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March 26, 2018

Dawn Staley

Alexis Jennings

A'ja Wilson

Albany, New York

UCONN 94, South Carolina 65

COACH DAWN STALEY: We got beat by a really good UCONN team. Obviously we didn't have enough to compete in the way that we would have liked to, but now all is well in women's basketball.

Q. With all the accolades in your career and all the records, how much would you trade it to give it another go and have another year?
A'JA WILSON: I would love to but at the same time, I think I've served my time at the University of South Carolina and the NCAA.

I have had a great four years. I wouldn't change anything. Coming to South Carolina was the best decision I've made at a young age. Of course, it's all fun and I hate to see it come to an end but at the same time, I wouldn't trade anything for my time that I had at South Carolina.

Q. They were hitting everything in the first half, and I'm guessing the scouting report didn't say they were going to shoot 90 percent from behind the arc. You see that, you have to think, okay, this may not be our night and they are just hitting everything.
A'JA WILSON: Yeah, it was just the way the ballgame was going. We could have tried anything but they were shooting pretty well; great, from three-point line, and that was one of our kind of keys was just defend the three-point line and we had a little trouble doing that. At that point, you just have to give everything that you have and leave it all on the court.

Q. When you first came here, did you envision anything like two Final Fours and National Championships, three Elite 8s? This program had 13 wins, and combined in the NCAA Tournament, you had 15 over the four years. Is this how you pictured it going?
A'JA WILSON: Oh, man, not really. I don't know exactly what I was thinking, honestly. I just knew Coach Staley has done such a great job with this program and I wanted to be part of it. I couldn't have written this out or couldn't even imagined this as a young girl, but it's definitely been a blessing to be coached by Coach Staley and I've learned so much from her and just so much from my teammates over the course of my four years.

If I could have called it, it would have been great, but I didn't. I think that's what makes it a lot of fun is it's been a journey. I've been through the ups and downs of everything. I've had a blessing to just compete in the NCAA, and make it to the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 and two Final Fours and National Champions.

There's a bunch of girls out there that dream to do that, and I was part of it with a South Carolina team that no one believed we could do any of it, at all. We were the underdogs. So just to be part of something and show people that it can be done, it's been a blessing.

Q. Same thing I asked A'Ja. You guys defend three-point line but when they hit 90 percent in the first half, did it feel like they were having a night and not much you could do to change that?
ALEXIS JENNINGS: I agree with her. When a team is shooting well like that, it's kind of hard to adjust. You can try everything like she mentioned but they were just hot, simply.

Q. Just wondering if you made a decision about your future about next year?
ALEXIS JENNINGS: No, I have not.

Q. Can you just talk about what Dangerfield to you guys tonight?
COACH DAWN STALEY: Well, she made wide-open shots. They were practice shots, with her feet set and no one really around her and then if you watch them in warmups, those are the kind of shots that they hit.

Certainly we didn't do a good job of staying close to home to her. We kind of dug ourselves in the hole by helping off too much.

Q. How proud are you of this team that you were able to make it this far?
COACH DAWN STALEY: Super proud. Super proud. No one had us probably here, and the way that our team performed all year long under adversity, couldn't be more proud of our players and the way that they have handled themselves and the way that they did not succumb to, woe is me and why does it happen to me. They just played it out, and we found ourselves in a place in which only us believed that we could be here.

Q. First half you shoot 56 percent and you're down by 21. Do you just shake your head and not really know what to do?
COACH DAWN STALEY: Yeah, I mean, I thought we, are to the most part, stuck to our game plan. When we shoot the ball that well -- I think our turnovers killed us in the first quarter. We didn't have very many of them. I'd rather have 27 of them tonight and win, versus just 13.

But UCONN makes you pay. You've got to pick your poison. If you dig in too much to help in the paint, they are going to kill you on the outside. If you over play on the outside, you know, they are going to backdoor you for wide-open layups.

It was that kind of game in which we could not control it, especially early on.

Q. You said a lot about A'Ja over the last couple weeks, I'm sure, but now that her career is finally over at South Carolina, just what she's meant to you and this program and to women's basketball?
COACH DAWN STALEY: It's bittersweet. I wouldn't want her to have another year. Selfishly as a coach -- you have to let her spread her wings and fly in the WNBA and overseas. She's done so much for our program, our state, our university, and all the little girls that grow up looking like her; she was a poster child for inspiration and a beacon of hope. I want her to go to Las Vegas and do the same.

Q. To follow up on that, you obviously had the program on the trajectory already, making the NCAA Tournament several times, before A'Ja got here. Where do you think the program would have been if A'Ja had not made that decision? How pivotal has that been in you getting to the point of where you are today?
COACH DAWN STALEY: Yeah, I don't know. I can't really answer that. Obviously we were on a trajectory of being a really good basketball team and program. It's like asking where UCONN would be without Diana Taurasi. That's kind of unfair.

A'Ja was an integral part of taking our program to the next level. There won't be a whole lot of A'ja Wilsons left in our game. I'm just really fortunate that I got a chance to coach her for four years, and knock-on-wood, for very few injuries.

Q. UCONN actually out-rebounded you guys, which I don't think anybody expected to happen. How important do you think that was to the outcome?
COACH DAWN STALEY: Not very important. I don't think rebounding was a real factor. The three-point, the open threes, really opened the game up for them. For the longest, we were out-rebounding them, but there aren't very many rebounds when we shot 50 percent and they shot 59 percent. It's not very many rebounds to get once teams are shooting that way.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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