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March 25, 2018

Vic Schaefer

Victoria Vivians

Teaira McCowan

Morgan William

Kansas City, Missouri

Mississippi State - 89, UCLA - 73

THE MODERATOR: We will introduce the Mississippi State Bulldogs, Vic Schaefer, Morgan William, Teaira McCowan and Victoria Vivians. Coach, your quick opening statement?

VIC SCHAEFER: You're going to have to wait until I finish circling and boxing! First of all, I want to congratulate UCLA on a tremendous year. I've been up two nights with visions of Jordin Canada and 25 running up and down the floor. Monique Billings, the other night, we played those guys two years ago in a scrimmage in October. Cori has done such a tremendous job with that program. Those kids have developed so much.

We really challenged our kids. We talked about transition defense and the importance of rebounding. I challenged all our kids. We outrebounded them 39-33 and they absolutely outrebounded Texas the other night and UCLA played so hard. But giving glory to God for No. 36. 126, is that right, Brock? 125? They have now lived all year with a bullseye on their back. That's hard to do, y'all. Then they added another bullseye as they went through the year undefeated.

We've had a very difficult regional, and these kids are special. This entire team has been very, very special. To be able to handle that night-in and night-out in our conference is just extremely hard. Then to do it with our postseason, with the teams we have had to go against, I just take my hat off to them. They're really incredible. To be where they are, to do what they've done is really, really difficult to do.

I just can't be more proud of 'em. I was really worried today, y'all. I got four seniors and I don't have the words, whenever this comes to an end, I don't have the words. These seniors have meant so much to our program, to my career, to me personally. I'm so glad the good Lord gave us another week. These kids have worked their hearts out, and they deserve it. I think they will be on a mission. We talked about UCLA being on a mission today, and I was proud of what Victoria said the other day, our vision, our focus, our intensity hasn't changed since last year. We're even more intent on trying to do what we didn't get done a year ago.

Proud of our kids today. How about our fans? Made this arena really special for both teams. Great environment for TV as well as for both teams. Again, boy, it was a special day for these Bulldogs.

Q. Victoria, I noticed that you guys came together with about 20 seconds left and walked arm-in-arm up the floor. I don't know if that's a thing you guys are done all year but where did it start from and what was that feeling like to walk arm-in-arm with 20 seconds left when the game was over?
VICTORIA VIVIANS: In the huddle the ref was like we need to go ahead and go, and I was like, y'all, let's form a line and walk and talk. Because they were trying to hustle us up and get to the free throw line so I was like, let's walk and talk.

Q. Ladies, congratulations. Victoria, can you talk in the fourth quarter about the isolation plays, how you wanted to attack and particularly that backdoor play where they found you on the bounce pass for the second time after the first one didn't work out so well?
VICTORIA VIVIANS: Coach called the play and he asked me were they hugging me and I said, yeah, they were trying to deny me the ball and if they do that the backdoor is going to be wide open the first time was my fault because I didn't go through and the second time it worked fine. Coach was saying they couldn't guard me. Just go try to get a bucket and lay it up, and fouled, scored both.

Q. Jordin Canada stole the ball and had that layup and made it a 6-point game then you guys call a timeout. What did you say to each other?
TEAIRA McCOWAN: That we were fine and we didn't need to get rattled. We've been in that situation before where we kind of got rattled. We didn't get out of our bodies and get rattled. So we were fine.

Q. Teaira, could you talk about how your early season schedule prepared you for your postseason? Specifically how a competition like the Cancun Challenge where you play multiple games in one city prepares you for a situation like this weekend where you have to play two games in one city and for Columbus where you could possibly play two again?
TEAIRA McCOWAN: This season we faced everything that we're going to see in the NCAA Tournament where is we're tied or it's a close game or it's a blowout, but we still have to execute. This game, yeah, it was a close game but at the same time we maintained what we were supposed to do. Our mindsets were we're good, we got this. So we didn't veer off from anything that we haven't done all season.

Q. Morgan, can you address the fact that whenever they got close there was always a big shot that the team hit and maybe that kind of builds off of what Teaira was saying about you guys didn't get rattled, didn't get out of your body. I liked that. That was good. Talk about the poise and the confidence you guys had in answering their runs?
MORGAN WILLIAM: Every time you get a huddle, it is four seniors in there and then it is T. And we were talking about gotta execute this play and then get a stop. So stop score, stop score. We executed plays. Went back down and got a stop, and I felt like we kept building and kept repeating and that helped us.

Q. Teaira, did you see Coach's leap there and pump fist after you offensive rebounded Morgan's miss and put it back?
TEAIRA McCOWAN: I didn't see it.

THE MODERATOR: Ladies, congratulations. Good luck next week. Questions for Coach?

Q. Congrats, Vic. You've talked about how good this team is offensively and it's interesting if you go back two years you guys had a rough game offensively against UConn. Talk about the evolution with a lot of the same kids because Cori complimented just how good your execution was today.
VIC SCHAEFER: Yeah, we scored 38 points that day. That was kind of rough!

Yeah, we're different. We're just different because of our skill set, because we've got kids that can stretch it and shoot it and you've got the big piece inside where you just can't double on her. If you do, we can play through her, Michelle. A lot of times you can play to a big kid and heats it, it either goes in or that's it. We can play through T, and she is really good at that. You double her, well, she is going to find where it came from. She has had enough experience now, she has seen every defense you can possibly do to her.

Now you have Morgan who has decided she is excited about scoring and that adds a dimension that we probably haven't had consistently all year. I thought Jazz came off the bench and gave us huge minutes and did a great job. We're fortunate at point guard to have that kind of point guard play; but Teaira, 23 and 21. I mean, the kid is incredible. I just thought you all four of those seniors, Blair makes two big threes today, makes a big one when they had cut it to 6. They leave her open. She knocked it down from 23 or 4. That was a big shot. That's where they were coming off of T. They came off that set, left her open and she made 'em pay.

This group is hard to guard. There is no question about it. I've walked off the floor sometimes and said I see what it's like to have Golden State because this group, they can all score it.

Q. Going off of Blair, early in the third quarter she may have let Japreece get off a couple of threes. I saw her tell her politely she needed to get over that. What was that like to see her respond the way she did?
VIC SCHAEFER: That kid, she is just special. She's done it all her career. She takes coaching, probably takes it a little harder from the coach than the rest of 'em. She is a pro. She knew it, and it was an adjustment she needed to make and I need to do remind her of that. Don't worry. I'll get chastised more from that from my fans when I get home than anything else that happened today. They don't like it when I coach her like that.

Q. Vic, your coach stayed on until halfway through the second quarter. You must have liked what you saw. What did you like about your team?
VIC SCHAEFER: Evaluation was on our board today as one of the thoughts so now I'm being evaluated for my coat, how long it stays on. I just had a real confidence today y'all. I had a devotional this morning before I went to shootaround. The TV crew made a comment this is the most chill we have seen you. I just had a confidence in this group. I was very concerned that could, because I respect UCLA and Cori Close so much and her staff, you're always concerned about, you know, what if it is the last one.

But I didn't feel that was going to happen today. I just had a real confidence today that I got the better team. I just felt like they were ready to play as they have been all year long.

We got beat by a really good team back in the championship game of our tournament. They played better than us. But it wasn't that we weren't ready to play or any of that. It just wasn't our day, but these kids have been ready every game. All year long. I just really felt good about the day. I really felt good when our kids wanted to walk to half court and shake their hand and they turned and went to the locker room. Our kids, we usually like going and shaking hands at the half court and apparently that wasn't the protocol today in the NCAA Tournament.

So that kind of rubbed our kids wrong to be honest with you. I don't know if that was planned or that was something that was supposed to happen but our kids noticed it.

Q. Blair hit three big three-pointers. How critical do you feel like those were and how is she able to come in the clutch like that? Seems like when you need her to she makes those big shots.
VIC SCHAEFER: She did. Again, just happy for her. I know how hard she has worked to be in the position she's in. To see her take advantage and be prepared. That kid has worked her tail off all her career for that moment. To see her be able to answer the bell in that moment, it's just really rewarding as a coach. It wouldn't matter if she is my daughter or not, you got kids that have worked and prepared to be in that moment; again, she is the poster child for everything that's right with kids staying the course and competing and fighting and getting better, not fleeing. I know her parents. Her daddy is really proud of her. Because I know had he has rebounded a lot for her over the course of his life and he's proud of her for making those shots as well and they were big ones. The one where they cut it to 6 was really a big one, no doubt about it. She made that one from the top of the key and she made one from right over in front of the bench.

Q. The SEC is ripe with competition?
VIC SCHAEFER: Yeah, it's a nightmare.

Q. Some of the most skilled teams in the league and the AP top-25 poll, 7 teams including your own were listed. How does that in-season competition that you guys face game-in and game-out help prepare you for the games like this in the tournament?
VIC SCHAEFER: I don't think there is any question when you go through that gauntlet you're prepared for anything that comes down the pipe. I am glad you brought that up about the AP. We lose 1 game to the number 8 in the country and we drop from 2 to 4. Our kids noticed that. We lost one game. Is there anybody else in the country that's lost one game, but we dropped to 4. Again, hey, no problem but I think our kids wear that a little bit.

Again, the league is absolutely a nightmare but that's the fishbowl we choose to live in. When you do that, you gotta get ready night-in and night-out. That's the thing that's really remarkable about this team. Their average margin of victory in 16 SEC games is 24. Last year when we went 13-3. It was 13 and I thought that was off the chart.

This team's average margin of victory in our league was 24, which is unbelievable. Again, I think that's how special this group's been every night. Every night they've been ready. Hard to do.

Q. After the game you went over and gave the band high fives. What has their support meant to you and your team in this tournament?
VIC SCHAEFER: Our band and our cheering squad and all our fans, they're the best. Look, if we weren't here today that arena would have been empty. It's incredible how our fan support has grown and mushroomed to where it is today. We love 'em. We cherish them and appreciate them so much. They've come to Kansas City and by the way this has been a great place, so many good people that have really gone out of their way to make this a wonderful place for the regional.

They've come here. They've spent three, four days, spent their money, taken off work; and so for me, I'm cognizant of that. I would hate to walk out of that arena tonight not only for my kids but I hate to look at any of my fans in the eye and know that we lost that game, because I know what it means to them.

You know, when we lost the one game you would have thought the sky was falling in Starkville. Just the way it is right now. But for us right now, in answer to your question, is they are very special, all of 'em are, fans, band, cheer, the whole nine yards. Again, it's not like that in most places. Mississippi State is very special for women's basketball. It's also very special in a broad term for our fan base. They are passionate. I'm telling you, passionate about their university. It's what makes it so, so special and a great place to be.

THE MODERATOR: Coach, congratulations and good luck at the Final Four.

VIC SCHAEFER: Praise the Lord and go Dogs.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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