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March 23, 2013

Bill Fennelly

Chelsea Poppens

Brynn Williamson



COACH FENNELLY:  That was a great environment for a women's college tournament.  The staff here, Joel Morgan and all the people here have done an amazing job of creating a special atmosphere for the student athletes.  The fans are great; they know when to cheer.
It was a great game.  We beat a very good team in a tough environment and just excited that we get to keep playing.

Q.  Can you talk about going against that defense, and why did you find success throughout the night?
BRYNN WILLIAMSON:  I think with the zone pressure, Gonzaga did a very good job of forcing the ball out of Nikki's hands, and whenever they did have it, they would trap so she didn't have it, so they forced the team ball‑handling aspect.
We did a really goodjob of having players attack the zone; that way I was getting open looks and other girls were getting open looks on the perimeter and we were able to hit those shots.  Everyone did a really good job of not only making plays but making plays for their teammates.

Q.  Chelsea, there was that little burst to start the second half that got you up by nine; what had you talked about to get going there in the second half?
CHELSEA POPPENS:  Just coming out strong.  I mean, not backing down.  We knew that they were not going to back down.  So we just had to come out, do our thing, especially as seniors we needed to lead our team.  Everybody just played well together.

Q.  Obviously you guys were pretty excited in the game, but why does this one kind of mean a lot to you guys after last year, too, kinda?
BRYNN WILLIAMSON:  Well, one, at this point in the season, any one is big, because the next time you lose, you're done.
And Coach really emphasizes not only is it the end of a season but for three girls, it's end of their basketball career here wearing Iowa State jersey.  So kind to have play for them and know it's a huge win that we are having on the road in a great environment and against a really good team.
But at the end of the day, we celebrate this tonight, but tomorrow it's back to work and looking forward to the next game.

Q.  Did you ever feel there was one certain turning point for you guys?  It was a weird game because you gradually pulled away in the second half, but is there anything that stuck out in your mind as being the big difference?
CHELSEA POPPENS:  Not exactly.  We all just kept working hard, kept going at it.  I mean, there was awhile there where we were not playing very good defense and we just stepped it up and just started grinding away.
BRYNN WILLIAMSON:  Really, I think it was just turnovers that kind of were taking us out of the game and letting us lose our lead.  Honestly, the part I thought, we really all came together was the one turnover in the corner that was Hallie and Nikki‑‑ whenever she stepped over the base line, and we kind of knew at that point that what's when the crowd was into it.  And the easiest way to stop a run like that is just do something good, do something positive.
So to push the ball down and get shots, just to make up the bad stuff with good stuff, you kind of have to even it out.  So I think that was a real turning point, and we all came together and knew that we needed to pick it up.

Q.  Brynn, did you get any sense that they were putting so much focus on the inside players that it was opening stuff up; that you were able to slip out and surprise them a little bit?
BRYNN WILLIAMSON:  Well, I think at the beginning of the half like when Pop would take a few drives to the basket and we get to the ball on the inside and she would get fueled, they knew we were looking to go to our inside game.
But I think those two did a really good job of forcing the outside defenders to help on them, that way it give us open shots.  So really it because not necessarily us finding our own shots but it was making our defense help them that they got us the open shots that we got.

Q.  What's it say about the team that this was a difficult matchup in some ways for you because of their pressure and that you did overcome it; what does that say in your mind?
COACH FENNELLY:  You know, it's kind of been the M.O. of this team for a long time.  They really do like each other.  They work hard at it.  The numbers, you know, turn the ball over 23 times on the road, usually don't win those games, but we defended well as we have been.  We shot free throws well as we have been.  We made some shots at right times and it was a very difficult environment.
But I think playing in the Big12, our kids were a little more prepared for it maybe than some other people.  We beat a really good team in a tough place, but the balance was good, every kid contributed, and I think it was an effort that our team has kind of been given the last six weeks of the season.
And as Brynn said, you know, we have three seniors that really enjoy the moment and you want to keep playing, and we're very, very fortunate and appreciative that we get that opportunity that we get to come back to practice tomorrow.

