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March 18, 2016
COACH PINGETON: First of all, just like to say we're really excited about being here. Really appreciate the opportunity to be part of just such a smart group. I'm excited for our players. I think we've worked really hard and spent a really good year with them in women's basketball.
We know we've got a challenging task in front of us. Watched a lot of film obviously on BYU and just have so much respect for that program and what they have done over the years. We know we've got a tall task in front of us. We feel like we're rejuvenated, we're reenergized and we're really looking forward to playing in the NCAA Tournament tomorrow night.
Q. Jordan, and Sophie, you have played in title games, how does the feeling compare for this as compared to the feeling that you guys would have on the big stage in high school?
JORDAN FRERICKS: Well, for me personally, I think that it's similar experience, one, because of where I was in high school. I think that's what our goal was to get here in college. I think we're just really excited for the opportunity, and we're not there yet. We had a similar a final game in high school and that's kind of how it is here, and we're ready to go.
SOPHIE CUNNINGHAM: Very similar to what she just said, you can compare but you can't compare. It's a much bigger stage and much tougher level, as well. It's very exciting and we're all excited to be here and ready to get going.
Q. A year ago you were celebrating on the Mizzou Arena floor for your fourth straight big title, will it feel a little bit different because it's the NCAA Tournament? I know you were excited to get the big title at high school level. Is there any comparison at all?
SOPHIE CUNNINGHAM: Yeah, for me personally, there isn't really a lot of comparison because high school to the SEC to now NCAA Tournament, it's just much more tougher, a lot more physical, a lot more faster. So to me there's not a lot of comparison. It's nice to know that I've been on that kind of level before and that kind of big stage, but this is just so much bigger. So I'm excited to be out here.
Q. What stands out to you about BYU as you've reviewed them?
JORDAN FRERICKS: They have some good shooters. They have some good post play and nice rebounders. I mean, they have got a whole squad that are pretty good, and I think that we need to come out and play good defense, play our game and be aggressive. I think that we can definitely dominate.
SOPHIE CUNNINGHAM: Yeah, just what she said, very good shooters, very good in transition. We have to be spot on with personnel. They are very good shooters so we need to get out on them. It's going to be a very good game.
Q. How conscious are you going to be, trying to keep the fouls down, trying to get as many minutes as you can tomorrow night?
JORDAN FRERICKS: I think that you don't go into the game thinking that. Just play the first quarter, second quarter, a little bit safer than usual. But I think that I still have to be aggressive and still have that mentality and not think too much about it, because I mean, I'm not going to go out there and try not to foul. I'm still going to play the game.
Q. When you say you can "definitely dominate," is it that you don't have a lot of respect for BYU or the conference -- on film?
JORDAN FRERICKS: I just think our conference. It's nothing -- credit to BYU; I think there's a lot of talent on that team. It's just how we're going to play and how we're going to play our game.
Q. I know you guys have been saying you didn't want to end a three-game losing streak, but those practices have been pretty good of late; is that still the case? Is the confidence still on after the not-great-finish at the end of the regular season?
SOPHIE CUNNINGHAM: Yeah, I don't think any team wants to finish the regular season like that. But I think having that week off and then coming back, I think we've had the best perspective that we've had all year. I think our team is in a really great spot. I fully believe that Missouri basketball is back.
Q. Rebounding has always been one of your top strengths. BYU has a good rebounder in Kalani. Have you noticed much about her? Do you have much appreciation for her on film and what she can do as a rebounder?
JORDAN FRERICKS: I think it's going to be definitely a tough challenge. I'm looking forward to that challenge and I'm sure she is, too, just to go up against each other and it's going to be a fun battle on the boards. Give credit to her. She's, what, averaging 13 a game. I'm excited.
Q. You guys, this is your first NCAA Tournament experience but you have plenty of March experience with the WNIT. Is this a totally different animal?
JORDAN FRERICKS: It's not a totally different experience. It's still a big stage. And NIT, you're going to get a bigger stage than the regular season. We are just going to take it one game at a time and not think too much about the stage but what we have to do on the court.
Q. Their guard is a big scorer, Lexi, I don't know how you look at her, but anything that impresses you about her game? What stands out to you about her game?
SOPHIE CUNNINGHAM: Yeah, she can just pull -- someone will be on her and she'll pull and make it. She's a key player that we have to focus in on. She's a very good player. She's going to go right by you, so just have to play her straight up. It's going to be a good matchup.
Q. I know it's been a handful of years since you were last in the NCAA Tournament and coaching with Illinois State. What do you remember about that experience, and does it pay to have that NCAA Tournament experience from a coaching perspective?
COACH PINGETON: I think every year is so unique and it's a different team, and so it is a different feel. I've been blessed to be a part of the NCAA Tournament as an assistant coach with Bill Fennelly and a couple years at Illinois State, but it's hard to compare because you've got different teams, and the setting is completely different.
Really looking forward to being here. Our team has worked really hard over the last couple of years to continue to Bill our program. It's a great opportunity to play with the best of the best, and just tremendous coaches in this tournament, tremendous players.
And you know, I think March Madness, you throw records out the window. We all know anything can happen. But it's fun to be in the mix and it's fun to be a part of it.
Q. Does this BYU team remind you of anything that you faced this season?
COACH PINGETON: They do. Actually I think we play very similar styles. I think it's going to be a really good matchup. We played St. Mary's earlier in the year and they are in that same conference. Although BYU did a tremendous job against them, I think the styles are very similar to a team like St. Mary's.
But I tell you what, I am so impressed with them on film. Yeah, I think Coach does a great job with them. They have got a high basketball IQ. They are very unselfish. They have perimeter kids that can really create well for themselves, each other off the bounce, very unselfish players.
But they have got the ability to really knock down a lot of shots from that three-point line, and then you look at their post play. They are just so fundamentally sound. Again, high basketball IQ, angles, inches. I mean, that's what the game is all about and they just execute so well. Very well coached team.
Q. Often times you kind of construct your defense with an inside-out approach; is this a team that shoots the three, can you take that approach?
COACH PINGETON: Absolutely not. I think on any given night, they have some perimeter kids that can really go off on you and they don't need that much space at all. You lose them in transition, you lose them in their halfcourt sets, they do a great job with their screen.
But the thing that really stands out to me is just how high of a basketball IQ they have. They really do a great job of reading their defense. They do a great job of coming off that shoulder and really making you pay for how you defend them. And so we are going to have to really be on point and it's going to be a battle. It's going to be a hard game for us.
Q. Similar question that I had with Jordan. Your postseason play, albeit in the WNIT, do you sense that previous experience has made a difference for some of these players that have been in WNIT games and that could be applied to this year?
COACH PINGETON: You know, probably the thing that really stands out to me is you have an opportunity to play teams that maybe you wouldn't typically play during the course of the season or after SEC play, and so it's a different feel getting ready for those teams.
But certainly the NCAA, it's a very elite stage. And the WNIT does a tremendous job, but it's not the NCAA Tournament. So that tournament definitely feels different. I think it's really exciting. I think it's so important that our kids have the opportunity to experience that as we lay out the vision for our program and where we're trying to go to and continue to build our program to.
So we've talked about it a lot over the last couple years, and to have a chance to experience the setting is so important, but there are some similarities, but definitely a much bigger stage.
Q. So many players on your roster who have won state titles. When you recruit players, is that something you try to keep in mind, knowing that maybe that can help, and different setting obviously, but that big game experience?
COACH PINGETON: I think just having that winning mentality. That mentality where you expect to take the court and you expect to win. It's obviously really, really hard in our league in the SEC. It's just such a competitive league night-in, night-out, as we all know.
But kids that have that winning mentality, that they have the work ethic, the discipline that goes into preparing for great success. And so just having those kids that have that mental toughness, I think is really, really important, and certainly is important in our recruiting process.
Q. You've got four players from Rock Bridge High School, two pairs of sisters. When you've been able to take some of those players and bring them on to your program, specifically from one school, is there a comfort level you feel like some of these players gravitate to with this program?
COACH PINGETON: I think certainly from a culture standpoint, it helps a lot. There's good relationships there and they have been looking forward to playing with each other for a long time.
I think the other factor there is when you've got two younger sisters joining the team, that transition period doesn't seem to take quite as long. There are kids that grew up in our backyard that have been around our program for the last several years, even though they weren't officially students at the University of Missouri. So they come in a little bit more comfortable than I think you typically do as a freshman in college.
Q. Asked Jordan about the fouls. How much do you feel like you need her out there for a huge chunk of tomorrow night's game?
COACH PINGETON: Well, you know, Jordan is a key piece to what we do and she's so good for us on the boards. She's a great inside presence. And you know there, is a fine line there. We've got to be mindful. We've got to see how the game is being called. I think both teams initially are going to have to size each other up a little bit. And so you've got that piece of it.
But it's a 40-minute game and you can't afford to take possessions off where you don't play with great aggressiveness. So I think that balance is so important. And hopefully -- she's had a handful of games where she got in foul trouble early this year. But hopefully now in her junior year, she's learned a lot of lessons through those games where we got in foul trouble early, and she understands how to make those adjustments as we go through the game.
Q. How important do you think the matchups are going to be kind of within the game, between BYU, Jordan and their guard, like Sophie --
COACH PINGETON: I think they are going to be great. I think they are going to be great match-ups. Again I've been so impressed with that team and that roster. I think probably the one thing that they don't do is go real deep into their bench.
But I think from a matchup standpoint, you're looking at two teams that play a similar style that really like to shoot the 3-ball but have got a really good inside presence inside.
So I think from a fan standpoint, even from a coaching established point, it's going to be a competitive matchup at a number of different positions out there.
Q. Does BYU impress you because they have played a fair amount of common opponents with you guys; does that catch your attention a little bit more so and do you look at the way they have attacked SEC teams, as well?
COACH PINGETON: I think as coaches we try to break down every angle we can. But I followed that program for a while when I was an assistant coach at Iowa State. BYU came up to Ames, Iowa and we played them in the NCAA Tournament. You know, from that point on, I kind of just always watched them. I was so impressed with them then. They did something that's really hard to do: Go into Hilton Coliseum and win.
So from there, I've always just kept my eye on them. Again, I just love the way they play and probably because we play so similar. But you know, then you look at what they have been able to do, and they have beaten one of our best in the SEC, Texas A&M, and they dominated them to be honest with you. I was so impressed with the way they played them, and they have done a great job all year long in their conference play.
But I think as coaches, you look at every angle and watch as much film as you can, and you just try to find out areas that you can try to exploit, areas that you are going to have a hard time exploiting and what they might try to exploit with your team.
Q. Will you have players go out and do something? What's the approach tonight after practice? Do you do something non-basketball related to clear their minds? Do you want them in their rooms focusing? What's the approach tonight?
COACH PINGETON: I think we need to approach it -- though we have got great focus, we really do. This is, we've got to -- but our practices leading up to today have been great. I think we took five days off, which we talked about before, and kind of a long time, and I didn't know how comfortable I felt with that.
But I felt like we needed to do it and ever since we've came back, we've looked really strong, really explosive, reenergized and refocused. But they are having fun with it. So I think there's that balance.
I think part of it is you travel so much throughout the course of the season that now you're here, you're in Austin and I don't know that you really want to be out and about. I think our kids probably want to rest a little bit because they haven't had a lot of time to do that over the last couple months. We'll watch film, we'll break it down, but we'll stay pretty dialed in.
Q. I know you haven't been there all the ten years the team has not been at the tournament, but how this is year's team different than the last five you've coached that didn't make the NCAA?
COACH PINGETON: I think that's a great question. It's been a process. We took over a program that has not had a ton of history, and they haven't had a lot of late success.
So we knew when we took it over it was going to be a process. We talk about the journey a lot, brick-by-brick, and it takes a lot of perseverance for assistants, hard work. You've got to roll up your sleeves. You've got to stay dialed in.
But it's been so rewarding at the same time to see the growth of our program every year. We've made great strides on the court, and just the community support that we've had. And so I think it's been a build up. We didn't look at coming in and trying to create a quick fix.
We wanted kids that would be in our program. We recruited a couple junior college kids but for the most part, our mentality was, we were going to recruit kids that could recruit that next-year kid that could recruit that next-year kid and that's exactly what we've been able to do.
It's been a process, but to get to this point, I think you've got to acknowledge the kids that came before these kids, kids that were cornerstone players that laid the foundation, that had the work ethic, that didn't waiver in the process and they helped us recruit some of the kids that we have now.
I think the support from our administration has been outstanding. There's so many moving parts that help you create a winning program both on and off the court. We've had a ton of support from them and from our communities. It's been a brick-by-brick, a day-by-day process and finally been able to see some of the fruits of our labor pay off.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports