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March 25, 2017
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Mississippi State. Coach, your thoughts.
COACH SCHAEFER: It's a great day to be a Bulldog. Really excited about the opportunity in front of us tomorrow. Again, awfully proud of my team.
Just to rehash with Washington, how good they are, how well-coached they are. It was a tremendous victory for us.
Proud of our second and fourth quarters. I thought those were big for us. I thought our conditioning, just our physical presence, really took over.
Looking ahead to Baylor, obviously extremely talented, well-coached basketball team. I've known Coach Mulkey a long time. Had a little bit of experience dealing with her teams. This team is no different.
They are big, strong, physical. They were even more impressive -- I told the kids this morning in film, I don't watch a lot of film, I don't watch a lot of games during the season, of people outside of our league. But for some reason, it worked out, I know I saw them more than anyone else outside of our conference.
Seeing them yesterday in person was really impressive. Again, it's kind of like the old days. Some of y'all haven't been around long enough to know. In the old days, you could have one in-person off-campus scouting of opponents. Today the rules don't allow that. In the old days you could do that one time.
When you scout in person, the thing that the film doesn't show is quickness, speed, how truly big someone is. Yesterday I got that up close and in person.
We're excited. We've had a good film skull session this morning with our team. We're excited about the opportunity. Again, I think our league hopefully prepares us for this moment. I think our kids are excited about the opportunity in front of us.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for our student-athletes.
Q. Teaira, when you look at Baylor, if you've had a chance to see much of them, what stands out to you about their interior players?
TEAIRA McCOWAN: Well, they're all tall. They're a very tall team. Just going in guarding them, like we have smaller guards, but I think it will be a good matchup.
Q. Teaira, Coach Schaefer mentioned yesterday trying to bottle up that performance and get back-to-back big performances out of you. What are you doing to try to prepare yourself to come out with the same kind of intensity as yesterday?
TEAIRA McCOWAN: It's nothing that I don't do on an everyday basis in practice. Just put myself in that situation. Just telling myself you have to go out, have another good game, put two good games back-to-back.
Q. Dom, can you describe the different challenge of facing, like Teaira just said, a team with as much size as they have in the post, in the backcourt, how that's going to be different from the last two?
DOMINIQUE DILLINGHAM: Last game at Washington, they didn't have as big of a post player as we do in Osahor. She could step away from the basket, hit the three. DePaul, they could step away from the basket, hit the basket.
Baylor, they're more pound it in, inside. We prepared for this all year. We played South Carolina twice already. I feel like they're very similar to South Carolina. I think we're prepared. We'll have a good game plan.
Q. Victoria, how long can you celebrate yesterday, and how quickly do you have to get ready for a team like Baylor?
VICTORIA VIVIANS: I feel like we celebrated all night last night. This morning, we focused on Baylor now. We started with film. Now we just got to go to practice and put what the coach says in.
Q. Morgan, Dom just mentioned the South Carolina comparison, which is a pretty strong comparison. You played them three times. They have the big guards, the big women inside. Talk specifically about that guard matchup. Baylor has a lot of guards. Is that similar to what you faced when you went against South Carolina?
MORGAN WILLIAM: Yeah, pretty much every opponent I face is pretty much bigger than me, so... I just feel like we got to play tough, physical and aggressive, like Coach Schaefer always tells us. We just got to play our game plan, pressure the ball, make sure they not getting no easy looks.
Q. This program, this team in particular, seems to thrive on the underdog mentality. Coach was talking about how y'all deserved a little more respect. What was y'all's thoughts going into the game last night when you see experts picking Washington? What was y'all's thoughts? How do you feel like you guys have thrived under that?
DOMINIQUE DILLINGHAM: I believe we were the higher seed, so we believed we should win. I believe with Coach Schaefer that we don't get the respect that we should. We've worked so hard to be here. I don't think we get the credit we deserve sometimes. We've beaten a lot of great teams already this year. We're going to try to beat another great team on Sunday.
