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March 10, 2019
Greenville, South Carolina
Mississippi State-101, Arkansas-70
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Mississippi State. We'll start with an opening statement by Coach Schaefer.
VIC SCHAEFER: First of all, I want to congratulate and commend Mike Neighbors and the University of Arkansas. That is a heck of a basketball team. He has done an incredible job, him and his staff. That team's so much better than the one we saw in early January. If that's not an NCAA tournament team, I don't know what is. They are really good. They have a system. Mike has done a tremendous job.
You guys don't know this, but he has been such a dear friend throughout my life. We worked together at Arkansas. He's at a place that he's passionate about. He's from that state. I couldn't be happier for him.
That's a guy that allowed me to call him every night for six months when I was going back and forth from College Station to Houston, when my mother was dying. He talked me home many a night from 12 to 2 in the morning. Never blinked an eye, said, Call me tomorrow. He's somebody I respect in our profession, but he's even a better friend and somebody that I love as a brother.
I'm happy for him that his team was able to have such a tremendous tournament. Again, wish them the very, very best. That was a heck of a game today. I knew it would be.
Proud of my kids. I can't tell you how proud I am of these two. I thought our bench was really special. Bre came off the bench and played extremely well. Xaria came off again, did a nice job for us, gave us some really good quality minutes.
Tremendous atmosphere. So proud of my fans. I don't know how many were there, five, six, seven, eight thousand. Sounded like Starkvegas East. Really a special atmosphere for both teams.
Again, proud of our team. Proud of Jazz. Good gosh, 12 assists. She had one turnover. I know she'd like to have that one back. Just running our team, has all year long. I'll say it again, if there's a better point guard in the country, she's number one in assist-to-turnover ratio, if there's a better one in the country, I want to know who it is. That runs her team, has the number one stat in assist-to-turnover ratio and the other number one stat which is the W. Her team is 30-2. Four new starters, two of which are new to our program. She's running that house. She's running that team and has done a heck of a job.
Proud of T. Your double-double with her, you take it for granted. I don't take it for granted, but I think it gets overlooked a lot. We gave her the ball where she needed it today. Three assists, no turnovers. That same team caused a five player last night to have six turnovers. That's what we talked about, taking care of the ball, making good decisions. Teaira is just becoming better and better to play through, instead of like a lot of five players where you only play to them.
The ability to play through her, to have a two guard standing out there like Andra going 8 for 11 from three, that's what I call a good inside-outside game. We certainly had it today.
Proud of these young ladies. So hard to do what they were able to finally do today. One last thing, then I'll stop rambling. We have had some really good teams, y'all, that's gotten to this game. 28-8, 34-5 team, and 37-2 team and they couldn't get it done on Sunday. We talked about this team had a chance to separate themselves and be that team that could get it done.
I thought they really did it. Today, y'all, is about toughness. When you're in this tournament three games, three days, four for them, today this game is about toughness. You got to have it. I thought today they allowed themselves to really set themselves apart and had their toughness.
Jazz, I don't know how many minutes she's gone. Only went 34. I think she's gone 40 and 39 and done it at an unbelievable level.
Proud of my team, our university. Proud of how we represented our program today. It's a great day to be a Bulldog.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Jazzmun and Teaira, what does it feel like to have blue, yellow and white confetti rain down on you so you get lost in it?
JAZZMUN HOLMES: It's an unbelievable feeling. We played hard today. We played with poise. We played together. We came out with the victory. That's what we did so...
TEAIRA McCOWAN: What Jazz said (laughter).
Q. Teaira, yesterday you said it didn't feel different yet, but that was only through two games. Now that you've completed all three, how much different does it feel now?
TEAIRA McCOWAN: It's way different. We get to stay out in the confetti, play around, take pictures. The other time we were going to the locker room trying to figure out what we could have done, what we didn't do.
It was just a good feeling being out there on the court with confetti falling.
Q. Jazz, coach mentioned about separating yourselves from previous teams. Different situations, but what do you feel this team did today to separate itself from Arkansas and win the championship?
JAZZMUN HOLMES: I think we played together as a team. We found the open person, because they were double-teaming T. We made shots. We got to the paint. I think that was the key thing to this game, getting them off the three-point line.
That was the game plan, and we executed it.
Q. Jazz, it almost sounds silly to ask, but do you believe you can win the NCAA tournament given what you've done this year?
