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March 10, 2019

Bill Fennelly

Alexa Middleton

Bridget Carleton

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Iowa State 75, Texas 69

THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by Iowa State Cyclones head coach, Bill Fennelly, and his two student-athletes, Bridget Carleton and Alexa Middleton. Coach, congratulations on the win and your thoughts about the game?

BILL FENNELLY: An amazing college game. I think this is what postseason basketball is supposed to be about. That's a great Texas team, similar to Austin when we got a lead and they came roaring back, but the toughness and the resiliency of the last 5 minutes was very special and something that has kept us together. To be playing in the championship game tomorrow is a great honor for our kids. They're excited about it and it's a great way for Iowa State to showcase what our university is about and our program is about.

Very proud of the way we played. Bridget was Bridget and Alexa Middleton was a monster from start to finish. When these two are running our team and running our offense I stayed out of the way and let them call the plays. Just two dynamic performances at a time when we really needed it.

Q. Alexa, you're up 16, they tie it with about 3 minutes to go, what is the mindset of your basketball team when it looked like Texas was going to roar all the way?
ALEXA MIDDLETON: We talked about staying poised and continuing to be who we were that whole game, and I think we did a great job of finding that extra push when we needed it and stayed together and continued to play as a team and finishing out the game strong.

Q. Alexa, I mean, how does it feel to make such a big impact in such a big game and is this kind of why you came to Iowa State?
ALEXA MIDDLETON: Coach said that to me before the game yesterday. I love it here and playing with these girls is so much fun. Just tonight was almost a relief. I felt like I struggled a lot this season shooting-wise and continuing to stay positive. My teammates have been positive to me. My coaches, too, and working through that and tonight when they fall it feels really good.

Q. I think you said before the game yesterday he talked to you. What did he say?
ALEXA MIDDLETON: He said, this is why you came here, and it is. Moments like this, playing on a big stage, playing a lot of minutes, this is why I came here and I'm enjoying every minute of it.

Q. Bridget, there are only two teams left playing for the Big 12 crown. What does that mean to you to be playing for a championship tomorrow?
BRIDGET CARLETON: It's amazing. To be at this point in the championship game to make it to semifinals alone. We haven't done that since 2013 and no one on the roster has done that, and we knew it was going to be a tough one. But to come out with this win. We're so excited and to be in this position, I couldn't ask for a better position to be in with this group of girls. It's so much fun to play with them, and it's an additional game added on to our season. So I couldn't ask for anything more.

Q. Bridget, how hectic were those final five minutes or tense were they?
BRIDGET CARLETON: They were intense, but we've been in that position many times this year, teams, you know, throw runs at us late in the fourth quarter. But we have the poise and the maturity to relax and when Alexa has the ball in her hands a good decision is going to be made on the offensive end. When they tied it up I knew it was a matter of getting a good look on the other end and getting some stops and we were able to do that. We have the experience now. We were fine and relaxed and it wasn't anything to worry about.

Q. Was there a time when you guys came together and talked about keeping your composure during that stretch or during a timeout where Coach Fennelly sent that message to you guys?
BRIDGET CARLETON: Yeah, we kind of -- every timeout there was in the fourth quarter it was okay, 10 minutes, left, that's all we've got for 10 minutes and there was another timeout with 5 minutes and another with 4:30 left. So it was a matter of taking every possession by possession and just, um, doing what we can. We're getting good looks. We were getting to the freethrow line. We were able to knock down freethrows. It was a matter of getting to those positions and we were able to do that.

Q. Texas is a big team. They hit the glass hard. I thought Ashley Joens rebounded really well. Were you all impressed with her ability to get the ball off the glass?
ALEXA MIDDLETON: Yeah, she has done that all year. She is a great rebounder, especially on the offensive end. She goes hard and she comes up big when we need those and she did that tonight. Then knocked down her freethrows, so that was huge from her.

Q. Bridget, playing Baylor for a third time. What do you guys expect from them this time around tomorrow night?
BRIDGET CARLETON: The same thing, they're the number one team in the country for a reason. They have unbelievable post presence, obviously, and they have guards who can knock down jumpers. They're a tough match-up, but we're excited. We need to put together forty minutes to compete with them and we haven't done that I think this year. So hopefully tomorrow is our time to put together forty minutes and give it our best shot.

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

Q. Bill, what did you say to the entire team in the locker room once you guys got back there at the end of the game?
BILL FENNELLY: Basically what I told them was obviously how proud we were. I had all the support staff, everyone in the locker room, just, this is why we do what we do. The resiliency that they showed to showcase our university, our program on a grand stage and just really congratulated them.

The other thing I told them was, enjoy this. Don't worry about what's coming tomorrow. So often you work so hard, you accomplish something and it's immediately what's next. That's the coaches' job. I told them, enjoy your friends, your family, celebrate beating a great Texas team and celebrate the fact that you get to play. Like Bridget said, that's the best point of the night is they get to play another game with each other. It's one more game they get to play together.

