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March 28, 2019

Charli Turner Thorne

Portland, Oregon

THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Arizona State head coach Charli Turner Thorne.

Coach, congratulations for making it this far. Open it up for your opening statement.


Well, we're obviously very excited to be here, but I guess I would just say we're not surprised. I mean, we definitely have had a great season. We have a team that's played toe-to-toe with the best teams in the country consistently from November till March really.

I'm proud of this team. The exciting thing for us this year is that we do have all these games under our belt. We played Mississippi State last year, so a lot of familiarity with what it takes.

For us, it's going to take a lot more efficiency on both sides of the ball from our first two games, but we're capable of doing that.

THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.

Q. You were talking the other day about trying to find a championship offense to match your championship defense. Talk more about what that would look like if your team can reach that championship offense.
CHARLI TURNER THORNE: Yeah, I mean, I guess in general terms, it would just be getting the best shot every time down, just shooting -- kind of what I just alluded to, efficiency. At times in games we get the shots we want, we just don't quite knock them down.

We just need to get the shots that we want, which against Mississippi State, they're a very stingy defense. For the most part we have five scorers on the floor at all times.

I talked about this a little bit after the Miami game, not trying, with Courtney and Kianna and Robbi, we got to get your shots. Letting it happen. Obviously Jamie can score. Sophia, whoever else is in the game, Reili gets an open look, everybody is ready to step up and score. We're going to need that. We're going to need everybody to be kind of taking turns.

I mean, I kind of joked, if Kianna wants to go for 30, that's great. But realistically we need our bench to step up again. We need to have a real balanced attack. That's as much as I'm going to say (smiling).

Q. A lot of Pac-12 teams still alive in this tournament. What do you think that says about where the conference is? How pleased are you to see that?
CHARLI TURNER THORNE: Very pleased. Again, not surprised at all. I think a lot of our conference coaches have felt, because we play tough schedules in the pre-season, top to bottom, we have been the most dominant conference in the country all year long. I think that's just playing out right now. I'm not surprised at all.

Super happy for our conference. It's going to be fun to see how everything plays out, how well our five Sweet 16 teams do the rest of the way.

Q. How has Kianna been able to elevate her game over the last couple of years? She's grown year after year, seems to be doing outstanding this season.
CHARLI TURNER THORNE: Absolutely. Thank you.

You know, just by hard work really. This season, last year all-conference player, stepped up for us. Kind of had a great game, then would kind of have a quiet game, have a great game. Going into her senior year, we said, Hey, that's not going to cut it this year. Every game we need you locked in, being your honey badger self, looking to score.

She got in with our assistant, offensive work, watched film. I feel like she just really was more like a pro this year in terms of her approach of, Okay, how am I going to score, keeping up on her individual workouts.

She's just very limited, I want to say. She had that horrible knee injury her senior year in high school, so the reason -- she isn't this role player that developed, she was a star when we signed her. It took us about a year and a half to get her fully healthy and able to manage that knee. That's what we've done I think really well. Diana, my trainer, have done that really well.

She is kind of limited with practice and stuff, yet she still works so hard to make sure she's prepared on both sides of the ball.

She's a great defensive player. She led our team in steals, plays both sides of the ball.

Q. Arizona State did surprise some people by showing up in the Sweet 16. I'm going to cram all my questions in here. Why do you think the Sun Devils are underestimated? Can you tell us a little bit about how the team grew this year, in what ways? How are you able to get the most out of your players, which you seem to do every single year?
CHARLI TURNER THORNE: Wow, okay. I don't know. I think if you're preparing to play us, you don't underestimate us. I think maybe around the country if you're not paying attention, maybe you do.

I appreciate that. I think this team has grown. We had high expectations coming in. We had a good pre-season, right there knocking off a couple top-five teams. We have experience, we have depth. All returners back with some great freshmen.

But probably, you know, just a little more inconsistent than we wanted to be in the Pac-12. Welcome to the Pac-12 (laughter). Have your A game every single week, it's just brutal. I think just like everybody, slowed by people not fully healthy, stuff like that, through different stretches.

I don't credit myself. I credit this team for being where they're at right now. They're totally selfless. They have not made it about me the entire year. I think that allows you to get better, allows you to pull together. When you're shooting 30-some percent, end up in the Sweet 16 somehow, some way, because you're tough and gritty, you got a pretty good defense.

Q. In the tournament so far, is there any moment that really stands out to you as showing this is what my team can do, in the games so far? This is all clicking, what I want to see going forward?
CHARLI TURNER THORNE: Well, I think in the Miami game obviously just the final two defensive stops were huge. But also just the bench scoring. Iris, not known for her three-point shooting, just drains a three, get a tip-in. Jamie comes in off the bench in the fourth quarter, hits a couple threes. Not so much one moment, but just sort of I think that really characterizes our team, timely scoring from next woman up.

We've been at our best when we play that way. Then always just having confidence that we can get a stop.

Q. The Cancun game, you were talking about how Howard has filled in the role for Vivians. How do you see Mississippi State compared to the team you faced a year or so ago?
CHARLI TURNER THORNE: I think McCowan is better. She has just continued to grow and get better and better as a player. Give her and Vic a lot of credit, their coaching staff, mainly obviously McCowan.

Howard, she's a little different from Vivians, but she's playing that same role. I mean, she's All-American, three-level scorer. She might be a little more dynamic rebounder, to be honest.

Again, they've continued to grow the players in their program, much like we do. You think, Oh, they graduated this player. Uh-oh, that next players just steps in. They're every bit as good every single year. I think we both have programs like that. They've done that very well.

They're very similar. They're pressing, pressuring, running dribble-drive, running their sets for their specific scorers at any given point. I don't know, because I'll probably know after we play them, I thought they had the veterans, Williams, Schaeffer in the backcourt, but I'm watching them, they got four seniors out there, so they still have great veterans that are doing all those same things, playing tenacious, pressure defense.

They're just really good at knowing who they are. They know who they are. They know what their role is. They play it really well. Each person knows how they're supposed to score. They look for each other, they take turns doing that role very, very well.

We thought UCLA and Oregon rebound well, but, whew. I mean, I think all those teams are in that category where it's like, Okay, wow, it's going to be a team rebounding effort, for sure.

Q. The idea of a super regional concept of everyone going to Las Vegas. They're going to have a big crowd here, over 11,000. What do you think of the super regional idea, now having been to Vegas for the Pac-12 tournament?
CHARLI TURNER THORNE: Yeah. I talked to Debbie Antonelli at length about that because she originated -- I think it really started with her. I think everybody in this room knows who Debbie is.

I love the idea. I absolutely love the idea. I think it would be amazing for our game to build equity in Vegas, a place that's a destination, where a lot of people want to go, have all those teams there, bringing their fans, having a place where maybe you could even recruit people within the community, surrounding areas that like women's basketball.

I absolutely love it. I mean, I've been doing this 30 years in Division I college coaching. We keep moving backwards. We can't play on neutral sites, we're not filling the stands. I don't know. I'll go on record, I don't care, I'm old, doesn't matter.

No, I mean, that would sell out. That would be unbelievable. I mean, the turnout, it's just kind of to me a no-brainer. Now that legislation has changed in terms of the NCAA bylaws with gambling. I really hope that we're looking at it because I think it would be unbelievable for our game and for the NCAA tournament.

THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you very much for your time. Best of luck tomorrow against Mississippi State.


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