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March 25, 2016

Kim Mulkey

Dallas, Texas

THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by Coach Kim Mulkey from Baylor. Coach, you are not going to do an opening statement?

KIM MULKEY: That's correct.

Q. Kim, I asked your players this in Waco but wanted to get your thoughts, is your team playing its best basketball right now coming into the Regional?

Q. Could you elaborate?
KIM MULKEY: Honestly, Chuck, I thought after the Oklahoma State loss the first game of conference I saw a team that got better and better and better. Johnson I think the depth of our team has made us better Niya Johnson I'm quick to take one out and give another one a shot, because I'm that confident in the nine players that averaged double figures for us, and I think that kept us on our toes. I think it keeps us focused.

Obviously the loss kept us focussed, but I've never walked off a court where I thought our team didn't improve this year. That's hard sometimes to say.

Q. Kim, your team has had some good moments and bad moments in this building. Is there anything left to experience having been in this building for your program? I don't think any of the other teams have been.
KIM MULKEY: I don't think so. I think the only thing you will notice is the fans, the proximity to Waco will allow us to have more fans than anybody, but last time I checked the average age of our fans, I don't think they will be able to pass it, shoot it or dribble it for us, so it's not really going to matter.

It's what takes place on that court and all four teams that are here are good or they wouldn't be here. I think that Florida State and Baylor's offensive philosophies are very similar. Then you've dot DePaul and Oregon State who are a lot different than Baylor and Florida State.

So I think you're going to see great basketball. I'm glad it's in Dallas and glad for what the Final Four is going to be hosted here and we are certainly glad to be here.

Q. Kim, you talked about having nine starters, for the most part you knew what most of those were going to do, but are Kalani and Beatrice the X-factor in terms of where they have developed from the start of the season till now?
KIM MULKEY: Well, they're a factor. I don't know if they're the X-factor. I think Alexis Jones could be the X-factor because we knew how talented she was. All of us that live around here watched her grow up but she was coming off two knee surgeries and she just had to be patient and get to the point that she is now.

The improvement of Kalani and Beatrice starts with what they brought to the table initially. Those two young ladies had the luxury of having -- Beatrice had an outstanding high school program and high school coach who taught her things that I can't take credit for.

Then Kalani's mom and dad, you know, I coached her mom at Louisiana Tech and her mother coached her as an assistant in high school, she sent Kalani to us with a lot of things freshmen don't have. Now, what we did is take those things and make 'em better.

Part of it is the intensity, the focus, the passion, with which you have to play for a long period of time at this level. I think that was probably their biggest adjustment. Then defensively, they've never had to do anything but play behind people and block shots. Now they're getting better on the defensive end of the floor.

Q. Coach, with the team that's here and in the past, opponents like to take away your size by trying to crash the paint, leaving some things open at the perimeter and you guys have taken advantage of that by becoming a very good 3-point-shooting team, I know Alexis in her last five games is close to 50%. Talk about how much your team has evolved as a perimeter-shooting team because of teams trying to take away your size in the paint?
KIM MULKEY: Mitch, my philosophy, I'm old school. You've gotta have post players and the teams that don't think we can shoot the three-ball are learning why would I jack up a bunch of threes if I've got 6-7 and 6-5 in the paint. We can shoot the three. Prince can shoot it. Jones can shoot it. Niya can shoot it. But you don't have to when you have size in there.

That's not a fluke. If you look at our stats throughout the year, we distribute it pretty evenly. You look at scoring, other than Nina David and Alexis Jones averaging in double figures, I mean, it doesn't drop off a whole lot from those nine players. Look at the rebounding. We've remained consistent rebounding the ball and they're all getting their share of rebounds even when we go small on the perimeter. You take Prince out who is 6-2 and go with Wallace who is 5-9 and Wallace and Jones will get in there and rebound with the best of 'em.

