April 5, 2005
DEBBIE BYRNE: Once again, we'll take questions for the student-athletes after an opening statement from the Coach.
COACH KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: Wow, we're national champions. First basketball national championship for the Big 12, men or women. First for women's basketball at Baylor. And what a performance it was. I thought rebounding was outstanding for us. Looking at the stats, that's the most we have out-rebounded anybody all year. And to limit them to just three offensive rebounds and make sure they only got one look at the basket, I was very proud of our defense. I told the team before the game, during half-time and throughout the course of the playoffs, your defense will win you a national championship. Your defense will win you a national championship. And it was pretty special again tonight.
DEBBIE BYRNE: Questions for the players, please.
Q. Emily, you have another pretty good athlete in your family; was he here tonight or have you heard from him this week?
EMILY NIEMANN: I got a text message, yeah. I'm sure I got voice mail waiting on me too. He is actually in spring training camp right now at Tampa Bay, so he didn't make it but I'm sure he's by a TV, yeah.
Q. Emily, how much were you feeling it tonight?
EMILY NIEMANN: I was feeling good tonight. As always, I don't have to say this just to say it but my teammates did a great job of getting me a ball in great spots. Chelsea hit a great screen for me to take it into the locker room for half-time and they just do a great job of making things easy on me when I can just catch and shoot then I'm comfortable and I was feeling good tonight.
Q. Sophia, does this make, to your right, does this make the move to the United States, make everything worthwhile, is this what you wanted? What kind of player are you going to be once you actually figure out how to play the game?
SOPHIA YOUNG: Yeah, this actually makes everything worthwhile. I feel like I'm living my dream and I don't know what kind of player I'll be. Hopefully I'll just grow up to develop into a better player.
Q. Sophia and Steffanie, could you talk a little bit about the confidence that Emily's early shots gave you when she hit like four three's in a row.
STEFFANIE BLACKMON: That's big time. We needed that to spread the floor with their zone and everything so she just, I told her to kept shooting and she kept knocking it down.
SOPHIA YOUNG: When Emily hit that first shot I was like, "oh, yeah, she's on," you know. I was very excited that she came in. She knocked down those two big threes for us and that just gave us a lot of momentum into the game and we knew that she was going to be hot for the rest of the night too. Like Steffanie said, we told her to keep shooting because she was hot.
Q. For Steffanie, judging by the score it looked like the game plan came together perfectly for y'all. Was it as easy as it looked out there?
STEFFANIE BLACKMON: No, one of the things that is coach's emphasis is defense and we just really tried to buckle down and I thought our defense was great. We let a couple buckets go at the end of the first half but it was all about defense and that helped us create some transition offense.
Q. For Steffanie and Emily, you two might have - "struggled" might be a little strong - but maybe had the least type of performance that you were used to of anyone in the rotation. Can you talk about how each of you had managed to stay confident throughout this to play so well tonight?
STEFFANIE BLACKMON: It's just something that you just have to try to stay positive and confident and if you don't do as well one night try to come back the next night. And if you can't do it, just do whatever you can to help your team, rebound, play defense, whatever. You just got to keep confident and wait your turn and keep shooting and it will finally fall in and if it does, that's great.
EMILY NIEMANN: Yeah, I would just like to add something to that, that while Stef and I might not have been scoring as much as we're used to and our team is used to us doing, we were playing good basketball. Both of us had good defense, solid. There's other things than scoring and I know that I've seen that throughout the year from Stef and she was a great senior for us, a great leader all the way through it and we wouldn't be here without it regardless of how many points she scored. As far as my struggling, it's just part of it. Slumps, shooters have them and you got to keep shooting the ball. If I would have quit or given up then I wouldn't have had a night like I did tonight. And you just got to plug through it.
Q. Emily, do you think that you guys winning the national championship now there are a lot of teams saying, hey, it is possible, we can make it there?
EMILY NIEMANN: Yeah, I think it's a huge, just a compliment to the way the women's game has come that you don't have just 20 players in the country, at the Connecticut's and Tennessees, but you have lots of great players all over the country and they're going to different schools and it's making a the game a lot of fun to watch and a lot of fun to be a part of.
Q. Steffanie and Sophia, 45-22 rebounding edge; can you talk about some of them were tipped rebounds where somebody else would get them; were y'all trying to keep the ball active sometimes?
STEFFANIE BLACKMON: I thought it was a great team effort. I think a couple times somebody would tip the ball and somebody would come and get it. People running down just rebounds, long rebounds, so rebounding is always the emphasis for us every game. One thing we tried to do is make sure that they, the defensive end, make sure it was won and done so they didn't get second chance points. So just tried to crash hard.
SOPHIA YOUNG: I think that they're a team that's pretty hard to get around to so more than likely the ball will be tipped all the time. So that's why it was tipped. But like Steffanie said, emphasis is always on rebounding and I think we did a pretty good job of that tonight.
Q. Any of y'all, been pretty business-like, we talked about that this whole time; can you celebrate, are you excited? (All said "yeah.")
SOPHIA YOUNG: Yeah, all night. We don't have anything to worry about anymore. So this is definitely a celebration tonight.
STEFFANIE BLACKMON: Yeah, the last game.
DEBBIE BYRNE: Ladies, thank you very much. And now we'll take questions for the coach. Congratulations on a great season.
Q. The trademark of Michigan State in their tournament run has always been strong second halves. What did you remind your players about at half-time to try and keep them from finding some momentum to get back in the game?
