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March 24, 2017

Vic Schaefer

Teaira McCowan

Dominique Dillingham

Blair Schaefer

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Mississippi State - 75, Washington - 64

THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by Mississippi State. Coach, congratulations on the win, and your thoughts about tonight's game.

COACH SCHAEFER: Thank you. I'm awfully proud of my kids tonight. They just really played extremely well. I was so proud of what they were able to take in three days from a defensive standpoint.

Wasn't rocket science, but there were some little things in there we needed to do a little differently and be concerned about I think more than anything.

That's a heck of a basketball team. Mike, as I told y'all the day before yesterday, he's a tremendous coach, one of the best. He's got an unbelievable mind for the game. What he's done with Kelsey Plum is really incredible. I mean, she's the best offensive player in the history of the game.

I said it before. It was like playing against James Harden of the Rockets. You got to really be careful about floor spacing. You got to really be careful about allowing lanes to exist. Then you can't come off of those kids that can stand out there and play HORSE and shoot it.

Our kids were special today. No question about it. Dom came in and was Dominique. She's one of the best in the country. It's a reason why she's been on the all-defenses team in the Southeastern Conference two straight years. Did really a tremendous job on Plum.

I don't know when the last time she's been held to 10-25, or 40%, whatever it was. We made her work for everything.

I thought our press wore them down a little bit. Then Teaira, I jumped on her back when we got in the locker room, because I felt like she was carrying us most of the night. Offensively she was really special down the stretch. Had that look in her eye, wanted the ball, got to her spots where she needs to get to.

Osahor was special tonight for them, as well. She's a problem. T had her hands full with her on that end, as well.

You know, you hold that team to 64 points, you're playing your guts out. It ain't like we're standing around playing hope you miss your defense.

I couldn't be prouder of our kids for their energy, their effort. We talk about being connected, having chemistry on that end. That's the piece that doesn't come early in a season. Your defensive cohesiveness and your chemistry, it's not the first thing, it's the last thing.

This group is really doing a good job right now. Again, I'm so, so proud of 'em.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach or the student-athletes.

Q. Dominique, I think we were 7-11, then y'all held 'em to 3-15, went on a run from there. What was the battle like between you and Plum? How did you feel like the defense did once y'all were able to settle in?
DOMINIQUE DILLINGHAM: Plum is just an amazing player. It was a great battle all night long. My teammates helped me out a lot. We were able to switch a lot of things, which helped me personally. My team just did a good job of sealing up the line. We had umbrella defense. Everybody was there to help. It was just a team effort, I think.

Q. Teaira, what changed for you in the fourth quarter?
TEAIRA McCOWAN: Well, during media, they told me, they said, T, you got to dominate. Just taking that in, listening to my teammates, knowing I had to step up, take my team, like, further, that's when I had the look in my eye like, Nobody can stop you. You have to do what your teammates are asking you to do.

Q. Teaira, can you give me a one, two, three, 11 straight points, block party where you have back-to-back, then taking high fives up in the stands? Rank those things one, two, three.
TEAIRA McCOWAN: I think the blocks would come first, then the points, then the high fives. No, the high fives would come first, knowing my teammates are proud of me, then the blocks, then the points.

Q. Dominique, can you put in perspective what you saw? Teaira, you watched her all season. She took over that third quarter. Can you talk about what that did for the confidence of the rest of the team.
DOMINIQUE DILLINGHAM: I think she just put us on her back, honestly. Once she got going, it's hard to stop her, honestly. She was running from transition, so she was getting a lot of rebounds since nobody was there to block her out.

Once she gets rebounding, no one is going to block her shot. It was an easy bucket for her. She was getting the out and ones. She loves that turnaround jump shot. When she gets those tips, she's money from that spot. When she's scoring for us, I think that gives us all the confidence in the world because we can go inside-out. It makes it that much easier for us guards.

Q. Dominique, talk about the second quarter. It seemed to be where you all as a team gathered yourselves. Coach talked about defense.
DOMINIQUE DILLINGHAM: I think we just finally decided we're going to lock down on defense. I think it was all about playing together. It's not about one person locking down one person, it's about the team locking down them.

I think when we decided that we were going to guard together, not let them have any easy looks, I think that's when it really started to click.

I think their first four looks were threes, made threes. For the rest of the game, I think they only made four.

Just after we got them off the line, stopped them from making threes, we were fine.

Q. Coach, your take on that.
COACH SCHAEFER: I wasn't real pleased with how we started the ballgame. I was disappointed in our energy defensively. We had a major lapse on an out of bounds play. We let the best player in the history of the game have a wide-open three. Like she said, I mean, their first four made baskets are all three-pointers. They're uncontested.

It was really frustrating because that's a focal -- that's being focused. We kind of were playing catch-up.

The second and fourth quarters were special offensively. We obviously got some things going on offense. You score 25 and 27 points in a quarter, you're doing some good things offensively.

I thought those quarters obviously were the big turning points in both the first half and the second half.

Q. Last year, couldn't get over the hump of the Sweet 16. You get to do it this year. This is the first Elite 8 in school history. What does that mean? A lot of records over the last few years. What does it mean to see your team get over another hump, get another record?
COACH SCHAEFER: Well, as you know, it's only been five short years that we've been here. The last three obviously we've been in the NCAA tournament.

To be in the Sweet 16 in your second go in the NCAAs is pretty special. This is our third now in five years, and we're in the Elite 8.

I've got a good team. I'm a little disappointed in the country right now that we're not getting the respect that these kids deserve. It's disappointing.