Q. Kim, some teams might have slugged off that first loss in conference play. Looked like your players and you took it personally and to heart. Talk about did that galvanize this team going forward? What kind of affect did it have?
KIM MULKEY: I definitely think it had an affect. We didn't play Niya Johnson in that game. She could have played but she tweaked her ankle right before Christmas and it wasn't like a sprained ankle; it was a bone bruise. And I told the trainer if she limps down the floor she is not playing. And after the game, after we lost, Niya took it harder than anybody, she was crying, was extremely upset, felt she let her team down. But one of the things I remember is the freshman was in shock at her tears. She was like, it's just one game.

So I think when a freshman says that, they learned real quick it's not just one game, that one loss could have cost you the conference championship. So I think it did allow the freshmen to understand, oh boy, and focus on the next game and focus on the next game. We couldn't look at the big picture from that first game when we were defeated. We had to look at the next game and I think it got, especially the freshmen, I think it got their attention.

Q. Kim, as we've talked about the size of your team, what about what they bring inside, they have a 6-4 center, the senior in there and a 6-5 girl in there, talk about the challenges they present with what they've got?
KIM MULKEY: I don't know about 6-5 unless you're talking about James. I know Adut. We recruited her. She shoots as many threes as she does posting up inside and that's a difficult match-up. Obviously with her athleticism she is a tremendous rebounder. We're very familiar with Leticia Romero. She is the kid that transferred from Kansas State to them and Adut was a transfer from Trinity Valley, but they're kinda small inside. If you look at Thomas who leaps out of the gym, dunks it, takes most of her shots in the paint area, so it kinda reminds you of an undersized post player like we have with Nina. Florida can play inside for them, look at their perimeter, they're shooting the three-ball, they will score at all positions, look at their stats they score like we do in many positions.

I think it will be a very entertaining game offensively, and I hope that our defense is just a tad better than them. I looked at field goal percentage defense, both teams, and I think we were third in field goal percentage defense on the NCAA stats and you need to look I think they were 111th, but I'm not positive about them, but we pride ourselves on our defense.

Q. You've been a part of two National Championships, had great success. We heard about how the players react when they've lost in the postseason or earlier this year. How do you take those losses and react and feed you?
KIM MULKEY: Well, I remember when I first got the job at Baylor. I actually, before we played Texas Tech, Marcia Sharp came to see me before the game and we sat and talked and I asked her, I said, Marsha, how do you do this for this long of a period of time? These losses eat on me and I said I can't stay in it forever, I want to live. And she laughed and she said, Kim, the older you get, the learn how to manage that better. And she is exactly right. You learn how to manage it better. You never lose your fire. You never -- losses you're always thinking about what could I have done differently as a coach. But you learn to manage it a little better. You can't dwell on it, because you've got to move to the next game and she was absolutely right. I remember my first loss at Baylor and I thought, oh this business isn't for me! But you do, you get motivated by it, you keep that fire in your belly and you just keep coaching.

Q. Nina's numbers are down probably because of the balance you have and you have more inside threats, but the fact that she has kind of accepted that situation as well, what does that say about Nina?
KIM MULKEY: Chuck, not only that, she had to play the three for us this year. She doesn't care. She wants to be part of a winning program. She wants to get to the Final Four. She is a team player. She played the three pretty much the whole first half of the season.

And her numbers, I don't have to call her numbers much anymore and when you play as many people as we play, I think her numbers are comparable to what she has done in the past based on minutes played and how we're sharing the basketball with a lot, a lot of people. Nina has to guard on the perimeter some. She has to guard bigger players. She is just a young lady that -- she just loves the game.

Q. Kim, as we know and you've mentioned it, this will be the sight of the Final Four next year and you have a team that has talent and I know you're looking at this game, but did you want them to absorb the atmosphere and get used to this and maybe use this as a stepping stone for next year?
KIM MULKEY: I just want them to win a ball game on a big stage. If the atmosphere is great and they remember it and how it feels, then great, enjoy it! But when we go on the floor I want them to do what they've been doing. It's a bigger stage now. The competition is going to be a little bit better every step of the way. So a lot of 'em have been on this stage and it's the young ones that have not, but I anticipate that they'll be excited and they should be and go play.

THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you very much.

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