COACH KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: I reminded them that Tennessee had a 16-point lead with about 14 minutes to go in the semifinal game and they beat them. I reminded them about the eight-minute mark when we were up double figures pretty good, that this game wasn't over. That's just the way I coach. I never let them get comfortable out there and think that the game is won or if it's over. At the five-minute mark, still said the same thing. If you think the game is won, you need to sit down by me and let me put somebody on the floor that understands and you just keep plugging away, you keep playing. And that's what I said to them.
Q. Could you comment on your status as the first person to win a title as a player, assistant, a head coach?
COACH KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: I don't think about those things. Certainly it's an honor. But as I said, I've been blessed all my life to put myself around winners. When I was in high school I was around winners, when I was in college I was around winners, and I learned from the best. I don't really know that -- I mean that's -- it's nice, but that's the least of my concerns right now. I'm so happy for Baylor University. I cannot say it enough.
Q. The three players you had up there outscored Michigan State's bigs by 50 points and Michigan State's team by five. When did you know that you could have that kind of success with them?
COACH KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: Well, I thought Michigan State's match-up zone would present some problems for us. But then again, I knew I had Emily Niemann and Chameka Scott and I knew I had LaToya Wyatt that could basically shoot the perimeter shot. But we weren't going to let it become a perimeter game. You got to get post touches, guys, that's the key to breaking down a zone. You got to do what got you here and the post game got us here and we kept getting post touches and Emily was lighting it up from the perimeter and I just can't say enough about LaToya Wyatt. All year long we have known about Steffanie and Sophia, because they're all Americans, but we always have had a player unexpectedly step up and do something that people forget about. Nobody thought LaToya Wyatt would be a factor in this game and I did and I thought the penetrating skills with the ball in her hand would break down the zone. I thought her defensive lateral speed and quickness would come off of staggered screens and I thought LaToya Wyatt was very big for us tonight.
Q. Can you talk about what you were thinking the first two minutes of the game, four turnovers in the first five or six possessions; you made the very quick, very sudden two substitutions right away.
COACH KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: And I didn't make the substitutions necessarily because those kids were to blame for the slow start. I just felt like I've had confidence in anybody I put in. And I felt like we needed some things from those two kids, Emily, the perimeter shot; and Tisdale, the freshman point guard could push it up the floor at that time and give us a little spurt of energy. I thought when we turned it over, you know, three or four times there in a row, I looked at my staff and I said, "Now how are we going to win a national championship turning the ball over like this?" And then we settled down. And I just thought it was a very good performance for us tonight.
Q. You said on television after the game this is one of many to come. You were talking about your team?
COACH KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: I was talking about Baylor University and all of athletics at Baylor University. We won one in tennis, now we have won one in women's basketball. We have got a Top-25 softball team, we got a Top-25 basketball team and our men's basketball team is headed in the right direction.
Q. Well, you're still pretty young Head Coach, you've only been at it a few years, I mean, is it hard not to look down the road and see how many you might be able to win?
COACH KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: No, man, I live day-to-day. In this profession it wears on you. I love what I do, I have a passion for what I do. We have a lot of young players. We only lose three seniors, two of those get significant time, but we have got a returning nucleus of players that aren't going to go away and they sure did like the way it felt when that buzzer went off tonight.
Q. What are some of the primary keys to turning around a program over the course of five years; and second, after seeing what Bruce Webber wore last night did you feel like you had to come out with something flashy?
COACH KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: I didn't even see the game; I don't know what he wore. Orange? Well, I wouldn't have worn orange, I can tell you that. (Laughter.) What was your first question?
Q. Keys to building the program.
COACH KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: The keys to building a program are you better be at a school that has an athletic director and an administration that will give you what you want and give you most importantly time to build a program. And give you the resources. Secondly, you better go hire you a staff that will roll their sleeves up and make you look good and understand what you have to do in recruiting to go out and build. You can't go out after the McDonald's All-Americans, you got to go after sleepers and beat the bushes and find those players. We just won a national championship with not one kid on the roster that was recruited by the powers that be. And that gives hope to all of us that are trying to build a program. To the outfit, my assistant Coach Jennifer White saw it in a store the night before we left and I told her to bring it on. That's the story behind the outfit.
Q. You talked about the rebounding edge; the fact that you had so many players involved too, LaToya I believe had six, Chameka, Chelsea. How big was that, knowing that maybe Steffanie and Sophia couldn't get them all?
COACH KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: We got loot of long rebounds, and we also used our guards to go get a lot of tough rebounds down deep. I thought that there was one minute there where Steffanie Blackmon came across the lane, Emily Niemann had blocked her girl out and Emily couldn't get to it but she made sure, by God, her girl wasn't going to get to it. I love seeing things like that. It was a total team effort in everything we did tonight. When you can play your entire team in a national championship game and those young ladies get an opportunity to run down that floor and dribble the ball and play everybody, what a wonderful feeling.
Q. You mentioned that you are the first team men's or women's from the Big 12 to win a national title in basketball. If someone had said Baylor would do that in 1997 when the league was formed, I think a lot of people would have thought you were crazy. Can you just comment on it that you were the ones.
COACH KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: Oh, I'm not sure what people say about Baylor and I really don't give a rip what they say. We're national champions today. They probably said we didn't belong in the Big 12. My guess is they're rethinking that, aren't they?
DEBBIE BYRNE: Coach, thank you very much. We're going to release you back to the locker room. Congratulations on a wonderful season and your national championship.
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