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March 30, 2019

Vic Schaefer

Jordan Danberry

Anriel Howard

Teaira McCowan

Jazzmun Holmes

Andra Espinoza-Hunter

Portland, Oregon

THE MODERATOR: We are here with the starting five from Mississippi State.

We'll go ahead and open it up for questions at this time.

Q. Teaira, that game against Oregon the last time you played was one of the few times this season that you haven't had a double-double. You were in foul trouble. What else went wrong there?
TEAIRA McCOWAN: Just didn't execute the game plan that the coaches gave us. Just one of those nights, you know. Can't have them, but we did.

Q. Jordan, having played Oregon in the state of Oregon, seeing them this season, how much does that help you guys get prepared for this game?
JORDAN DANBERRY: You know, completely different team than last time we played them. We've played in Oregon before against, you know, their crowd, they have a big crowd, big fan base because we're right here in this state.

I guess, I don't know, I won't have it no other way really. I want to play here in front of they fan base again and come out with a win.

Q. Jordan, you fouled out of that first game against Oregon earlier this year. Given what Sabrina Ionescu can do, if that's your assignment, how important is it for you to stay on the floor and stay engaged in this game tomorrow?
JORDAN DANBERRY: I think it's important. I mean, she's a great player. She's an All-American. Stay out of foul trouble this time in the game so I can be out there to help my teammates. I got great teammates around me that play help defense as well. I think we'll be all right, we'll collectively guard her.

Q. Jordan, you said this is a completely different team. What exactly is different entering this game with Oregon?
JORDAN DANBERRY: Just our mindset, our defense. That was in non-conference. We've played a lot more games together, got a lot more chemistry on the defensive end as well as the offensive end.

We're just a different team as far as our talents, what we can do.

Q. Anriel, last time around you dropped 30 against Oregon. How did you find success against them? Can you also speak about the physicality of that game. 50 combined free throws from both teams in that game.
ANRIEL HOWARD: I just believe that my teammates, they found me in the open areas, open spots. Jazz did really good finding me. Even Teaira, when she doubled off her, I just tried to find the soft spot. Everybody played a role in just finding me in the open areas. I was able to knock down shots.

But last game, last time we played them, it was very physical. We expect the same thing. We're used to it. We're in the SEC. That comes every night. We'll be ready.

Q. Teaira, Kelly Graves, Oregon's head coach, compared you to Mt. Hood, an 11,000-foot-tall volcano here in Oregon. I'm sure you've been compared to a lot of things. Is that the craziest thing? What do you think about that?
TEAIRA McCOWAN: That is crazy, but I don't know. No comment. I don't know. It's crazy (smiling).

Q. Teaira, how do you prepare for a matchup with Ruthy Hebard after what happened in Eugene in December?
TEAIRA McCOWAN: I prepare normally. I just know I have to be better for my teammates, I have to be focused, dialed in. I can't, you know, just do what I did last game. I went back and looked at it. I wasn't, you know, doing what I normally do. I wasn't the normal T. I know this time I'll be better, my team will be better. We'll be fine.

Q. Teaira, they played some sort of strange combination defense last time. How much did that impact the way you played? Was it just a bad game on your part?
TEAIRA McCOWAN: It was just a bad game on my part, I would say. But their defense is pretty swarming. They threw everything at me. I didn't react as quick as I would normally. So, I mean, I just have to be prepared for whatever they're going to throw at me.

Q. Andy, you only played five minutes in that first game against Oregon. Your role has expanded. What do you think you can provide in that expanded role this time around?
ANDRA ESPINOZA-HUNTER: Just be good help side, knock down shots when I'm open.

THE MODERATOR: Ladies, thank you very much for your time. Good luck tomorrow.

Mississippi State head coach Vic Schaefer. We will go ahead and open it up for questions.

Q. What role does having played Oregon already in the state of Oregon play in helping you guys get ready for this game?
VIC SCHAEFER: Sure, I think -- I don't think there's any question that it helps you. I think our kids, they understand they're going to walk into an arena tomorrow night and it's going to be green, a lot of people hollering against you, not many hollering for you.

But we're going to have a few people here. So, I mean, that happens in our league a lot. We've played at some great places, some great venues with pro crowds that are against you. I think that's what this team has handled a great deal.

