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March 6, 2020

Cori Close

Michaela Onyenwere

Lindsey Corsaro

Las Vegas, Nevada

UCLA - 73, USC - 66

CORI CLOSE: Well, I want to first of all -- I give a lot of credit to USC. The way that that young team has come along has been remarkable. I -- because we're their travel partners, I watch almost every one of their games as the weekend goes in preparation for your second opponent.

To see their improvement and their composure today, you know, give a lot of credit to them. Mark Trakh is doing an excellent job. I have been impressed with their improvement and poise, especially with their youth.

I also want to give credit to my assistant coaches. I am in front of the cameras, and they are doing a heck of a job behind the scenes, to really equip us to make great adjustments. Shannon Perry made the adjustment, I think it was 60-60, and we were able to we press after a free throw to be able to trap that -- we were just having them get it in, and then we were going one-on-one, but we decided to trap it and make them and go back to their big, and we got a turnover, an and-one (indiscernible) really changed the course of the game.

There were some other ones that Tasha Brown and Tony Newnan did. So I'm grateful for an amazing staff that makes me look better than I am.

And then just our team, the way they responded. The tougher, more together team wins in March. And it took us a while to become that, but I thought Lindsey Corsaro's poise, she was the most steady the entire game. I thought her emotional leadership was absolutely key for us sort of coming back together, rallying the troops and becoming the tougher, more together team.

We weren't that the whole 40 minutes. But she led us there and helped us respond.

Obviously, Michaela is just tough as nails. And she continues to amaze me about how she improves, how she's always about the team. And she's just one of the most versatile players in the country.

Q. Coach, you spoke on these two ladies and Lindsey's consistency and Michaela down the stretch, but there was a crucial time in the second quarter where you needed a spark, and Natalie Chou came off the bench and was incredible. I think 10 points in nine minutes, and just a lot of bang-bang plays that took USC out of their groove?
CORI CLOSE: That's exactly what I said in that locker room: We're not in that position without Natalie Chou's spark. And then also not in that position if she doesn't have the selfless to see that we turned what we needed and how we were attacking, and so I went with a different kind of lineup because in the second half, and she was a selfless enough teammate to be fine with that.

I agree with you 100%, exactly what I said in the locker room to them, was that Natalie was a huge spark and is the reason we were able to turn that momentum and were able to score like that, able to set the press better, take them out of some of their sets. We weren't getting matched up well enough in transition. I couldn't agree with you more, Natalie Chou was a major turning point in that second quarter.

In terms of turning points, I pulled Charisma Osborne aside at halftime and reminded her about the Stanford game. She had three really tough quarters, but I said it didn't matter. You started with your defense, and you're ready when your time comes, and you're going to get big buckets in the fourth quarter. You're going to come back and respond. You have proven you can do it. That half is gone, move forward, and start it with your defense. I thought she was a huge piece in that fourth quarter.

You know, you just have to stay ready. You don't know when your time is going to come and how the team will need you. You have to stay selfless and stay ready no matter what has led up to that.

Q. Coach, the Trojans really gave you guys a lot of problems in the first quarter. Offensively the team only had 12 points, which is one of, I think, the lowest so far this season, not the lowest, but what exactly were the Trojans doing right in the first quarter that were giving you guys so much trouble offensively?
CORI CLOSE: I think that, you know, really was not as much about the trouble offensively that we were having, it was about allowing 23 points. And, you know, it is a lot harder for us to have offensive rhythm when we have to take it out of the net.

And they were the aggressor. They were getting everything they wanted, the kind of touches they wanted. We were letting their guards get downhill. We were letting them get off into rebounds. And it's just, you know, a credit to them. I just think they got us on our heels, but I think the offensive end would have been easier if we hadn't given up 23 points.

Q. How important is it to have that emotional leader like Lindsey in times of adversity?
CORI CLOSE: I can't even -- there's a reason she led us in minutes played last year. She has come along for us. Our whole team takes a deep breath. And Lindsey has just been rock solid. Her IQ is great. We move her around. She played every position from the one to the four today.

So she played point guard. She played the four position when we needed to give Michaela a break. We doubled with her out of the post because her IQ was so high. She was the emotional leader in every huddle.

You know, the statistics are never going to show. And she hit the three ball a lot better today. That was pretty fun, too. The statistics will never show to the extent that she influences our team.

Q. Michaela, you guys had 17 offensive rebounds and forced a lot of turnovers down the stretch. Their coach said they ran out of gas. Could you sense that in the fourth quarter?
MICHAELA ONYENWERE: I think that we pride ourselves a lot on offensive rebounds. I know my teammates are going to take a lot of shots, and we might not always make those, and so that's something we pride ourselves on.

As far as down the stretch, them kind of being tired, no, I don't think I really sensed that. I kind of was just going to the boards and took advantage of the opportunities that were given to me.

Q. Michaela, you had the first ten UCLA points to start the fourth quarter. What was your mindset going in fourth as you were down six?
MICHAELA ONYENWERE: Just continuing to fight, string along stops. We were not playing the way we knew we could have sort of the whole game. So just being aggressive for my team and doing whatever I could do help my team.

Q. Coach, curious, you say you travel as travel partner with USC so you're familiar with them, maybe being familiar with the fact that Mark had mentioned they have such a short bench. Is there a methodical approach to getting them in foul trouble?
CORI CLOSE: Of course we always try that. We wanted to go right at them. I thought Lauryn Miller was really important in that. I thought she was really aggressive in trying to take clear angles and straight line pass to the basket. She really beat Pili to some spots.

And then we went right at her, definitely, and tried to get her to force her to play defense early in the game. I thought it was a major factor.

I also thought, you know, some of you mentioned how they ran out of gas, I think the longevity of the whole entire game to execute that game plan, and we need perseverance and focus that it doesn't always pay off early, but if you stick with it, that's what happens in the fourth quarter.

That happened several times to us. It happened -- I thought it was a major factor in our win against Oregon State, a major factor in our win in Stanford.

It didn't pay off for a long time. They were able to withstand all of our pressure for a long period of time, but then when fatigue set in, it really paid off.

I thought, you know, that's -- she never got -- Pili never got in a rhythm, really. I thought us going at her right away early was really, really good.

Q. Lindsey, what kind of boost does it give you when your three ball is falling like that as it was today?
LINDSEY CORSARO: It is definitely awesome to make shots.

CORI CLOSE: Look at that grin.

LINDSEY CORSARO: My teammates do an awesome job as well as my coaches of always instilling confidence in talking about when you've got it, get it up there and be confident it is going in.

Just a lot of credit to them for giving me support all year and for believing in me. And then it's always really fun when all that pays off and it is going in and you're getting in the rhythm that way.

Q. Lindsey, we have seen Michaela grow a lot through her UCLA career. When she does what she does, what she did today in the fourth quarter, what's it like watching that as a teammate, just seeing her work that way?
LINDSEY CORSARO: It is truly amazing, just the things that she does. Being a guard, I kind of -- I know I'm going to throw it to her in those moments because we know she's going to make plays. So I know I can throw the ball kind of anywhere, and she's going to catch it.

And, yeah, it is amazing the things she can do. And she works every day at practice. She's consistent in her work ethic, going 100% all the time, giving everything she has. It is no surprise she's gotten where she has and she's able to do the things that she does. We have all the trust in the world in her.

Q. Coach, this conference, I mean, has been a bear all season long. You have five of the top 16 teams (indiscernible), USC giving you a great game today. Talk for a second, I mean, there are already three of the top four in the semifinals, and they're good teams, just how deep is this conference is and how it could be a good March for the Pac-12 and you also.
CORI CLOSE: It has been a great March for us, you know, the last several years, and it keeps getting better. Not only is it, you know, great for the top teams, but all the teams coming up have just been amazing, and the youth in this conference.

I think the Pac-12 Conference Networks have done a great job at covering all these young players. You know, you look at Crocker, how she stepped up in a major way for Cal in that opening game. You look at several of -- the shooter for Utah. You know, you go down the line.

And of course when you start naming people, you forget too many.

I'm really excited not only for this year. And the grind prepares you. Not only does the grind prepare you for March, but the different styles prepares you for March. The incredible coaching. How many close games we have all been in. All of the different battles.

I think there is no coincidence that we're prepared as well as we are to make deep runs in March because of that preparation.

Also I'm just excited about the longevity and where it is going to be sustainable. People are recruiting really well, young players are stepping up in pressurized environments, and I think we're poised to have a really special March as a conference.

