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March 20, 2023

Cori Close

Charisma Osborne

Kiki Rice

Los Angeles, California, USA

Pauley Pavilion

UCLA Bruins

Media Conference

UCLA - 82, Oklahoma - 73

THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for the student-athletes at this time.

Q. You've talked about how much it means to you to play in this building and you got maybe your last chance tonight, but it seemed like it really meant a lot to you today. What was the energy that you were feeling?

CHARISMA OSBORNE: Yeah, I was super excited before the game, just super proud to be playing here and playing for UCLA. The fans were absolutely amazing. I was having so much fun out there, just like the crowd was amazing, the bench was amazing.

But I just went into the game just thinking like just play your game, play free, and I think I play best when I'm in that mindset. So that's kind of just what I was thinking.

Q. Kiki, I know you guys have only been teammates for a year, but have you ever seen Charisma attack like that before?

KIKI RICE: I mean, every day in practice she's definitely going at it. But, no, this was incredible to see in what was probably her last game, probably just the energy and intensity that she brought to our entire team throughout the entire game. She really carried us and I just had so much fun watching her go off.

Q. In your minds, as you were playing after the game and stuff, and you realized now you're going to the Sweet 16, what does it mean for you and also your program going to the Sweet 16?

CHARISMA OSBORNE: It means a lot. I haven't been there before, so I'm super excited. I think -- I mean, none of us really have been there besides the coaches. So we're ready. We've just been having so much fun. I think that's the key. I think that's why we've been able to win, like just keeping that in the back of our mind and stuff like that. But super proud of the team and we're just so excited to play in the Sweet 16.

KIKI RICE: Yeah, echo that, and I think, obviously, extremely excited and it was a great environment and great win tonight, but we also know that we didn't come here just to get into the Sweet 16. So we still have more games to take care of and we're looking forward to the road ahead.

Q. I feel like we've kind of seen you come out of your shell since your freshman year. So what's kind of just been that catalyst for all of your confidence?

CHARISMA OSBORNE: Yeah, I think just the work that I've put in, people helping me out, coaches, trainers, whoever it may be, I think just helps me so much with my confidence. It hasn't always been perfect. There's been a lot of times where I've really struggled with that. But I think the people around me have just helped me and encouraged me and things like that. So it wasn't just me that created that confidence. A lot of people around me helped me.

Q. The crowd. Los Angeles is not known to see these type of crowds for women's basketball, but you guys have seemed to bring it all together. Talk about the feeling about the crowd.

KIKI RICE: Tonight, I think the crowd was absolutely electric, probably one of the best environments that I've played in at Pauley, and I think that's just a testament to obviously our team and how we've grown this year, but I also think like the entire support staff and marketing group that works to get the word out about our games and works to get people in the stands.

So it's so much fun to play in front of these fans and we hope to continue that next year as well.

CHARISMA OSBORNE: Yeah, I think marketing did such an amazing job getting people out. It's, what, is it Monday? (Laughing). A Monday night and to have that many people come out, like, it's a late game, and that just means so much to us. Our fans have just been so loyal this year. So we just appreciate them and appreciate the support they have shown all year long.

Q. When you're a kid playing basketball and maybe you're alone or something, you just try foul shots and see how many you can make. What's the best you've ever done as far as making free throws in a row?

CHARISMA OSBORNE: My best is 42 in a row. But this is a funny story. So one time I was at L.A. Fitness or something with my dad, and I was so bad at free throws, like terrible, and he was like, okay, if you make 30 free throws, you get like ice cream or something like that. 30 in a row. And that was the first time I ever made 30 in a row, probably the first time I ever made 10 in a row. I don't know what happened. I flipped the switch. Since then, I've been pretty good at free throws. (Laughing.)

Q. How big was that 3-point play at the end of the third quarter? Because they go up four, go on an incredible run, and then you kind of look like you were patiently waiting to drive the lane and then put it in and it was a 1-point game going into the fourth?

CHARISMA OSBORNE: Yeah, I think it was big. It helped with us our momentum going into the fourth quarter. Honestly, I was just thinking attack, attack, attack because I was getting to my pullup and they weren't really going in a little bit in the third quarter, so I was just thinking how can I get to the basket. So, yeah.