Some groups, that's the last thing they want. This group, that is probably the biggest thing about winning tonight is it adds another game to the schedule. That's a great thing.

Q. In the first half, things were coming pretty easy, just because you were hitting shots, the shots weren't falling the second half, you missed 16 straight at one point. How were you able to survive that stretch and come out with a win?
BILL FENNELLY: I think when you miss shots there are a couple of things, obviously, you gotta give credit to Texas' defense, they ratcheted it up. They were face guarding Bridget. We did have shots we missed. You get a little tired, you lose your legs a little bit and then what happens -- what you're making them it's contagious and when you're missing them it's contagious and we only turned the ball over two or three times the second half. It wasn't like we weren't getting a chance to score but that happens. Sometimes you outscore the other team and sometimes you have to keep guarding and I thought overall, we kept guarding.

Obviously their size is overwhelming and we don't really match-up with that. But we had to, you know, keep 'em out of transition and do the best we could reboundingwise. And overall I thought defensively it kept us in the game when we were wobbling. I tell them, it's like a fight. You're on the ropes. Get your gloves up, get to the bell and then let's come back out again. Our kids can do that.

Q. I think you just answered my question, but, they tie it up with three minutes to go. Did you have a message specifically to your players? Did you say something verbally to Bridget or Alexa or anybody?
BILL FENNELLY: I told Bridget and Alexa, I said, no one touches the ball or makes a decision unless you two do it. We didn't call a timeout. There was a freethrow and I grabbed 'em real quick and said, it's your team. Make the choice. Figure it out, and we made a couple of adjustments on a play call. The play Bridget made in transition was a huge play, kind of a broken court thing. We made a great pass. Bridget made a great catch and score. You're up two, you get a stop and now you're up five and now it's a two-possession game again. The way that ball went in the basket, you could tell -- the energy level on our team went really, really high and the energy level on their team probably sunk a little on that play.

Q. Coach, talk about Baylor. Your third time around, like Bridget said, you haven't played a 100% game against them yet, but it's two best teams and World War III is coming up tomorrow.
BILL FENNELLY: It's like someone asked me when I was walking down the hall, are you excited to play Baylor tomorrow? And the answer is yes, because if we're not playing tomorrow we lost tonight. So I just want to play tomorrow. Baylor, obviously they are the number one team in the country and I think it speaks to the strength of our league. I don't know who bracketology, what that degree is, but if you sit on the bench like I do and watch a West Virginia and watch a TCU play and you have to play Baylor twice and you have to play everyone twice and then you see a Texas team like tonight, you know, there is no way.

Again, the numbers thing, there is no way West Virginia and TCU shouldn't be in the NCAA tournament. Because, again, at some point it's about basketball it's not about numbers. If you want to play the best teams then that's what this league has done and every one of us is trying to beat Baylor. But every year you start your conference schedule with two losses. You do. Let's be honest. There is no other league in the country that does that. I don't think our league should be penalized for that and if you watched the TCU-Texas game last night you tell me that's not an NCAA team. We lost at West Virginia and I coached against them. You win 11 games in this league you should be playing in the NCAA tournament.

No one told me to say that. I just feel really strongly about that, because sometimes, and we've all been in that position, and I hope the Committee looks at video and watches games and sees that if they want the best teams to play in the greatest sporting event in our country, there should be all those teams in the tournament in my opinion. Sorry. I didn't mean to go on an editorial -- I'm avoiding the Baylor question. (Chuckles.)

Q. She mentioned that the people that she had make the Big 12, they should be in the tournament, historically if you win double digits --
BILL FENNELLY: Yeah, if you win 10, 12 games in this league, as soon as you say that, there is another team on the bubble or whatever, but if you want to line up and play, let's line up and play. And I think West Virginia, TCU easily can line up with anyone in the field and would do a great job of representing, like I said, what this tournament is supposed to be about. I hope they get the call on the 18th, because we've all been there. There's not a lot of things worse than sitting around until Selection Monday not knowing what's going to happen.

Q. Coach, how do you beat Baylor?
BILL FENNELLY: The one thing that we'll tell our players and it's what we've told them before. Number one, you can't be beat. I've had a lot of teams at Iowa State. We've had a lot of teams. As soon as Baylor showed up on the schedule the game was over. We didn't want to play them. Number one, you've got to believe that you can play them. Number two, we don't have to beat the Thunder four out of seven. We gotta beat them one time, forty minutes. That's what postseason basketball is all about. The other thing is, they have to play not their best. We have to play like we played in the first quarter probably for four quarters, and give yourself a chance and eliminate the knock out punch which they are so good at, as good as any team in the country. Hopefully we've got enough in our legs to go out and compete and have a great championship game. Appreciate your time. Thanks for being here.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.

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