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March 5, 2017
Greenville, South Carolina
South Carolina - 59, Mississippi State - 49
THE MODERATOR: I'd like to welcome Mississippi State.
Coach, if you would start us out with an opening statement, please.
COACH SCHAEFER: Well, we're disappointed. There's no question about it. We feel like we played really well today for about 33 and a half minutes. I haven't seen the timing sheet, but I think there was a timeout at 6:39 or something like that. We may have been up 48-43. I'm not sure we scored after that, but, it was a heck of a basketball game.
We just feel like we didn't execute down the stretch. Morgan and Te both really carried us offensively today. Really put us on our backs, made some really, really tough shots, some good shots, and competed.
That's the thing, you just want them to go out there and lay it on the line. I thought our kids did that.
South Carolina is obviously very talented. I thought we had a good plan. I thought we executed extremely well, again, up until whatever time it was on the clock when they had the timeout. I thought we were really good up until that point execution-wise.
At that point we didn't make good decisions, stopped throwing the ball inside. They kind of took Mo away, switching the high-ball screen, putting a bigger person in there. That made it a little bit of a challenge for us.
Both of these kids, as the rest of the team, really put us on our back. We played hard defensively. I'm not sure how well we played. We played pretty hard defensively. Again, they're tough to guard. They spread you out, shoot the three. I thought our fives did a magnificent job on A'ja.
It always takes somebody else, when you take away somebody's best player, somebody else is going to have to step up. For them today, that was Kaela Davis. She really played extremely well.
When you force South Carolina into 17 turnovers, they don't typically turn it over very much. I think that's indicative of how hard our kids played. Again, really, really proud of our effort. Just not good enough. One of these days I'm going to walk off that court, and I'm not going to walk off when the confetti comes down. I'm going to be able to stand there and enjoy it.
Two tough losses two years in a row. I'll say this, then you can ask questions: I thought the character of our team, the character of these young ladies, was really revealed in the first five minutes of the game. When they jumped on us 10-2, to see them respond like they did, get it back to 14-13, really says a lot about our kids.
Again, I think that shows the character of these young ladies, and I'm really proud of them for that.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Morgan, can you talk about how going from 45-40, having the momentum, then it almost seemed like suddenly they were on top?
MORGAN WILLIAM: It's a game of runs. We made our run, they called a timeout, they made their run.
We had to make a run, and we didn't. That's what hurt us.
Q. Morgan, you didn't score for the final four and a half minutes in the game. What do you attribute that to?
MORGAN WILLIAM: They make shots, they look inside. Just poor execution.
Q. Teaira, you were able to contain Wilson for much of the three quarters. Seemed like in the fourth quarter she took her game up a notch.
TEAIRA McCOWAN: I made her catch it way out. With her catching it way out, she would day a power dribble in, and counter-back to the left. She is left-handed, and that's what hurt me.
Q. Morgan, with Victoria not having a big point-production game, how much did you feel the need to fill that void and elevate your game offensively today?
MORGAN WILLIAM: I mean, Teaira is our leading scorer. I know pretty much she does score for us... Everyone else, we score, but we don't score as much as her. I'm second scorer, I can step up and get some points, too. Get people in good positions, but...
Turned the ball over too much today. I think that really hurt us a lot, so... Have to take care of the ball. Had the most turnovers. Only had seven assists. That's not normal for us. Normally we have more.
Make shots, not turn the ball over.
Q. Morgan, you know you have basketball left to play. How quickly do you think you'll let yourselves get past this and focus on what's ahead?
MORGAN WILLIAM: I'm sure we'll get past it. I'm sure we'll watch film on this, learn from it. After that, on to the next game. Can't dwell on this game. There's more basketball to be played. Might see them again. We still got to keep playing.
Q. Teaira, you were visibly upset after the game. How much do you think you can use this as motivation heading into the NCAA tournament?
TEAIRA McCOWAN: This game, we played hard, but at the end of the day when we didn't execute, we didn't get to our spots, rebound. We're going to go back and watch film and learn from that.
