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March 29, 2019

Dawn Staley

Alexis Jennings

Tyasha Harris

Greensboro, North Carolina

COACH DAWN STALEY: Excited to be in the Sweet 16, and looking forward to playing Baylor tomorrow.

Q. I asked Kim about it, if your team takes on your personality. Can you see that in Kim's team, as well, and does your team take on your personality?
COACH DAWN STALEY: Does my team take on -- probably not. They are a lot looser than I am, or have ever been, as a player.

Kim's team, I think at times they take on her personality, but I think we're so far removed from this generation, you know, that you only see bits and pieces of it. They can only -- they only can take so much of the old school mentality because they are themselves. For us coaches, we have to figure out ways in which to get them to play more like us a lot more often.

Q. Obviously your team has changed a lot since you faced Baylor earlier in the season. What can you take from that game into this game to kind of help get over the hump?
COACH DAWN STALEY: I mean, you just have to take the experience of playing someone as big as they are. I think their length and their girth it's a real thing. Sometimes when you're watching them on film, they don't look as big as they do when you actually have to play against them.

I feel like we're a lot more healthy than we were at that stage of the game. We didn't talk about our players who were, you know, trying to get back closer to 100 percent, but we were not 100 percent by any means. So we are more -- we've played all season long, probably ever since December, we've been more healthy than not.

So we're looking forward to having a healthy roster and you know, seeing where we stack up and where we improved from a couple of months ago.

Q. As you prepare for this rematch with Baylor, and you look at them, study the video, do they look the same, or are they playing better than they were when they played you in December?
COACH DAWN STALEY: I think they are playing better. Obviously she knows what she wants. Their playbook isn't huge. They are just very calculated and efficient with what they want and they force you to stop them doing the things that they want to do.

I think we're better; I think we're a better basketball team at this stage of the game. I don't think we will, you know, have the same game plan, because the game plan back in December was we started out in the zone because we just didn't feel like we could, you know, matchup with them with the -- that current health of our basketball team. We're healthy so we're going to fly around and play the way we've been playing over the past few weeks.

Q. When Baylor beat you earlier, putting your record at 4-4, you went on to win 13 of 14. I know you got healthy, but have you improved in some areas of play, and can you talk about that a little bit?
COACH DAWN STALEY: Yeah, I think just the first few games of the season, I think people fail to realize that we had probably a third of our team that were new, you know, new: Three freshmen, one grad transfer, one grad transfer in Te'a Cooper, and we just tried to instill some chemistry in what we're doing and that's actually more than a third of our theme and they had to play an integral role in our success. We had a couple of new starters who were just trying to figure out how to play more minutes, and play a bigger role for our basketball team.

So I think the chemistry is much better. I think our players understand how we need to play and what they need to do in order for us to be successful, so I think that's the reason why we went on, you know, such a run, and we got healthy.

Q. Is there anything interest your run two years ago -- I know you were a favorite then, a No. 1 seed then. Is there anything you draw on from then, either as being a 4-seed playing a 1-seed or just surviving and advancing?
COACH DAWN STALEY: You know, at this stage much the game, it is, you know, no matter what the number is besides your name, you have to play. You have to game plan and you have to play because anything, anything can happen at this stage of the game. So you know, we're just going to play. We're going to fly around out there and let the chips fall where they may.

But there is a huge difference in being the No. 1 seed and being a No. 4 seed as far as it's just different. We were a 5-seed at one point, I believe, in 2012 -- yes, 5-seed? 2012, so first time being a 4-seed, and having to play the No. 1 team in the country.

So that's the biggest difference. You know, you don't usually see the No. 1 team for us until a lot later on. We'll be challenged in that way. I'd rather play the big ones up front. If you can knock them down, then everything seems to be a little easier, not a lot easier, but a little easier.

Q. The other day, you sent out a message on Twitter thanking Holly for what she had done at Tennessee. Why did you want to send that message, and what are your thoughts on her legacy?
COACH DAWN STALEY: I mean, Holly is a good friend of mine. I've been in this league for a long time. She's one that's been real. She says what she has to say. I just think that sometimes we lose sight of the contributions that people give to their respective universities and programs, and also just our game in general, and, you know, she is probably the last part of Coach Summitt's legacy.

If you really look at her record, I know they have had some games that have slipped away over the past few years, but if you look at her overall record, two Elite 8s, she's won two or three SEC titles. I mean, I just feel like someone in our game, you have to respect what she's done for it. And I'm not -- you know, I'm not an administrator at Tennessee. I'm just someone who has been around women's basketball for a long time and I know success when I see it and certainly her resumé, you can match up against the very best of our game as far as coaches.

Q. You had mentioned changing up defensively from the previous matchup with Baylor, but obviously their strength is kind of that front line and seems like not only as you mentioned, being healthier but just the development of some of the younger players. You guys have a Swiss Army knife of combinations of bigs you can kind of throw at them. Have you seen some different ways just looking at the film and looking at the development of your team down the stretch here to attack them and maybe just throw some stuff at them they didn't see last time?
COACH DAWN STALEY: Yeah, we're a team in which I think our players both the bigs and our -- and our perimeter players, they have a better understanding of how we need to play. I they are locked into our game plan. I do feel like we can do some things to get good shots.

Obviously if you take away the first quarter, you know, I think the game is, you know, pretty much not even, but you know, five-point discrepancy. So we've got to look at, you know what went right in that particular game and build on that.

But you know, I'm excited. You know, a lot of people, I mean, we have no pressure. The pressure -- and I know all coaches come up here and say the psychological thing, but we really don't have any pressure. They are the No. 1 team in the country. They have played extremely well all season long.

We're just trying to get it into a situation where we keep it close and put them in situations they very rarely have been familiar with this particular season. They are a tremendously good basketball team that have it going on both inside and outside. I mean, you know, we talk about their front line, but their guards are players who have anchored them some nights.

So they are well versed all the way around, but you know, we're going to play. We're going to give it our best shot and see where that lands us.

Q. How do you guys, for either of you guys, how do you think you guys are a different team now than perhaps at the beginning of the year when you played Baylor?
ALEXIS JENNINGS: I would just say, you know, we're more confident and everybody is coming into their roles. They understand their roles now, and you know, we have an emphasis of competing now, and that's been the main focus for, you know, most of the tournament right now. You know, we're just coming into our own. Our chemistry is flowing. Everybody understands, and when everybody is on the same page, I feel like we can be unstoppable.

TYASHA HARRIS: Just to piggyback off what she said, we're just finally yelling together and we know what we like to do for each other. We had to overcome injuries early on this season, too, and I think everybody's back fully healthy. It's going to be an exciting game.

Q. In the first go-around with Baylor, you guys had some difficulty with that front line. What have you discussed as, I mean, without giving away company secrets or whatever, but what have y'all discussed in terms of like, okay, we're healthier and some of the younger bigs have more experience now; have you looked at things you can do differently?
ALEXIS JENNINGS: Yeah, I think our emphasis is just to be physical with them. You know, it's going to be a very physical game and we feel like as long as we go out there and compete, you know, like you said, everybody is healthy now. I feel like we're in a better position to give them our best shot.

Q. Asked Coach the same thing, when Baylor beat you earlier, you were 4-4 and then you won 13 of the next 14. What's the big reason for that, besides just saying -- being healthy?
TYASHA HARRIS: Can you repeat it?

Q. What's the difference from the start of the season and the last 14 games when you were on a roll.
TYASHA HARRIS: Just to reflect on what we just said, just yelling. We emphasize a lot off the court just being around each other a lot, and having a lot of team activities just to get to know each other deeper.

I think on a deeper level, just knowing each other deeper, we trust each other more and we have more confidence going on to the court. I feel like people knew that we had each other back and we had a bigger purpose, not just basketball. Just having a sisterhood of all things and I think that helped us as the season went on.

Q. Did Baylor do anything to surprise you in that first meeting?
TYASHA HARRIS: I don't think they did anything to surprise us, really. I think it was just more of us just not being ready and just not -- not having a full team there yet, but I don't think nothing really surprised us. No.

ALEXIS JENNINGS: I would just say the same thing she said. I mean, nothing surprised us. They are a very good Baylor team, and I mean, I would just base it solely off of us not being completely healthy. You know, when everyone's not healthy, we're not able to play to our strengths necessarily, you know.

Q. Alexis, you guys play a lot of players, Baylor has potential to play a lot of players. How will depth shape the game tomorrow?
ALEXIS JENNINGS: I think depth will be a very key component to the game. You know, just the fact that we have more players who can come in and come out and exchange. You know, maybe we'll be able to play a lot of people. We know they are going to be ready, so I think that's just good.

We've been playing a lot of people throughout the entire season, so they won't shy away from this moment because this is a big moment and I feel like everybody is prepared for it.

Q. In the first meeting, you guys said you were going to be physical and pack the paint. Juicy hit a three really early in that, like ten, 15 seconds in and they had some success from the perimeter. Did that make you kind of change the way you were playing or how big a factor was that in that big first quarter, because it was pretty even, second, third and fourth quarter.
TYASHA HARRIS: Yeah, we talk a lot about like the front court and I think their backcourt is just as important.

So this matchup now, we are focusing on both sides. We know their guards can contribute just as much as their post play. It's just getting the other people who don't really score that much to score more.

ALEXIS JENNINGS: Just to piggyback off of Ty, allowing ourselves to put complete and total pressure out there, we understand that everybody out there is going to be a threat. I just feel like our pressure needs somebody similar to Belmont and the Florida State game, as well. As long as we apply a lot of pressure, I feel like we can be able to disrupt them.

TYASHA HARRIS: And like you said, putting four quarters together.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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