Caitlin Clark

Iowa Hawkeyes guard Caitlin Clark (22) brings the ball up the court against the UConn Huskies in the Sweet 16 of the 2021 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Saturday, March 27, 2021 at the Alamo Dome. (Stephen Mally/hawkeyesports.com)

Q. I know you've got a locker room full of hurting kids right now. I think what Caitlin has done over the not just week but season has been special. I'm confident she's created a lot of basketball fans around the country. I just wondered how big you think it will be for women's basketball going forward for little girls to see her playing not at UConn, not at Tennessee, but she picked a different school because she wanted to do something special?

LISA BLUDER: Yeah, you about covered all of it right there. She's had a fabulous season. I'm so proud of what she has done over the year. I'm so happy for her because she loves the game. She plays the game the way it should be played. There are so many kids that have a tremendous role model at the University of Iowa in Caitlin Clark, and I think quite honestly, in the rest of our team.

We're a young team. We'll be back here. That's what I told our team. Do not hang your heads. We are extremely young, and we will be back.

Again, going back to your Caitlin question, I think she's somebody that a lot of kids can look up to in our state, but around the country. I agree with you.

Q. Offensive rebounds again was a problem, as it has been a few times this year. How much did this team, within 10 points with five minutes to go, how much did you prove that you belong?

LISA BLUDER: Yeah, I mean, the final score is not indicative of how close this game was. We won the third quarter. It's 12 points, five something to go in this game. We have four turnovers in the last five minutes. They did a great job of using the clock, then scoring at the end of the clock. That's unfortunate because we kind of melted down that last four or five minutes, really didn't show everybody how close of a game that really was.

You're right, the offensive rebounds really hurt us. We did not box out. That's been a theme for us all year. We've got to get better at it. It gives us a lot of good film to show and work on it during the off-season.

Q. I know there's probably some frustration this moment to have your season come to an end. When you look at the big picture of this year, to go from outside the projected tournament picture in November, to dominating Kentucky in the Sweet 16, trading buckets with UConn in the Sweet 16 here, do you feel like there's no ceiling for this team now, that this run is going to help them in the long-term?

LISA BLUDER: Oh, I can't tell you how far this team has come from the beginning of the year. It was a hard year as far as the pandemic and testing all the time, having those extra responsibilities, not being able to be together at team functions like we usually are.

I am so proud of our young team for navigating all of that. It's amazing. Playing in Carver without fans. That's part of the job of being a Hawkeye is the Hawkeye Nation, having the amazing fans we have. We didn't get that this year.

But I believe wholeheartedly that we have just touched the surface and this team can go farther in the NCAA tournament than we did this year. I believe that completely.

Q. What do you think it meant as much as this game was obviously marketed and positioned as Paige versus Caitlin. You had other players really taking the stage, as well.

LISA BLUDER: It's been that way all year as we've had different people stand up. Monika, she only got 11 baskets today. Give credit to UConn for keeping the ball out of her hands. She was 7-for-11. We needed to get the ball into her more than we did. She's been tremendous for us all year, a consistent force all year.

Then you have McKenna Warnock who came out today and had a fabulous game. She's had games like that. Gabbie Marshall, she was 4-for-5 from three-point range. Kate Martin has done it at times. Tomi Taiwo has done it at times. We have other people to this puzzle. That's what's so fun, is we have the anchors in Caitlin and Monika, but we've got a lot of good pieces around that puzzle, too.

Q. You mentioned that third quarter. How much of the first quarter, second quarter, when Caitlin, it seemed like UConn may have been focusing on her, she was getting shots but not able to connect, how much of that was UConn's defense?

LISA BLUDER: I think halftime allowed us to kind of take a little bit of a breath, regroup a little bit. We know we didn't play Iowa basketball that first half on either end really. We weren't happy with our play. I thought in the third quarter we came out refreshed, kind of a better mental focus. I thought we played well for the next 15 minutes of the game after halftime until the five-minute, end-of-game situation.

Yeah, UConn was putting denial against Caitlin. We all knew that was going to happen. Believe me, people have done that during the year, as well.

Q. How important is a game like this from a learning perspective? You mentioned you're young. Kind of a measurement of where you are now, where you want to be. Like you said, you're young, will be back. What should the expectations be going into next season?

