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March 19, 2023

Cori Close

Los Angeles, California, USA

Pauley Pavilion

UCLA Bruins

Media Conference

CORI CLOSE: There are going to be those pressurized moments; and pressure is a privilege and pressure makes diamonds, and all those things. Everything you want is on the other side of hard, to steal Coach Monty from the Phoenix Suns' statement.

I think that just knowing that that pressure, you are going to feel that. You want it bad. We've been preparing for months and months and for our freshman class, this is something they have been dreaming about doing. You heard Kiki talk about it yesterday. She's been dreaming to play in March Madness her whole life, and to keep that -- you've worked really hard to get here; and so to trust in your process, to trust in your training.

This is not a group where I have to go, well, if only you had worked harder. I don't have to do that. This group works hard. They want it with and for each other.

So it's now a matter of, you know, the whole navy seals sentence that you don't sink to the level of the adversity or the level of anything else; you sink to the level of your training and when the heat comes, we have trained really well this year, and to really rely on that process.

Q. How much of a challenge is it going against Williams and Robertson, and is Oklahoma similar to any open you've faced this year? It seems like there are similarities to Stanford.

CORI CLOSE: I would say a combination of Stanford and Utah. They don't have a big rim protector the way Stanford does but they love to shoot the three and transition game the way Utah does. They have sort of a combination of those teams.

We talked a lot about defending the first seven seconds of the shot clock because they are just so good. When you look at their shot chart, the way they attack up the right side of the floor in transition and skip to the other side of the floor, the success that they have with just that action is, I mean, over 50 percent of their offense. It's remarkable how quickly they attack in transition and how well they find shooters out.

So you know, both Williams and -- but it's not just them. Obviously it's a luxury to have two 2,000-point scorers on your team. Those guys have earned that and that's spectacular and that's going to be one of our keys is to make their touches difficult and defend them really well.

But they are not one of the top offensive teams in the country just because of those two. They have got a lot of weapons who know how to stretch the floor, who are versatile. So I'm worried about a lot of things in terms of stopping them, but it starts I think with transition-D and it ends with rebounding.

Q. You mentioned last night, but where did your idea of the pre-practice dance party come from?

CORI CLOSE: With this group, you know, part of -- everyone talks about their learning as a young group and how there are so many new players that are going into this but guess what, it's also about my learning about them.

You've talked about just what we learned from the Pac-12 tournament; I think it's really important for me to be intentional about bringing joy and having them smile. I gave them the option last night to watch the game that preceded that was before us or not or keep on their routine, and to really trust them in their own process that way.

But I really said, hey, if you guys want to have dance parties in the locker room and that's what gets you to be at your best and focused, then go do it. You know, I think I saw something with Calipari yesterday when he talked about, if you're relieved after a win, you're not getting this in terms of what this is all about. And I don't want them to play tight. I want them to play free. I want them to play focused and I want them to play with great gratitude and joy.

So I could just sense that I just wanted to start practice off that way. I wanted to have them -- we talk about the moments and how we handle moments of pressure, and I just thought it would be a good thing to have them smile and do it that way. It's really about learning my own team and what they need from me as a leader.

You guys are easy today.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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