JAZZMUN HOLMES: I mean, we can do anything we put our minds to. This team is different than last year's team and the teams before. I just feel like if we play together and execute the game plan, do what he says, I mean, he's done it before. Today we proved that we can do anything we put our minds to, so I believe it.
Q. Jazz, you guys aren't usually a team that likes to fire away from three. What was it like today to see Andra and Bre'Amber to light it up from three?
JAZZMUN HOLMES: I mean, amazing. They've been practicing well. We find them when they're open. You're open, you got to knock down shots in the SEC. Your window is only so big, so... Glad they knocked down shots.
Q. Teaira, the toughness that's needed to win the SEC tournament, this team specifically, that toughness never wavered from the first game. How does this team maintain that energy and effort?
TEAIRA McCOWAN: We just know we can't give in. We know that coach always says, These games are about toughness. Whether it's being mentally tough or physically tough, we still have to be in that moment. We still have to dial in, just find a way to fight through the game.
Q. Where does the leadership come from that sets that example from everyone?
TEAIRA McCOWAN: Him.
Q. Obviously this means a lot to you, families, the school. Two people told me the coaching staff stayed up all night, could rest on Monday. Talk a little bit about getting back to that confetti, what it means to Coach Schaefer in your estimation after three years of walking off the court.
JAZZMUN HOLMES: I know coach is going to do whatever it takes to win. He's going to give us his best, whether we're up by 30 or up by 10. I mean, all of our coaches are going to give their all.
I think we just have to play for them, not only for the name on the front of our jersey and the back, we have to play for our coaches because they're going to give their all all the time.
TEAIRA McCOWAN: Our coaches, they give us a lot. They don't go to sleep. (Indiscernible) has a baby. She doesn't get any sleep. Just them sacrificing their life, their time to make sure that we have a game plan that we can go out and execute to the fullest, I mean, I thank them for that. Very grateful for our coaching staff. One of the best in the country, if not the best.
THE MODERATOR: Ladies, congratulations. We'll continue with questions for Coach Schaefer.
Q. I saw a video earlier this morning, you were talking to the team, mentioning that last year's team weren't able to do this. What does it mean for this team to be able to accomplish something like this, all the new faces?
VIC SCHAEFER: It's just hard to do. It's really hard to do with four new starters, two new to your program. Replacing that group that we lost a year ago, they replaced a group we lost before that. We replaced four starters, this will be three years in a row.
I'm constantly on this group about leadership, being a servant-leader, toughness. They haven't shown the toughness that I think they can consistently. To see them come today. We had shootaround this morning. We lose two hours. We're on Central Standard Time. We're on Eastern now. You lose that hour. I don't care how long you're here, you never get used to that hour. Then we lose another hour last night because you're moving the clock up.
I debated again whether to get them up. I think Jazz would have wrung my neck. They got up this morning. We had a shootaround. 20-hour turnaround. My staff, they're the best in the world. I mean, they're up. We were down there in that room. I walked out at 12:45 with my computer to go watch it in the room. They were still down there. There's papers everywhere. It's just a huge mess.
I had to get somebody to go to my office last night and get some notes that I needed. They did that. Emailed them to me. So many people that are involved in this.
Johnnie, Dionnah and Elena, those three are just warriors. When it comes to preparing a team, spending the time. Dominique had all that film ready. I mean, you got so many people working to try to put these kids in the best position that you can to be successful. They're just givers. They're great Bulldogs. I couldn't be more blessed. We couldn't be more blessed at Mississippi State with the staff that we have.
Again, that toughness piece. I've been on this team all year about it. To see them get through today, I know they're going to feel good about it. Just about every day I'm reminding them how tough we aren't.
Q. Postgame on the podium you're cradling the trophy, welcoming the confetti, then you turned the other direction and said what looked to be, Finally. Take me through that moment.
VIC SCHAEFER: As a coach, I've done this a long time, this is 34 years. We've cut down some nets. I've cut down a lot of nets in my career. In this particular venue, in this game, in this conference, as a head coach, that moment has eluded me.
Again, I believe that God puts you through moments and things that prepare you for something greater down the line. I've had some heartache in this game over the years. But my team, my kids, have had the same heartache. Jazz and T have had that same heartache.
For me, it's about them. It's about those kids. Nobody knows how hard our kids work except me, my staff. To see the fruits of their labor come to fruition. As a coach, it's why you do what you do. It's just a very rewarding moment for me as a coach to see those kids.
We push them. We don't apologize for being demanding at Mississippi State. We're demanding in the classroom, on the court, in the community. I think that's what gets these kids ready for the real world.
