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March 10, 2005

Steffanie Blackmon

Kim Mulkey

Chelsea Whitaker

Sophia Young


THE MODERATOR: Opening statement from Coach Mulkey-Robertson, and then, again, if you can address any one of the three players by the first name. Coach, congratulations.

COACH MULKEY-ROBERTSON: Thank you. As I told the team in the locker room, I'm not sure we deserved to win the game, but we hung around long enough and we refused to lose. We couldn't get in a flow offensively from the time Blackmon got in foul trouble. I credit that to Texas Tech. You play somebody three times, there's not a whole lot of secret, guys. We'll take the win.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for the player athletes.

Q. Chelsea, obviously the last few weeks, you were a lot more aggressive offensively. What is it that changed, that your game has changed so much in the last few weeks?

CHELSEA WHITAKER: I don't know. I've reached a new level of comfort, and I guess this is a good time to do that (laughter). I'm just playing the way I know I can play. It's all working out, letting the game come to me. Sophia and Steffanie draw so much attention, it's just a good stage for me to get comfortable because I'm standing there wide open. I don't know. I'm just more comfortable now than I've ever been since I've been in college.

Q. Chelsea, was that last play designed for you? Looked like the pass was to Sophia, looked like she was specifically looking for you? Was it drawn up for you?

CHELSEA WHITAKER: No. It was pretty much a broken play. But that's when the best things happen sometimes, when a play is broken, because if we don't know what we're doing, then they don't know. That's pretty much what we were doing. I was just screaming at Sophia to give me the ball, because she was standing in the corner with her girl and my girl standing by her. I knew they were going to be running to Steffanie and Sophie as always. So I just went in there and I was thinking about that Nebraska game when I bricked two of them and I was wide open. So I just said, "I can't do that again." I just took it in there and shot it.

Q. I don't remember who the player was coming over, there was a bigger player coming over.

CHELSEA WHITAKER: I think it was Griffin. I saw her. I didn't care actually. I just wanted to shoot and get a shot off. I was waiting on her to come a little bit earlier because then I would have kicked it to Sophia or Steffanie. I think it was Steffanie standing right there. But they didn't come because they know that's what I'm looking to do, to pass it. I just shot the ball and pray that it went in.

Q. Chelsea, y'all have won a lot of close games this year. Can you maybe talk about the confidence y'all have in close games now?

CHELSEA WHITAKER: We have a lot of confidence because last year we lost a lot of close games. I think we're pretty experienced in that and we don't want to go that route any more. We can't start out like we did tonight, Saturday, for sure. We learned a lot, we've grown a lot. We've played together for a few years now. That's just paying off now.

Q. Steffanie, can you talk about that final sequence? Were you trying to foul the girl before the inbound pass? Was that specific there?

STEFFANIE BLACKMON: Yeah. We talked about that in the huddle, wanted to foul before the clock started. I just went up and told the referees, trying to get the pressure on the line.

COACH MULKEY-ROBERTSON: Make sure it wasn't intentional. You gotta be very careful there. You don't want to grab a jersey. Just kind of get real physical and act like you're playing good defense, try to get a charge. Got to be real careful there. You got to wait till they give the ball to the inbounder.

Q. (No microphone.)

COACH MULKEY-ROBERTSON: Sure. Don't I tell the ref everything during the course of a game? Come on, Jerry (laughter). They just won't listen. They're like my kids and my husband, they don't listen to me.

Q. Sophia, you're down I think eight fairly late. Were you starting to worry or were you already worried? How confident were you there at the end?

SOPHIA YOUNG: Well, no, I wasn't worried because Coach Mulkey-Robertson asked us in the huddle if we think the game is lost and sit on the bench. So I just jumped up. But, no, I wasn't worried because I know we were in situations like this before and we have confidence in each other to know that if we down, we know what we need to do on defense and we know we needed to be really aggressive on offense just like we were, hustling for loose balls and anything we can get to just to bring the score like closer or anything like that. So, no, weren't worried at all.

Q. Chelsea, I think the LSU game back at the start of the year ended in a similar situation, broken play that didn't work. I think you threw it up, desperation shot. How much has this team changed from that game to this game?

CHELSEA WHITAKER: We're a lot calmer now. I mean, that game, they had a couple games under their belt. That was our first game together. I mean, it felt awkward out there. We knew our potential, but we knew that we weren't there yet. Of course, it's better to peak at the end of the season than it is, you know, that early in the season, as a lot of the men's teams are doing. They're kind of losing games at the end. It's the best thing that can happen to us is just peak at the end. We're maturer now and we're calmer than anybody else, because we're out there playing. Coach Mulkey-Robertson and her nerves, I know we work her nerves. We just won. I'm just excited about it.

Q. Sophia, Steffanie, can y'all talk about what Chelsea has done for y'all's offense? Her being able to knock down the jumpers, coming up with a play at the end, like she said in Nebraska

SOPHIA YOUNG: Chelsea has been really big for us this year, jumping up and hitting the foul line jump shots. Normally her man that comes in and doubles us, so when we pass it to her, like I said, she's been really big in knocking down the shots. I think I give Chelsea a lot of credit for the contributions she brings to our team. Without her, there wouldn't be any us, so...

STEFFANIE BLACKMON: No doubt about it, Chelsea has definitely stepped up her game. We all know what teams are going to do. She said, "Hey, I need to step up, because I know the first person going to step up is me." She's definitely made people respond to her. If they're not going to pay attention to her, she's definitely stepped up and taken advantage of that.

