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March 25, 2017
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by Baylor. We'll go straight to questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Nina, can you talk about how the offense has evolved, is different from last season, how you guys have broken up the shot disparities, because the numbers of shots everybody is taking is different from last season.
NINA DAVIS: We're a team with a lot of talent. We have a lot of depth. We can score at every position one through five. We share the ball well. As you can see, we have a good assist-to-turnover ratio. We're just a team that know how to play together.
We get out and run. We take great shots. We kind of go from the inside-out. We have perimeter players that can knock down the three. We have bigs that can pound it on the inside.
Q. Kalani, what are your initial impressions of Teaira McCowan?
KALANI BROWN: Big, strong. Big in the post. Got to block her out and do my work early or get punished. You can't get deep. Just do my work early, run the floor hard.
Q. Alexis Jones, you're working your way back in. How are you feeling going into this game tomorrow night?
ALEXIS JONES: We're excited. We're back at the Elite 8 again. It's our last year for me, Nina, Prince and Kay-Kay. I'm excited. I'm ready to go.
I think everybody on the team is ready to go, excited to take on for the Elite 8 tomorrow.
Q. Nina, how would you describe your role on this team?
NINA DAVIS: Whatever the team needs me to be. Whether that's to get the rebounds, to score, to play defense, to push the ball in transition. Really just being the overall team player, just helping them in any way they need at that time.
Q. Kristy, you guys showed signs of this team last year, having so many weapons. It's really gelled this year. Can you talk about from a guard's perspective what it's like, how many different weapons you have, the different ways that you guys can play depending who is out on the court for you guys.
KRISTY WALLACE: It's great because we can score from any position. We can share the ball. As Nina said, we work it from the inside-out. We have people that can hit the three, bigs that can, you know, battle inside and score the ball.
So it's great having a team that's really gelled. It's the right kind of time to be doing it, too. It's good to play with.
Q. For all the players. What would a win tomorrow night and a trip to the Final Four mean to you?
ALEXIS JONES: It would mean we made it to the Final Four (laughter).
KRISTY WALLACE: Yeah, it would be a huge deal. It's a goal that me and the team have had for a while now. We've made that Elite 8. I've made it twice. I know Nina has made it three times, Prince has made it three times.
NINA DAVIS: It's no secret what our goal has been all four years I've been in college. We've been granted another opportunity. Of course, we'll be thrilled and excited to finally get over the hump and get to the Final Four.
ALEXIS PRINCE: It would mean a lot to finally get over that hump, see how we play once we get there.
KALANI BROWN: I know how much it means to Coach and our seniors. It means it's that much important to me that we get our seniors to a Final Four.
Q. Alexis Jones, how important is it for you to start out quickly?
ALEXIS JONES: I think it's important for us to start out maybe not necessarily quickly, but it's important for us to start out strong. It's important for us to start out with energy. It's important to start out and let them know that we came to play, to let them know we're going to come to play defense, we're going to rebound, we're going to do all the dirty work; that we ready to play this game.
ALEXIS PRINCE: Yeah, I think it's important for us to set the tone early, not only for the other team, but for us, to give us confidence. Starting out on our defense to help get our offense going.
Q. Alexis Prince, can you talk about how your game has evolved from last season to become as big of a contributor as you have been this season.
ALEXIS PRINCE: Yeah, I feel like I'm being more aggressive, just more healthy, able to move more, play defense better, just contribute any way I can.
Q. Kristy, I saw it looked like your little sisters were here holding up a sign last night. You're here from Australia. What is it like to have them make this big trip? How long will they be here?
KRISTY WALLACE: Yeah, it's very exciting. I'm so thankful and blessed to have the support I have, a family that made the effort to come see me play, which is really exciting.
They're going to be here till it's like April 6th, I think it was. They'll be here for a little while, yeah.
Q. Kalani, you have gone against McCowan, you're familiar with her. What are the challenges when you're facing somebody who is as big as you as opposed to maybe somebody who is trying to guard you a different way? What is that like? Probably doesn't happen that often.
KALANI BROWN: It doesn't. Worry about a double-team. You may not have to worry about it. But definitely getting my shot over her length is probably going to be the biggest challenge.
Q. Kristy, going back to the guy from Seton Hall, a long time ago, Patty Mills, how did basketball become so big in Australia?
KRISTY WALLACE: I don't think it's as big for women's basketball back home in Australia. It's kind of grown over the last few years a little bit.
But, yeah, it's such a big difference from playing in Australia to playing college basketball. The fans, the media, the gear you get is incredible.