Q. Coach, you made it through today with Japreece only scoring nine points on two field goals. As you go later into March, how important is it to get her going offensively as well as hoping that she can maintain doing all of the other things she did today?
CORI CLOSE: I think I need her leadership and defense even more than I need her points. She had nine assists and three turnovers today. If I -- if you ask me do I need her to score more or do I need her to lead, play defense, and distribute more, I need the latter.

So, yes, it is a bonus when she gets scoring, but we had people stepping up. We have a lot of scorers. That's not what I need most from her. That's not what makes her elite. What makes her elite is her ability to put pressure on the basketball, to distribute to her teammates, and to be a competitive leader.

You know, I of course want to get her going, and that's always a bonus, but we got the most important thing.

Q. Coach, Natalie was a perfect 5-5 from the field, but you only played her 16 minutes. Any reason you didn't ride the hot hand?
CORI CLOSE: We were having more trouble getting stops in the second half than we were -- we needed scores, you know, in that second quarter.

Honestly, I just thought it was a run. It was a feel thing. You know, I think I kept thinking to myself: Do I need to give Natalie that other look?

But we had some other players stepping up and making shots, and I thought we were in a rhythm and we were making runs that way. You know, I might look back and say what an idiot I was.

At the same time, I'm just, again, so thankful for Natalie's character that she was willing to play whatever role to help the team win.

You know, I don't know. I was debating it in my own mind, and we won so we were okay. But, you know, I go back and look at every film and rotation every time. You know, there was a point in the first half that every single person on the roster had a negative plus/minus except for Lindsey.

That's where I went. We wanted to double the post, and we wanted to be able to do that, and it was either with Natalie or Lindsey most of the time. I went in that direction.

It doesn't take anything away from how great Natalie was and how important she was for this victory.

Q. Congratulations on another win.
CORI CLOSE: Thank you.

Q. Sunday is International Women's Day, it falls during the tournament every year. I love asking you all this question: Is there a woman that you would like to call out, celebrate that's made a stellar, impactful impact on your life? It doesn't need to be related to hoops, just somebody that's meaningful to you.
MICHAELA ONYENWERE: I would say my mom. I think my mom is a really strong woman, and it's something that I admire about her, her willingness to always be there for me and my family.

Every single day I can call her and come to her with my problems, even though she's dealing with stuff. I admire her not only because she's my mom, but she's just such a strong woman. She's a strong black woman that I really look up to, and she's just worked really hard.

And coming from -- she's from Nigeria. But just coming here and being an immigrant, there is odds all against you. She's fought those odds and just been a really strong person for me that I look up to.

Yeah, I really love my mom, and that's probably one of the people that I really look up to.

LINDSEY CORSARO: For me, I think, like Michaela, I have been fortunate and blessed to have a great family and support system and tons of women in my family.

On the court, to me Tamika Catchings is someone I've always looked up to. Being from Indiana, I went to some of her workouts when she was with the Fever.

And she was amazing on the court, but I think what she stands for off the court and the way she was a teammate and the way she cares for people and the way she lives her life is really admirable. I thought she had an awesome balance of all of those things.

CORI CLOSE: That's so -- you know, so many pictures of people keep running through my head. Last year I talked about Ceal Barry, and she was sitting right here, and I remember writing her a letter when I was at UCLA as an assistant coach and the trails that she's blazed.

I have to give a shoutout to my mom too. I remember things I would say growing up. I would say: I can't do that. She would be like: Not yet, not yet.

And I think she really established a grit inside of me that it's get better. You know, bottom line, you may not be able to do something now, doesn't matter, get better and grow.

I think her sort of persevering spirit, there was nothing I felt like I couldn't accomplish. And I think that she encouraged me, along with my father, but in this case, you know, honoring my mom, that to dream big if I was willing to work big alongside of it.

I have to give a shoutout to Kathy Olivier. Kathy Olivier was a coach here that gave me a chance when I was 23 years old to go ahead and be an assistant coach, a restricted earnings coach at UCLA.

She came by our practice yesterday, and she decided to step down from her job at UNLV today. I got really -- Pam talked to me about it on the bus. I worked with Pam and Kathy in my first job at UCLA, and I got a little choked up when Pam told me. I just said Pam, I just never would be here without her.

You know, I look at her taking a chance on this little 23-year-old punk and her passion for the game and for people and her energy. You know, people tell me a lot that I lead with my passion, and that's because I saw it in her first, and that was my first sort of exposure and who I worked with. And I just want to give a shoutout to her. I know I wouldn't be sitting here today without her.

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