Q. Steffanie, it looked like there were times in the game when you got frustrated, like you were kind of forcing things inside. Was that Tech's defense?

STEFFANIE BLACKMON: I don't think it's a forcing thing. I think one of the things we try to do is attack, especially on offensive rebounds. We're trying to get up there and go up strong. I mean, I don't know. I just feel like -- I mean, we're definitely trying to attack and draw the foul, I mean, that's all I can say.

THE MODERATOR: Ladies, thanks. We'll keep coach for a few more minutes. Congratulations on making the finals. Questions for coach.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about how this team has grown from last year to what they've done this year several times.

COACH MULKEY-ROBERTSON: I think you saw it in their play today. We were down eight at the what minute mark, guys? Help me here. We had a timeout. I just told them, "You know, if you think the game is over, tell me and I need to put people in there that don't." I never saw really a sense -- look, I don't want to use the word "frustration." We did not execute offensively, but a lot of that goes to Tech's credit defensively. You might have seen a little bit out of sync, but not frustration. I never sensed in a timeout when things weren't going good for us or that we were behind that anybody was aggravated, frustrated. They understand had we even lost today, the season's not over. That's the approach that I would have had had I set up here and we would have lost. The season would not be over. This is a good -- you don't want to use warm-up games, but conference tournaments are warm-up games, guys, for the NCAA playoffs for those teams that are already in the tournament. I wouldn't exactly choose this kind of competition for a warm-up game. We're just very, very I don't want to use the word "lucky" because I don't believe in luck. I believe that you put yourself in positions to have something good happen to you. And I felt like that we may not have deserved to win the game today, but we hung around long enough to refuse to lose. That's what happened.

Q. There late when Niemann tried the 3-pointer, Blackmon put it back up. Is that the right play? Should she have kicked it back out?

COACH MULKEY-ROBERTSON: You're talking about when she shot the air ball?

Q. Yes.

COACH MULKEY-ROBERTSON: Was contested coming up to the top foul line area, air ball. She and Blackmon, Sophia and Blackmon got it and the other chunked it back to the other right there. I talked about that play in the locker room a minute ago. They had the same kind of play to Alesha Robertson, if you remember. That's the kind of game it was. We had contested, something happened, she missed a shot. They're going out of bounds. They flick it right back to her. It was that kind of game. Was that the play assigned? What we tried to do, as you guys have watched us play, I'm over there pulling my hair out, get Abi in on defense, get Emily on offense, get this, okay. Emily needed to be in on the offensive end and bring -- Emily can shoot the ball. Bring her up high. If you have the look, great. Steffanie and Sophia are in there rebounding. It was just a well-contested shot. It wasn't a bad shot.

Q. How different of a team are y'all when you don't hit a three, when you don't have the perimeter shots falling?

COACH MULKEY-ROBERTSON: You know, it's not that we're not good when we don't hit a three. What I told the team at halftime is, we were not productive from the perimeter, and that had nothing to do with scoring. I didn't feel like we were getting the loose balls. I didn't feel like we were defending good. I didn't feel like we were aggressive. Right before the half, all we got to do is grab that ball right there, I think Erin slapped it right back out of our hand, they score, go up three. It's in Toya's hands. Those are the things we were not very good with in the first half with our perimeter game. There were not a lot of three's made, I remember one three-pointer made for either team. And that's what you expect when you have Tech, Baylor, Texas, all of us pounding each other in there, know our strengths and weaknesses. There wasn't anything Tech did, there wasn't anything we did that was any different than we've done to each other all year.

Q. Before your last play, they called timeout.

COACH MULKEY-ROBERTSON: They didn't call timeout, they had a foul to give. Let me tell you, we talked about that as a coaching staff. We said, They've got a foul to give and they're going to use it, 'cause if they hadn't, Sophia was wide open on the back-door pick. They called a timeout after the foul. We bring them back. I've got to be honest with you, I've got so much confidence in my senior leadership and my players, they talked me out of what I wanted to run, okay? I wanted to run the same play. I shouldn't even tell you this in case we have to run it again in the playoffs. But we were going to look for Steffanie for the second, third optional off of that. They wanted to run another play which does have Emily inbounding it as opposed to Chameka. I'm one of these coaches, I played the game, and I believe players have a feel for the game. I'm not too proud to listen and make changes. That was honestly the change right there. Rachel was -- players looking me in the eye, going, "Coach, they know the play now. They're going to drop back off." Which you knew they were. We were going to use Steffanie coming off of a curl. The rest is history. It was a broken play. Chelsea wanted the ball. Her girl doubled down there on Sophia. She just took off with her dominant hand. We made the shot.

Q. Second day in a row you were out-rebounded. Is that a concern? Take the win and move on?

COACH MULKEY-ROBERTSON: I think it is a concern. But let me ask you this: If you were going to play Baylor, what's the first way you better try to beat 'em? I think you better emphasize rebounding. There would probably be no doubt in my mind that Coach Sharp has told them that, that Missouri has told them that. That would be pounded in my head if I had to play against Blackmon and Wabara, Sophia Young. It does concern you, but it doesn't concern me when you win. We're going to continue to be a good rebounding team and we're going to continue to work on it every day in practice. I don't like it, but it's close. It's not 10 rebounds difference or anything like that, it's right there together, one or two rebounds.

THE MODERATOR: Coach, congratulations. Thanks again.

End of FastScripts...

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