm going to be there for her and I wanted to be there for her as a role model.

Q. Jordin, you guys went, I think, six and a half minutes there to start the second quarter, missed late shots and weren't able to get a bucket to get down. I thought you were getting quality looks. You were getting in the paint and not able to convert. Is that how you felt? Was Mississippi State playing good defense or just a little unlucky there?
JORDIN CANADA: I thought we executed our plays pretty well. We just couldn't make shots. At the end of the day that's what it comes down to. In the second half we stayed poised and didn't let they are pressure get to us, but we couldn't make that's and that's what it came down to.

THE MODERATOR: Ladies, congratulations. Thank you. Questions for Coach?

Q. Schaefer didn't make a lot of shots tonight, but she had two 3s that were real daggers. Can you talk about the impact she made?
CORI CLOSE: You are exactly eight. She hit really timely 3s. We cut it to six. We had good rotation and we had overrotation on helping on someone we shouldn't have and left her open at the top of the key and she delivered. Like Jordin said, when you have those opportunities you have to be able to step up and make shots. She really did and I thought that was the biggest dagger but she had one in the third quarter that I thought was just as timely. She is a really good player and I've watched her since she was in high school. You can just tell she has a level of confidence about her. She stays really steady and you can tell she is a rock for their team.

Q. Coach, their defense in the second quarter you had a lot of good looks at the basket but it looked like they were either denying or just getting up and make being things uncomfortable. How did that compare to other teams who have tried to do that to you?
CORI CLOSE: Not many have and that's why we weren't able to adjust as quickly as we would have liked. Honestly most people in the Pac-12 zoned us this year. So we've been the biggest pressure-oriented team in you're conference over the past year. I do think that threw us out of rhythm. We were running our plays a step outside of where we wanted to. When we did get the shots we wanted we knew we were going to get high post shots we knew Mo was going to be able to get jumpers and those didn't go down. Some doubt crept in and at halftime that's what we talked about. Your focus has to be on the present possession only, period.

That's you're only responsibility is the focus on being present and playing your very best for the sake of the team that position. I thought they really lived that in the second half. Vic Schaefer has always been a great defensive coach. One of the best in the country, no doubt about that. He's passionate about it and their kids play reflecting his passion on the defensive end. We didn't execute and maybe take advantages of some of the mismatches we thought we had but credit to their pressure. We weren't able to move the ball and take advantage of those as smoothly as we would have wanted to which would have created some better rhythm and some higher-percentage shots.

Q. Coach, with Jordin's elbow being what it was, what do you think of Japreece's performance off the bench and taking on a role there?
CORI CLOSE: I think Japreece has had a great NCAA Tournament and I think it should give her confidence moving forward. She loves Jordin so much. She have a very special relationship and I know that there was probably no person quicker to tears than Japreece in our locker room and part of it is, as has already been said, she was fighting so hard for Jordin. I think she can hold her head up high and I thought these were her best games of the year for us, on the offensive and defensive end.

Obviously Jordin, I can't say enough about. She's got the heart of a lion. She was in pain the entire game and for her to end up with 23 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 1 turnover in visible excruciating pain, she set an example of toughness for Japreece Dean to walk into going forward.

Q. Coach, Victoria Vivians is so good off the dribble as well as shooting from the outside. Can you talk about how tough that is to guard her this year especially in that crunch time? She took the ball into the hoop.
CORI CLOSE: Yeah, but it took their whole team to get her the touches in the right spot. They ran the backdoor play on the left. We were hesitant, played off and then she was able to loop back into the top of the key and get to her right hand drive. We knew that was coming, but they're disciplined especially in the crunch time situations in getting it to the person with the hot hand and she was hot from the jump.

Credit their entire team for getting it in their player's hands in a place to be successful; but, you know, she was really good around the basket, even when we took away her right hand drive which is what she likes to do best. She spun back and got herself to the free throw line. She is a really good player. I had a chance to watch her at USA Basketball this last summer for the U-23 tryouts and she is a talented offensive player.

Q. Can you speak to the legacy that this team especially the senior class leaves?
CORI CLOSE: Hard to put into words. It's something that unless you're around our program every day it's hard to understand. But it's not just the wins are easy to trace, the record, three straight Sweet 16s, first time in Elite Eight since 1999, on and on and on. But for me, the legacy that is deepest is the way they've bought into our uncommon transformational experience. We really wanted them to be, we say "I am woman" and it's about you are more than a basketball player. It starts as a person. Then as a student, and then as an athlete. They have bought in and built a culture that we say there is only two things that will be with you the rest of your life from this experience and it's who you become and who you impact. I don't think I could have asked any more of those three seniors about who they have become and how they've impacted people.

THE MODERATOR: Coach, congratulations on a great season.

CORI CLOSE: Thank you all very much.

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