Q. For both of you, South Carolina's up next on Saturday. I think you're one of only four teams to hold them to single digits in victory margin. Based on how you've adjusted against teams the second and third time, like Stanford, how much confidence does that give you going into Saturday?

KIKI RICE: I think we have a ton of confidence going into Saturday. We know that we held 'em to a close game when we played down there the first time, but we also know that we're so much better this time around, and I think everyone on our team has grown in so many different ways and we've just collectively as a group gotten so much better. So I think we have no doubt or we're not -- no lack of confidence going in just because of the 1 seed.


Q. What was your reaction to seeing Charisma get that and one at the end of the third quarter?

KIKI RICE: That was a huge momentum shift, for sure. I think -- I was just so excited to see her attack the basket and for her to get that tough finish. I think there's so much throughout the game. She was just putting -- really putting the team on her back, and for us to -- they went on a run and for her to get that huge bucket to give us some momentum going into the fourth, it really was -- it was just great to see, and I think it gave all of us confidence going into the fourth quarter.

Q. What were your emotions as Coach subbed you out for the last time?

CHARISMA OSBORNE: Oh, that's a good question. I was just excited. Like, I was like -- and shocked. Like, this is crazy that we're going to the Sweet 16. It was just such a great win. So I think I was just so happy. I don't even know what I was thinking. I really was super happy that we had won the game. It felt like such a team win. So just to go out in Pauley this season like that, like that was just a great feeling.

Q. Follow-up on the South Carolina tip. Obviously getting this Sweet 16 great accomplishment, opportunity to play South Carolina, big deal. That is South Carolina waiting for you next, like do you like that?


Q. Do you like that it's South Carolina next?

KIKI RICE: Yeah, I think we all love that. Obviously, we didn't -- we weren't able to finish the job in the fourth quarter the first time, so to get another shot at them when we feel like we've gotten so much better is a great opportunity for us. We're not scared that they're like the No. 1 seed. We have no doubt in us and we're just excited to go down there and play our game.

CHARISMA OSBORNE: Yeah, and even I think when we played them the first time and other teams even the first time, like we were only playing like three quarters or two quarters and I feel like now we've been playing four quarters. So it's going to be exciting and I'm -- I can't wait, honestly.

Q. You talked about being loose and having fun. When you see a big lead go away, usually like that kind of makes you tight, right? How were you able to stay loose through that?

KIKI RICE: Obviously, we were up by a good amount at half and we kind of gave up that lead pretty quickly in the third quarter. But I think just continuing to have confidence in what got us that lead and what got us to that point in the game. So just playing our game, not doing anything we don't know how to do that we haven't practiced and we just kind of really focused and locked in on our defense. I thought that's what we needed to do.

CHARISMA OSBORNE: I think a lot of the mental training that we've been doing, I think Coach Cori, Coach Tasha, all of the coaches just really settling us and telling us like what exactly we need to do next. Breathing helps a lot. But really just focusing on ourselves and not letting that get to us.

Q. When you go home tonight and you think about this, what does it mean for your program -- I asked the other young ladies, what does it mean for your program to be able to accomplish that feat? It wasn't an easy game. Sometimes there's games where you blow out teams, but when you have to grind it out, what does it do for you mentally to get you ready for the next game?

CHARISMA OSBORNE: I think it just gives us so much confidence, so much experience. Obviously, moving forward there's so many good teams still left in the tournament. There's probably not going to be many blowouts, so I think it just gives us so much experience and I think when we play teams coming up, like, we can look back on this game and say we've been here before, we know what to do.

KIKI RICE: Yeah, I think it just gives us confidence that we know how to pull out close games. I think that's something we might have struggled with in the beginning of the season and even in the middle. I feel like over these past few weeks, we've really figured out how to string four quarters together and just finish out close tough games.

THE MODERATOR: All right. Thank you.

We'll start with an opening statement from coach and then take some questions.

CORI CLOSE: Well, when I was sitting in here listening to your conversation with the players, you asked about Southern California not being known for big crowds, especially on a Monday night. You all deserve a lot of credit for that. When the pairings came out, I sort of did a plea, saying, please help us create buzz and tell the stories of these incredible young women, and you delivered. So I want to say thank you to you, the media, but also to the marketing staff, to the administration. These things are really a collective effort, and we really want to be about a collective effort because we want to be about growing the game as well. So thank you to all of you.