For me, that's a moment that I really wanted for them. To be standing there and seeing that, finally being in the confetti, not trying to get out of the way of it, it was pretty good.
Q. I'm going to ask about the NCAA tournament. Do you feel like you guys have been a little under the radar and people aren't taking Mississippi State as strongly as they should for contending for a national title?
VIC SCHAEFER: The humble side of me said, you know what, we'll just keep doing what we're doing, we'll just let that speak for itself. There's a pride side of me in my conference, knowing that we have 14 teams that are monsters, 14 rival games, 16 rival games, 14 teams, that we have to go through, a gauntlet.
Then we come here, and you got to go through another one and play three more that are off the charts. I mean, we certainly feel like we went through a gauntlet here.
To go 15-1 in our league, to win the league, then to come here and win the SEC tournament, we've lost two games, one on the road at No. 4 Oregon, then at home to a really good Missouri team that probably should be in the top 25.
I don't know what else you can do to not be considered as one of the top seeds in the tournament. I just don't. But that's out of my hands. We'll go wherever they send us. I'm not trading my team for anybody else's. I'm taking this group and we'll go play. I don't care who it is or where. I could care less.
I think these kids feel the same way. We'll keep doing what we are doing. The SEC side of me, just like that Arkansas team, that's got to be an NCAA tournament team. They got nine SEC wins now. They just about ran the table in this tournament, which to me is the hardest thing to win, especially do it the way they did it. They beat some pretty good teams. Those three teams they beat are pretty good.
I'm proud of my conference. I'm proud of the teams. I know what we have to go through. The coaches that we have, the players that are in this conference. I'd welcome anybody else come live my life in January and February, because it's hard.
Q. You talked all year about the offense, you haven't seen this team reach its full potential. Is this what you're talking about today?
VIC SCHAEFER: A little bit. Again, just like Missouri, I think Arkansas was going to give us certain things, see if we could make shots. We made shots today. I mean, good night, we shot 62%, 66% from three, 81% at the line. That's a pretty good day offensively. I'm pulling my hair out for giving up 70. We held them to 37%. I'm trying to figure out how we gave up 70 points holding a team to 37%. They made nine threes, even though it was 32% from there, that hurts you.
Yeah, offensively when you got Bre'Amber Scott coming off the bench to get 20, Andy shooting at eight for 11 for three, those kids were 12 for 16 by themselves. Pretty good shooters out there.
Q. You talked so much about Teaira's potential as a basketball player. When did you start seeing her be able to be a facilitator? Was there a moment where you began trusting her as someone to run the offense through?
VIC SCHAEFER: It's only been of late, not a matter of trust, but where I think she's comfortable and understands for us to win that she's doubled and tripled, there's somebody open for a dunk. The LSU game at our place, she and Anriel worked well together in the second half. We got a couple of those. I think she's learned to enjoy the assist and the success of her teammate as much as the bucket that she gets herself and the rebounds she gets.
She's just unselfish. I think right now she wants to win. Jazz wants to win. I had to get on Jazz tonight, she wouldn't take a shot. She's more worried about the assists. Jazz is such a good offensive player. She was really locked in, 12 assists, one turnover. Just a phenomenal game. Again, I'm so proud and happy for her. She deserves to be all tournament, to run our team the way she's run it, not just in this tournament but all year. Very appropriate she was rewarded for that.
A lot of times kids that aren't scoring, they don't get the recognition they deserve. I was glad to see whoever voted on that voted her that because she is certainly deserving.
Q. Where does this one stack up amongst the others?
VIC SCHAEFER: It's certainly special. It's the first, this one is a first. Obviously we've had some big regional victories that have taken us to the Final Four. Those are certainly big games, big moments.
I think what makes today special is we have so many fans here. Mississippi State is so special with our fan base, how they care about my kids, our players. I just got to think it's unlike anywhere else. Isn't like this is a couple hours away. I don't know how long it takes to get here by car. Like I said, you probably are going to have to get an all-day sucker and pack a lunch.
I'm so proud of them for being here and providing a great atmosphere for both teams. It's very rewarding. I hate it, y'all, when we lose because of our fans. Those fans, they just love our program and our team. They love Mississippi State. It's unlike anything I've ever seen, anywhere I've ever been, as far as how they love their university. They're passionate about it. There is no middle ground.
I don't want to lose for the sake of all those folks that would be so disappointed. They've been disappointed three years in a row. We've had the same amount of fans here the last couple years. Just been a little bit of heartache. So for me personally, there's so much gratification knowing those fans, their ride home is going to be pretty quick because we gave them a victory today. I'm just very appreciative of them.
Q. You mentioned losing four starters, adding two new ones. The buildup to a moment like this has been different for this team than probably any other in your career. Is this team different from any other team you've had because of the different buildup?
VIC SCHAEFER: Without question. We talked about last year's team being unlike any team I've coached in 33 years. This team is unlike any team I've coached in 34 years. Just from a standpoint of new faces, chemistry, skill sets that you have to add, skill sets that we lost. We played a certain way last year, a lot like Arkansas, except we still had the big piece inside in T.
This is a different team, so as coaches that's what you do. My staff and I, we try to now, we got a different group, we got to maybe do things a little differently. We don't quite have the space heaters that can spread you out and shoot the three as much as we did a year ago, but we've got other kids that do different things.
Jordan Danberry, I don't care what defense you're in, you're not keeping her from getting to her spot. She's the best I've ever had. She's explosive. Her quickness and athleticism. She plays so much bigger than she is. You had a kid that went from two points a game to 14. Y'all, that don't happen very often. That's a testament to her, her position coaches working with her, getting her ready for the season. That's a testament to her in taking the bull by the horns.
I knew she was like that when I tried to recruit her out of high school. She turned me down the first time. I got her on the rebound. Not the first time that's happened to me. It's part of it. I knew she was going to be good. I knew she could do that. She was a big part of what we did a year ago.
You do that, you got Andy, she played 14 minutes at Connecticut, 14 minutes in seven games. She's really a freshman. Think about it. She's really a freshman. She's having to come in not only offensively but now try to do some things defensively that I want to do, which is a real struggle for some.
I can go down. We can talk about Anriel, all that. It is a different team, but that doesn't mean we're not as good or better. I think it's still out there whether we can be better. That's what I've said all year, that's my challenge. I think the upside for this team is still off the charts. It's my job to see if we can't get it out of them. I'm going to coach 'em hard, teach 'em hard. We're going to coach better, teach better every day until the last horn, whenever that is.
They deserve that from us. That's the only way my staff and I know how to do it.
Q. How much do you think you'll find yourself thinking about what you did today, showing up here seven years ago, where the program was then, doing something that Mississippi State has never done in program history?
VIC SCHAEFER: I try not to think about the seven years ago thing because I can remember playing on that Wednesday night, I think Alabama beat us 27. We had just beaten them at home by 27. We came here, they stood in the 1-3-1, begged us to shoot it, we accommodated them. I think we scored 43 points. I remember standing out in the hallway and apologizing to my then-athletic director, Scott. Of course, he was great. I felt terrible. Felt like we played terrible, could have played better.
Anyway, I can remember that day. In those days, it's good to keep those in the back of your mind. I think that motivates you to where we are today. It's just hard to do. That's all I can tell y'all. I don't have to tell you what we've done in the last couple years, what our teams have done. This is two years in a row now you win a Southeastern Conference championship, the regular season, then to come here and add this championship today, it's what we do at Mississippi State. We're there to play for championships.
I said that when they hired us. I'm just trying to live up to my end of the bargain, y'all. That's all I'm trying to do. I think our kids have embraced it. Dominique and Ketara, that first recruiting class, deserves a lot of credit. We signed those kids before we ever played a game. Good thing we did or they may not have ever come.
All those kids are kids to me that took a chance, believed in a vision when you had nothing to show them. They came in and took the bull by the horns and made an impact. We were 22-14 their first year. You get Victoria, Blair, Morgan in the next class, same thing. Those kids, we signed them before we played that year. They're believing in a vision.
For Johnnie and I, we've been here the longest, we didn't panic that first year. We were 13-17. We knew what 13-17 looked like. We just went to work. I think that's what you do as a coach. Just like this year, we got a new team. Okay, let's go to work. We don't have the people to spread out and shoot the three, do the things those kids could do. Okay, let's try to build them and put them in a position where they can be successful.
This is what we do. This is our life. This is the bubble that we live in. We love it. It's who we are.
Last thing I'm going to tell you all. I want to thank Greenville. They've been great to our fans, great to us. The city has been wonderful. I've run along the rapids now two mornings in a row. They've done a great job down there. Just want them to know how much we appreciate them in hosting us. It's been a great four days. I want to thank them personally for taking good care of the Bulldogs.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
VIC SCHAEFER: Praise the Lord and go Dogs.
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