Q.  Was there anything about Gonzaga that maybe you had not picked up and caught you a little bit by surprise?
COACH FENNELLY:  Their halfcourt pressure defense, not by surprise, but they really stuck with it.  We kind of kept thinking they would change defenses more.
It was hard for us.  We had a hard time getting by that first wave.  When we did, we got some shots, but I don't know if I've ever coached in a game where a kid gotten steals.  But you know, we take 27 less shots than them, but we shot it well enough.  We made our free throws.  We continued to guard with a purpose, and never panicked.
Our team at times gets a little crazy and like most times, but I never really thought that they showed that today.  Maybe that one‑‑ we were up 31‑24 and they scored a couple transition baskets.  We had that glazed look in our eye, but other than that, they handled it great and it was‑‑ they communicated that to each other, and they have learned how to do that.

Q.  Like you said, picking your spots, in that second half, obviously turnovers were a story, but you had that stretch I think from the second or third media time‑outs where you didn't have a turnover and stretched the lead from three to nine; what does that say about the character of the team, just grinding it out?
COACH FENNELLY:  That's kind of our team.  For the people who have not seen us, we are not the most aesthetic thing to watch sometimes, and we drive our fans crazy, because we do turn the ball over.
But our kids understand what they need to do, and we've always told them, embrace who you are, don't apologize for what you're not, don't try to do something you're not supposed to do, move on to the next play.  And they have done that.
And we have overcome this a lot this year.  For a team that's pretty good, we turn the ball over way too much.  But we have found other ways.  That's kind of how life is, you know, if you're not good at something, figure out a different way.  And for our team, the way we figured it out is guard decent, make free throws, make some threes, and have three seniors that give us the leadership and understanding of what it means to be a good team.
So at this time of year, you want to see that happen, and certainly we made enough shots today against a really good team to win the game.

Q.  Did you say anything to Nikki?  She had I think that was probably one of the more stressful games of the season.  Just what can you say about her and did you say anything to her?
COACH FENNELLY:  No, I really didn't.  I think she was under duress the whole game, and she's been that way a lot.
But the only thing I told her was, this is where point guards‑‑ you know, everyone talks about great point guard play in the NCAA Tournament.  I told her, part of what happens tonight will be a definition of who and what you're going to be, not just today, but down the road.
And she struggled near the end of the half.  She was frustrated, and I didn't have a chance to say anything to her because her teammates did.  I think when she hit that three, you know, she knows and our team knows, everyone knows, the whole world knows, we have one person that can dribble on our team.  And Kidd can dribble a little.  So we have one and a half.
So I mean, everyone knows it.  It's no surprise, and that's why, you know, Kelly is such a good coach and you try to trap her and get the ball out of Nikki's hand.  But we got it out enough and made enough shots and got the ball in the post.  She had 11 assists and that's part of what her job is, and she guarded really well today.

Q.  How do you balance shooting quickly against a team like that so you don't have to be under duress?  And then when you shoot quickly, it makes the game faster against the team; did you tell them anything about that?
COACH FENNELLY:  I told them, shoot it before you throw it away.  I just said, shoot it.  You have to look at it, let it go.  Because every pass was an adventure there for a few minutes, and when the ball is out of Nikki's hands and people are making decisions, if you had an open look at it, we were shooting it.
We were going to play the game, and even when we were up eight or nine, I'm like, let's go, let's go, play faster.  We were tired but I just felt like our best opportunity was to score before they had all five.  If Nikki is looking at five defenders in front of her organized, that was not good.
So we just said, let's go, and I don't care if it's eight seconds into the clock, 28 seconds into the clock, you have a shot that you shoot every day in practice, shoot it.  Luckily, we made just enough.

Q.  Palmer tonight, was there something you guys adjusted to on defense or what did you see from your team the rest of the night?
COACH FENNELLY:  I thought we defended her pretty well.  We were going to give her the three, try to make her stay, shoot tough twos.  Part of our defensive philosophy is tough twos and don't foul.  She's the kind of kid if you got her, she's hard to guard, and used her length a little bit.  But just said, stick with the plan make her shoot the three.  Not that she can't shoot a lot, but she's 24‑for‑94 in the season and 1‑for‑8 tonight.  We wanted to make her do things she doesn't normally do, and she's taken a lot more shots that aren't threes.  We had to live with that a little bit, but that's the way we play.  We are kind of numbers geeks when it comes to that, and that's the way we played it and I thought we defended her pretty well.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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