Q. Dom, anything different about this year's training and conditioning program? Why has it been so successful?
DOMINIQUE DILLINGHAM: We have a new strength coach this year, Coach Harvey. I think he's practically pushed us to our limits, past our limits. I think he gets the best out of us. He knows us. He's very personable with us. I think he knows how to get everything out of us.
He's really just been great with us this year. Our practices, like Coach Schaefer said yesterday, we're not sitting around every eight, ten minutes getting water. Our infrastructures are very fast-paced. Play a game every day. It's called Bulldog. We play multiple times a day. It's a really fast-paced game. If you're not in shape, you're not going to be able to play.
Practice really helps with our conditioning.
Q. Teaira, have you ever gone against anybody else that's 6'7" like you are? How do you see that matchup unfolding tomorrow?
TEAIRA McCOWAN: I don't think I have. Well, I played against Kalani in AAU one summer. That's the last time I played against her. That's probably the last time.
But Asia, I played against Asia. She's kind of my size.
I think it's just going to be size going against size. It's going to be a great matchup.
Q. Breanna, defensive theme. What is the challenge for the threes and the fours to try to negate some of the size that Baylor is going to bring?
BREANNA RICHARDSON: I think for us, the main thing is a high-level matchup. With us to help Teaira and the bigs out, we just denying the high post. We might give her a couple of shots. Other than that, we're defending her off the bounce. We deny high/low, it should shut most of their stuff down.
Q. Teaira, was Baylor part of your recruiting process at all? Who was it for you, Mississippi State and other finalists?
TEAIRA McCOWAN: Baylor recruited me a lot in high school. Like, they were on me hard. I had to look at how many bigs they had, like, what all was said there.
I just came to where I thought I would be best fit and could contribute to the team.
THE MODERATOR: Ladies, we'll let you return to the locker room. Have a good practice, and good luck. We'll take questions for Coach now.
Q. I'm looking at Victoria Vivians' stats for the season. The thought process behind her not being a starter at this point in the season, how that works for you. Looks like it is working for you.
COACH SCHAEFER: Well, it's not just her. We've shuffled our lineup here in the NCAA tournament a little bit. I think it's really worked well for us. We've had some kids step up. We actually rolled four new starters out in our regional.
Morgan was the only one that remained. Teaira was the sixth Player of the Year coming off the bench in the Southeastern Conference. I've been starting Roshunda Johnson, Blair Schaefer, and Ketara Chapel at two, three and four. Been bringing Victoria and Dom and Bre off the bench.
The switch with Teaira and Chinwe really was Chinwe has been getting in foul trouble early. I thought maybe she would relax a little bit coming off the bench. Teaira has earned the right to start. She's had a heck of a year.
I didn't want to put her in the starting lineup in the middle of conference 'cause, number one, it was working. Number two, I wanted her to be the sixth Player of the Year in the league. That was a goal for her. About halfway through the year, she deserved to start. She never said anything, but you want to be honest with your kids. I was honest with her. I said, Hey, you're outplaying Chi right now. Let's keep it the way it is. Go win the sixth Player of the Year award. She kind of lit up. That was kind of a goal for her.
For young kids, sometimes that's what they need. They need a vision. They need someone to point 'em in the right direction. She went and got it.
These other three, it's just been something that's worked. Who is to say that is going to be what we'll be tomorrow. The unknown has kind of worked for us the last couple weeks. I'm not going to change the unknown right now.
Q. With all the talk about Baylor's size, I'm not sure if it gets lost in the shuffle, but one player who is not talked about as much is Nina Davis. She was conference Player of the Year. What kind of challenge does she present when she's not the focal point of a team?
COACH SCHAEFER: I can tell you, we talked at length morning about Nina Davis. I'm very familiar with her, her accomplishments.
We're having to deal with a great team that has size. I think that's the best way we can do it. I think y'all picked the size piece this morning. We addressed it.
As for the coach, Baylor's a great basketball team. Tremendous leadership at point. Big, long two guard that can rise up and shoot it over the top of you. Athleticism everywhere.
But size and strength certainly stands out. Again, when you're sitting there press row last night, at one point they rolled out 6'7", 6'5", like we have, but we don't play ours together. They do. Then they had Nina Davis at the three.
Really obviously a tremendous basketball team that's highly skilled, well coached. There's a reason why they're a No. 1 seed. Been in the top four all year.
That being said, in film this morning, it wasn't about size, it was about everything. There's probably not enough time in the day to deal with all that.
Q. Coach, your daughter averages five points for the season, but is averaging 16 in the NCAA tournament. What has clicked?
COACH SCHAEFER: Well, Coach is playing her a little bit more. That's probably helped a little bit.
You know, I think for her, it's just -- she has seized the moment. I watch her and Roshunda every day. They have great chemistry together, playing together, in that game we call Bulldog. When I insert both those kids in the starting lineup, I've been looking at that all year long.
Again, the media is caught up in who is out there when we're jumping center. I'm caught up with who is out there during the course of a ballgame, who is on the floor when it's really important, compared to when there's 20 minutes in the first quarter, 10 minutes in the first quarter.
For her, again, she's prepared all her life for this moment. There's no moment too big for her. She's shooting the ball well. If y'all want to start trying to figure things out, figure out that this time of year, it's about getting hot.
I got 13 players, really good players. Some of 'em are hot right now. It's my job to play those that are hot. She's making shots. She took a couple bad shots last night, but it's 'cause she's trying.
Nobody wants to win more than her. She's a competitor. She's tough. Step in front of a freight train and take a charge. She's my best help-side defender. Brings a lot to the table. Probably best thing she does is she sets good screens. If anybody is paying attention to what she does, she is a hell of a screener. Tough.
There's a lot of reasons to play her right now. Again, I think it's a kid coming of age, maturing. Even though physically she might not look as imposing as some others, she's smart. She's always a half a step ahead in her brain, in her mind. That's what you got to be when you're only 5'6" playing at this level. You better have something else going for you.
Right now she's got a pretty good shot and she's smart.
Q. Vic, back to what I asked about the underdog mentality. Is that something that you harp on with some of these players? Morgan might not be bigger than some of the girls she's up against. Jazz talked about the other day she has a chip on her shoulder. Is that something you harp on with this group, that not many people expect them to go as far as they've made it?
COACH SCHAEFER: You know, not really, to be honest with you. I was a little disappointed last night. I think everybody in the room got my message. We finished second in the Southeastern Conference and played for two SEC Championships. I think the lack of respect I feel like our team got, it's also kind of a slap in the face on our league.
Our league is a monster of a league, as y'all know that's covered us. It's more of standing up for my league, standing up for the second-place team in our league, a team that played for two SEC Championships within a week, has played for three SEC Championships in the last two years.
Sometimes these people that are picking people, they hadn't seen us play. They don't know anything about our kids. They don't know anything about what we do or how we do it.
What's important to me is what's in our locker room. It's not what you do, but how you do it that separates yourself from the rest of the country.
I don't really talk to these kids about that. I think, you know, kids, they're all about social media. I don't have to tell them too many things that they don't already know. I think they saw it before I did, to be honest with you. Somebody had to tell me who picked who. I could give a rat's you know what. Doesn't matter to me.
I'm just going to get these kids ready. You tell me who we're playing, when and where, we're going to be there. That's how I feel about it.
I think throughout the course of our season, it prepares us. You better have that kind of mentality, because if you don't, you'll never get to this point, dealing with the monsters we got to deal with in our league. I mean, it's just a heck of a league.
Q. Vic, in building this program as quickly as you have, obviously your need to recruit talent, but what were you looking for? What made you say, This is a girl I need to get? What kind of qualities?
COACH SCHAEFER: Well, again, I think if you see us play, we talk about being a tough, physical, aggressive basketball team. That doesn't say anything about your jump shot.
Two kids transformed our team in a really short period of time. Let me back up.
The senior class that I have is the all-time winningest class in the history of the program. They'll go down as the four best players to ever play there. Dominique Dillingham and Savannah Carter, a junior college kid, I recruited those kids not because of their jump shot, I recruited them because of their toughness and their competitive spirit.
The little team that I inherited when I got there in 2012, it's what we were missing. That first year, when we went 13-17, I knew that was coming down the pike. We didn't recruit anybody. When we took the job in April, we didn't add anybody to the team. We took those kids that we inherited, we coached them just as hard and just as tough that we're coaching these kids.
Those kids made a commitment to change. I give those kids a lot of credit. But when we were recruiting, we had to recruit the competitive spirit. We had to recruit a toughness, because we just didn't have any.
Again, to survive in our league at this level, you better have some toughness to you. You better be competitive. If you're not competitive, you got no chance. You'll be gobbled up and spit out. It's just the way it is.
So that was a piece we had to have. Those two kids changed practices. They brought it every day. So then, with those two kids, that whole first class with Bre and Ketara added to it, Chinwe, they kind of transformed what it looks like today. But the next class was the same way: tough, physical, aggressive, but skilled.
Remember, that was a top-20 class with Victoria, Blair, Morgan. That was a real competitive class that had a skill set. Then every class after that I think has had both.
Again, if you're going to live at this level, you've got to recruit, not only tough, physical, aggressive kids, but they have to have a skill set. You can't function one-dimensional. We got too many good coaches. They'll just take that away, then you'll be miserable because you can't do anything.
I think that's the piece that we've been able to do at Mississippi State and kind of change our program.
Q. Coach, this game called Bulldog keeps coming up. How does it work?
COACH SCHAEFER: So there's 24 seconds on the shot clock. You play for four minutes. There's 24 seconds on the shot clock. We don't call a lot of fouls, except for the obvious.
Whenever you score, you're trying to score as fast as you can. Whatever's on the shot clock, that's how many points you get. So if you get an offensive board and a stick-back, you might get 23 points, okay? If the other team scores, you get it in, streak down the floor and score with 18 seconds, you get 18 points.
That's the game that we're playing. I mean, we're pressing. Both teams are pressing. We're picking up full court. It's one of these (indicating back and forth).
Just like last night, we get down 7 in the first half, but these kids have been down 77 in Bulldog and come back to win.
What you guys haven't seen, what I'm telling you, we have a maroon and gray team. The gray team, by the way, has been starting lately. The gray team has been beating the maroon team for about two weeks, more often than not.
Everybody in the media wants to know, Gosh, how do you all of a sudden flip the switch, play these kids? I've been watching them kick their butt for two weeks. At some point, you know what, they've earned the right.
So that's the piece that you don't see. But that's, in essence, the game of Bulldog. You're trying to score as fast and as quick as you can, get up and down, really have a fast-paced tempo.
I think you saw last night in the second and fourth quarter, tempo, we got down, tempo got sped up. We started playing good. We start doing some good things.
Q. Vic, depth and conditioning have been a big reason why you're here. Baylor is very similar in that regard. Got me thinking about, what has been Anthony's role? Why did you go with him? He has had a lot of credentials. What has he implemented that's been different this year?
COACH SCHAEFER: It's the first strength coach we've been able to hire strictly for women's basketball at Mississippi State. Obviously he came from the NBA, worked for the Detroit Pistons. Had been with the Orlando Magic. He had some experience at a pretty high level.
He really wanted the job. He wanted to get back into college athletics. Took a pay cut to get into college athletics. That says volumes about him personally, his involvement, his investment in our program.
He's a stickler. He wants the kids to send him pictures of what they're eating. He's on 'em when he knows they're not eating right. Which, you know what, our kids don't eat right. I wish I could sit up here and brag about how good they eat. But they're kids. They like to eat junk. They like to eat fast food.
You know what, 10 to 15 years ago, I'd have probably been right there with him complaining. But at the end of the day, as I get older, I've kind of -- our football coach at Mississippi State, pregame meal for our football team, he doesn't care what they eat as long as they eat. If they want burgers, give them burgers. If they want wings, give 'em wings.
You know what, if you're going to put a piece of grilled chicken in front of somebody and a dry baked potato and green beans and they look at it and go, Huh-uh, I'd rather them eat the burger and fries. If the kid doesn't want it, they're not going to eat it.
I've changed. I'm proud of myself. 20 years ago I'd have been shoving that dry chicken in front of them and making them eat that. I think that's good. I think you've got to adapt to kids.
He's been good in that regard. You know, he pays attention. It's been good.
I think what they probably would tell you, too, is our practices, even though we're really intense and go really hard, we probably aren't going as long as I have in the past.
Again, maybe that's me getting a little older and a little wiser, I don't know. Maybe that's me getting soft. That's how I feel about it. At the end of the day we're 32-4. Maybe I need to soften up.
Q. Coach, you had a chance to visit with one of your former players last night. She said you have made an impact in her life; that she would not be where she is today. To get a chance to visit with someone like that from more than 25 years, what does that say about the journey that you've been on, even though you might have grown a little soft, that you've still made an impression on someone from that far back?
COACH SCHAEFER: Yeah, it was really special to see Jennifer here. Y'all don't know this, but in 1990, when I got my first head coaching job at Sam Houston State, I'd never been a women's coach. I had coached women's tennis at Milby High School in Houston, Texas. That was the extent of my experience coaching women. I'd been a freshmen boys high school coach. Coached the first ninth grade boys team that ever went to campus in HISD at Milby. Had been an assistant at Sam Houston State from '87 to '89, then went back to Milby as the freshman boys coach.
In 1990 when I got the job at Sam Houston State, there were three kids on the team, I didn't have the first contact or know where to find the first basketball player. I recruited Jennifer out of the newspaper. She was All-Greater Houston, in Houston, Texas. That's where I found her name.
To see her at the game last night, to know she just got on an airplane with her son and flew up here to watch us play. She stopped by Starkville four years ago. She was in the area working. But that's pretty special.
Back then, y'all, I was a young guy that was pretty naÃ¯ve, too, to what I was doing, in understanding the importance of what I was doing. I probably wasn't the easiest guy to play for.
I give her a lot of credit. I give all those kids a lot of credit. I'm a lot different today, have a much greater appreciation for where I am, what I'm doing, who I'm doing it with.
You know, Jennifer, for her to say that, that's awfully kind. She's pretty successful. I'm proud of her for that, so... Thanks for bringing that up. I'll try to get out of here without crying.
THE MODERATOR: We're going to let you go at any time.
COACH SCHAEFER: I don't have practice till 12. Anybody got anything else?
Q. Coach, historically the best players in the state of Mississippi went out of state for their college basketball careers. How have you been able to change that?
COACH SCHAEFER: You know, I think the thing that most impresses me about our state is we have so many good people, good families. It's a down-to-earth, hard-working state.
I think those kids and their families realize, they don't have to go somewhere else to play top-10 basketball. They can come right to Mississippi State. They know their kids are going to be well taken care of. They could put their head on a pillow at night, close their eyes, go, Coach Schaefer and his staff are going to take good care of my baby. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter how old those girls get, they're always going to be somebody's baby.
I have a tremendous staff. We take great pride in making sure we are taking good care of these kids. It's not just about basketball. My staff is the best. I have great role models for these young ladies. When they come down the hall every day, sign my door, which they have to, outside of basketball, I want to see them outside of a practice uniform.
When they come sign my door every day, they have to walk by three full-time assistant coaches' doors. They get to see firsthand what a professional looks like, how they act, how they talk on the phone, how they dress. These are things to me that are very important in today's world. They're a great role model for our young ladies.
So I think that's what it is. I think we've done a good job of closing the borders and keeping those kids at State.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, we're going to let you go now.
COACH SCHAEFER: Thank you. Praise the Lord and go Dogs.
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