LISA BLUDER: The expectations should be extremely high. I mean, nobody else expected much of our team this year, but we did. We're the most important people in that locker room that believed in each other, knew that we could have a special year. Moving forward, that's just going to get better and better.

Our goal is we want to be in a Final Four. We want to take Iowa back to a Final Four. That's where the direction that we're trying to go, that we will go.

Q. So much was said about Paige and Caitlin, rightfully so. This was really pretty basketball in some stretches. I think there were 48 assists between the two teams. Aesthetically, that was really nice basketball. What does that say about the game, the way both these teams play?

LISA BLUDER: Yeah, I mean, I just think coming into this, everybody focused on Paige versus Caitlin. It was never that. I get it. I understand why the media does that. If it was going to promote this game and promote women's basketball, so be it. But, boy, there was some pretty assists out there.

I mean, I love that basketball, share the ball. We had 18 I think tonight. I think we could have even had more. But there was some really nice plays, especially dumps to Monika after drives, that sort of thing. I thought for the most part there were some really good looks offensively for us, but on defense we had too many mental lapses on defense.

Q. When you take a look at what this season was and what everyone kind of battled through off the floor, do you almost like the fact that you did have such a young team that had to go through all this extra stuff on the side? I know you've spoken repeatedly on how good this team will be or what this run on the court can do for this group. Off the court, to be a little more grizzled, what are your parting thoughts on how this played out?

LISA BLUDER: I think it's going to make all these kids more resilient. You either stood up to the situation and did well, like I think our team did, or you complained about it and you were upset about it, and that occupied your thoughts.

We didn't let it occupy our minds that we couldn't do what we normally do. We focused on the positives. I think that's what you have to do in these type of situations.

I think our team navigated this so well. Of course, freshmen don't know anything differently. I think that a veteran team, they had advantages this year. I think veteran teams had advantages because they didn't maybe need that summer practice time a much. They didn't need those individual workouts as much. We could have really benefited from those things. We didn't have those.

But I think the way that our team handled this situation this year, I'm just disappointed I don't get to go to practice tomorrow. I'm really disappointed that they don't get to do that with this group of women. They have been amazing all year long.

Q. How important is the national coverage that this tournament has gotten on TV, that everyone can see these great players, great teams, every game was televised?

LISA BLUDER: This has been wonderful. I mean, all the games being televised instead of that whip-around coverage has been terrific. These games today being played on ABC, this is good for our game. This is what we need to grow our game. This is what we've been missing. People need to see what we're able to do. Television plays a big, important part of that. Media plays such an important part of that.

I love having 16 teams at the same site. I believe we need to explore that moving forward. It felt like more of a tournament atmosphere. It didn't give anybody the advantage playing close to home. So I think there was a lot of good things that we learned from the pandemic that we have to take from this and think about how can we do this in the future to grow our game.

Q. With UConn, with how they shot the ball today, is that just one of those games where you can do all you want, it's just hard to stop that kind of shooting, or did you feel there were times where the defense allowed it to happen? What can you say about the UConn shooting? Just when you thought you had a run, they seemed to hit a big bucket.

LISA BLUDER: Yeah, they did. That's what great teams do. I will say I do believe we had some defensive lapses. But I am not taking anything away from UConn because obviously they're a tremendous basketball team that can really score the ball.

But I know that the final score is not indicative of what this game was or how I think either coach probably felt during the game. I feel like UConn did a great job scoring, but I do think we gave them a little bit of help in that area too many times today.

They're good players, they're going to take advantage of any miscue or mental lapse that you have. And they did that to us.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Congratulations on a good season. Look forward to seeing you next year.

LISA BLUDER: I do, too.

Q. I'm guessing over the last couple weeks, especially, there have been a lot of little girls around the country who have watched you, want to be like you, play in the NCAA tournament. What would you say to them in regards to you can pick what school you want to go to, it doesn't have to be UConn, doesn't have to be Tennessee? You talked the other day about the bluebloods. What you want to say to those kids?

CAITLIN CLARK: Yeah, I mean, the reason I came to Iowa is because I wanted to do something special. I think more and more people are starting to kind of go that route. I think that's important, especially this being my home state, this is where I wanted to go. I know I'm in the right place. This season was truly special.

I think for this team, it's only up from here. So I know a lot of little girls dream about going to all those bluebloods, but I think playing for your home state is really something special. Creating something is really special. That's my goal here. I have three years left to do a lot of special things. I think for this team, we're so young, we can put in so much more work, improve in so many areas, it should be fun down the stretch for us, for sure.

Q. I know when you came in, you had expectations of competing in games like this. Outside the program the expectation wasn't for you guys to make the tournament. Here you are trading buckets with UConn in the Sweet 16. How do you think this changed your minds in what can be accomplished in the next couple years? How important was this experience, getting to a Final Four, a championship game down the road?

CAITLIN CLARK: Yeah, I don't think it really changed our minds just because we've always believed in each other. That's the reason I came here, because there was a true belief we were going to make the Final Four someday. We didn't say we were going to do it in my first year. We knew it was going to be a process, we had to put all the pieces together. To see what we did this year with nobody believing in us, we believed in ourselves, everybody in the locker room, the coaches, the girls, we just kept believing. We had some tough losses but went back to work every single day and wanted to get better. I think that really showed at the end of the season, through the Big Ten tournament, obviously the NCAA tournament. To get to where we got is really something special. Obviously a lot to be proud of this season.

Obviously we're disappointed with the outcome today, but it's good to look back and see what we did this season.

Q. Coach Auriemma pulled you aside, kind of wiggled his finger and had you come over after the game. What was said there between the two of you?

CAITLIN CLARK: Yeah, he was pretty much just like, You're crazy good, whatnot. Things like that. He's like, it's kind of a shame it had to be so much pressure on you and Paige. I could tell you guys were so antsy in the first half, which I think is kind of true. I think we were kind of could feel that pressure in a way. I took a few poor shots. I think we both kind of calmed down there in the second half.

Obviously it is a lot of pressure for two freshmen. Those are the games we want to play in. Those are the moments we live for. We wouldn't want it to change any other way.

To have him come up to me and say the things he did, he said, What you've done for Iowa this season really has been something special, you have a bright future. To hear him say that to me really meant something. To take the time to wave me down and talk to me obviously meant a lot and I'm very thankful for that.

Q. You got to measure yourselves against one of the best programs in the country. Obviously disappointment right now. What do you take and learn from this going forward? Where does that put the expectations at for the next few years now?

CAITLIN CLARK: Yeah, obviously I don't think the score really indicated how the game really ended. Obviously kind of ballooned there a little at the end. We really stayed with them, kept fighting, kept knocking down shots. I think if we clean up a few more things, a couple more shots fall down for us, a couple more things go our way, I think we're right there, a two to four-point game really.

I think being so young, that just shows we have so much more to work for, but we're so close. I think that's just something we can feed on the rest of the season, the next few seasons down the road. I think that's what we're going to work on in the off-season, look back, what do we need to improve, and get better at. Having this offseason is going to be so important for us especially returning our whole starting five and a solid bench as well, just to improve in every single area that kind of got exploited this season.

I'm excited. We're all going to get back to work, I know we are going to work super hard. I think the future is super bright.

Q. About young girls, there are so many more young girls playing basketball who now know you. They're inspired by you. What message do you have for them right now?

CAITLIN CLARK: Thanks. I feel like I was that little girl just a short while ago. So I would just say dream big. That's always what I did. My parents never held me back from anything that you couldn't do. I think that's just the biggest thing.

Q. UConn, it was no secret how they were going to defend you, go about this game. What did you think of the defense they played on you, particularly in the first half?

CAITLIN CLARK: Yeah, honestly, I mean, I've seen tough defenses all year. I think the Big Ten is loaded with quite a few teams that are loaded defensively. They move together, they play team defense. Obviously I've been denied all year long. It wasn't really anything new. I think I took a few too many tough shots in the first half. At the same time I'm not going to get too many open looks. A couple more go down, maybe it's a different story. But I think in the second half, I was a little more patient obviously. Still missed a few here and there, but made a few more.

Obviously they're a good overall team. We knew what they were going to do on defense - they were going to deny me the ball. I don't think it was anything new that I've seen this season. That's what we've seen all throughout the Big Ten. Progressing throughout my career, it's going to be the same thing. So just learning from it, getting better, finding ways to move without the ball and things like that.

Q. Before that Michigan game, you guys had been good, but you hadn't had those top-25 wins. You blow out Michigan, you go on this run in March. What do you think was the change? What was the progress that you made in the last month here? How is that something you can apply over the summer and into next season?

CAITLIN CLARK: Yeah, I think other than tonight really our defense had improved a lot, especially our man-to-man defense. I thought that had grown so much. That's kind of what we had been using all throughout the Big Ten Tournament, up here until this point, I know we played a little more zone today, but I thought we really improved on defense. Obviously when a team scores over 90 points, it's still going to be hard for us to win even though we do put up pretty big numbers on the offensive side of the ball.

Another thing, we all believed. We knew we were right there. There were so many close games through the Big Ten, those top teams we kept playing, we kept losing by two to five points every single game. There were just little mental lapses. We're young, we didn't have experience in end-of-game situations.

I think we really just learned from those, we kept believing and working. We knew those wins were going to come. I think that's what you saw here at the end of the season.

Q. Next year obviously the hype is going to be high, the expectations are going to be high. How does this team handle that? How does the team embrace that? Your thought about the Final Four being in Minneapolis next year.

CAITLIN CLARK: Yes, obviously the expectations are high. That's how it was for us this year. Even if the media or outside people didn't have high expectations for us, Coach Bluder's teams always have high expectations for themselves. I wouldn't expect anything less.

We're going to work how we always do, not going to put too much pressure on ourselves. I think more than anything we're excited to have fans back in Carver, get that excitement rolling again.

I think people are just going to be super excited about Iowa women's basketball. I think we're going to have a lot of fans in the arena. That's what makes the game so fun. That's what you love to do.

Obviously with the Final Four in Minnesota, that's super cool. I honestly didn't know that. To keep it in the Midwest, I guess that's great. Obviously that's a long, long road ahead before we're there, so...

Q. You might have answered this a little bit, but what did you guys learn about yourselves at how good you guys can really be, considering how we talked all year long about how young this team is? You seemed to show potential, we really saw it in this last month and a half.

CAITLIN CLARK: Yeah, I think it just gave so much confidence to the girls on this team, to the program, everything. I think it just shows, like, we're legit. We can hang with the best, whatnot.

I mean, more than anything, I think it's just going to make every single person in that locker room want to work that much harder, get that much better, just knowing we're so close to being with UConn. 10 points away, I would probably say, even though the score ballooned at the end.

We're just going to work harder, want to get better. That's all you really can get, get back in the gym, get better, be with your team. Honestly this team always believes. I think that's the greatest thing about us. We never hung our heads when we lost early in the season, things like that. We just kept wanting to get better. We knew those wins were about to come our way. I think that's what you're going to see next year, too.

Q. You obviously got to play in the first game of the tournament that allowed outside fans. How exciting was that? How hopeful are you that we're on the road to normalcy again?

CAITLIN CLARK: Yeah, obviously that was really special. I think there were quite a few Hawk fans down here. It was good to hear that noise again, and get back to normalcy. Obviously it's been a long time. I would say this isn't really a normal thing to have fans. But to get back to that normalcy, it's going to be fun. I can't wait for it.

Q. You said the other day this game, it was unfair to kind of put it all on Caitlin and Paige. Kind of turned out that way. How can you assess the job Christyn Williams did?

GENO AURIEMMA: Well, I think the fact that there was so much hype put on those two kids, part of it was unfair, but it comes with the territory. I get that. But like I told the team before the game, I said in all these matchups of players that get all the hype, it usually comes down to somebody else and something else. I think our defense, as bad as it was at times, was really, really good when it had to be.

Christyn Williams and Evina Westbrook and Olivia, our three juniors, were amazing. They just played the way you would want your upperclassmen to play. It was not going to be easy on either Caitlin or Paige to play their normal game. Obviously neither of them did, even though both of them played really, really well.

I think it was a well-played game by both teams, well-officiated game. We just had a little more than Iowa did. I could see why they are as good as they are. They're a difficult team to play against, that's for sure.

