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March 8, 2019

Mike Neighbors

Chelsea Dungee

Malica Monk

Nashville, Tennessee

Arkansas-95, South Carolina-89

THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Arkansas. Coach, if you could make an opening statement, please.

MIKE NEIGHBORS: I think any time you see a team celebrate like that without going back out to cut the nets down, it's a sign of respect for how good the team you beat was. We know what South Carolina has done in this tournament for the last four years. That's a sign of respect for how much they've done, the exposure they've had.

Really happy for our kids to be able to get a win like that. We've been playing really good basketball down the stretch without being able to be rewarded with wins. To get two of them in a row like we have, really proud of them. The effort today was tremendous. I've always said on the second day when you play, it's your advantage in the first half, which we took advantage of, then that advantage turns to their side in the second half, which they took control of with a 35-point quarter.

This time our kids answered back. At Arkansas we didn't. I'm proud of that. I'm proud of our group for learning from mistakes, starting to peak, playing our best basketball at the right time.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Chelsea, you had 32 against this team a month ago. What kind of confidence did that give you going into tonight?
CHELSEA DUNGEE: I continue to have the same confidence in every game. I just take what's given.

Q. Chelsea, you had 33 last night, 31. I guess you're liking Greenville, South Carolina. How do you feel about the way you're playing in the tournament so far?
CHELSEA DUNGEE: I felt that I performed for my team to the best of my ability. Playing with these guys opens the floor up for me. It's not only me, it's my teammates, what they do on the floor.

Q. Malica, how satisfying a win is this for this program? Does this feel potentially like a breakthrough win, put your team on the map?
MALICA MONK: It does. It really is a breakthrough. We really wanted revenge back from them, whenever we played them during the conference. To come out here and give maximum effort like last night and today, it's really a relief to go out there and give it our all. That's what we're always capable of doing. Playing with a group of girls like this, it's really an amazing feeling.

Q. Chelsea, they held you scoreless in the first quarter. What did you see from that moment on?
CHELSEA DUNGEE: That's happened a couple games this season. I know that it will come eventually, if that's in the second quarter, third quarter or fourth quarter. I don't press for shots, I just take what's given and take.

Q. In the first half, you were able to force contested shots, what was working so well for your defense?
CHELSEA DUNGEE: Just being active on defense. We knew they're not a great three-point shooting team. For us to have our hands ready, stay in the gaps, do what we're capable of doing, allowed us to get them down into the shot clock, making them rush shots, doing things out of their main. That really helped us out in the game.

Q. Did you really feel they were having trouble matching up with you, that you were successful shooting the ball from three, they couldn't stop you on penetration?
CHELSEA DUNGEE: Yes, I think so. We pretty much got what we wanted the whole game. Whether that be a drive and a kick, whether that be an open three. We were comfortable. We just took what was given.

MALICA MONK: I feel like we were able to match them offensively, too. We were able to get out in transition. That really opened up the floodgates for us. Not only that, we were able to change up our defense which frustrated them on the offensive end. That really helped us out, too.

Q. Chelsea, you mentioned a few minutes ago about your teammates. Three of them scored at least 14 tonight. Talk about their performances.
CHELSEA DUNGEE: That always makes me happy to see them succeed. To see the ball go in the hole for them, that gets everyone going. That's something that we all know that everyone is capable of doing. Everyone showed up tonight and played well as a team.

Q. The end of the third quarter, they bank in a three at the buzzer. Was there anything said right there?
CHELSEA DUNGEE: They had a lot of fans here because we're playing in South Carolina. That bank-in three put them up by one point.

MALICA MONK: One point wasn't really nothing. We came out and shot a three, too. Really wasn't nothing. We just kept our composure.

MIKE NEIGHBORS: I said something (laughter).

CHELSEA DUNGEE: We don't remember.

MIKE NEIGHBORS: If we would have told you at the beginning of the game we were going to be in this position. I do say stuff sometimes.

CHELSEA DUNGEE: He did say something (laughter).

THE MODERATOR: Ladies, thank you. We'll continue with questions for coach.

Q. What did you tell your team coming into this game to prepare them for this?
MIKE NEIGHBORS: I think we drew back on how well we played at our place. We watched video in the locker room of how well we played, all the good things we did. Yesterday we challenged the kids to do one thing out of the ordinary, one thing extraordinary, one thing great. We knew today it was going to take two things per player. I'd have to go back and count. I bet there were five or six things that each kid did that was out of the ordinarily. You don't count on Alexis to block a shot at the three-point line at the end of the game. Stuff like that.

I think they really hooked up. We've been working toward this since the beginning of the year. There's been a plan and a process. They've really bought in and stayed hooked up. You lose seven out of eight going into this thing, I think a lot of teams fold, don't come in here ready to play. I think we went the other direction with that.