Q. Teaira, in the fourth quarter, when the momentum swings back to South Carolina's favor, what were you trying to do to regain that momentum given what coach said about the switch defensively on Morgan, then not being able to get the ball much inside?
TEAIRA McCOWAN: We knew when they made their run, we had to make our run. With that being said, we needed time to regroup. Everybody couldn't get on the same page at the end of the game.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, ladies.
We'll continue with questions for coach.
Q. There was a point in the fourth quarter when you tried to settle Morgan down. She was being really aggressive and needed to be aggressive, but how much do you think that just epitomized things?
COACH SCHAEFER: I mean, I just think kids are trying their hardest. Those kids really competed and wanted to win today. Morgan tried to put us on her back there in the second half and carry us in victory. For a long time there, she did, same thing with Teaira.
When you're leading scorer is not doing well, hadn't played well now in a while, we've been having some other kids step up. We didn't have anybody else to step up tonight. We basically had Teaira went 6-12, Mo went 7-13. Nobody else did anything statistically speaking.
I thought we settled early in the game. That's what got us behind. I thought we settled late.
This is a big-people game. You got to play like big people. You have to go in there like a big person, jump up, make big-time shots. You can't dodge contact.
We didn't get to the line but seven times today. That's our fault. We just were not the aggressive team that we've been, and that's disappointing. It's on every chalkboard every time I talk about a game plan, it is aggressiveness, attack.
You have to give South Carolina credit. Those guards take that away from you a little bit. You let them stand out there and take you sideline to sideline, which is what you're supposed to do. It can kind of bother you a little bit.
We forced 17 turnovers today. That's hard to do against South Carolina and a Dawn Staley-coached team. We have 14. Mo had seven of them. That's uncharacteristic of Mo. She's just trying too much. I thought her and Tori both, just trying way too hard.
But I love 'em for that. I love 'em for the fact that they just care so deeply about their team and their teammates and they want to win. That's what makes them special. That's what makes them great players.
Q. You referenced Tori trying to do too much or trying too hard. Is there anything now, when you get back to campus, that you talk to her about?
COACH SCHAEFER: Yeah, I think you get in the gym. You get in the gym, you shoot. You got to get shots up, bottom line.
I know when I'm playing golf, I'm not playing well, got to spend some time on the range. That usually fixes it.
She's got to spend time on the range. She's got to get in the gym and shoot. We had some other kids didn't shoot well tonight either. So I think when you've been here since Wednesday, your time is so limited to do those things, skill sessions. You're always getting ready for the next game. It's hard.
This will give us a chance. Next week they'll get two, three days off. We got to get back, get in school. Give them a chance to kind of recoup. They'll be fine. They'll be fine.
Q. Victoria checked out of the game about six minutes in the first quarter, which is early for her in games.
COACH SCHAEFER: Might have been earlier than that.
Q. What was the thought process? Get her going, come off the bench later? What was your thought there?
COACH SCHAEFER: I think my thought was, I wasn't real pleased with how she was playing defensively. I thought she had settled early for a couple shots that we don't need to settle for. You can get those shots with 10 seconds.
I was more disappointed in our transition defense, just her attention defensively more than anything, just felt like, hey, we needed to get her attention. We pulled her out, and we made a run. That's happened a lot this year when I've either made a substitution, got her out, she's in foul trouble, we've made a run.
Our kids really responded. I was proud of our bench today. I thought our bench was special, again. 19-8 in bench points. Good thing I got a bench. Would have only had 30 points.
Q. Teaira is still a pretty young player.
COACH SCHAEFER: Yeah.
Q. Can you address how important this tournament was for her going forward? How much confidence is she building going into the NCAA tournament?
COACH SCHAEFER: I hope she's got a lot of confidence. She went up against the Player of the Year today. I thought she was just fantastic with her.
When you're young, it seems like your post players are the last ones to develop, the last ones to mature. The faster she matures, the faster she's going to develop.
