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March 20, 2016
COACH PINGETON: Just really excited about obviously being here today. I think we're still awfully excited about our game last night.
You know, I thought we played really well, and I thought -- I think Sophie said it the best. We got back to playing Mizzou basketball. And that's what we had seen out of our team for quite a bit throughout the season, and then we hit some speed bumps there at the end that were a little bit challenging.
But had, what we talked about just last night, a great break, came back refreshed, rejuvenated. I think our team is in a really good place and beat a really good BYU team last night.
Looking forward to the opportunity to play Texas tomorrow. Got a lot of respect for Karen and the program here at Texas, and we know it's going to be an awfully challenging task, but we're excited about making that second round of the NCAA Tournament, and we're excited about the opportunity.
Q. BYU, they were worried going that game about the physical matchups and the physical style of play. How do you think your physical style of play is going to translate with Texas?
SOPHIE CUNNINGHAM: Yeah, we haven't watched scout on them yet, but seeing them play yesterday, they have some big girls. Their guards are a little smaller, so might take some advantage over that, but haven't watched them yet, so don't really know yet.
Q. Sophie, when you have a size advantage at the guard position, what does that allow you to do if you have that size advantage at a particular position?
SOPHIE CUNNINGHAM: Yeah, I mean, post up on the block, and either get to the rim or if they give me the ball, everyone is going to collapse on me and I'm going to give it out to my shooters or pass to the other posts. Those are my options.
Q. Sophie, you twisted your ankle and stayed in the game, but how does it feel a day later and how does it feel today?
SOPHIE CUNNINGHAM: Feeling great. No, it's good. I'll be all right.
Q. Jordan, three losses in a row to end the season. What was the difference yesterday and what happened over those 18 days that led to yesterday?
JORDAN FRERICKS: Well, like coach said, we had a nice little break after those three games, and we were able to regroup, and it's nice -- mentally, physically, to regroup.
We came back really anxious and had like five great, great practices, and it was awesome just to see how our team was all working together, and we are all anxious to come play this game with BYU. We just had all the pieces together.
Really, like Coach said, Mizzou is back and we are really excited and it's just a good team collectiveness right now.
Q. How big of a lift was it that Juanita gave you guys yesterday?
JORDAN FRERICKS: Yeah, she had an awesome game. She stepped up and did a great job. She knocked down shots. She got to the rim and nailed her free throws. She had a great game.
Q. With the length of Texas, just kind of look at their roster, they have a lot of long players. Does it help that you face teams like that in the SEC maybe a little less, I guess you're a little bit more familiar with that -- does that help at all?
JORDAN FRERICKS: Yeah, definitely, we played Mississippi State, Texas A&M, and they have all got big girls. I think that's a good advantage to us to be able to play those teams early and know what it's going to be like for Texas.
I think we're ready and size isn't something that's going to hurt us.
Q. Sophie, do you treat this kind of like an away game almost, because they are going to have home-court advantage tomorrow night.
SOPHIE CUNNINGHAM: Yeah, I do think that. But then again, I thought we brought a pretty good crowd considering we are in Texas. Our bench is going to have to be crazy, because they are at home, so we are going to have to provide our own energy.
Q. One of you mentioned the SEC, Texas A&M, I think Mississippi State, is their brand of basketball more physical? Because the BYU coach talked about that at length last night. Does that get you ready for anything like this?
JORDAN FRERICKS: Well, I think just SEC in general is a pretty aggressive conference, and I think just playing in that conference gets us ready and allows us to play aggressive, as well.
Q. Anything stand out to you about Texas in particular as you watch them play in their game last night?
JORDAN FRERICKS: Well, we haven't really watched a lot of film, but from last night, I mean, they are all very talented, athletic kids. It's going to be a great match up and a good challenge, and we're excited. But haven't watched a lot of if I will many yet, so can't say a whole lot.
Q. You went up against a pretty good rebounder last night and Texas has one of their own in Boyette. How do you feel about those match-ups? Rebounding is something you've always done well, when you're going to go up against a really elite rebounder.
JORDAN FRERICKS: It's always exciting for me just to have that challenge and I think as a team, too, one of our goals was to out-rebound BYU by ten, and I think that's going to be one of our goals for Texas, too. I mean, rebounding is a big key in the game, so we're excited for that challenge.
Q. You guys have a big size advantage in the backcourt, but you don't see 6-7 every day. What kind of challenges does Imani pose that you're not used to seeing?
SOPHIE CUNNINGHAM: Mississippi State, we've seen girls that have been 6-7 and have been aggressive. So I mean, we've just got to stand our ground and be aggressive and hold them off. I mean, they are going to be big girls, and it's going to be a great challenge. We're excited.
Q. For those of us who don't cover the program very often -- what's that dynamic like to have so many family members playing together, what kind of partnership?
SOPHIE CUNNINGHAM: Yeah, a lot of people think there will be a lot of fights in the locker room just because we are all sisters but obviously that's not the case. I think having that blood-related chemistry kind of spread throughout whole team. You know, we are all sisters, and it actually helps a lot, because now we really are all sisters because it really does spread throughout the team.
Q. That's not what Lindsey said about you.
SOPHIE CUNNINGHAM: (Laughter) Hmmmm -- just kidding. (Laughter).
Q. Have you been able to do any sort of film study as a coaching staff to get a little bit more familiar with Texas?
COACH PINGETON: Yes, and it's still a work-in-progress. It's a great time of the year as a coach to be up late and watching film, and so we've still got some work to do on the scout. But we've got a really good foundation and a good base and we'll just continue to build off that over the next day and a half and make sure our kids are prepped and ready to go.
Q. What stands out to you about Texas?
COACH PINGETON: Very talented team. They have got some really talented kids in the interior. They have got some very good perimeter kids. They are really very good in transition. Just the size; we talked about SEC physical play, but I think Texas is one of those teams that's used to playing very physical, as well.
So I really do, I think it's going to be a good matchup. We'll have to be on point with our motion offense, try to draw their begs away from the basket a little bit and create some opportunities off the bounce, but there's a reason they have won as many games as they have, and I think three of their four losses come to Baylor, so they haven't lost to much this season.
They have got all the pieces, all the pieces to be a team that can compete for a championship, and so we know it's not going to be an easy task for us tomorrow, but we're excited to be in the second round and excited to see how we measure up.
Q. Similar to a team you've faced in the SEC do you feel like?
COACH PINGETON: You know, I mean, they do have that same feel. I mean, they are the Big 12. Big 12 has got a great conference. SEC, physical style of play. You look at a team like A&M or Mississippi State, I do think they resemble them quite a bit. I think to an extent, maybe even a little bit of Tennessee.
But I think that when you get to that level in those elite programs, you've got some of the best of the best on your squad and they have got a roster full of very talented players. They have got the quickness, the explosiveness on the perimeter. They have got perimeter kids that can knock down shots, create shots off the bounce. They have got the bigs inside that rebound real well. They run real well north and south and have a great inside presence.
Q. They are very balanced in their scoring. Would you rather face a team like that or more one like BYU where a lot of their points come from two kids?
COACH PINGETON: Well, you know, we're just excited to face anybody going into tomorrow. You know, I think it's a little bit easier when you can focus on one or two or three players. But you know, Texas not only has a team that's very well balanced, but they have got players that come off the bench and made great contributions, as well.
So we are going to have to play personnel and really be on point with our scout to put our players in the best position possible.
Q. Considering the way the season ended with three losses, were you pleasantly surprised by anything last night?
COACH PINGETON: Honestly, I wasn't surprised, after the last couple weeks we've had and the practices that we've had. Again, it's been a great year, it really has. But you lose a couple games and you feel like you're the only one going through that. There's a lot of great teams that stub their toe going into the postseason tournament, and you know, there's a lot of different reasons that happens.
So we played Kentucky and played them very well at Kentucky and lose by ten. Then you come home and it's your senior day and I've got a really close-knit group of young ladies and you play with so much emotion and I've been on both sides where that emotion really works well for you and where it really kind of locks you up because you want it so bad.
And Vandy is a team that's had -- they have been in a lot of games this year. Their record doesn't reflect the quality of team that they have.
And yeah, those two losses, you start to feel that you -- you start to tighten up a little bit and probably play not to lose instead of playing to win. You go play an Auburn team that's had a lot of success this year and trying to talk to your players about just because the previous two weeks, two weeks ago when you played them, you really had a dominating record.
Records go out the window in the postseason and you have to bring it again for 40 minutes. It's hard to play teams that close back-to-back.
So then you're sitting at 21-9 and it feels like you're 9-21. That's a tough pill to swallow. You're not playing your best basketball at the end of the season, and that's what we all hoped to be able to do.