I'm so thankful and blessed to be a part of it.
Q. Nina, one of the things Mississippi State does, they're sort of comparing you to South Carolina in terms of personnel, a team that they've played three times. Is there anybody you have played that reminds you of Mississippi State?
NINA DAVIS: I can't say that we have. I'm probably wrong, but off the top of my head, I really can't remember.
Mississippi State is a great team. They have great guards. You have Vivians that is a great player. She puts up a lot of shots. She can shoot it from deep.
You have Dillingham that can come off, a great offensive player with midrange.
They also have a post presence.
It's definitely going to be a good game, a good challenge, we're going to have to come out ready to play.
THE MODERATOR: Ladies, we'll let you go back to the locker room. We'll take questions for Coach Mulkey.
Q. Coach, can you talk about how the kids have bought in, if there's necessarily been a buy-in, to sharing the basketball as much as you have this season, if you think that's a good way to describe what you do offensively?
COACH MULKEY: Well, I've never had a problem with kids sharing the ball. My biggest challenge as a coach this year was this much talent, this much depth, to make sure I have the right people on the floor at the right time, combinations on the floor.
Look, I can only start five. I've got more than that that can start. You know, that's been my challenge as a coach.
I just think we're hitting on all cylinders right now. We knew we had the depth, but the depth sometimes wasn't producing on a consistent basis. You'd have one kid that would have a great night, and the next game you wouldn't hear from them.
I think right now, if you've seen our three games in the playoffs, they're all hitting on all cylinders. You hope you can extend that.
Q. Coach, they've done something different in the tournament than during the regular season in terms of the starters, how Vivians and the other three that started for most of the season haven't started. Does that change anything in terms of preparing for them?
COACH MULKEY: Why are they making those changes, you'd have to ask them. Is that a chemistry problem? Is that a who's playing better problem? I don't know.
It doesn't change anything for us. We've got to guard 10 players because even when the other guys were in the starting lineup, he was playing those same players.
It's just a group is starting now that wasn't starting. In fact, I think he's starting kids now that didn't start an SEC game at all. So he's very confident in his team.
Q. A lot of times when you're talking about a team that's big and has depth at the inside positions, you're not necessarily talking about a team that pushes the ball, is averaging 90 points a game. How are you able to balance those things, have that size, but push the tempo the way you do?
COACH MULKEY: We run. From day one, in recruiting, you know, this is a game of entertainment. We're going to run.
Now, that doesn't mean games aren't won and lost in the halfcourt when you get down to crunch time. But our posts are going to run foul line to foul line. They know that.
I think Kalani Brown is a great example. Her freshman year she was bigger and slower, softer. Now you look at her, and she's just a different player. Beatrice runs well anyway. Cox runs well anyway.
We like to push it and run. We've got enough depth that when you get tired, we'll give you a break.
Q. With this being one of the best senior classes in program history, how much of a responsibility do you feel as a coach to get these players past the Elite 8, into the Final Four, and a hopeful national championship?
COACH MULKEY: Well, I don't feel responsible at all. I'm not going to make the first pass, shoot the first bucket or dribble. All I can do is help them develop as players, show them the film, show them what I think will work. It's their job to go do it.
I think when they came to Baylor, they wanted to get to a Final Four. I think anybody that comes to Baylor wants to get to a Final Four. We've set the bar that high.
But if they don't make it, I think there are a lot of kids, a lot of programs, that would love to change places with four Elite 8s.
Q. With Jones being out for the time she was, how would you assess the way she has gotten herself back into a groove coming off the bench as opposed to starting?
COACH MULKEY: Well, she's in there quickly. Like I said, I can't start but five. I could start her the next game.
She has an extremely high tolerance of pain. The injury was a bone bruise. They tell me that's just a matter of time, what your tolerance of pain is. I don't see her as being a liability out there at all.
Certainly going to need her for ball handling tomorrow, with the pressure that Mississippi State brings. Kristy is good, but Kristy is going to need a breather every now and then.
It helps us against a team like Mississippi State to have her back.
Q. Mississippi State's first trip to the Elite 8. In your mind, what does it take to build a successful program? What have you seen from Vic Schaefer, what he's done, to build them up?
COACH MULKEY: Well, you have to have a commitment from your administration first, then you have to have a great staff that's not out looking for a job every day, that wants to stay and help you build it. Then you have to go get players.
When we built it at Baylor, we weren't necessarily able to get in the doors of the blue-chip recruits. We had to go build it with kids that were I don't want to say second tier, but they weren't the tops on the big-time programs list. We built with those kids. That's how we built it at Baylor.
I think Vic does have better players than I had within my five years because he's got a McDonald's All-American in the paint in McCowan, Vivians. He's got a heck of a lot more talent than I had in my first five years.
Q. You went against his defenses when he was an assistant at Texas A&M. What are the things most specifically that are difficult to go against with Vic Schaefer defensive teams?
COACH MULKEY: You're going to see pressure everywhere. Just handle the pressure, realize there's not going to be an easy pass. You're going to have to work to get open. You're going to have to work for everything you get. They're going to guard you.
You know, just prepare for that. I think we're going to guard them, too.
Q. Coach Schaefer is coaching his daughter Blair right now. You had experience coaching your daughter. What was that like for you? How has your relationship with her grown now that she's on your staff?
COACH MULKEY: He's probably a lot smarter than I was. He's playing his daughter earlier than I played mine. I kind of made her suffer a little bit more because you tend to be a little bit harder on your own kids.
It's good to see. I wish there were more, you know, fathers, mothers coaching their kids. Tricia at Quinnipiac -- is that how you say it? -- I'll never forget a communication I got from her when I was coaching my daughter, because her daughter was getting ready to go into her program. The words she said to me, to see the success her team is having, it just touches my heart.
I just have a special place in my heart for coaches who can coach their own kids, do it fairly, and win. He's doing that with his child.
Q. Does this team remind you of anyone that you have faced this season, similarities?
COACH MULKEY: No. Just their defense is different than anything we've seen. Now, we've seen size. I mean, Oklahoma has Mulkey at 6'9". We've seen the height, I should say. She's not built like Teaira.
Beatrice played against Big T. Kalani has, Cox. They've all played against each other during the summer.
On the perimeter, I can't think of anybody that just really stresses defensive pressure like that. Other teams I've had, obviously when we played A&M, but I'm not sure any of these kids, you know, have played against A&M.
Q. Dealing with the combinations, trying to figure out the right combos to throw at certain times, is it a gut instinct? How do you go about with so many talented players to figure out the right moment for the right combination?
COACH MULKEY: There is no perfect answer. It's just the flow of the game, the feel of the game, what's working, what's not working. Give that kid a chance, foul trouble. It's all of that.
There's no plan that I have going into a game where, Okay, at this minute, when we get to this minute mark, we're going to put this one in. It's just a feel for the game. Sometimes you make the right decisions, and sometimes you don't.
Q. We've seen some fire in the belly from Kristy. Does she remind you personality-wise on the court of yourself? Has she carried that onto the court?
COACH MULKEY: I think Kristy does have that fire in her belly. I think that may be close to what I used to play with. But Kristy needs to have more of a confidence within; that it's okay to point your finger, it's okay to tell them where to go.
I think she's become better at that. It's difficult when you have four seniors, you have All-Americans around you. I think she's had to grow into that role. If you'll remember, last year, she was our off guard. She's really kind of in a new position, but a comfortable position, because that's what she plays back home.
Q. Vivians has had some struggles in terms of shooting, but she's also the kind of player that can take over a game shooting-wise. What are some of the challenges when she's playing well?
COACH MULKEY: Well, not that we have seen in our league, because we see a lot of great perimeter shooters in our league. When they get on a roll, you just have to figure out a way to stop it. Either deny them the ball or, you know, take away their dominant hand.
You can't let them just get comfortable. Change your defense maybe. But, yeah, she's a tremendous player.
Q. For the seniors that this is their last chance to get to a Final Four, how do you make sure that pressure doesn't get too big?
COACH MULKEY: We're not the kind of team that gets all nutted up. That's just not who we are. We're all business. We go over detailed scouting reports. We give them a game plan. We make sure they're prepared.
I just never left the floor where I felt like we've lost a game because - what's the word - we choked or nutted up.
When we've gotten beat even in the worst upsets, we got beat by a team that played darn good and played better. Whoever wins tomorrow, two good teams. Whoever plays the best is going to win. Whoever makes plays is going to win.
At this stage, got some good coaches and some good teams left. A little wrinkle here or there, a little execution here and there, is usually the difference between the ballgames.
Q. Kim, earlier this month your comments were what kind of grabbed the headlines after Senior Day. Do you feel like the attention has turned back to your team, especially with the way they've been playing through the NCAA tournament?
COACH MULKEY: Yes.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, we'll see you tomorrow night.
COACH MULKEY: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports