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March 12, 2005

Steffanie Blackmon

Kim Mulkey

Sophia Young


THE MODERATOR: We'll have a quick opening statement from championship Coach Mulkey-Robertson and then go to our two players, Steffanie Blackmon and Sophia Young. Coach, your thoughts first.

COACH MULKEY-ROBERTSON: My thoughts are, I'm ready to be home. Long week. No, I want to compliment the Kansas City people. I thought they put on a superb tournament. The Kansas State fans, Baylor fans, made it as good a tournament for championship games and for television. Those are the things I wanted to say not related to what took place on the floor. I thought our defense was superb. I thought we guarded them. Every time they turned the corner, a Baylor player was switching on to them. I thought that won the game for us throughout the course of their runs offensively. It was something I told the players at pregame, that we're going to score on Kansas State, but we're going to have to guard them like we haven't guarded people in a while. They do so many things away from the ball that are very difficult, you have to continuously move off of screens, cutters flashing, back-picks, back-screens, back-doors, and I thought our defense set the tone tonight from the very beginning.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for the player athletes.

Q. Sophia, can you talk about the last five minutes. Looked like you really wanted the ball, especially after being out with foul trouble for a little.

SOPHIA YOUNG: Well, I got in foul trouble, and I sat on the bench. I think K State made a run, like, right after that. So when I went back in the game, I knew that I had to -- like we had to get the ball inside the post because that's where most of the scoring was come from. I tried to be as aggressive as possible on the offensive end. My teammates got the ball for me.

Q. After seeing what Kansas State was able to do to Texas in the semis with that comeback, when they started making that run on you, especially in the second half, did you think, "Oh, gee, it's going to happen to us now"?

SOPHIA YOUNG: Well, at one point we did. But then we knew that if he we had the lead, we needed to keep it up. We wasn't going to let it go 'cause we know what they did a few days before. We weren't going to let them come back to that point where it was like a tied ballgame or anything like that. So we tried to be aggressive on defense and tried to score every time we got the ball on offense. And I guess it all paid off.

STEFFANIE BLACKMON: I think the same thing Sophia said. Last night we watched the game, we knew definitely that they could have come back, they had the ability to do so the night before. I mean, basketball is a game of runs anyway, so we just tried to stay focused and not let up so much.

Q. How frustrating was it to be on the bench and how much were you lobbying to get back in?

SOPHIA YOUNG: Well, it was very frustrating. That last foul that I got, I thought he called a kick ball, so I thought I was still in the game. But it was just frustrating just to be on the bench. Because in a tight game like this, you don't ever want to be on the bench, you always want to be in the game to help your team out as much as possible. I guess we just wanted to get back in and make a run for ourselves.

STEFFANIE BLACKMON: It's frustrating, but I thought the team did a good job of keeping the game tight and keeping close, playing good defense, things like this. I wasn't really worried about it. But just wanting to go out there and help.

Q. Steffanie, y'all celebrated a week ago. How does this one feel?

STEFFANIE BLACKMON: Even better. I mean, to do it twice is amazing. I saw Texas do it a couple years ago. I was like, "Why can't we?" Feels great right now.

Q. Both of you guarded Wecker at one time or another. You've had success keeping her under average. What do you have to be conscious of when you guard a player like her?

STEFFANIE BLACKMON: I think you have to do your homework, be familiar with her moves, her tendency. She's a good player, but you just got to try to stay tight, keep your feet moving and be ready.

SOPHIA YOUNG: Well, first of all, Wecker is a very good player and we needed to stop her from driving to the basket a lot, stop the spin move, because we worked on that today. I think we did a pretty good job of keeping her from doing her average. So, yeah, but I must compliment her for just being the good player she is.

THE MODERATOR: Ladies, we'll see you on the selection show tomorrow. Congratulations. Questions for Coach Mulkey-Robertson.

Q. Same question to you about when Kansas State was mounting that comeback in the second half, did you have a little feeling of, "Oh, gee, here they go again"?

COACH MULKEY-ROBERTSON: No. I knew before the game they would. I mean, we talked about it. 17-0 against Texas, come back and win a basketball game. They score a lot of points in a short period of time. We discussed that in our scouting report. In the timeout, when they cut the lead, I said, "Here's what coach was telling you about." They just looked at me, "Like, yeah, coach, we listen. But we'll get back out there and extend it a little bit more." They had confidence in themselves. Good teams do that, you know, with this crowd in the game, playing close to their home. But, you know, I never thought at any time that we were not in control of the basketball game. I felt like even when they cut the lead, "Hey, guys, we're still in the lead, and don't rush anything, just keep doing what you've been doing."

Q. You talked before about Blackmon and Young getting in foul trouble. The question was asked to them about how much they lobbied. How difficult was it for you to keep them on the bench for as long as you did?

COACH MULKEY-ROBERTSON: First of all, I was trying to think, I don't think in coaching those two together that I've ever had both of them on the bench in foul trouble with that much time to go in a game and us only maintaining at the time a five-point lead. So that was a first for our team. I, like them, want to compliment the players for never, ever -- they just never got rattled. They went out there and they continued to rebound on the defensive end and help our team. When it got to about the six-minute mark, I looked at both of them -- to tell you the truth, Steffanie looked at me like, "Are you sure you want us to go in with that much time left?" She didn't say anything, she just had that look. She looked at the clock. I said, "Get in there. That's why you're All-Americans. You get in there, you learn how to play with four fouls." I'd never coached them where both of them were in foul trouble.

Q. The play where Chelsea scored on the layup when y'all wind up with a five-on-four situation with Megan down. How important was that? You hit an offensive lull for a long period?

COACH MULKEY-ROBERTSON: I didn't see the player go down. I was in front of the pack watching the ball. You know, that's what seniors do. Let me tell you something about Chelsea Whitaker. I know all coaches think their players should be all-tournament, and Steffanie and Sophia definitely deserved it. But there is a kid in Chelsea Whitaker, I'd love for you guys to look at her assist-to-turnover ratio in this tournament. Unbelievable. She played 40 minutes tonight, never came off the floor, and just playing big-time basketball for us. She's just very, very confident right now. That was a big basket, then it was a 3-point play.

Q. At any time when Kansas State, after they had cut it to three or four, did the players just know to take it straight to Sophia or did you have to instruct them?

COACH MULKEY-ROBERTSON: Oh, I instruct them a lot. But you can rest assured they know it and if they don't know it, I remind them. "Go to your strength." I thought there were a couple of times where we rushed it when we got to the three and a half, 3:50 mark. We took some really uncharacteristic shots for us on the perimeter too early, too early into the shot clock. Chameka, one in particular, I remember on the baseline out there. It was too early. I love her confidence, and I love, you know, that she has the confidence to do that. But when you're in the championship game and you're playing a team that can score quickly, you got to I don't want to use the word "milk" the clock, but you got to be smart when you shoot the ball and get better shots than that.

Q. You talked about the defensive effort on Wecker. Can you talk about the perimeter defense on Koehn in the second half.

COACH MULKEY-ROBERTSON: Let me tell you something, Abiola Wabara, that's a woman out there. That is as strong a woman as you'll ever coach. That is the highest compliment. She's about the only one physically on our team that can match up with Wecker. And I want to say something about Abiola, because those kinds of players go unnoticed sometimes, and she needs to be mentioned because it was a challenge for her to guard Kendra Wecker. On the perimeter, if you watch the game closely, our game plan going in was every time they cut, moved, did anything, everybody is switching on everything. Never allow them to turn the corner and never allow them to get a spot-up shot. They did. Koehn had some right early in the first half. Like I told them at halftime, when you think you're out on her, get a little bit closer. That's all you can do when you have players that have that kind of range. When you think you're far enough out on her, just get a little bit closer and make them drive to beat you, make them put the ball on the floor.

Q. You mentioned Chelsea playing 40 minutes. Seems the bench was maybe a little shorter than usual.

COACH MULKEY-ROBERTSON: It might have been shorter in minutes played, but it was valuable in production.

Q. I was going to ask about LaToya in particular.

COACH MULKEY-ROBERTSON: Jordan Davis going in, guys, cold as can be, nailing two free-throws. I mean, that's the confidence I have in those kids. "Jordan, I need you in the game, because they're going to start fouling, go nail the free-throws. Help us extend this lead." It wasn't necessarily the minutes played as much as what it was what they did when they were in there. LaToya went in early to give Chameka a breather coming off screens. You know, that's hard, coming off screens. Your body getting bumped all the time. LaToya has that lateral quickness that can help. She gave Chameka a lot of help tonight in that area.

Q. Winning the conference title with five teams ranked, do you deserve a No. 1 seed? Talk about how you've turned the program around in the five years you've been there.

COACH MULKEY-ROBERTSON: You know what, I'm not going to beg for a No. 1 seed. If you win the Big-12 and you win the conference Big-12 championship, what else can we do? There's nothing else we can do. It's out of our hands. If we're not going to be a No. 1 seed, send me to the place with the school that's going to get the No. 1 seed in front of us. That's all I know to say. Our kids are confident, and they've done all they can do to put themselves in a position to get a No. 1 seed. But, guys, it doesn't really matter. If we don't get it, we got to go play. We got to go play. As far as building the program, I don't have a magic wand that can tell you just exactly how we did it. We came. I was scared to death, first head coaching job. Just thought, "What in the world am I doing? I'm leaving a program that has been to Final Fours, is used to winning, going to one" -- Back in those days, the loudest crowd noise was when they brought the pizza out. I used to say, this is the God's truth, "I'm going to live to see the day that the crowd is into the game as much as when they try to win pizza." And we have lived to see that day. What we did, the first thing I did, you know, a lot of thought goes into your staff. I had to bring a staff that wasn't going to bailout on me quickly. I had to bring a staff that was very loyal. See, one of my biggest faults is also one of my strengths. I'm very loyal. I'm very loyal, to a fault sometimes. And I brought Jennifer and Johnny from Ruston, Louisiana. Johnny was never even in the coaching profession. But I knew Johnny would be loyal and he could do all the administrative things that I don't want to do. I don't care about budgets, I don't care about money, I don't care about scheduling. He can do those things and he's darn good at it. Jennifer had the personality to recruit young people. She could talk their talk. She could sell me. We couldn't sell Baylor. Seven wins. Who is going to want to come there? We could sell academics, though. A lot of players bought into that. Bill Brock, having been a head coach, could help me on the defensive end of the floor, could help me with post players, could help me with the contacts. That was the first and best move I ever made coming to Baylor, was hiring those guys. Then we had to go out and get the players that might not have been looked at that the powers to be, but we thought could compete with the powers to be. I'll never forget my recruiting class, with the Blackmon sisters, Jordan Davis, Melanie Hamerly. That class was big for us. Sheila Lambert, Brooke McCormick came with Bill from Grayson. They jump-started the program. But they really weren't our first true recruiting class or our first high school recruiting class. We've been able each year to find players like that. I don't have a McDonald's All-American on any position on that floor. I wouldn't know what the luxury of that would feel like. You got teams in this league that have one at every position. All we know to do is go to work. Roll your sleeves up, go to work. That school at Baylor has given us everything we need to win. I've never asked for anything that we have not received in order to compete at this level. That's all you can do. And we've been very, very productive.

Q. Was it something you told them or was it just natural when they went back in, it seemed like the ball just went to Sophia every time?

COACH MULKEY-ROBERTSON: Well, you know, Steffanie and Sophia are going to be big bodies down there. Again, I don't know that in a timeout, I could have said, "Get the ball inside." I know I said several times, "We don't need to rush our shots. We need to work the ball around. We're in control of the game. We don't need to rush our shots." Now I'm going to tell you something we didn't do a very good job of. Other than shooting free-throws, we kept stopping the clock on the defensive end. That's the worst thing you can do to a team like Kansas State who can nail free-throws. It was being aggressive defensively, which you hate to get on young people, because that's what you want them to be. But you've got to be super intelligent late in the game and make sure you don't keep stopping the clock. That's when I used one of the timeouts to tell them that's one of the worst things you can do.

Q. You say you don't really care about where you're seeded. Do you care where you play?

COACH MULKEY-ROBERTSON: Well, I know where I'm not going, that I'd love to be in your hometown. See, the women's game hasn't reached that point yet. You would think conference champs, tournament champs, we should be rewarded and go to Dallas, but that's not happening, okay? So, yeah, I'd care that I'd like to pick and choose, but I don't get that luxury. The women's game just hasn't gotten to neutral sites yet. I don't want to go to Knoxville, Tennessee, Chattanooga. I don't want to be anywhere near the Volunteer State because I think they have a cakewalk. Don't they have two things there? Don't they have Chattanooga and what's the other spot? Don't you think they'll be there? I don't want to go there. But, see, the women's game unfortunately hasn't reached that point yet. We're trying. We're trying very hard, but we just haven't reached it yet. You know who I hate it for the most, I hate it for our fans. Our players will get on a plane. We'll get on a plane and go anywhere. But when you get to post-season, it's a reward for your fans, too. And we have a good fan following.

Q. Better than the old system.

COACH MULKEY-ROBERTSON: The old system would have been good because you would have gotten a host and do all that. But I'm glad the game is getting away from home-court sites. But we're just not to neutral sites yet. We've just got to get there quickly.

Q. I'm wondering how proud you were of them for making the free-throws down the stretch after the first half, then how many free-throws will you shoot this week?

COACH MULKEY-ROBERTSON: Well, you need to ask me how many times will we run for the number of free-throws we missed. We started this earlier in the year, challenging them, every one that they miss, we're going to run down and back. We did step up in the second half. Didn't we only miss one? In the first half, we missed a lot of front ends in the first half, too. But, yeah, free-throws, it's mental. It's mental. And you got to be careful what you say to them to make them really get uptight about it. I thought I did a poor job in the Nebraska game this year when we lost in triple overtime because we had a 14-point lead and we were already in a double bonus there. We just missed free-throws. You make your free-throws, you don't even go to overtime. I felt like some things I may have said to them in the timeout may have made them too conscious of it. Sometimes you don't say something other than, "Hey, guys, we got to step up and make some free-throws."

Q. Back to the NCAA tournament. There were a lot of teams that aren't used to losing that lost this year. Do you think the parity that seems to be growing in the game will help get neutral sites soon?

COACH MULKEY-ROBERTSON: I think the parity is there. I think the thing we're looking right now is what? We don't know across the country where the fans are. We know where they are in certain areas. But until we reach -- it's all generated by money. You got to have people in the stands to sell tickets and to do things. The women's game has not reached that yet. You still got the same old places you could put it every year, sell out, make money. And we're trying to get away from that. And when we do get away from it, you got to be careful because you got to make sure we have people in the stands. The parity is there. The game is there now. It's time to go on and get to neutral courts. And again, guys, we're working hard to get there.

Q. Is there a different kind of satisfaction between winning a regular season and a tournament championship? You kind of alluded to it yesterday. Does it feel different? I'm not saying one is better than the other.

COACH MULKEY-ROBERTSON: I am. I'll quickly tell you, they both feel great. Not many people do both of them. Not many people double dip is what the girls say. "We double dipped this year, Coach." You don't do that. That's hard to do. But if you're asking me which one I put more weight on, I'd have to put the season, the season, 16 games, is so much more grueling than getting on a run in a two- or three-day tournament. And to think that we did both of them is just a special group that I get to coach.

THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you and congratulations again.


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