So that five days off, again, it was really healthy I think for every single one of us to exhale, to get proper perspective. You come back and you talk about all the great things your team has accomplished, and all the growth that we've had again this year as a program. And then our kids just flat-out got after it in practice.
Our scout team was there, and we were able, the first time in a long time, to be able to put back-to-back to back-to-back, intense, tough, hard-nosed practices together. Once you get into SEC play, it becomes a little bit about Groundhog Day.
You don't get those two or three days where you've got to get after it in practice and we really needed that. That was good for us. And they came back with a ton of energy, a ton of bounce, and just there was a feel. There's a feel on our team that we felt like, I couldn't promise we were going to win the game against BYU but I really felt like we were going to play well. I think the way we practiced really carried over to yesterday's game.
Q. A team like Texas, one of the few flaws, they turn the ball over a good amount. When you face a team that is prone to turnovers, are you a little bit more aggressive on your ball pressure, or can you maybe back off a little bit and maybe --
COACH PINGETON: You know, our strength isn't really forcing a lot of turnovers, if you look at what we've done throughout the course of our season. And certainly, we've had other teams in our league that turn the ball over, too.
But I don't think that's our go-to is to be able to really create and stir it up with the full court. I think their guards are just so quick and so explosive and have the ability to really create in the open court, which would not be a good situation for us, because I think they are so good in transition.
So if we are a little bit better with our full court pressure, I think that's certainly something you'd like to do, but I don't know that that's our strength with the makeup of our team this year.
Q. Juanita referenced the two-on-two games that you've been playing with her. How did those come about and how is your game these days?
COACH PINGETON: My game, it's struggling, you've got to know your role. I used to be a scorer but now I'm a passer, and Juaz had the hot hand, so I kept trying to feed her the ball. We came back after five days and I think we all needed to regroup. There's so many moving parts to our team, and they are such a close-knit group. Their relationships are really, really important to all of us.
And I think sometimes just because of outside voices, we can get caught up in feeling really good about ourselves or really questioning ourselves based on how many minutes we play, how many points we score, what our rotation looks like. You know, that's unfortunate. You want your seniors to go out feeling really good about what they have done for your program and our senior class has been outstanding for us.
So really, just trying to create a little bit more energy with her and excitement and help her embrace where we're at. We talked about this, Juanita and I did, about she grew up as a kid just dreaming about going to the NCAA Tournament and at that point knowing that it was a real great opportunity and a chance that we could be living that part of our dream out. And just trying to get excited and back into it.
We've seen great signs from Juanita throughout her two years here, but I don't think consistently we've seen what we had hoped that we would see, and that girl has practiced her tail off this last week. And so I think it kind of built her confidence and maybe changed her perspective. I think she embraced the opportunity that was in front of her a little bit more instead of maybe feeling a little bit down about what her career has looked like at Mizzou. You know, so just really trying to work on that relationship piece and kind of built some excitement in her again for this last stretch.
Q. You're in obviously the Bridgeport regional. When you see UCONN do what they do night after night to beat a team 40 and 50 and more, one, do you think that's good for women's basketball, and two, how does the rest of women's basketball approach them?
COACH PINGETON: Well, I think you absolutely have to give credit to Geno and his staff and those players. That's a very elite program that's had incredible success. I think the parity in women's basketball has gotten better over the years, a lot better over the years. But you've still got, it's like there's a lot of parity and then there's UCONN. And maybe a couple other ones.
You know, how do other teams prepare for that? I have no idea, because we haven't been in that boat. But you know, it's a tall task, and he certainly has done a tremendous job with that program.
Q. Do you feel like Sophie's ankle is pretty good?
COACH PINGETON: Sophie is such a competitor, you know, maybe a twisted ankle is not going to slow her down. She plays on so much adrenaline and just passion for the game. She is a fierce competitor, but yeah, I think it was one of those tweaks. When you play as much as she does and as hard as she does, you have those here and there. But I think Sophie's mind-set is you just tape it up and let's go.
Q. How late did you stay up last night and how much was it film watching?
COACH PINGETON: I did stay up pretty late last night, although I was pretty tired. I went back to the hotel and took a shower and tried to freshen up and Wake up a little bit. But it was a pretty late night, and yes, it was film watching.
Q. How late?
COACH PINGETON: (Laughs) we're getting personal. (Laughter) I'm trying to think, last time I looked at the clock, it was probably about 1:50, yeah. And then after that, I didn't fall fast asleep by any stretch of the imagination. But what a great opportunity, like I said, as a coach, it's fun to be tired this time of the year.
Q. Your defense is so personnel-based, more so than many other teams. Does that make it more challenging on your team in these short turnarounds?
COACH PINGETON: I think they have really embraced this whole scouting report thing. We dropped games down on their iPads and we do a lot on their own just trying to watch game flow. So they have taken a lot of ownership with that.
But I think you get to this point in the season and you talk about player screens, double-staggered down screens, how you're going to defend certain screen action; they pick up on that personnel and that concept pretty quickly.
Q. Do you think maybe you can address the question I asked the players earlier, just about the family connection, the sister connection, the dynamic.
COACH PINGETON: Yeah, it's pretty unique and pretty special. So we have got one set of twins and then two sets of sisters, then a dad that coaches on the team and two of my nieces.
So it's a pretty tight-knit group. I think Sophie said it best. It's 14 sisters, it really is. They care so much about each other. We spend a lot of time just developing, building and protecting that culture in that locker room. We talk a lot about laying the bricks and building the bricks of our program, but that mortar in between is so important and we look at that as the relationships.
You know, there has never been a situation where there is any animosity between sisters or frustrations. They care about each other a lot. They want the best for each other. I would say that's 1 through 14. That's not a selfish group. That's not a group that's caught up in their minutes or starting lineups or rotations.
To them, I'll give them great credit, because that's a hard thing to do. We've asked them to do something that's really, really uncommon and for them to be so selfless, I think it speaks volumes about their character, their integrity, their ability to truly put the front of the jersey at the forefront of everything that they do and again that's not an easy thing. But they have embraced it and I think they take great pride in that.
Q. Sophie seems goofy, Jordan seems serious all the time. Have you seen their relationship change or grow throughout this season together?
COACH PINGETON: I think it's grown a lot. Jordan, she is serious but she's definitely got a silly side to her, as well, which is fun to see when that comes out. And you see the silly side of Sophie, but I tell you what, she's got a high basketball IQ, and she's awfully deceiving, because although it seems on the outside she's pretty carefree and has a free spirit, she's pretty dialed in on her goals and what she wants to get accomplished. Again, a very great young lady.
I think their relationship has grown tremendously. You look at the complexion of what our team looked like in the summer and in the fall, and Jordan was a returning all-SEC player and from on ought side standpoint people thought it was her team and you have an McDonald's All-American come in that just has such an outgoing personality, and she's got that alpha trait, and to see how those would mesh.
It's been really great. I think them going to Media Day together before we started the season was a huge step, and they knew that that relationship had to grow. The more that they could get comfortable playing with each other and understanding each other's strengths and how to read each other and play into each other's strengths would only help our team.
And so they are both great young ladies, really passionate, caring young ladies. I think it was only going to happen with time that their relationship would get stronger off and on the court.
Q. Will you and the players have any chance to do anything city-wise or is everything just basketball straight through?
COACH PINGETON: You know what, it's so hard, because on one hand, you travel, you're missing classes. We've got to take time to make sure we're taking care of our academics, and honestly, you don't want their players on their feet a lot. So the sightseeing and travel around practices, it makes it really hard.
So I don't know that there will be an opportunity. There might be a small window there and we'll talk about that this afternoon after practice. But we've been blessed, we've been able to do a lot of fun things throughout the course of the season. Typically when we travel, we want to embrace those opportunities to get out and do some sightseeing and really enjoy our time. But this is a group that is very focused when they need to be.
But outside of that, when they are watching film and we're prepping for our game, believe you me, they finds a way to enjoy themselves and have some fun. They are not lacking on a good time by any stretch of the imagination.
Q. You've mentioned a couple times building the program brick by brick. You have a chance to beat Texas on their home court. What would that say about your development?
COACH PINGETON: That would be a tremendous accomplishment for our team. Our team has said this all year long: There's not one win, one loss, that's going to define the growth of our program. And it's more about the process.
I think for us, we just want to make sure that when that final horn sounds, whatever game that is, that we go out playing with a lot of passion, a lot of grit, a lot of toughness, and leaving it all on the court. I think for all of our players, that's really what we're focused on and results will take care of themselves.
But we want to make sure we can control what we can control, and that's our focus, our energy, our toughness and making sure we are playing for the front of the jersey and making sure we're representing Missouri in a very positive light.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports