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March 6, 2014

Cori Close

Atonye Nyingifa


Colorado テや 76
UCLA テや 65

THE MODERATOR:テつ Welcome UCLA coach Cori Close and Atonye Nyingifa.テつ Coach, some opening remarks and then we'll take questions?
COACH CLOSE:テつ Well, this is my least favorite thing to do as a head coach is to close out a season.テつ I first of all want to say I have the utmost respect for Linda Lappe and what she's doing at Colorado.テつ Both teams have had a ton of adversity, and I thought her team responded incredibly well today.テつ I thought they really got us out of rhythm in the second half.テつ I just really have a lot of respect for how she's building her program.テつ Right now it hurts that my season is ending, but I do want to give her a lot of credit for how she's handled the difficult year as well.テつ But for me, I just love my team.テつ If you would have told me I would feel this deeply and be so proud of a team with this record at the beginning of the year, I would have said you're crazy.
I didn't want them‑‑ I didn't want it to end.テつ I didn't want to stop watching Atonye Nyingifa keep growing.テつ I wanted Thea Lemberger to get a chance to get out there and play this game we so passionately love.
I challenge this team to be one of the hardest working teams in UCLA history and one of the closest teams in UCLA history at the beginning of the year.テつ I didn't know how important that would be.テつ I didn't know all the adversity that was ahead of us.テつ But they have lived exactly that.テつ I probably never coached a team in 21 years of coaching that's been more resilient and has grown more or taught me more.
I think my staff has done an incredible job, and I think these two seniors, Atonye sitting here and Thea Lemberger have left a legacy and a mark that will be talked about for years to come.

Q.テつ You were ahead 46‑38 early in the second half, in your view, what changed?
COACH CLOSE:テつ Well, I think they started really getting us out of rhythm.テつ We were able to move the pieces around and get the mismatches that we wanted.テつ I thought we were able to get Nirra and get her some great catches in the first half and even in the second half, and I thought we got some good touches for Atonye.
But I thought they got out and started denying passing lanes and trapped our first pass and really got us out of rhythm.テつ We're a team that needs to move the pieces around and hide certain mismatches and take advantage of other ones.テつ They really made us play just a read and react type of situation, and it made it a guard game.テつ We needed to attack off the dribble, and we didn't have quite enough people that were confident in that kind of game.

Q.テつ (No Microphone).テつ One question I had, I never heard, what was Thea's problem?テつ Was she ill last game?
COACH CLOSE:テつ Yeah, she suffered a head injury actually the last time we played Colorado.テつ And in the progression of her coming back, we were hoping that if we could get to tomorrow, we could maybe start her back into play.テつ But she was not cleared as of today from actually an injury she suffered in the previous game against Colorado.

Q.テつ Was it a concussion?

Q.テつ Can you talk about, like she said, a little bit out of rhythm, it seemed that things didn't quite click as well in the second half?
ATONYE NYINGIFA:テつ Yeah, we came out in the second half, and I don't think we rebounded as much as we thought we would.テつ So we were down on the boards.テつ Like Coach said, I think our offense, we just couldn't find a good rhythm, and it didn't help that we couldn't put together a couple stops in a row to give us more momentum on offense.テつ So we just kind of struggled on both ends.

Q.テつ How tough is it knowing this is the last game?
COACH CLOSE:テつ Well, very tough.テつ We have never‑‑ the good news is Thea hasn't practiced the entire Pac‑12 season, so it's not like we've never had any reps without her.テつ She's only played in games the entire Pac‑12.テつ But we only had played in one game without her, and that was at Utah.テつ I thought we responded well there, but that's a really difficult position.テつ She's been our rock, and she's been the quarterback of our team.テつ I mean, we really have ‑‑ Madeline Brooks has never done that in her time here.テつ Not only has she not had that dependent upon minutes, which is really fun for me to watch her grow into that.テつ But at the same time she's never had to handle the ball, run the team, make decisions.
Dominique, I think brought us a ton of energy and rebounding, but it was hard for her on the offensive end.テつ The answer to your question is very hard.テつ It was hard, obviously, from a tactical standpoint, but probably more so in a calm, just run‑the‑team, make‑decisions standpoint.テつ We needed a calm decision maker in that way, so we missed her immensely.テつ I thought our team played, you know, we really wanted to get the W for Thea, and we weren't able to do that.
But I think that our heart and sentiment was really to try to fight hard to make that happen, and that's what I need to see from my team.テつ I need to see their fight and togetherness, and willingness to keep swinging the punches, so to speak, and they did that.

Q.テつ Coach, can you talk about Nirra Fields' game?
COACH CLOSE:テつ Well, really, it was first play of the game, and Tony Newnan on my staff really thought we could get her some post‑up touches and that might be a better way to get her going.テつ First play of the game, that's exactly what happened.テつ So I give credit to him and to her for executing the game plan.テつ I think Nirra is maybe one of the most improved players in the whole conference if you look at what's different in her game.テつ I mean, she didn't dribble the ball two times with her left‑hand this year.テつ To see most of her attacks are to her left.テつ I think learning shot selection but she's attacking to the basket, her mid‑range game, she's got a really nice pull‑up.テつ I think her free throws, getting to the free‑throw line and the improvement in that, she's going to be a really fun explosive player to watch in the coming years.
But we really always talk in our program about growth.テつ You have an opportunity to have a growth mindset every day.テつ I think if anyone has embodied that and taken that on as a personal challenge, Nirra Fields has, and it's played out in her game.テつ She is one of the best athletes I've ever been around.テつ Her ability, her strength combined with her quickness, and then as her skills and reads happen, to catch up to her athleticism, it's going to be tough to stop her.

Q.テつ Playing in these games here in Seattle, I wonder if you have an impression, good, bad or indifferent?
COACH CLOSE:テつ Very good.テつ I'm really excited about this community.テつ This has been a great women's basketball community for years in Seattle.テつ We're really relying on that as a conference to rally around.テつ We want this to be the number one premier conference tournament in the country.テつ I do think the city of Seattle has an opportunity to make that happen.テつ I appreciate the efforts of the Pac‑12 office.テつ I think there is an excellence, a commitment to the very best.テつ There is sort of this wave of momentum and you're seeing it in the way we're all able to recruit.テつ We're able to keep people out west, top to bottom in our conference, I believe we are by far the most improved conference in the nation.テつ I thinks a big piece of that has to be the way it culminates in Seattle every year.
So I want to thank the efforts of this great city and our Pac‑12 offices.テつ We have big things and expectations ahead.テつ It's going to be really fun to watch.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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