We've played them now three straight years. Kelly's done a tremendous job. Have so much respect for him and his staff and the team. We've had some real great games with each other. I appreciated him playing us home and home. He came to us last year, we returned this year. Both games were high-scoring, really knock-down, drag-outs in my mind.

Q. When you played them in Eugene this year, they really hurt you on the pick'n roll.
VIC SCHAEFER: You've been watching film (smiling).

Q. At this point in the season, how do you make adjustments while still staying true to who you are?
VIC SCHAEFER: You don't think I'm going to come out and play 2-3 zone tomorrow night (laughter)?

Q. How do you straddle the line making sure your kids are confident, we can win with how we've won all year?
VIC SCHAEFER: That's a great point. Darrell Royal used to say, You go with what brung you.

We're a lot better team today than we were three months ago. So is Oregon. We've gone through some ways to deal with them a little bit. We have Plan B and Plan C in place in case we have to go to that.

At the same time I think they're going to be who they are. We're going to be who we are. We'll go from there. But when we played them earlier in the year, I mean, you just couldn't help off anybody. They did a tremendous job of spreading you out. If you helped off somebody, you lost ball pressure, they're going to find who's open.

So for us, you know -- for them, it doesn't change. They still got the same personnel. Hopefully we're a little better defensively. I thought we were really good last night against a really good team. Thought we were really good in the first half at Clemson, against Clemson, so...

We've had so many new players at that point in December, trying to figure our way, figure it out. Now we've got a different team than that team. No Chloe, and Andy is playing a lot. We're different a little bit. Hopefully in a good way.

Q. Last time out Sabrina scored 29 points, 17 for 17 from the free-throw line. How do you prevent her from getting to the line so often?
VIC SCHAEFER: Stop fouling her. I think that's the big thing. That's an All-American in so many different ways. You just can't put her on the free-throw line. Down the stretch, we made some really poor decisions that put her on the line. Hopefully we're smarter today than we were three months ago. We'll make better decisions.

She's like an 89% free-throw shooter, I think something like that. You just can't put her on the line. When the game's on the line, she wants to be in that moment. That's what makes her great. We got to be better. We got to make better decisions, not put her on the line.

Q. In that game against Oregon, Teaira was not on her game. She got into foul trouble early. Eventually you pulled her and sat her on the bench for most of the fourth quarter. Did y'all have a conversation that kind of changed things for her after that game? What was it that's allowed her to be so effective even if things aren't going her way, kept out of the paint? How has she been able to maintain her composure and get back into her kind of basketball?
VIC SCHAEFER: The answer is yes, we had a conversation, but that's probably not the only one since then. She was a bull in a china cabinet the night we got beat by Missouri at home. I just mentioned this in the locker room to someone else, the media. Most seniors halfway through their senior years think they know it all and are not very coachable. Teaira, after that Valentine's Day game, we had another conversation, her and Johnnie sat and watched film. She realized she's got to do things a little different.

Give the kid credit, she changed, she grew. She altered some things where she's got to play better. Again, I think that's why she's such a great player and going to just be tremendous at the next level because she is still coachable.

So, you know, that night was certainly a frustrating night for all of us, for her. She's a lot like her coach: she's an emotional kid, plays with a lot of passion. I have a real appreciation for somebody like that.

Q. Did Oregon play T a lot like the team did last night, like Arizona State did, play the post that way, sagging, beating up on her?
VIC SCHAEFER: You didn't see the game?

Q. I came home from a football game that night, turned it on...
VIC SCHAEFER: Yeah, so it was physical down there, for sure, yeah. You guys got to find another topic, you're trying to get me in trouble (laughter).

Q. They were playing a combination defense a lot of the time on her. How much was that a factor and how much was her not having a good game?
VIC SCHAEFER: Again, I think they did a great job. They mixed up their defenses, played some box-and-one, that 3-2 zone they like to play that's big and wide, played some man and 2-3.

You have to have your whole offensive package ready to go. Your point guard really has to be cognizant of what they're doing. That's what makes them -- again, Kelly has done a great job with them because they are multidimensional offensively as well as defensively. They're a load, a handful to deal with.

When you play somebody like that, you better be ready. We know we're playing a championship team. They won the Pac-12. They're really good. They're good for a reason. They're smart, they're heady, tough, well-coached. We're going to have to beat them in front of their own people tomorrow night.

They're a heck of a basketball team. They got great players. May have the best multi-skilled player in the game. I mean, if she was a baseball player, used call her a five-tool player. I figured it out, I think she's an eight-tool player in women's basketball. She scores at all three levels. She rebounds. She assists. She's your hustle player. She's smart. You can throw classy and elegance in on top of it. I mean, that's how good that kid is.

When you're going against a team like that and a player like that, you really have to play your best game. We didn't play our best game that night. So we learned from it. Hopefully we'll be better tomorrow night.

Q. I have to ask you about Teaira. She looks like she's in really good shape right now. Has she even lost weight since December? Do you think she's in better shape now?
VIC SCHAEFER: I don't know that she's lost it since December. I think her frame changed pretty quick once she got to Starkville.

Look, the kid gets madder than heck at me if I yank her out of a game. She don't like to come out. She's averaged I think 31, 32 minutes on the year. Here in the last five games, she's averaging maybe 36, 37.

Again, here we go, over the course of the year, she's averaging 30. But in the last five, she's averaging 34.4. In our conference, she averaged almost 32. She's in great shape. I give Marci, our strength and conditioning coach, a lot of credit. But I give T a lot of credit. Not a lot of big kids like her drag two and three people up and down the floor every night all night, and stay in the shape and conditioning.

Again, y'all saw last night. It's like that every night for that kid. You just get pounded on and beat on all game long. The kid can take no more shots. She can't have any more. My trainer has to do the job with heat and ice. When you think about the course of her career, it's been hard. It's hard for her down there.

Q. Maybe doesn't always translate this literally, but is preparing for moments like this part of why you're willing to go on the road and play a team like Oregon?
VIC SCHAEFER: Absolutely. I think, yeah, that's exactly why you do it. We went to Texas and played. We went to Virginia and played. We came out here to Oregon and played. I'm probably missing one somewhere.

This is why you do it. Again, our teams, my teams have always continued to get better in late February and March. We pride ourselves on being a tough, physical, aggressive basketball team. That doesn't say anything about your skill set. But if somebody describes you as a tough, physical, aggressive basketball player, you'd like that. Doesn't say anything about your jump shot.

Same thing is true probably about anybody's football team or baseball team. Doesn't say anything about your Friday night starter that throws 95. If your baseball team is a tough, physical, aggressive baseball team you'd probably like that as a coach.

For me as a coach, it's what we've always hung our hat on. Overtime games, whenever it gets tough, that's when it just gets about right for us.

Q. Is that the scouting report next to you? That's a lot of paper. Do you make the team read the entire thing, too?
VIC SCHAEFER: Well, no. These are my notes. Again, we've played them three straight years, so... These are notes.

Q. Just Oregon notes?
VIC SCHAEFER: Yes, this is just Oregon. That's old, this is new. So, yeah, I have this. I don't throw stuff away. I go back and look at what worked in Hawaii three years ago, whenever else we've played them.

For me, I've always been a note-taker. Doesn't mean I was a good student in college, by the way, but I am a note-taker. I have this on all of our opponents.

This one is about average. Only played them three times (smiling).

Q. Obviously you are familiar with them. Do they remind you of anyone in the SEC? Any team that's like them? Any player like Sabrina?
VIC SCHAEFER: As a team, no. No one spreads you out like they do and shoots it like they do. Maybe an Arkansas as far as just spread you out and try to shoot it. But their five player is a little bit better.

Maybe Missouri as far as, you know, having that player like her. But from a competitive standpoint, a competitor, that's probably as close as comparison as we're going to probably find. That's not saying no one else has one. It's just from a similar standpoint of being able to score at all three levels, seeing the floor, makes the great decisions, passer, rebounder, plays with heart and passion, all those things.

I think that's probably a good comparison.

THE MODERATOR: Coach Schaefer, thank you very much for your time. Best of luck tomorrow.

VIC SCHAEFER: All right. Praise the Lord and go Dogs.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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