Really proud of our team, proud of all the people that stepped up in the face of adversity, even like the first half, maybe Londynn Jones didn't have a first great rotation in the first half, but we wouldn't have made that comeback without her defense and a couple of pivotal plays in the fourth quarter.

Gabriela Jaquez, I thought really gave us a huge spark and allowed to us play small and match some of the things that they were doing on their back cuts. Then Christeen Iwuala, I thought first half she was really big.

So I think that so many times you talk -- and rightly so, people like Charisma and Kiki deserve so much credit. But I think it's the people that step up in unusual moments and respond in uncommon ways, as we like to say, that led us to the place to be able to keep playing and have another opportunity to fight to go 1-0. So really thankful, really proud.

I also want to compliment Oklahoma. I've really admired Jennie's teams from afar when she was at Drake and then now at Oklahoma, and really studying her team, I just, they do really good things. She does things the right way, really cares about her kids, and it's very obvious.

So we knew this was going to be a really tough fight, and so really want to compliment them on the way they're going about their business and how good their team is. So I'll leave it there.


Q. Coach Wooden would be very proud of you. Now what do you have to do to beat a Coach Wooden-type program?

CORI CLOSE: Well, it's so funny you say that. I almost got emotional earlier today thinking about Jim Hill interviewed me before the game and he was talking about the impact that Coach Wooden had on his life. He said he got emotional driving in today and thinking about that. And I lifted up my sweatshirt and I had my Wooden shirt with the pyramid of success on it.

I think the thing that made Coach Wooden so impactful is that competitive greatness was always a byproduct of the things done on the inside. He always used to tell me, Remember, Cori, you're not coaching people's jump shots, you're coaching people's hearts. And I always tell it this way because he had this twinkle in his eye and you guys know, if you've known him, and he says, But if you coach their hearts really well, their jump shots end up pretty good too.

But I think that it's inside-out coaching. It's transformational. It's not transactional. I walked down that hallway every single game and I looked to my left and to my right and I say, oh, my gosh, I'm so thankful to walk in those shoes and to be mentored by him. But the banners line the right side of that hallway, but he's not as proud of the banners as he is about the hearts.

Q. I keep asking you about Lina and Christeen and their development throughout the year, but they keep coming up big in big moments. How important were they today? It seemed like that early in the first half Oklahoma was kind of frustrated with your size there.

CORI CLOSE: Well, and the versatility. They're not just bigs, right, especially defensively. We had to switch a lot of screens, especially in the middle of the floor. Lina's versatility and her ability -- I can't remember if I shared this with you before, but I remember when Tony came back from Germany after watching her play, and he said, You're going to have a hard time keeping her off the floor because of her deflections alone. He said, She's got this knack to trace the ball and just create havoc with her length. I think she would have done even more of that if she didn't get in foul trouble. But she has been huge for us, maybe our second best defender throughout the year.

But it's about what you earn. They have worked. Christeen has been working extra with Coach Tony and Coach Shannon after every single practice. Lina has been doing the same. It's hard to do that when you don't see the rewards right away.

So just really proud of them putting in the work and it came up big today. We always say the work done in the dark always gets revealed in the light. Some of their work in the dark got revealed in the light today.

Q. Just two questions about Charisma. How big was that 3-point play at the end of the third quarter? Because it seemed like after a 22-4 run that quelled it. And then is this a dream finale? I mean, 36 points, career high, but it also looks like a single game NCAA tournament record for you guys?

CORI CLOSE: Well, I teased her, I said, You almost had a triple double, two more rebounds with 10 fouls drawn, you know? But I do think, to answer your question, it was really pivotal. I could see -- you know you have -- you can see in their eyes sometimes when they're wrestling, like, okay, how do I got my mind right, how do I get to play present, and Charisma referred to all the mental training.

But I felt like the light came back in their eyes after that play. When they came back to that huddle in between the third and the fourth quarter, I just thought it blew wind into their sails. And they were battling, they were fighting to be present and to get back to neutral.

But I thought that play really pushed 'em over the hump mentally and emotionally. So I thought that was a really -- really, it was a pivotal play.

