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March 9, 2014

Kiki Alofaituli

Cynthia Cooper-Dyke

Ariya Crook

Cassie Harberts


USC テや 71
Oregon State テや 62

THE MODERATOR:テつ Welcome and congratulations to USC.テつ We have Coach Cynthia Cooper, Cassie Harberts, Kiki Alofaituli, and Ariya Crook.テつ Coach, I'll let you start.
COACH COOPER‑DYKE:テつ Congratulations to USC women's basketball team.テつ We are definitely dancing this year.テつ I am very proud of these women.テつ They have fought and worked all year long.テつ Not just three weeks ago everyone had counted us out and we had very little chance of making it to the tournament.テつ Well, we wanted to do something about that and they did something about it today.テつ They fought.テつ Even though we didn't play a great first half, we came out and showed what Trojans do, and we fight on, and we did that in the second half.テつ I'm proud of them.

Q.テつ Talk about that second half, the change you made, back court pressure, the full court pressure, and the difference you thought it made?
COACH COOPER‑DYKE:テつ I thought the press was the difference in the game.テつ I thought we were slow and lethargic and really played Oregon State's pace in the first half.テつ I thought we mentally were trying to figure out if we had enough energy to finish this thing out.
In the second half, I decided on all makes, whether it be free throws or otherwise, we were going to press.テつ We were going to speed the game up.テつ If we're going to lose, we're going to lose with no stone unturned.テつ These women stepped up to the plate, and we rotated players.テつ We kind of shortened the rotation and just rotated about seven, eight players and kept them as fresh as we could and kept the pressure on Oregon State.
Before I continue, can I just say what a team that we played today.テつ Oregon State had a great game plan.テつ I mean, they slowed us down.テつ We played a very tough opponent, so my congratulations go out to Oregon State.

Q.テつ Ariya, can you talk about the halftime and strategy and what that energy was like in the locker room and how you translated that on to the court to really get your team going?
ARIYA CROOK:テつ At halftime we just came together as a team.テつ We knew that we were playing their pace, and it was like they played us 2‑3 zone even when we were at their place, and that was a good strategy that they had.
So for us to play our game, like Coach said, we switched up our game plan, we pressed.テつ Once we pressed, that got us going.テつ Our energy went sky high and we just went on from there.

Q.テつ Kiki, where do legs come to do that when you're on your fourth game in four days?
KIKI ALOFAITULI:テつ I want to thank one of my seniors, Desiree Bradley.テつ She took me aside and said you really have to get your stuff together right now.テつ The team needs your energy, and she gave me that motivation?

Q.テつ Cynthia, kind of adding on to that, playing your fourth game in four days, how impressed were you with the mental response in that second half in the fourth game?
COACH COOPER‑DYKE:テつ Yeah, I was extremely impressed.テつ But I yell at these girls every day. テつWe work out every day, and I know what they're capable of.テつ So it was my job to spark them, to get them going.テつ I know they were looking at me crazy like, Coach is crazy.テつ We're going to press win all the time?
Yeah, yeah, because we're going to earn this victory.テつ We talked about earning this championship, and they responded.テつ They stepped up to the plate.テつ They responded against Stanford.テつ They responded against ASU.テつ They responded against Arizona.テつ There was no doubt in my mind that they had it in them.テつ It was just up to our coaching staff to pull it out of them.
Along with what Kiki just said, I want to give a shout out to my coaching staff.テつ They just do a tremendous job.テつ Brandy Manning, Evan Unrau, and Jualeah Woods.テつ I could go through my entire staff with Becky and Jessika and Matt and Essie, we just really came together.テつ Kelly Dormandy is our strength and conditioning coach, and she just kept them loose and stretched and, I mean, you talk about a team effort.テつ Our trainer, Rachel, they must have done five ice whirlpools from the hotel bathtubs to getting in the ice whirlpool here.テつ We just tried to do everything possible to be prepared for this game and be able to give a hundred percent.

Q.テつ Could you talk about the play that you all had on Ruth and just taking her out of the game and also (No microphone).テつ
CASSIE HARBERTS:テつ We had previously played Chiney Ogwumike the day before, and we wanted the same game plan, be really physical from the get go, push her out of the paint, and make her back to the basket and move, because once they get a steal they're good at turning and finishing.テつ So we had to box her out.テつ We just really wanted to be physical and get her out of the paint.

Q.テつ Cassie, I noticed with about four minutes to go you were squatting down and talking to the other players going into the game.テつ I could see your eyes were wide.テつ I couldn't hear what you were saying.テつ But what type of message were you trying to convey there?
CASSIE HARBERTS:テつ Pretty much we needed to finish out this game and keep our focus.テつ We needed to keep attacking them.テつ We couldn't let them come back with free throws and rebounds.テつ So we needed to keep our focus going and the game was ours.

Q.テつ Coach, half-jokingly talked about how you guys reacted when she said fourth game, four days and you guys are going to full court press second half.テつ What was your reaction?テつ Were you surprised you had that much energy?
STUDENT‑ATHLETE:テつ I was actually excited.テつ Whenever we press I think it just ramps up our energy, our defense is so much better, and that translates to our offense.テつ I was glad we started doing it, and you could tell the difference it had in the game.
COACH COOPER‑DYKE:テつ That's only because she was in the back.
CASSIE HARBERTS:テつ Sure was.テつ I'm so proud of these girls.

Q.テつ If I could ask the two of you the same question.テつ Were you surprised you were able to amp up the energy that much, fourth game, four days?
STUDENT‑ATHLETE:テつ I'm not going to say surprised.テつ We have all the energy in the world off the court, on the court.テつ It doesn't matter.テつ We play six games six days, if Coach told us we've got to do X, Y, Z, we've got to do X, Y, Z.テつ So we came together to do what we had to do to get the W.

Q.テつ Cassie and Cynthia, Cassie, I've heard a lot of stories in the seven last or eight years about USC basketball, and most of them end with coming up short or injuries or whatever the story has been for this program.テつ Do you feel like today you changed the story?
CASSIE HARBERTS:テつ I do.テつ I feel like I've been through injuries.テつ Saying we're going to the tournament, but we're coming up short for the past two years.テつ I felt a difference in this team that we wanted it, and we were going to do whatever we had to do to get it.テつ I'm so proud of them.テつ That was the first Pac‑12 championship in our program's history, so I'm just glad to be a part of it.

Q.テつ Your alma mater the last nine or ten years have been rough on this program.テつ There's been a lot of almosts or maybe not quite good enough.テつ So here you are.
COACH COOPER‑DYKE:テつ When I first landed on campus, my No. 1 goal, I love this university and this basketball program and I love these players.テつ The one thing I wanted was my No. 1 goal was to not allow these women to underachieve.テつ I said that right from the beginning.テつ I'm not going to allow you to underachieve.テつ The other thing is when Cassie and I went to Pac‑12 media, there was a lot of talk about us being soft.テつ You didn't see a soft team out there today.
You didn't see a soft team out here all tournament long, because we worked on our toughness.テつ We worked on coming together as a unit.テつ So I'm really proud to be the head coach of such wonderful, great students, wonderful athletes, talented athletes, and women on a mission.テつ That is what I wanted to bring.テつ I wanted to bring that passion back to USC.テつ The drive back to women's basketball that, listen, we earned this championship, but in doing that, we earned respect.

Q.テつ Coach, what was your initial strategy for defending Wiese, and how did that evolve as the game went along?
COACH COOPER‑DYKE:テつ My initial strategy was to go over the top.テつ But when I saw my guards continuing to underneath and her firing up three pointers‑‑ no, I'm just kidding.テつ Wiese is such a difficult guard to defend, because she has so many tools.テつ She has size, she's left‑handed, and she can go either direction.テつ So what we tried to do with the post players, we tried to hedge and get her going further out and create space.テつ That hopefully will create space for our guards to get over the top and get in position to stop her penetration.
But she was awesome today.テつ She made it tough on us.テつ I thought when we sped up the game, I thought that got her out of a rhythm, and that's what we needed to do in order to keep her from taking over the game in the second half.

Q.テつ For the players, it's one thing to have a game plan, but you have to execute it.テつ How much does Coach Cooper's enthusiasm and energy, does it bring you up a level out there?
STUDENT‑ATHLETE:テつ Yes, I definitely think it does.テつ When she started telling us that we were going to press them, I mean, we got amped just feeding off her energy.テつ So I would say yes.
STUDENT‑ATHLETE:テつ We feed off her energy during practice, off the court, on the bus, at the airport, everywhere.テつ I mean, I'm speechless because I mean Coach believes in us so much and her energy translates into us and she just wants the best for us.テつ For her to start the energy, start the tone are us it's huge.テつ That's why we're in this position right now is because of her.テつ Big ups to Coach Cooper.
CASSIE HARBERTS:テつ Yeah, I don't know what else I can say.テつ Like the girls already said, she's the Energizer bunny.テつ There is not one day.テつ 6 a.m. practice every day, she walks in the gym singing, dancing.
STUDENT‑ATHLETE:テつ Doing cartwheels.
CASSIE HARBERTS:テつ Well, her foot.テつ But anyways‑‑
COACH COOPER‑DYKE:テつ Just throw me under the bus.
CASSIE HARBERTS:テつ You threw me under the bus (laughing).テつ No, but she's been great this whole year.テつ Like Kiki said, we feed off her energy on and off the courts.テつ So we're thankful for a coach that bleeds Cardinal gold and really wants to see us succeed.

Q.テつ If you were on the bubble or under the radar you're not anymore.テつ So how does that feel going into the NCAA Tournament where people are going to know about you now?
COACH COOPER‑DYKE:テつ You know what, I'll pass that question on to the players, because I want to know how they feel to know, for sure there is no doubt that we're going through the tournament.テつ We don't have to wait.テつ We know that we've solidified a ticket to dance in March.テつ I'm proud.テつ So I will pass that question to them.テつ How does it feel?
KIKI ALOFAITULI:テつ It feels good.テつ Because since day one since Coach walked into campus, we found out she was our Coach, since day one she had been saying like forget about the history and what happens when she played.テつ We just have to bring our own identity.テつ So we haven't accomplished that since before Cassie was on the team.テつ So, yeah.
ARIYA CROOK:テつ It's an amazing feeling knowing that all of our off‑season hard work really paid off.テつ Kelly Dormandy had us outside running the whole Coliseum, which was so difficult.テつ 5 a.m. mile times.テつ It's an amazing feeling knowing that all of that hard work really paid off.
CASSIE HARBERTS:テつ I think coming from my point of view as a senior, I've sat in our locker room for the past three years and watched our name not be called, whether we thought it was going to be called or whether it wasn't.テつ This time we can sit and be proud of what we've accomplished, and we've rightfully earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

Q.テつ Having rattled off four wins in the last four days, and these last two days the way you've ended against two of the best teams in the conference, how confident are you going into the NCAA Tournament?
COACH COOPER‑DYKE:テつ We don't know who we're going to play, but we're confident no matter who we play.テつ We feel like we're willing to put in the work regardless of who the opponent is.テつ We're going to fight on and give our best.テつ And we're going to represent the Pac‑12 conference in a very positive way.テつ So we're ready.テつ We're ready as everyone has said.テつ They've worked really hard to be here, so I want them to really enjoy this moment.テつ Enjoy this moment, and tomorrow is time for business.テつ I've spoken to Kelly, our strength and conditioning coach, and she has a workout program for them.テつ Hey, y'all probably didn't know that, did you?テつ Anyway.テつ Yeah, we're going to be confident going into the tournament and give it a hundred percent like we did in this tournament.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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