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March 22, 2014

Alyssa Charlston

Jon Newlee


THE MODERATOR:  We'll take an opening statement from coach.
COACH NEWLEE:  Very excited to be here, second time around, second year in a row of being in the NCAA tournament.  Huge for our program, huge for the University of Idaho.
Like I said, we're excited to be here and ready to get after Louisville.  The 14th seed going against the 3, we know the challenges ahead of us.  We feel like we're ready to go, ready to play.
THE MODERATOR:  We'll take questions to the student‑athletes.

Q.  It's been a month since you have lost.  What has gone right for you in this recent winning streak?
ALYSSA CHARLSTON:  I think the constant competition in practice.  Our coaches do a good job of keeping us focused and ready to go at all times.  We expect ourselves to play at a high level every time we step on the court.  I think we have a lot of good leadership on the team.  That gets us ready for each game and competing every time.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, ladies.
We'll continue with questions for Coach Newlee.

Q.  You seem to have found your stride here in the last month.  What have you seen?
COACH NEWLEE:  I think we've done a better job of rebounding the basketball during our stretch, making better shot selection decisions.  That was something that we struggled with earlier in the year before we got into conference play.  I think our shot selection has been much better.  Rebounding has been much better.
Defensively, my staff, Jordan and Christa, do the scouts.  They got us ready, prepared defensively.  I think our team has done a great job of following the defensive game plan and really sticking to it.
As the conference season went along, I think our team got a lot of confidence from getting win after win.  We had the 10‑game winning streak, then we lost, then got on another streak.
Last year winning the league and going to the NCAA tournament gave our kids a lot of confidence.  Once we got into conference play, we had the success early, I think it kind of built on itself.  When games got tight, they really trust each other.  I think that really carried us through a couple of the tight games we had in the league.

Q.  Coach, what is your biggest concern with Louisville?
COACH NEWLEE:  Where do I start (laughter)?
You know, I think obviously they got a bunch of All‑Americans over there led by Shoni Schimmel who is a fantastic player.  They're not a one‑person team.  Their guys inside are big and strong.  Hammond.  Slaughter can shoot it.  Gibbs can shoot it.
Defensively we're really going to have to play smart.  Again, we're going to have to rebound the basketball well.  I think we're going to have to take care of the basketball because I know they're going to come with a variety of defenses and traps, things that Jeff likes to do.
Taking care of the basketball and rebounding the basketball are going to be two big keys for us.

Q.  At this time of year everybody sees Mercer, North Dakota State Stephen F. Austin, thinking why hasn't that happened on the women's side yet.  Do you think a 14 or a 15 is getting closer to cracking through and getting that win?
COACH NEWLEE:  I think so.  I've been doing this a long time, I've seen the game grown a lot, 30 years of doing this.  I do believe the parity is coming.  It's not coming as quickly as the men's side did.
It's getting there.  Watching some of the games earlier today, the Florida Gulf Coast and Oklahoma State going to overtime, seeing the scores of games throughout the year even, not just in the NCAA tournament.
I do think the talent gap is closing just because the club teams and the recruiting is getting so much better.  There's so much more talented kids coming into programs now.  They're not all stockpiled at UConn and Tennessee like in the old days, though UConn is still stockpiled enough.  We found that out last year (laughter).
I think it is getting closer, I do.  I really believe that.  I think in another five years it's going to be like the men's side where anything goes, and whatever seed you have, it's not going to matter when the ball gets thrown up.

Q.  When you are really playing well, what does your team look like?  What are the strengths of your team?
COACH NEWLEE:  I think when we're really playing well, we're doing a great job of sharing the basketball.  Our goal is to get at least 20 assists a game.  When we've cracked that barrier, we've done a great job.  Offensively we have a lot of different people that can score the basketball in different ways.
We're rebounding the ball well when we're playing well.  I think we're keeping people off the foul line.  We're not fouling people.  Just doing a good job of playing good fundamental defense when we're playing well.

Q.  There's controversy in Louisville that Louisville was a little bit under‑seeded.  Do you think they're a three or better than that?
COACH NEWLEE:  I would think they're better than that.  Looking at their record, 30‑4, they lost three times to UConn.  We found out firsthand what UConn is like ourselves last year.
For that to happen, I thought all along, if you look from afar, they would be a number one seed or certainly a number two.  I think without a doubt they didn't get the best end of that deal coming in seeding‑wise, with all the talent that Jeff has on his basketball team, the couple of years they've had the last couple seasons.  This year was a great year for them.
Yeah, I think they were deserving of a number one seed in my mind.  I was shocked when I saw that they were a number three seed.  Honestly, I couldn't believe it.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH NEWLEE:  Yeah, I thought, man, we just played the number one seed last year when we made our run through the tournament.  It kind of feels like that a little bit going into it again.
We kept hearing that we're going to be playing Nebraska in Seattle.  All the ESPN that you see, you read, you think it's gospel, but really it's not.  It's one guy making his own opinion as far as the bracketology goes.
We found out last year we can't really count on that.  Last year we were supposed to be playing Stanford somewhere else and then we got sent across the country.
Not surprised.  When the names come up during the selection show, I found that anything can happen and will happen, so...
We're just ready to play whoever they tell us we're playing.

Q.  Can you compare and contrast last year's team to this season.
COACH NEWLEE:  I think last year was all brand‑new for us.  We started three freshmen last year and a sophomore and a junior.  It's nice that everybody was back and gained from that experience.
Basically we have the same entire team back.  Our freshmen are hurt, so they're not playing.  They're out.  So basically with the same exact team coming back, it's been nice because they had that experience and they could grow from last year's experience as freshmen playing all those minutes, starting all those games.
They're a year older, wiser and better, which is the good news for us coming into this year and into this tournament.

Q.  You mentioned a little bit, because they are such a clear‑cut favorite for this tournament, do you think it's possible that anybody can beat UConn this year?  What would be the scenario that would lead to a UConn loss at some point?
COACH NEWLEE:  I would feel like to beat UConn, who I think would probably be in the top half if they played in the WNBA as a team, you'd have to play a perfect game.  Reminds me of that Villanova/Georgetown final.  You would have to shoot like 70%.  You couldn't turn it over.  You have to hope that Stewart is missing, Dolson, all those guys are having the worst game of their life and you're having your best.  That's the only scenario I see of UConn losing.
I've never seen a collection of talent in my life like UConn has put together here in the last couple years.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, coach.
COACH NEWLEE:  Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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