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March 3, 2017

Gary Blair

Taylor Cooper

Anriel Howard

Greenville, South Carolina

Texas A&M - 62, Missouri - 48

THE MODERATOR: We welcome Texas A&M.

Coach, if you would start out with an opening statement, please.

COACH BLAIR: It's good to see this many people. We finished last night, and there was only two. I'm glad y'all stayed awake and got a chance to see another great second half.

So proud of my kids. A lot of times when you coach a team that doesn't have drama on your team, excuses, they can take adjustments at halftime. When you have the senior leadership that I have from Curtyce Knox and Taylor Cooper, two kids that are in their fifth-year, they do not get rattled.

I think that's what we did in the second half. Give Missouri a lot of credit. Three wide-open threes to start the ballgame, timeout. We scratched our way back into it. Was only down three at half or one. I can't remember.

We made a couple of adjustments. Thanks to Taylor Cooper here, she suggested a play that we ran. Either put Cooper at the high post and move Danni back to the left side, because when Anriel didn't have the wide-open shot, she would pass it to Danni and set the screen. Then Danni made that shot coming right off the screen.

This is a kid that's fixing to be a coach. She knows the game. I believe this might have been her career high, if I'm looking at my sports information guy. Is that right? No, it wasn't a career high. But a career high under pressure in the SEC tournament.

You got to look at this kid probably played three or four minutes last year in the SEC tournament. The other young lady didn't start until January. Danni Williams did three points a ballgame, and she's averaging 17 now. Hillsman went from 7 to 17.

We had a team step-up and take advantage of an opportunity and get something done. Isn't that the way life is supposed to be? When your opportunity comes, are you ready?

This is why I'm so proud of this team; winning and losing can take care of itself, the improvement, to see kids move to that next level, play in the best league in the country, the SEC.

I'm hoping people across the nation got a chance to see us. Mainly, I'm hoping all those recruits across the nation got a chance to see us because I think we have something special at Texas A&M.

THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Could you talk about the job you did on Sophie?
ANRIEL HOWARD: It was a team defense. Coach Starkey did a great job telling us what defense to run when certain players were in the game. A few times we did double her. Other times we just denied her the ball pretty heavily.

We all did that, we all did our part. It worked as a team.

Q. Taylor, Sophie got the technical early in the fourth quarter. Could you tell you were under her skin a little bit?
TAYLOR COOPER: We could tell. We had two people on her the whole entire night. That was kind of our game plan, just not let her get loose.

She got loose when we played at Missouri. Just to kind of contain her. She's a great player. Those are the type of players you have to contain. You can't take them away fully.

She started to get frustrated in the second half, especially in the fourth quarter. That's kind of the turning point of the game.

Q. The second quarter, coach talked about you suggesting a play to help spark the offense. What about the defense? They only shot two of 13 in that quarter, scored four points. What was the adjustment you made to the shut them down in the third quarter?
ANRIEL HOWARD: I believe we were giving them the four shot more than the rhythm shot they're used to. Within under 10 seconds, they were throwing up shots. I think our defense was pretty effective.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, ladies.

We'll continue with questions for coach.

Q. What was the game plan for Sophie? Were you pretty happy the way the girls executed it?
COACH BLAIR: Very similar to Ronni Williams the night before. You know she's going to get her points. The first time she had 36 on us at her place. Won the game basically by herself.

But they share the ball. We made her work a little bit harder. She didn't get as many open looks as she got when she played us before. We clogged up the driving lanes. I think that had a lot to do with it.

A lot of times, every time she would drive, Hillsman would be over there to help. People don't understand that. Hillsman didn't play that well. Hillsman did fine. She's gone 31 straight games in double figures. First game she didn't. She did so much in the ballgame that goes unnoticed.

She needs a break. I know what tomorrow is going to be. 6'7", 6'5" with Mississippi State.

Here is another key stat: How many times in a major college game are you going to hold somebody to eight points in the second quarter and four points in the third quarter? We're not known as a great defensive team.

That might have been one of our best defensive efforts ever. Give Coach Starkey and my kids a lot of credit for what they did.

The other thing, only three offensive boards by them, okay? When they're shooting 40%, have that many opportunities, we only fouled 12 times. Curtyce Knox, 10 assists. Normally she's getting them to Hillsman. She was having to get them to our shooters because they were building a campfire on Hillsman. That's why the high post was open as much as it was.

Anriel started out two for eight, finished eight for 18, made all the hustle plays we had to have.

Q. What has to be different tomorrow to have a better result against Mississippi State?
COACH BLAIR: Well, we played them two good ballgames. It goes back to, can you beat them on the third time? The last time at our place, I thought we had them, but it didn't work out. They beat us by eight or ten at their place. We had a seven-point lead.

We have to do all the little things right. We have to make sure we get a lot of help down there. They take up so much space. How many times is Vivian going to have two bad ballgames in a row?

I bet she's in a gym right now shooting the basketball because she's not going to have two games in a row.

The key to their team is the two players, Morgan Williams, the point guard, who is their leader, and Dillingham, the defense that she'll put on Danni Williams. Danni is going to have to work harder than she's worked in a long time to be able to get open.

Those are the two players, the key to Mississippi State. It's what they do defensively and through leadership. Vic has done a great job with that ballclub. They wear you out inside. That's why we cannot get into the foul trouble that LSU did today, with Mitchell getting three fouls in the first five minutes. Hyder had two early on.

What we have to do is just find a way. Hey, we're on house money. We were a six seed, maybe we're a five now. Let's go for the damn four, okay? To do that we just need to keep on winning.

I'm having the time of my life. I've got another suit here. I didn't just bring one suit. I've got enough clothes. We're going to dress well. We'll win the dress-off. I don't know about the game, but I'll out-dress him.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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