Really proud of them. We gained that from the last game with them. Then I think we withstood their runs. We withstood that shot going in at the buzzer, came out, hit a three right off the bat. I thought our kids did a really good job of taking the shots. We tell them to make them wrong, whatever they want to be. They ran a box-and-one, a rhombus-and-two, other shapes that come. I didn't do too good in geometry. There were a lot of defenses thrown at them, we had a plan, the kids stayed in attack mode the whole time.

Q. The first time you saw Chelsea, games like this, did you see it right away in her?
MIKE NEIGHBORS: Yeah, I used to watch them play in the summer, in San Antonio. A friend of mine coaches it. We talk about it all the time, dribble-drive, how he would move Chelsea around. Coaching at Washington, that's a long way to go from home for her, being from Oklahoma. Then we played them in the NCAA tournament. If you go back and look, Oklahoma came to Washington. We played really well. She played really well, too.

Wasn't about two weeks later I got the job at Arkansas. I got a call from some people she was looking to transfer. When we got a release, she's prototypical. She's exactly what we look for: versatile, hard matchup, tough enough, gritty enough to guard a big on the other end, still be a mismatch problem. Prototype for what we call a dragon. She worked her tail off during her redshirt year. Pull up pictures when she transferred, look at her now. She's transformed her body. I don't put a number on it. She looks completely different with nutrition, sleep. Our strength and conditioning did a phenomenal job.

I don't want to tell you, yeah, I knew for sure. Man, you wanted the chance to find out.

Q. Three-pointer at the end of the third quarter, what do you say to your team to make sure that doesn't kill the momentum?
MIKE NEIGHBORS: I took the blame for it. It was my fault. We went a little bit too early in the shot clock. I should have held it longer. Sometimes I forget how fast Mal is. We went a little too early. I'm yelling, Don't foul. That's the worst thing you can ever yell at that point because then you just stand there. She banged it in.

We regrouped pretty fast. I said what I told them. Again, when we got ready to get on that plane and got down here, if I would have told you going into the fourth quarter, what are they ranked, 12th, a top 15 team, down one, would you take it? They're like, Yeah. I thought we answered right back. We hit a lot of big shots this week, timely.

Q. You came in as an underdog playing in a hostile place. You take the opening tap, hit a three. Talk about how you never let the fans have too many opportunities to get in the game today.
MIKE NEIGHBORS: I think that's what our pace does to people. Hey, they hit a three and celebrate. Guess what, we're coming right back at you. If you take a second to celebrate, one of our rabbits, which is Taylah and Kiara, run past you for a layup. One of our locks is running down there, getting wide open for a three. You have Mal bringing it up, A'Ty bringing it up. That's a big part of that. When they do score, you cannot let it affect you.

Chelsea is very underrated on her ability to get the ball out of the net on a made shot, get it in quick. It is hard to do. She is phenomenal at it.

I think that was big. Then whenever they did get that momentum, that crowd got really loud at the end of the third quarter. It was really loud. But we answered it. Our kids practice very chaotic situations. We try to put them in as many situations in practice that will calm them down. They were way calmer than I was. I think that speaks to these veterans, Jailyn Mason, Mal, Bailey, Raven, those guys that have been around. I think it could have gone the other way right there. It could have really gone the other way in a hurry, but they didn't let it happen.

Q. Can you speak about the performance of your starters.
MIKE NEIGHBORS: We don't go real deep. Especially this time of the year. We start back in December working for March. We cut practices down to about an hour. We give the kids a second day off during SEC play. Starting in mid January, we work on skills.

That's what allows you to come back and play your starters 70 minutes. Then you have to have some kids like A'Ty, Raven, Bailey, accept a role. That's the hard part, accept a role of going in there and playing four, five minutes just to give those kids three or four minutes of break, around a media timeout, around a dead ball, offense, defense.

I think we've got a group that's really bought in. When you get that, you have a chance to pull off an upset.

Q. You have Texas A&M next. You recently played them. What can you draw from that experience?
MIKE NEIGHBORS: We got to play the winner of this next one, right?

THE MODERATOR: That game is going on right now, so we don't know who they're playing next.

MIKE NEIGHBORS: If it happens to be Texas A&M, we did. We had a great game with Auburn, as well. Whoever we face, unless it's Auburn, Auburn has had to play the same number of games as we have.

I think our group right now is more concerned with what we're about. Our scouting reports are very minimal because they know and they remember. Whoever you're playing in the semis, you know they're playing well. You don't get to the semifinals of this tournament and not be playing well.

This is a harder tournament to win than go to the Final Four. It's harder because you play three games in three days or four in four days. There you play a game, you get a day off, you play a game, get to rest for a week, play a game. I think the SEC tournament, most any post-season tournament, is way harder to win than an NCAA tournament format.

We're made for it because of the way we start practicing for it. We always try to peak in March. I think that's been a characteristic of our teams. The kids have really bought into it. I think we have the best strength and conditioning coach in the country, I think we've got the best athletic trainer in the country. They buy into that, too. We start it in December. We're very diligent about it for this day. As a result, I think it's what carries us when these times arise. We're ready for it.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.


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