Tea has some really good days. When she does, man, you can just see the potential that is within her, what she can become. That's what I coach and live for every day with her, is to see that kid every day.
Y'all saw it today. The kid can really impact a basketball game on both ends. If she ever gets it, she's going to do this a long time.
Q. Coach, with Victoria, she scores the last five of the second quarter. You go to her right off the bat at the start of the third. You hope or think, if you're a Mississippi State person, she's going to get going. He only scores two points the rest of the way. Was she not involved enough offensively? Did they take her away?
COACH SCHAEFER: I think they were there on the catch with her a lot. Ro didn't shoot it when she felt crowded, whereas Tori sometimes will shoot it anyway.
But they were there. They're chasing hard, defending. They're a good defensive team. When they're there on the catch, then it becomes you got to go create your shot.
There toward the end of the second quarter, she caught it down there on the right side of the baseline and attacked. That's what you got to do. When people are running at you, you can't settle and try to make some miracle three-pointer. You got to catch it square and attack pressure with pressure. That's the piece that I've struggled with her with sometimes. She gets it, and some nights is a struggle.
Tonight early she didn't. She changed and got it. Then she was back to not doing it there late, but you have to give her space. I thought we ran some sets for her to give her space. You have to give South Carolina credit. She gets everybody's best defender, best defensive game plan. The kid is still averaging 18 a night in the best league in the country against the best players in the country.
She went up against some good teams here. She'll learn and grow from it, but I have all the confidence in the world in Victoria Vivians.
Q. Kentucky this year, South Carolina this year, South Carolina last year, today. Is there a train of thought in those games, execution at critical points, how much do you hope that streak ends at four, that you learn to better execute in the fourth quarter?
COACH SCHAEFER: We talked about that in the locker room after. We're going to be in this game again, whether it's two weeks or three weeks. We've got to learn the importance of execution down the stretch.
I thought, against LSU, we executed down the stretch. With that many empty possessions, when you score 33 points... I thought there was some great execution that night. I thought we had great execution earlier in the year, Iowa State, USC, on-the-road games.
We've done some good stuff. We played Texas A&M at home. They made a run, cut it to five. We executed down the stretch.
It wasn't for lack of trying. We certainly will go back and look at the film and will address the things. I think we turned down some post entries that for whatever reason we didn't feel comfortable making. Again, you have to give South Carolina credit. They're a really good defensive team. They are handy, long, physical, all that. They don't go away.
I'll bet you they say the same thing about my kids. We don't go away. That's what makes a game like this a 59-49 game. It's a knock-down, drag-out, physical basketball game.
You know what, if you would have told me it was going to be 59-49, I would have probably said, We'll have a good chance to win that number. I sure didn't want it to be 95-88. I didn't feel like that was a good situation for us.
That being said, we certainly will learn. Our kids understand the importance of executing, though.
Q. You had a great performance from your point guard. Talk about Ty Harris for them as a freshman.
COACH SCHAEFER: They decided they were going to let her run their offense, not have to go against Morgan. We had Morgan over on Cuevas.
Ty did a great job. Didn't she hit the big shot late? If I'm not mistaken, she hit a big three when the clock was going down.
Again, you got to have kids that want to be in the moment. I've seen her do it on film before. That was a big shot for them. That gave them the breathing room they needed. I thought she was really, really special. Five assists, four turnovers, a freshman playing 35 minutes in a conference tournament championship game, That shows you the level of confidence that Dawn has in her.
When you have a freshman point guard playing that many minutes in any game, whether it's in November, a three-name directional school game, or the conference championship game in March, that's pretty big.
I'm sure that kid feels pretty good about herself knowing that her head coach feels that way about her.
Golly, got to see her for three more years. That's not a good thought either. But, yeah, the kid is special. She's got a presence about her. You want point guards to have a presence. Your great players have a presence about them. Certainly she's got that. Functioned very well today in the moment.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.
COACH SCHAEFER: Praise the Lord and go Dogs.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports