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March 22, 2013

Bill Fennelly

Chelsea Poppens

Anna Prins


THE MODERATOR:¬† We'd like to welcome everyone to Spokane and Gonzaga University for the press conferences today.¬† First one we have up is Iowa State.¬† We have with us today, Bill Fennelly, the head coach.¬† Also, the student‑athletes we have with us are Chelsea Poppens and Anna Prins.
We'll open it up for questions, first of all, for the student‑athletes.

Q.  Start with Anna.  One of the concerns that Gonzaga had coming into the year was the inside play.  So what have you noticed, as an inside player, that they have?  Do you think they've made their strides along the way?
ANNA PRINS:  Something I noticed, just watching film, they do have some girls that are taller, which, I don't know, it's exciting for me because I like to play against taller players, and they're very good.
So I think‑‑ I'm not really familiar with their season as a whole, but they looked really good to me.¬† I'm just excited to play.

Q.  Chelsea, just your general reaction to being the 5 seed and being recognized for 23 wins this year, but then having to go play somebody on their home court in the first round.
CHELSEA POPPENS:  We're just happy to be able to make it this far and be able to be one of the few teams that are still competing at this time.  We're just ready to go in and play our best.

Q.  Chelsea, you guys are used to coming to this tournament.  Gonzaga is used to coming to the tournament too.  So how do you think that's going to play out, all the experience that the players have in this situation?
CHELSEA POPPENS:  It's going to be a fun game.  Everybody knowing what to expect.  Giving the freshmen a new experience, and they're having fun with it.
Just being able to compete against such a great team who know how to play, and it's going to be a good challenge.  That's what we're looking forward to.

Q.  Anna, you're averaging about 20 points over the last four games to kind of close the season.  What's changed for you during that stretch where you've been able to have success scoring?
ANNA PRINS:¬† I don't know.¬† I just think‑‑ I mean, it definitely is different being a senior, just realizing how close to the end you are.
I don't really necessarily look at it as an individual thing.  I think just it helps that us as a team, we're playing really well together.  The past few games, it feels like we were really gelling together, and I guess these sorts of things were happening that normally don't.
I think just letting go and playing because you realize that there aren't many games left and you want to get the most out of them as you can.

Q.  Chelsea, they always get good support here at Gonzaga.  You get good support at Iowa too.  What is it like for Iowa kids growing up thinking about where they want to play and how they end up at Iowa State?
CHELSEA POPPENS:¬† I mean, I came from a small town, and just being able to play at a D‑I school was fantastic, and Iowa State had great aspects of it that I‑‑ that came into play when I decided to go to Iowa State.
The atmosphere, the program, the people there, the coaching staff, the teammates‑‑ it was kind of like a big old family‑based program, and that's what I liked about it.¬† The town is a big town, but it has a small town feel.¬† Everyone is there to support you, and the fan base is just amazing there.
That all came into play when I chose Iowa State.

Q.  For either player, do you have any connection to this area or any connections to the Gonzaga team that you've become aware of?
ANNA PRINS:  I just found out I have some family here I didn't know about.  On my grandma's side.

Q.  [No microphone].
ANNA PRINS:  They're actually Gonzaga fans, obviously.
CHELSEA POPPENS:  No.  I have a few family in Seattle, but they're coming to support us.  Other than that, I don't really have any connections here.

Q.  Maybe both players, starting with Chelsea, tell us about how playing in the Big 12 this year, especially playing against Baylor, helps you to play on this kind of stage.
CHELSEA POPPENS:  Playing in the Big 12 with all these great teams, everyone's tough, anyone can win on a given night.  It just depends on who wants it more.
And just being able to compete against each and every one of these teams has just been a great experience in our four years.  It's really prepared us for like playing against other teams in the NCAA Tournament.  It's just been great to compete against the best.
ANNA PRINS:  Ditto.  I mean, I agree with Chelsea, everything she said.
The Big 12 is a great conference to play in.  Every game, like she said, is a challenge.  It's really fun to play in this conference.  You can play against some of the best players in the nation every night that we play, and I think it does definitely prepare you for later in the season, especially right now.
Just kind of giving you that confidence that you can compete against the best.  I don't know, it's been a fun ride.
THE MODERATOR:¬† No more questions for the student‑athletes.¬† We'll excuse them.
Now we'll be able to direct questions to Bill Fennelly.  I'd also like to mention that Matt Schultz is the sports information director.  He's right in the back.
Now Coach Fennelly.

Q.  Bill, what are the major challenges when you are the higher seed but you're coming in to play someone on their home floor?
COACH FENNELLY:  I don't know that the seeding really has anything to do with it.  The challenge is we're going to play a great team.
When you get to the NCAA Tournament, you know you're going to play a great team.  I don't put much stock in where the game's played.  We played in a lot of great venue.  I think our kids are going to enjoy the atmosphere.
It's like we have a great fan base at Hilton, and certainly they do here.  We get to play in front of a sellout crowd.  We play in the Big 12, as the kids mentioned, and we played great environments, but our focus is playing a great team.  Wherever you play them, you play them.  That's the NCAA Tournament.
That's not something we focused on.  I told our kids every year we've made the Tournament, that number just decides what color jersey you wear.  I don't really pay much attention to it.
We're honored to be here.  It's a great program.  Coach Graves does a great job.  The people in Gonzaga are tremendous.  They run a great event.  Everyone in Spokane has been tremendously gracious to us.  It feels like home.  The people have been really nice.
We're honored to be here.  We're honored to be part of this event.  Hopefully, we'll give the folks a good game tomorrow.

Q.  Bill, along the lines of the earlier questions, Gonzaga opened the year knowing they were strong at guard, concerned about the inside play.  Have you seen that at all in what you've seen looking at Gonzaga?
COACH FENNELLY:  No.  I think what's happening, their post players are young, and I think what you hope for in any team is that the older players, your experienced players, the guards for Gonzaga, help those other kids come along.
If you think they play a good schedule, you're playing Louisville and Ohio State and all those people, and their post players are developed.  I think they feel much more comfortable than they did earlier in the season.
Obviously, we focus more on what's happened later in the year.  We haven't really paid a whole lot of attention to what they were doing early.  When you have kids that are skilled and they're comfortable and they played a lot of games now, they're not redshirt sophomores or freshmen anymore.  They're experienced players in a good system.
Kelly's kids have always gotten better.  They know how to play the game.  They'll present a good challenge to our team, no question about it.

Q.¬† There is a very big gap in the teams between free‑throw shooting percentage.¬† What makes for such a good free‑throw shooting team as yours?
COACH FENNELLY:  That's a good question.  We shoot a lot of free throws in practice.  We focus on it.  It's something that we take very, very seriously.  I think that it's like a lot of things, there's a pride that goes into it, and you don't want to be the one that misses.
There's a lot of work that's gone into it.¬† Chelsea, for example, was in the 50 percent range when she was a freshman, and put in a lot of time and effort to where now she's one of the top free‑throw shooters in this league.
For our team, it's been a way that we need to manufacture points.¬† We're not going to turn you over.¬† So we've got to figure out a way to score the ball.¬† For us, the free‑throw situation has become something that we've taken great pride in.
We had a couple of high school coaches at practice the other day, and they said they've never seen a team shoot so many free throws in practice.  We made the decision with as much time as you have in practice, to use that time to shoot them, and our kids take pride in it.  It's been an asset to our team.

Q.  Kelly made a comment on the draw day that it feels like a spring chicken with three other coaches there at this site.  You're kind of a spring chicken compared to the other two too.
COACH FENNELLY:  Thank you very much.  I don't feel like it, let me tell you.

Q.  Anyway, what is it like to be at a place where you've got so many veteran coaches?
COACH FENNELLY:  When you start thinking about Andy Landers and Robin Selvig, those are hall of fame people, let alone hall of fame coaches.  We sat in Kelly's office here a minute ago and took a picture, and he's poor mouthing all these great coaches.  There's a lot of trophies in his office too.
So it's a great thing.¬† You're honored to be a part of this event.¬† They're good guys.¬† They're good people.¬† I've had the pleasure of knowing them on a personal basis.¬† I got to know Kelly a little bit better on the Nike coaches' trip.¬† As good a basketball coach as he is and those other people are, they're better human beings, and what they've done for our sport, what they've done for college athletes, college student‑athletes is incredible.
Obviously, this time of year, people focus on how many games you've won and whatever, but the thing that they've done for young people is probably more important.  So it's fun to be a part of it, and certainly fun to be around guys like that.

Q.  You probably talked with your coaching brethren about playing here at Gonzaga because they've been able to use this atmosphere very successfully in the past.  What did you get from them as to how you need to have your team approach this game?
COACH FENNELLY:  The night of the selection, I probably had 20 text messages saying congratulations, and you got a terrible draw.
It is what it is.¬† We're not going to make any excuses for it.¬† We play at home, and we have a great home environment.¬† We played on the road in some‑‑ when you've got to go to Baylor and Oklahoma and all those other places, they're not a whole lot.
We piped in music in our practice facility.  We have the Seattle Seahawks soundtrack and piped it in at practice.  Everyone had a headache for three days.  But they have a great fan base, but those fans can't score.  They can't guard you.  You've got to play.
The kids are going to decide the game.  I think our kids are excited to play in an environment where the teams are appreciated, and it's an exciting time, I know, for Gonzaga basketball with their men's and women's team.
Our men's team is playing tonight.  We're excited about that.  It will be fun.  Like I said, you just hope you play your best, and hopefully that will happen tomorrow.

Q.  What is going to be the toughest challenge for your club out there, playing in the game itself?
COACH FENNELLY:  The way they defend is going to be a problem for us.  They're very aggressive.  They change defenses.  They're very balanced on offense.
Someone asked me who on the schedule do they remind me of?¬† They remind me of us a little bit in the way they approach the game‑‑ balanced scoring, share the ball, play the game right, play the game hard.¬† They play pressure defense more than we do.¬† We're going to have to find a way to take care of the basketball.
When you go on the road, you can't beat yourself.  Your offense can't beat their offense.  You've got to make plays at the end of the shot clock, and all you've got to do is look at the NCAA Tournament yesterday in the men's games.  Someone's got to make a play.  Someone that maybe you don't expect to make a play.  That will be the challenge for us tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR:  We'll excuse the Coach.
COACH FENNELLY:  Thank you, everyone.  Appreciate the time.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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