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March 22, 2018
Q. Coach, if you could just talk about your postseason and just how dominant you've been and just things that you've seen out of this team that maybe you didn't see in the regular season.
KIM MULKEY: Well, I think we've been pretty consistent with our play. The biggest difference and the only difference between regular season and postseason is doing it with a freshman point guard versus Kristy Wallace, our senior point guard. We're still the same team, run the same stuff. The only thing different would be the inexperience of Alexis Morris, and I think she's done remarkably well.
Q. How much are you sharing information with other coaches who may have some common opponents earlier this season?
KIM MULKEY: You don't. You don't. You know your team better than other coaches. You see scores. You see common opponents. But you've got to go to work, and your staff does all the work.
You know, we're very familiar with our opponents here. We've played all three at some point in the last couple of years, and you just don't pick up the phone and talk about strengths and weaknesses. When you've played them, you can see it on film pretty much.
Q. You talked yesterday about how Oregon State plays pretty much the same style of play. When I go back and look at that game two years ago, there's very few of the same names. Kalani played quite a bit, but really hardly anybody for them. Do you take much from that, or is it more looking at this year's team and what they're doing?
KIM MULKEY: Well, I think they have two players. We have one that -- no, we have two. We forget Dekeiya, even though she didn't play much in that game, and had Kristy Wallace, she would have been our third one from that game two years ago. And I think Oregon State has two that I remember. There may be one more or two more.
But you don't put much stock in that. That was two years ago. They now have two WNBA players that were great players for them. We had some great players for us. Their style of play is pretty much like it was two years ago, and our style of play is the same. Two teams that fought hard two years ago, but really has no impact on what happens tomorrow.
Q. How much have you spoken with Kristy leading up to these postseason games and specifically these rounds?
KIM MULKEY: Kristy is in Australia. She had surgery over there with the influence of her father and the Opals team and had a physician over there do her ACL surgery. Texting, there's 16 hours difference between Australia time and our time, and just texting her, keeping her spirits up, which you don't have to. That kid has a spirit. She'll be fine. I just wish that she was with us on that bench as opposed to being in Australia, but because of the long flight, I don't know when they will release her to come back to Baylor. She still needs to graduate.
Keeping our fingers crossed that she'll be back in Waco and at Baylor maybe next week sometime.
Q. What do you see, particularly on the defensive end? Was there an aha moment for her where she got it, or was it just a progression point of last year, going against Alexis and Alexis?
KIM MULKEY: You know, as I told her the other day, Juicy has made a fool out of me as a coach. Here's a kid that last year was beat up every day by Alexis Prince and Alexis Jones. She had to guard them every day, and those were two fifth-year seniors and here was this freshman straight out of high school, and her minutes were limited because of the depth that we had at her position.
We start the year, and Natalie Chou was in front of her and pretty much gets all the minutes, and then Natalie hurts her wrist, and Juicy steps in like, I told you I belong and you should have had me out here to begin with, and she hasn't let up. Juicy is just confident, shoots it from way out, has unlimited range, probably has the best -- no probably, she has the most consistent three-point shot that we have, and she does it effortlessly from way out.
Her defense, to answer your question, was what limited her last year, and that's not unexpected for a freshman. She just needed to learn angles, passing lanes, help side and things like that, and now it's very comfortable for her because it's like when you repeat something every day, it's like driving to work; if you just moved to a new city you have to use that GPS and concentrate on where you're going every day, and then when you've been doing it for a long period of time, you don't think about it anymore, and I think that's where Juicy is now in her development as a player for us.
Q. Last week you mentioned that Dekeiya was one of your best offensive rebounders. Where would you be without her this season?
KIM MULKEY: Well, Dekeiya, you wish that every coach had an opportunity to coach a kid who -- I don't want to use the word waited her turn but was patient. Dekeiya is a senior that never saw this many minutes in her career at Baylor until her senior year. Most kids whine or complain or transfer, particularly today's athlete. Everything has to happen for them today. And Dekeiya just hung in there.
