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March 17, 2016

Kim Mulkey

Niya Johnson

Nina Davis

Alexis Jones

Waco, Texas

Q. Niya and Nina, you've been here before, but one of the questions I have is obviously we're in your practice gym, but other than that, how do you make sure that this is more than just a home game and that you view it as something bigger than just a home game?
NIYA JOHNSON: We've just got to stay focused and just got to have that mentality, win or go home. You're trying to survive in the NCAA Tournament, and this is my last year, so this could be my last chance. Just try to go out there and come out with energy and stay focused.

NINA DAVIS: Just talking to our younger players, keeping them focused. As you said, we've been here before and we know what's on the line. We know that if we come out and we have a bad game, that they could be our last game. You really can't focus on what team you're playing, whether it's a No. 2 seed, No. 3 seed or a 14-seed, 16. Doesn't matter because you can get beat on any day when it comes to this time.

Q. Niya and Alexis, you've seen it all year but this is a team that shoots a ton of threes. I think they have made more than any of y'all have even attempted. Talk about trying to defend that and maybe how it's helped y'all just seeing the teams that y'all have seen all year.
NIYA JOHNSON: Most definitely. Playing against Iowa State and Kansas State, teams that shoot threes, I think that helps us tremendously. Not only that, but just paying attention to the scouting report, who does what, who shoots as many threes or who drive and just playing team defense and communicating.

ALEXIS JONES: I think playing the three-point team keeps us focused, because we really try hard to make sure they don't get a lot of threes off on us. And I mean, we've just got to stay focused and keep playing defense and talking on defense.

Q. Nina, you guys winning the conference tournament again, you swept pretty much through the Big 12 other than the opening game, and you were talking about getting a break but was the break good or is it something that you would rather have just gone straight into the tournament?
NINA DAVIS: A break is always good. You know, playing three games back-to-back to back, but I'm pretty sure if we could have picked, we would have all rather just skip straight to the tournament.

We were on a roll. We were in the Big 12. We were all together, we were clicking and everyone was confident. We could basically just continue to play, I think that would have been great because our rhythm, we was in flow. But you know, rest is always good. It maybe allows some people to maybe deal with injuries, things like that, and get their body back right and we'll be ready to play tomorrow so it really doesn't matter.

Q. I guess you missed the tournament two years ago when you were hurt, and you played as a freshman in the NCAA Tournament. How different is it now, and you said, this is the first time you've been a one seed. What's that experience like?
ALEXIS JONES: I mean, it's a good feeling to be a one seed but I don't think from a 1-seed to a 2-seed is really different. But I mean, it's good to be a 1-seed. We worked hard to be this No. 1 seed, and we really worked hard to try to stay in the Dallas region because that's closer to home. So I mean, we worked hard for it and I'm just proud that we got what we kind of wanted a little bit.

Q. When you look back at how this team meshed together and how they gelled and got better and progressed throughout the year, is that a compliment to the players or to the coaching staff?
COACH MULKEY: Probably all of the above. You had freshmen you had to figure out where you put them in the lineup early in the year. You've got to make them better. You had seniors that new the system and you had transfers. It's not easy to figure out who needs to play together.

You make changes throughout the year. You just coach every day and you make sure that when you scout opponents, you've got the right combinations on the floor. And this team just got better and better, and I can't put my finger on it, but a few things that probably describe this team, and that is very unselfish, a lot of depth, and I think those two things have pretty much carried us, not to mention defense on the floor and everybody has a role to play.

But sometimes when you have this many great players on a team, you can have chemistry issues and selfishness. I just don't deal with that. This bunch doesn't make you deal with that. They pull for each other and they just want to win.

Q. As we talked about the other night, being at home guarantees nothing as you know, how do you make sure it is something different for your team; that it's not just a home game, it's more than that?
COACH MULKEY: First of all, they are not in school today, so that is kind of a shock to some of them: "You mean we get to practice at 11:30? We don't go to class this morning?"

So they get the feel. They get the feel that it's the NCAA Tournament. Just this set up makes them understand it's different. Going on the court, it's different. You don't have the same setup with your band and things like that.

So being on our court does not give us an advantage. Maybe fan-wise it does because it's easier for our fans to buy a ticket and come to the game but they try to make it as neutral as possible.

Look, we've tried the neutral site stuff. Women's basketball's not ready for it. It's more beneficial to turn on a television if you're just the casual fan and see people in the stands than it is to turn it on and there's nobody there. And we tried it, it didn't work, so the 16 sites, I'm all for.

Q. You had said earlier, the freshmen haven't exceeded your expectations; you had high expectations for them, but how much have you seen them grow and how key was it for them to play such a pivotal role on this team?
COACH MULKEY: I knew what they were capable of doing, just having recruited them and watched them. What I didn't know was how quickly they would grasp our system, how quickly they would grasp our offense and especially defense. I think Kristina Higgins, KKK, Nina, Davis, those post players made the two freshmen better. They knew if they came to practice every day, they couldn't take a day off. And I think just from them being upperclassmen, taught Kalani and taught Beatrice, I don't care how tall I am, I don't care how talented I am, these three upperclassmen are giving it to us every day and I think that made them better.

As the season progressed, you saw them become more confident, you saw them work extremely hard, you saw their defense get better. You inserted them in the lineup here and there, and I think they just made each other better.

Q. Kind of the same question that was posed to the players. Would you have rather just kept going right into the NCAA Tournament rather than taking the week and a half or so between games?
COACH MULKEY: Well, for me personally, I needed a break. I flew to much with a Kramer play at LSU and I watched all three days I was there. It kind of rejuvenates you a little bit for the last and most important part of your year.

I think when you are on a roll, it's like, whoo, who is the next opponent, I kind of like this. But three games in three days is tough, and you do need a little break. But we really didn't take much of a break, I would think.

We were on spring break, so we came back off the conference tournament, took Tuesday off, practiced Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. So really, we only had Saturday and Sunday off. You don't want to give them the whole week off because you get out of rhythm, you get out of sync, but yet you don't want to wear their legs out either, so it's quick practices and it's in and out of the gym. So we continued to work.

Q. Australia is not on your normal recruiting path. How did you find Kristy, and maybe what did you see in her and how she's grown in these first two years with you?
COACH MULKEY: Coach Bill Brock, my associate head coach was head coach at Grayson Community College when I hired him, and if you recall, he had Australians, Brooke McCormack came here with him with Sheila Lambert when I hired him, so he had connections.

When we sit down and we discuss recruiting and we talk about things that we need, he always stays in touch with people who have helped him through the years, and he spoke to someone in Australia and said, look, if you ever run across one that wants to come to the states -- because what happens with a lot of international kids, they probably are either ineligible because they played pro ball or they are going to play pro ball and all this. So the first question you ask, if you run across any that are good, this want to come to the states and get a college education, this is what we're looking for.

Ironically, Kristy Wallace was coming to the States to make official visits with her family and we kind of tagged on to that official visit. It was three or four schools and she was over here just piggybacking all of them and we were able to get one of the visits.

She met with -- we had the brothers on the football team from Australia, and so we tried everything we could to convince her this was the place to be and we got her. And thank goodness we did, because guys, I have about nine that could be in the starting rotation and that's what I tell them, don't get caught up in being a starter. I don't start the five best players.

And Kristy has started a lot of games, Kristina Higgins has started a lot of games. She just can play multiple positions on the perimeter. She can shoot the three-ball. She can play point guard for me. She and Alexis Jones at their size, they battle for rebounds in there, so she just fills the bill. She's an Energizer Bunny. Sometimes I have to tell her to slow down. That's wasted energy; slow down. She's just a pleasure to coach and thank goodness we made that phone call or coach brought made that phone call.

Q. I believe Coach Newlee expressed some frustration for his team, for Idaho being a 16-seed. Now that you've had a couple days to look at them, are they a 16-seed?
COACH MULKEY: No, they are better than a 16-seed. I thought we would see the Southland Conference or the SWAC just take a bus and come over here, certainly would have saved them some money. But Jon Newlee is exactly right. We played his team last year, and they are good.

And you know, I'm getting too old to complain about seeds and seeding and where you're sent. Always remember this: There is no formula to follow when you're sitting there doing the 64, okay. You do the best that you can when you're in there. The women's game is different than the men's game.

We always are going to have story lines, and I say that to think of Jennifer Azzi is taking her team to Stanford to play Tara VanDerveer.

Texas, A&M and Louisville and Baylor being in the same region, another story line if we all make it. Connecticut and South Florida in the same region and there's only two teams from that conference, why are they in the same region. You could go on and on and on.

It really doesn't matter. The cream of the crop rises to the top and the four teams that are supposed to be in the Final Four will end up being there. At this time of year, guys, it's who is playing the best, who gets on a roll that makes it. And you're going to have story lines, you're going to have all kinds of things in the women's game, because that's who we are.

Q. When you watched Idaho on film, what stands out? What players stand out and catch your attention when you watch them on film?
COACH MULKEY: Well, I can't tell you one does, but I know they all shoot the three ball and they shoot it with great range. Freshmen was MVP in their conference tournament, which grabbed my attention. They are very similar. I don't sit there and go, whoo, watch this one player. I go, watch this team, they all shoot it except for maybe one or two kids. Thank goodness in the Big 12, we have three or four teams that have prepared us for this.

So we are prepared to defend it. I'm not going to tell you it's going to be easy. It's going to be extremely difficult. But we've got to get after it. Jon is a great coach and he's done really well three of the last four years he's been in the tournament, and Jerry I think said it best. They made more threes than I'll probably ever let my team shoot in the time I'm at Baylor, because we're going to always have post players.

Q. The complaint about seeding, are you young enough to complain about the fact the President -- put you guys as the only No. 1 seed to not reach the Final Four.
COACH MULKEY: Well, I'm not going to vote for him -- that's my point, Giggy, wake up. (Laughter) Giggy, that's my point. He's not eligible for me to vote for him.

But look, hey, he was great to us when we went to the White House when we won it. He's a basketball nut and it doesn't matter who he picks. Somebody isn't going to like it. I tend to kind of use it as motivation.

So I made sure the team knew about it on the floor yesterday and picked at him and said, I believe in you, even if your President doesn't. You just laugh about those things. Quite honestly, I'm ready to see something else on TV other than a political debate. I'm sick of it.

Q. So much of the season we talked about the Oklahoma State loss, and you win 20 games in a row and most teams would love to come into the NCAA Tournament with a 20-game win streak. Does that loss kind of come down as probably one of the most important losses you've had as a coach in terms of what it did to improve the team afterwards?
COACH MULKEY: I don't know that I could say most important, man. I've been doing this awhile and I've had some important wins and some devastating losses. I think it all just kind of makes you who you are as a coach. I think it grabbed our attention right out of the gates. I think it made us think about not the end result, but the next game more so than any team I've ever had.

You could not afford to lose another one. Because you didn't know what it was going to take to win the Big 12, and I just know that got our attention, and especially the freshmen. In their little world, it was, well, Coach, it's only one game. They don't understand that one game can cost you a championship. They do now.

Q. Is last year's game recent enough, do you take anything from that? Do you look at film of that or go more by what they are doing right now?
COACH MULKEY: Right now. The kid he had last year lit us up for 31 points. That's the first thing I looked at, was that kid a senior last year.

No, you don't go back to the past. You get film on the current team and what they are doing and personnel. The system is the same and the style of play is the same, but no, you focus on what he has now.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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