Q. I want to ask you about Christyn. I know there have been some ups and downs with her. There was a point where you mentioned to her you thought she wasn't coachable. I'm wondering what that moment was like, how she got from there up to where she is today, rising to the moment like she did.

GENO AURIEMMA: Well, a lot of words come out of my mouth. 'Uncoachable' probably comes out 10 times a day with every one of my players.

I think the thing that Christyn struggled with early on was putting too much emphasis on her offense, that if the ball didn't go in the basket, she didn't really know how to contribute to us winning. That put way too much pressure on her. It was like every shot, every possession for her, was life and death.

There's been a huge change probably since maybe the first or second St. John's game at St. John's, if I can pinpoint a time, when defensively Christyn started to understand how I can impact this team in so many other ways.

Today she looked like the Christyn Williams that we saw when we were recruiting her, a kid that can make shots from everywhere, can make shots at the basket, can make shots from the three-point line, can attack you in transition. She was guarding one of the toughest players in America to guard.

I thought this is the best game that Christyn Williams has probably played in her career. No question about that.

Q. Was it nice to have a crowd here, actually have people cheering for you, which I don't think you had much in the season? You mentioned how this is a good game for basketball, pretty well-played, well-officiated. Was that a good showcase for women's hoops on national television, having a high-scoring, high-entertaining game so to speak?

GENO AURIEMMA: Yeah, I wasn't thinking that when Iowa was getting layup after layup, open three after open three. I don't think the thought came into my mind, This is great for people watching at home (laughter).

Given all the hype surrounding the game, the game was really, really well-played. There were a lot of great plays made. People made open shots. Big shots were made at big moments. We would get up a bunch, they would make a big run to cut it.

It was just a really -- there weren't a lot of turnovers. There weren't a lot of fouls. So, yeah, I think this game showed women's basketball in a really, really good light. I'm glad there were some fans here to really appreciate it in person because sometimes what you see at home on TV is one thing, and what you see in person is something completely different.

But somebody told me this was the first network televised game since 1995, when we played actually in the championship game against Tennessee. It's taken a long time, huh? They were well-rewarded. I hope we get a lot more games on national television, on the big networks, not just your sports networks.

ABC I think really lucked out today.

Q. Is this the kind of game that kind of I don't want to sound too corny, but reminds you of why you love to coach? To see the growth of somebody like Christyn Williams who had so much hype and accolades, then had to find the hard parts of the game and come through it, to do it today? Is it maybe the fundamental reason why you like coaching?

GENO AURIEMMA: I think we all like to coach for the same reasons that teachers like to teach. Because we are teachers at heart. We love when our students, when they get something and the light goes on, they feel like there's a sense of accomplishment of, Wow, this was really hard for me, it took me a while to get this, but I feel so good about myself that I finally got it.

You as a coach, you just feel so good for them. As much as you want to (grunts) when they don't get it right during the process of learning, when it does happen, it's such a rewarding feeling. That certainly is why I coach. I don't know why anyone else does. But I'm sure I speak for a lot of coaches and a lot of teachers.

I've always said this, coaches get way too much credit for winning and way too much blame for losing. Coaches try to do their best to give their players the tools that they need to be successful. You just love it when players use those tools and are successful.

Christyn was amazing. I mean, she just had this look in her eye the first half when she was just -- it looked like she could score from anywhere, any time she wanted. She takes great pride in her defense now and her rebounding, her ability to make a play for someone else, to see things. Just a whole litany of things that I've been hoping that Christyn would eventually acquire. She certainly found the perfect time to do that.

Q. The last few days in preparing for this game, what specifically did you stress with Christyn about the most important aspects of actually keeping Clark in check? Sometimes things are more easier said than done. Were the challenges Clark presented in the game what you expected? Did Christyn have to adapt and adjust at all along the way? How did it play out versus the preparation?

GENO AURIEMMA: Yeah, when you're playing in a game like this against someone like this, you play the way you normally play all year, right? So for the most part this year we've done a really good job of knowing when to switch, when not to, who to switch on, how to help, how not to. We've grown into that.

So we knew that Christyn, This is your assignment. But we also knew that there was going to be a lot of switches for the good or the bad where it was going to be someone else guarding her. During our prep, we made it a team thing that everybody has to know this is what we're going to do, this is how we're going to guard her.

There were a couple times where we guarded her great and she still knocked in a couple threes. So the whole thing was about this is how our team is going to guard Iowa, in particular Caitlin Clark. Not, Hey, Christyn, she's on you, that's it. Obviously Christyn had the main responsibility. I thought she did a phenomenal job.

The kid still came out of there with 21 points, but she needed 21 shots to get it. I think that's a pretty good defensive night.

Q. Wondering if you could comment on Aaliyah Edwards, averaging 18 points a game now, give me your thoughts on how you think she's contributing.

GENO AURIEMMA: Well, we wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for her. If it wasn't for Aaliyah Edwards, we wouldn't be here today. That kid has really added so much to our team. Her strength, her physicality, her toughness, her finishing around the basket.

I can't say enough about Aaliyah, the fact that she's been able to come off the bench most of the season, then early on when we started her, she was a little bit not quite ready it seemed like. Now she looks so comfortable in that spot.

More than anything I think what she does is she takes a lot of pressure off of Liv. It allows Liv to be what Liv likes to be. Liv, catch the ball at the high post, be someone who facilitates our offense, and it allows Aaliyah to muscle her way around. Because you put your best defensive big man on Liv, now Aaliyah is going to have her way a lot of times.

The way she runs the floor, to have a freshman like that, I can't even imagine what she's going to look like in a couple years.

Q. Paige hit a shot, she came over and slapped you on the backside. She said it was an inside joke between you and the team. Is there anything you can add to that? Regardless, you see the freshmen, they seem to be playing pretty loose. Speak to how unique that is.

GENO AURIEMMA: If I remember correctly, I think it was when Anna Makurat hit a shot.

Q. Might have been.

GENO AURIEMMA: I think Anna hit a shot late, late, late in the game, from the corner, in front of our bench. Anna hit a shot. Paige ran by me and smacked me. That was an inside joke, yeah.

Do you know what the inside joke was? That's more shots than Anna has made in a month. I kept telling her, At some point you got to make one, you got to make a couple, you got to help us a little bit.

What's funny, both Ben, our interim coach, and Jamelle both said, Listen, put her in there, give her a chance because she's going to make two threes in the next game.

You know what? She did. I think Paige was letting me know. She never passes up an opportunity to let me know when I'm wrong. Trust me when I tell you that.

Q. You mentioned the team defense you played on Caitlin Clark. Also the 30 assists on 40 baskets. That's I'm guessing what you hoped for, pretty basketball, so to speak.

CHRISTYN WILLIAMS: Yeah, the emphasis was Caitlin Clark coming into the game. We wanted to know where she was at all times. I thought we did a great job of executing our game plan.

30 assists on 40 shots, that's really good. That's UConn basketball. We were working on all cylinders tonight. I think we played a really great game today.

Q. You've had some ups and downs the last couple of years, some low points. Can you describe the process from whatever point it was to where it might have been bottoming out to rising to the level you did today.

CHRISTYN WILLIAMS: Yeah, I've had my ups and downs during my time here at UConn. Everybody knows it. So it just feels really good to be able to play this basketball game as well as I did tonight just to know the Christyn Williams I am because I am a complete player and I feel like people have forgotten that.

I'm just trying to showcase my game as well as I can from here on out. It's a lot of hard work that has been put into this. I've been in the gym timeless hours over the course of the year. I've just been working hard. I'm just happy that you guys can see the progress that I've made.

Q. You obviously had embraced this defensive assignment on Caitlin. Just discuss your performance on her, how challenging it was to take on a player like that.

CHRISTYN WILLIAMS: Yeah, Caitlin Clark is an amazing player, especially being a freshman. She moves well without the ball. That's what makes her dangerous. We knew that coming into the game. We had to know where she was at all times while she was on the floor.

But, yeah, I have embraced my role on this team as a defensive stopper. That hasn't always been the case my years here at UConn. Coach has always been on me about being a more complete player on both ends of the floor. I've just been working hard on it.

Q. Just knowing how good of a shooting team Iowa both from three and the field in general, you had to expect they were going to go on some run at some point and they kind of did in the third quarter. How important was it to expect that run but know you have to answer it?

CHRISTYN WILLIAMS: Yeah, I mean, basketball is a game of runs in any game. Yeah, we knew that they were going to go on runs, whether that was with threes or getting touches in the paint. We knew we just had to be poised and continue to play our best basketball on the offensive end. We can go on runs, too.

That's what happened. I feel we responded well to their runs and we kept pushing.

Q. This game was labeled as the Paige versus Caitlin show. Evina Westbrook was just shy of a triple-double. Talk about the junior leadership and describe the endless depth of this team.

CHRISTYN WILLIAMS: Yeah, we're a very young team. It's only two guys on the team that has been to the Final Four, me and Liv. Me, Liv and E have been leading this team all season as far as leadership on the court and off the court.

We just came into this game as a regular game. We know that's the media's job to hype up the games and stuff. But Paige, before the game, she was telling us that this is a team game, don't worry about the media. We don't really feed into that stuff really. We just went out and played our best basketball.

Q. Do you feel as if today's game was your team's most complete effort in the tournament?

CHRISTYN WILLIAMS: Yeah, I think we've been playing well all tournament. I feel like we've been playing well as a team the entire, like, last two, three games, and in the Big East Tournament. We're working on all cylinders. I keep saying that. Even people coming off the bench has given us great minutes.

So I'm really proud of this team and how far we've come throughout the season.

Q. Did you have a sense from the game plan coming in that this could potentially be a big-scoring game for you in advance or did it just kind of happen organically once you got on the court?

CHRISTYN WILLIAMS: I mean, I just go with the flow of the game. I mean, the game plan was they were going to play man and zone. We knew kind of what they were going to do. We watched film on them. I mean, my goal for every game is to just go out and be aggressive on both ends of the floor. If I'm aggressive at all times, then most of the time I'm successful with it, so...

Hope that answers your question (smiling).

Q. You've talked about just letting the game come to you, just being aggressive at both sides. How much easier is that feeling from now in the tournament to the beginning of the season? Why do you think that's been able to flow so much easier?

CHRISTYN WILLIAMS: Obviously it was harder at the beginning of the season because I had a lot of work to do. I wasn't really used to playing as hard as I am now on both ends of the floor. Last year we had Crystal Dangerfield guarding the best guard on the other team. I didn't really have that much responsibility, I would say, on the defensive end.

As the season went on, I kind of got used to embracing this role and being aggressive on both ends of the floor.

Q. Balanced scoring effort today. The fact you were able to dominate points in the paint with second-chance opportunities.

CHRISTYN WILLIAMS: Yes, I thought E and Liv and Aaliyah did a great job of hitting the offensive boards. They always do a great job of doing that. But today it was great. That's something that we needed because we got second shots, like you said. Yeah, I thought they played a great game today.

Q. I know there was a point last year or this year where Coach said to you that maybe you were uncoachable. I'm just wondering if you can recall that moment and what that meant, if that was maybe a turning point at all for you. When you kind of knew a day like today was coming, was there something yesterday or this morning where you felt a surge of confidence that something like this was coming?

CHRISTYN WILLIAMS: To answer your second question, I just let the game come to me. From the Big East Tournament to now, I've just been aggressive from the jump. So I'm just going to try to continue to do that. I've had some good games.

To answer your first question, yeah, the uncoachable comment, yeah, I would say that was definitely a turning point because what player wants to be uncoachable? I really just try my best to listen to every little thing that he was saying and to do it because Coach has coached for years and he knows what he's talking about.

I just try my best to just do what he's been saying. Look where I am now (smiling). That was a turning point.

Q. Evina Westbrook scored her one thousandth career point today. She's given up a lot of her offensive game to be an all-around player for you guys this year. Have you noticed that? What has it meant for that transition, to do that transition, which isn't easy, how much she has done for your team this year.

CHRISTYN WILLIAMS: Yeah, E is a great player and a great teammate. She does the dirty work. She goes to the offensive boards, she gets steals, a defensive stopper as well. It's not all about points with E. She's a great leader off the floor. She's the mom of our team. We love E to death. I'm so proud of her for getting her one thousandth point.