Q. Also it looked like that on that play, when she dribbled she was near you in the box and stuff. Did you say anything or did you guys look at each other, like, okay, I got this, just settle down?

CORI CLOSE: Well, I do that every huddle. We definitely talked about it. She was so steady, Charsima was, and I think our team just needed that from her. I thought Gina's leadership, that's something that's not going to show up in the stat sheet, but I thought she was so steady and our team looks to her. They call her the general for a reason.

But I thought both of 'em -- Tasha and I were talking, we're both losing our voices, and we're both usually the loudest, and they said, well, that's probably why they did so well, they couldn't hear us, they probably loved it. I'm not sure if she heard me, if I was saying something, but we tried to really keep talking about -- we were trying to create different mismatches. There was certain players on their team we wanted to attack off the bounce and certain players we wanted to attack in the post and they kept changing that matchup. And so Charisma and I pretty much at every dead ball were trying to figure out, hey, let's create it this way, let's attack it this way.

That's the great thing about seniors, right, is that this is not a dictatorship, this is a collaboration, and player-led teams are always better. You get to a point where you really are discussing it, and I want to know what they think, what are they seeing. If they feel strongly about something and specifically when she's having a game like this, I'll give it to -- I'll step back. Okay, let's go. If they really believe deeply -- and we've worked at that, we watch film every week together, and I think that that's at a point where you just trust your teammates and you trust your players and you go to work.

Q. The small-picture question to a big-picture question. They were able to make a run. Just wondering --

CORI CLOSE: Just a little one.

Q. Wondering if you could talk about that, and then how you were able to respond, and then big picture, obviously this may be like now a few other games this season where the outcome was maybe would have been different, so maybe does this reflect a big growth step for you guys too?

CORI CLOSE: I think the first part of the question, being on that run, I think that the thing we got to -- the learning thing from this is like when you go to half-time, there's so much energy and emotion leading into the game. As you make mental adjustments, how do you also rev back up emotionally in the right way.

So I don't think you need to be on 10 all the time, but you need to figure out individually, okay, how do I get back to an attack mindset, how do I make the mental adjustments, but then also play with great emotion and energy. We talked about energy and urgency being more important than anything else. So I think that's the learning part because that led to us getting on our heels a little bit in that third quarter and that's something that we have to address quickly and turn around, which I think we can.

Second part of your question, remind me.

Q. Maybe if this was kind of a learning thing because in the past --

CORI CLOSE: Yeah. I think we've been proving that. I think now, to be honest with you, we feel really confident at the end of games. I think against Arizona, against Stanford, we played really, really well in fourth quarters. I think we've had several of them that we've conquered now. So I really -- I don't think that's an issue. In fact, I think that we've been playing on the last three minutes to end every practice and when we win the last three minutes, then we get to go home. So that's been something we do in every day. So I think closing out games is something actually we've turned from a weakness in that three-game skid to now a strength.

Q. What were your emotions when you shared that hug with Charisma as she walks off?

CORI CLOSE: I think I was really thrilled to be able to have just that moment for her, really, to come off the court and to be an appreciated in Pauley for all she's given to this program. I told Charisma this today, we actually had sort of a senior thing where just the coaches told them what they appreciated about 'em and what they believed -- why we believe in them so much. What I told her is that this is so meaningful to me because we've wrestled through the struggle.

Her and have I worked at our relationship, and I deeply love her, and I believe in her so much, and I think it actually goes even deeper because it hasn't always been easy. I think that you build real trust when you're willing to enter into the tunnel of chaos and work through it until you come out on the other side.

So when she comes off and has that kind of game and that kind of moment, and I just get a chance to hug her and tell her I'm proud of her and celebrate her. This program's not about me. This is about investing in young people, and so to see that moment and see the light in her eyes, that was just a joy for me.

Q. When you guys went to South Carolina earlier this year, did you think you might meet them again in the tournament?

CORI CLOSE: You know, it's so funny -- Dawn has been awesome to me, by the way. We took a group of donors and alumni back there and she talked to them all. There's been -- when we did a Bruin table talk, our players requested that she and Joni Taylor come on. She did it.

So I just so appreciate that she's been such a -- she grows the game and she cares so much about the big picture. But when I was going through the line after the game, she says, We will meet again. I would have rather it been in the Final Four, but you know -- but the reality of that is that I do think, though, our players have a great amount of confidence. Because of the way that they competed. They're better, we're better. They are a tremendous team. They're undefeated for a reason. They're really, really talented. But we're really talented too and we're growing in our confidence. I think that we are -- the thing I love about this team is that they really -- I think I mentioned this before, they're really good learners. So I didn't know if we would meet 'em again, but I definitely wanted to learn some important lessons from that so we would be ready if we got the opportunity.

Q. For those who have followed Charisma her whole career they have seen her go down with an injury so many times, come back from that injury so many times. But I'm curious from your point of view, you see her go down right as the lead's turning into an Oklahoma lead, you see her grab her wrist. And even once you take the lead again you see her go off with the leg injury. What confidence do you have in her seeing her go through that so many times being able to get back up and ultimately earn the win?

CORI CLOSE: I just think she's too big a competitor, unless it was really serious she was going to find a way to come back out there. So I actually didn't worry that much because I really did believe she was going to be okay and so, but we have seen her just be a warrior. I think that people don't understand, I mean she had 36 points tonight and that's awesome, but she always is guarding their best player. So she held number 30, she was 0-3 from the 3-point line the No. 1 3-point shooter in the entire colleague in women's college basketball. Shout out from Steph Curry doesn't get any better than that and she shut her down. Then when 22 started getting hot we moved her over to 22. So I don't think people understand that her warrior mentality. She's a great rebounder and great scorer, but you add to that what she does on the defensive end, I mean that's incredible. So when she shows that kind of warrior mentality all the time I know she will get up.

Q. Two quick questions. Performance of Gabriela Jaquez tonight and Saturday, of course, little things do mean a lot, she's always in the mix. And then of course the historic, I believe it's never been done before, but a sibling brother and sister going into the Sweet 16 in the NCAA ever. At least being also being Mexican American heritage. So if there has been someone before this is our chance to really, really follow them closely brother and sister.

CORI CLOSE: Yeah, well number one, Gabriela has been incredible for us all year long. Always ready, always working hard. She played every position today 2 through 5. She guarded multiple positions. She did all these things. And I remember watching Jaime, Jr. his freshman year going, man, he just makes so many winning plays that don't doesn't show up in stat sheets as a freshman and now look at what he's grown in. And then look at her and I've watched Marcos her younger brother and the way he plays football and basketball. So it's the same way. So I want to bottle up what their family taught them. But I think it's always most meaningful when you play for something bigger than yourself and her pride in her Mexican heritage representing and inspiring other people. And then the family dynamic just goes so deep and I when I was walking off the court I saw Marcos just cheering her on. And I know the men's team was here. And I think that most meaningful moments are shared. They're not done on islands. The thing that she's able to share with Camarillo, with her family, with the Latina community, Latino community both is just so special. I think it fuels her in a really deep way.

Q. First of all, my question is now that UCLA, Utah and Colorado are in the Sweet 16 what does this say first of all for the PAC 12 conference.

CORI CLOSE: PAC 12, I'm so proud to be a part of it. And there's so much has been going on with the Big Ten and the move with UCLA and USC, but I will never forget what the PAC 12 has meant for this program, for me. The people that have poured into it. I am so proud to be one of those three teams. And we don't represent anybody else but the PAC 12 conference right now. Seven teams getting in, the incredible numbers, the off the chart numbers of our non-conference opponents, the genuine care for the student-athlete experience from the top of the PAC 12 conference, it really just means a lot. I was one of the first people to join in on the Back the PAC, baby. And it doesn't, that goes deep for me. So those memories and representing them right now means a lot. So I want to continue to do that in a really solid way and do it with great gratitude and joy and perseverance and knowing that we represent something that's really special.

Q. What does it mean to you as a coach to take a team back to the Sweet 16 again?

CORI CLOSE: Well it's not about me. I think that's the number one thing is for me as a leader is that this is not my program, I'm a steward of something greater. I just want to love kids well and I want to teach, mentor and equip. And I'm competitive as all get out, this environment is where I get to do that, but it's not about me, it's about coaching people's hearts like Coach Wooden taught me to do.


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