This is a heck of a team. We got a bunch of really good players. We've beaten a bunch of really good people.

You know, for me, I have so much pride in these girls 'cause I know how hard they work. You stick your head in one of our practices, we ain't standing around out there having water every 10 minutes, you know, getting a towel, all that. I mean, they work their tails off. They pay the price.

They're not getting a lot of credit right now. That's fine. You know what, we'll fly under the radar the whole way if we have to. These kids work awfully hard. We beat a heck of a team today.

I'll say it again, Mike is a heck of a coach. Washington is obviously a tremendous basketball team.

We believed it. We never doubted that we couldn't do it. These kids went out there and competed today and got it done.

Elite 8, third trip to NCAAs in five years, it's pretty gratifying.

Q. For the players. What does it mean for you to be part of the first Elite 8 team? What was it like in the locker room after this game?
BLAIR SCHAEFER: In the locker room after the game, we were all just really happy for each other. I feel like every game this year we've had different people step up. It's really hard to guard a team who you just don't know who to guard, honestly. That's what I feel like we have with our team. You don't know who is going to go off, you don't know what they're going to do.

I feel like we're really proud of each other. We're really proud we're working so well together. We're happy to keep this journey going.

DOMINIQUE DILLINGHAM: Like she said, we were really happy in the locker room. Just happy because we know how hard we worked to get to this point. It's a special moment for our team.

But we're not done yet. Tomorrow, it's time to get to work and focus on the next team we're playing.

TEAIRA McCOWAN: We're just earning the respect that we should get.

Q. If I figured this right, Teaira had 16 consecutive points at the start of that fourth quarter. Have you ever had one player in your coaching career do something like that, score 16 points for you? Also, we talked in the SEC tournament about her growth, how much she's grown even in this short amount of time between then and now.
COACH SCHAEFER: Right. I think maybe Tori has done it. I've emptied the playbook on Tori before, when she's making everything she's looking at.

Tonight we kind of emptied the playbook for T. We ran a lot of different things to get her down there. But we wanted to get her to her spots, where she's really comfortable. We flipped the sides of the floor midway through that run, just to give them a different look.

But, you know, T continues to grow. She's come so far, yet she's got so far to go. Her upside is out of sight. I mean, the kid can be an All-American before it's all said and done. She can dominate the game. As y'all saw tonight, she dominated the game on both ends of the floor. She was interested in dominating the game on both ends of the floor.

When I can get that out of her, it changes the dynamic of our team. That's the impact that the kid can have.

Now, if we were all going to sit out here and air out our laundry, she would tell you timeouts were not a lot of fun tonight, just because I was demanding. That's because I know what the kid can do. We needed her to step up, but we needed her to step up on both the defensive and offensive end. She'll tell you that. Our conferences in the huddle were more about defense than offense. The last thing I said coming out is what we were going to run, that would click, okay, that's for me.

The conversation in our huddle all night with Teaira was mostly about defense. You saw the impact the kid can have in a ballgame on both ends. Not many kids can do that. Not many players can have that kind of an impact like T can.

She knows. I'm not backing off. I'm going to keep coaching her, loving her, and demanding it of her.

Q. Teaira, the battle against Chantel, she came in as the nation's leading rebounder, does such a good job of putting herself between the basket and the offensive player. What did you try to do to either get around her or get position on her, especially in that stretch where you scored those 16 points?
TEAIRA McCOWAN: In practice, we work on boxing out. Long shots have long rebounds. Just putting myself in the position to either box her out and not let her get the ball, or neither one of us get it, and somebody else cleans it up.

Q. Coach, if you can, at which point in the season, either at home or on the road, did the team show, in your eyes, as you talk about day after day defensively, they looked like they were headed in the right direction?
COACH SCHAEFER: They'll tell you I've never -- I've not seen it yet (smiling). They'll tell you that I've told them at times they're one of the worst defensive teams I've coached.

It's just a level of expectation that I have. I know what's in 'em. You know, she gets six blocks tonight. There's one little person right here going, Yes, she could have been doing that all year. Why haven't you gotten that out of her all year? It's just growth for her.

I've told them at times, We just don't have it. We're just not that good defensively. Yet I know, looking at the stats, what the points-per-game number is, it's pretty good; what the turnovers caused is, it's pretty good; field goal-percentage defense, it's pretty good.

I just know what a good one looks like. I think they got it. We ain't got it yet, but the good thing is the season isn't over.

I'm still waiting. I'm going to coach them tomorrow, trying to get them to be the best defensive team I can get them to be. I'm not giving up. We're not status quo. We know that. We've worked all week on getting better. Every minute we want to get one play better.

It's a good question, though (smiling).

Q. Teaira, we were talking about the fourth quarter. When was the last time you felt like you were that dominant in a basketball game?
TEAIRA McCOWAN: A&M, when we played them at their place. About the same time in the fourth quarter, I took over, too (laughter).

COACH SCHAEFER: She had the game winner there. We took the lead. They got it back. She made the game winner there down the stretch. We went to her quite a bit down the stretch there. She was the difference.

That would probably be the last time where she was that way. Then Florida at home. She had 25 against Florida. Think she missed one shot all night. She was 11-12, or 12-13. Pretty dominant that night.

The kid has it in her. No doubt about it. Tonight she was really, really special. The challenge now is can I get that out of her back-to-back. I think that will be the challenge tomorrow, then we'll come back Sunday, you know what, we'll lay it on the line, see how it all turns out.

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations on the win. Get some rest. We'll see you tomorrow.

COACH SCHAEFER: Praise the Lord, go Dogs.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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