She's reaping the rewards because she is our best offensive rebounder. She's a tough match-up because I play her both inside and outside, has a great perimeter shot. I said Juicy has the best range. Dekeiya may be the most consistent shooter we have from the perimeter. She can nail mid-range jumpers and can shoot the three but doesn't have to shoot the three. Very strong, can post you up.
She's having an unbelievable senior year, and that's what you want. Some seniors leave and they're miserable and didn't enjoy it, and then you have those seniors that leave and they feel good about themselves.
Q. Along that line, what is Lauren Cox bringing to you now that, again, over the course of the season, just looking, she's averaging nearly 25 points a game in these two tournament games.
KIM MULKEY: Lauren Cox is working her way into being an All-American, and she was a freshman last year that had to share the floor with about five post players. She signed with us as the No. 1 player in the country out of high school, knowing that we had all those players in our program, but she came anyway. So that's the first thing you notice about Lauren is how unselfish she is.
She genuinely cares about her teammates. She genuinely enjoys Kalani, playing with her. They have a relationship off the floor that you will see as they play together where they laugh and they play well together and they hug each other and chest bump. I haven't seen every school in the country, but them together has to be one of the finest post duos that you will see right now.
I think her knowledge of the game on defense, she just can be a tremendous help side defender. She blocks shots like crazy. She can defend the perimeter player if we need her to. On the offensive end, she makes Kalani a better player because of her ability to feed Kalani, but also Lauren Cox can shoot any shot on the perimeter, and you have to respect that and come out and guard her.
Q. With the short bench, how much are you telling your players to be a little more conservative, if at all, specifically with Kalani?
KIM MULKEY: No, we don't play that way. I can't coach that way. Go play. If we get in foul trouble and you go back in the last month, we've been in foul trouble. I've had to play small when Kalani and Cox picked up fouls early. You can't coach that way. You can't play that way. It's not our style.
Now, be smarter. If you pick up a foul early, be smart. Instead of going for that blocked shot, maybe just stand there with your hands up. Things like that I've encouraged, but not to tell them not to play hard.
Q. Obviously you've been at this point a lot of times, and even going back to first and second round, how do you approach it, potentially you've got another game to play in two days. Do you start looking at those teams or having other coaches look at the other teams to already have a scouting report ready? How do you approach that?
KIM MULKEY: Well, yes, the players you don't fool with, but the coaches, we've got more coaches than I do players, so each of them is assigned a team. Each of them when the bracket is announced is assigned a team, and you get in the film work and you do your work, who you potentially could play. We've done scouting reports on people that have lost out, that we're not going to play. Plan ahead. It wasn't raining when Noah built his ark, right? Told you those Baptists love me. I'm the only Methodist they have on that campus.
We have a great coaching staff. Three of them have been head coaches. They're in that film room when I'm not. All I can concentrate on is the next opponent, and then they will present things to me as you progress in the tournament. If you don't, then we keep those scouting reports and you put them in a file for the future in case you play them in the regular season or in the Playoffs again.
Q. Coming to a new venue, how do you get your team used to the surroundings, just how it's laid out?
KIM MULKEY: You practice. We're going to go out there and approach it the same way we do when we go in the non-conference and play some place that we haven't played before. The thing, the biggest difference is just your fans. You know, this is a home court to Louisville. Let's just be honest. It's a home court for Louisville. And I hear -- is it sold out? I don't know. Not quite?
But we've been in this situation, too, where we've played in venues that seem like a home court for our team. Just got to go play.
And you've seen, I mean, Oregon State is a great example. Those home courts mean nothing anymore. They might get the adrenaline going a little bit when you're fatigued, but they don't win basketball games for you. Oregon State beating Tennessee there -- who else lost on their home floor? It's happening more now on the women's side than maybe in the past.
Q. Do you put much thought in the whole idea about depth perception when you come into a different place and getting the players used to that atmosphere shooting-wise?
KIM MULKEY: I don't know, I never was a shooter. I just told them, make the shot, I'll get you the ball. I don't know. You know, the bigger the arena, does it matter? I really don't know.
I think people who are competitors, that's why you have practice. They figure it out. You'll hear people talk about loose rims, tight rims, all that stuff. There may be something to it, but at the end of the day, you've just got to go play.
Q. You spoke earlier, kind of touched on the idea of parity. Speak to parity because I believe you said playing on somebody else's floor doesn't really matter much anymore, you've still got to go out there and play. Does it kind of go to how much parity there is in women's basketball now?
KIM MULKEY: You know, I was asked that question by a Michigan person before we played Michigan at home, the advantage of playing at home, and I understood his question, because there is an advantage when you go to an arena on a home floor where you're just outnumbered. The crowd gets into it. But like I told him, we've experimented with that on the women's side. We've taken it to neutral courts. It doesn't work. It doesn't work. I knew it wouldn't work when we tried it, but we tried it, because there's nothing worse than watching a women's basketball game and there's nobody in the stands.
So what I told him was this: Build your program and do your work and you build your program and become one of the 16 seeds, and then the next week, we saw Tennessee lost at home and some others lost at home. So the home court doesn't necessarily win ballgames for you.
The teams are getting better. The coaches are getting better. And you kind of tune that out as an athlete.
When you're in the heat of the moment, I'm not sure how much of that crowd you really hear because you're focusing on your team, what your coach is telling you to do, and you're just trying your best to win a ballgame.
Does that help answer it a little bit? Is there parity like on the men's side? No, I can't ever believe that there will be that kind of parity. There are thousands of male players that can play. There are only some handful of big-time blue chip elite difference makers on the women's side. What you're seeing is they're spreading out more and they're going to different schools. They're not all congregating at one school anymore. And that's progress. I think that's progress.
Q. Kalani, can you talk about Matt (Shadeed) coming in and what he's done with the strength program and how much that's helped you guys?
KALANI BROWN: He's been a great help, fixing our nutrition, first and foremost. That was a big deal for him. And then strength came second. I thought that -- yeah, he's just a great strength coach.
Q. Lauren, Coach was saying that despite the short bench and possibly foul trouble, she's not telling you to be conservative. Are you sometimes trying to catch yourself with that knowing that you go for so many blocks?
LAUREN COX: I think like starting the game, we just have to see how the refs are going to call it because if they're going to call it tight, we can't be as aggressive, try and go get those blocks, but if they're going to let us play, then we're going to be more aggressive and not be as conservative.
Q. Kalani and Lauren, Coach was just saying a little while ago that Lauren, just by her development, in turn she's made you a better player. Can you just talk about the development of your chemistry together on the court and what you two do to play off of each other's talents?
KALANI BROWN: We make each other better. I've picked up a few things from Lauren that she does, and it's really helped me out. Lauren really opens the floor for me with them having to guard her on the outside so you can't really sag on me all that much, and whenever I'm taking the entourage with me down low, she can hit the three or the jumper. Makes no difference, whichever one. But I think that we play well together.
It all started last year, and now we're just debuting what we've been working on since last year.
LAUREN COX: Yeah, like Kalani said, we've always kind of had that chemistry, we just didn't really showcase it last year because we had five post players. And I think we really play well off of each other. I think you have to focus on one of us, which leaves the other one open.
Q. Alexis, describe your team's style of play. What is your style of play offensively and defensively?
ALEXIS MORRIS: I would say up tempo because we like to get out in transition, but we also can execute in the half court. On the defensive end, I think we're aggressive. We play together. We communicate. Yeah.
Q. Alexis, your teammates up here, they've traveled the country post-seasons before, and you've traveled the country this year, obviously, in regular-season games, but how does it feel to do that now, knowing that y'all are one of the 16 teams left here?
ALEXIS MORRIS: As you know, I'm a freshman, so it's kind of new to me. I'm just taking it all in, just traveling and getting a feel, getting -- I don't know, I'm just taking it all in. I'm just trying to get the feel right now.
Q. Great things to say about you, and she said you waited your time but you're really starting to blossom here in your senior year. Can you talk about your four years and how much the season has meant to you?
DEKEIYA COHEN: Well, like she said, I kind of did wait my turn, so this year I'm getting a chance to be a starter for the first time and play a lot of minutes, so I'm just trying to take advantage of the opportunity, and I have a bigger role on the team than I've ever had this year. I'm excited about it, and I'm trying to go out there and play my best and show what I can do, what I haven't gotten a chance to show these past few years. I'm really just trying to help my team in whatever way I can.
Q. As one of the few seniors on this team, have you had to help Alexis with her freshman role and kind of stepping in here or taking on more of a leadership role in the last few weeks?
DEKEIYA COHEN: Yeah, I mean, she's been doing a great job at stepping up and being a leader. All the questions that she had, I try to be there to help her answer anything that she asks me about, things that deal with experience, but other than that, like on the court, she's been doing a great job. I think she's made a great adjustment, and she's growing as a person and as a player on the court.
Q. Alexis, back when you were playing with Juicy in AAU ball, do you remember her playing any defense back then? And how have you seen her step up during this last run?
ALEXIS MORRIS: Actually, our AAU coach demanded us to play defense. That's the program we built around was playing defense. She played defense, but I wouldn't say as hard as she does now.
Offensively and defensively she's been guarding the best players in the previous games we've played. She's just been taking on that challenge. She's been hitting big shots for us. She's just stepped up a lot. She's communicating. At the beginning of the season, she wasn't really talking. She's stepped up by communicating. Also she's been helping me, keeping me uplifted when I get down on myself saying, you've got it, you're going to make the next stop. She's a great teammate on and off the court. When I need a ride, she's coming to get me, or when I'm hungry she's bringing me food. She's just a great person. That's my sister.
Q. Kalani and Lauren, y'all faced it some during the year, but this is a team where maybe everybody shoots the three. How difficult is that to try to get out there when you're used to playing in the post and guarding in the post? Lauren, I know you've done more of it, but how difficult is that to get out to the arc and defend them?
KALANI BROWN: I think it's been a little bit more difficult for me than for Lauren, with me being used to playing people my size and in the paint. But that's something I've been working on pretty much all year because Coach said you might as well be prepared for it, teams are going to do it. It's definitely been an improvement for me defensively.
LAUREN COX: Yeah, it's definitely difficult, especially for the team, just because Coach always says to the guards, if you get beat, don't foul them as we're going to the basket because you have a second line of defense. Me and Kalani are there. So when they spread us out, we can't be just sitting in the paint waiting for them, we have to have a foot in the paint, we have to kind of hedge at them and then get back to our player.
KALANI BROWN: It also takes us out of rebounding, which is another big part of our transition.
Q. A lot of players have come to Rupp Arena and had difficulties adjusting because of the lights. I know you guys haven't practiced yet, but have you been out of the court and taken a look at the landscape, and have you noticed the lights may be somewhat bothersome for you guys or for you particularly?
LAUREN COX: We haven't been out there yet, but that's one of the things that we're going to have to adjust to during this first practice. I think we're going to be doing a lot of shooting. That's one of the things that you always have to adjust to coming to a new arena, so I think once we shoot around a little bit, we'll be all right.
Q. The tradition of the program and the success, I don't want to say take it for granted, but what have you come to appreciate in your time, just where you've been able to go, what you've been able to do with this program?
DEKEIYA COHEN: I most definitely appreciate winning really. Every time we win a championship, it's like a new goal that we set and we surpass it, and it never gets tiresome. And just making it to the Elite 8 in general, like hopefully -- and the Sweet 16, as well. We never take it for granted. Every year, everyone doesn't make it this far. So we just never like look past it. We take it one game at a time, and just focus on what we're doing at the moment.
Q. Lauren, same kind of question I asked Kalani earlier, but how much has Matt helped you in terms of your conditioning and just getting you maybe in better shape, ready to play more minutes? How much has he helped you in that term?
LAUREN COX: He's helped a lot. I was out for most of the summer because I had a procedure on my knees, so I wasn't able to run or anything like that, so once I came back, he kind of helped me. He was going to breakfast with me every morning, making sure I eat good. Like Kalani said, improving our nutrition and just helping me lose some weight, just get my body ready for the season.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports