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April 3, 2010
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS
THE MODERATOR: I'm pleased to introduce up here at the podium Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey and student-athletes Kelli Griffin, Melissa Jones, and Morghan Medlock.
COACH MULKEY: I don't usually have an opening statement, but I will today. We're thrilled to be playing in the Final Four. We're especially thrilled it's being held in our home state of Texas. And, again, I want to encourage any fan in the area that's not bought a ticket to please do so.
Q. M.J., you talked this week about the next 40 minutes, that's what you've got to focus on. But as far as UConn and their team, obviously they don't have many weaknesses. Is there one area that you guys know you have to focus on, like just is it turnovers? What is it?
MELISSA JONES: We have a very good basketball team obviously being No. 1 in the nation. And there isn't a weakness on their team. Every single player is a threat. The thing that Baylor needs to focus on is just making smart decisions and not turning the ball over and falling into UConn's -- their game.
Q. I don't know how to ask this except to ask it. How did the punch change your team? Make you closer? Cause you to circle the wagons? Just talk about how it changed your team.
KELLI GRIFFIN: I don't know if it had much of a change. It was an incident that happened that shouldn't have. We definitely tried to be there for Brittney and just try to keep her head up, be there if she needed to talk about it.
But I don't really think it had a significant change to the team.
MELISSA JONES: I think that it's helped all of us kind of grow from it, especially Brittney. I think everyone in our lives at some point let our emotions just get the best of us. It was just extremely out of character for that to happen.
However, when things get heated in a game, like now, she's the first one to step up and say, hey, guys, let's calm it down, let's keep it cool and let's just be Baylor. She's grown so much from it and it's progressed throughout the rest of the team for us to do the same.
MORGHAN MEDLOCK: It's definitely something we don't even talk about anymore. We're just here to get two wins and bring home the trophy.
Q. Kelli, can you talk about -- Kim said this is a Final Four in the state of Texas. Your home state. Talk about the excitement of playing in this state.
KELLI GRIFFIN: I'm definitely excited. My family gets to come. They don't get to come see me a lot. My mom does, but it's nice to have -- to be able to have your family to come out and support when they don't get a chance to all the time. And it's definitely nice to have all of our fans in driving distance to San Antonio to be able to come out and support. And it's just a good feeling to be back home.
Q. How difficult was it for you to miss most of the Big 12 season, have to sit there and watch? And I know it was Coach's plan to try to get you healthy for this time and it's worked out very nicely. But what was it like? And particularly what did you try to do to help the freshman that were out there in your place to get better?
MELISSA JONES: I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. My injury, obviously it's something that's very frustrating to deal with, knowing that the game you love you're not able to play.
However, I felt like being on the sidelines helped put a different perspective on how I saw things, and it was able to get a lot of the freshmen and younger classmen to get some quality minutes. And they've grown so much ever since that. And putting me on the sideline kind of helped me see things that I haven't seen playing on the court before.
And so, for me, to just kind of help my teammates out and telling them what I saw just I think helped the team.
Q. Morghan, what were some of your expectations for this year? And do you feel like you've met them?
MORGHAN MEDLOCK: Well, actually we have a notebook that we get at the start of every season in this program. And it actually says on the cover: Excuses are expectations. So once we got that, one of my expectations, especially being a senior, was to get to the Final Four. And I had that expectation last year. And I knew it would happen coming into this program. I just didn't know when. And I'm really glad it happened this year.
Q. What are your feelings on playing UConn? Nervous or excited?
KELLI GRIFFIN: I think I'm more excited than nervous. It takes a lot to get me nervous. And I'm excited to be in the Final Four no matter who is playing. But it's definitely exciting to be able to play the No. 1 team in the country.
MELISSA JONES: I think that this is something that you grow up wanting to do. Ever since you were a little girl you want to play the best team. And thankfully we've been blessed and in a position to do so.
MORGHAN MEDLOCK: I'm really excited to have a chance to be able to knock them off, stop the winning streak that everyone's talking about. And I'm just excited just to be in the Final Four in general.
Q. Can you all talk about how Brittney's presence shapes and changes your defense?
KELLI GRIFFIN: It definitely has a huge impact on our defensive end. Some of us use Brittney as an excuse when we get beat off the dribble, to have her inside to block shots. But, I mean, like M.J. always says, we're just happy she's on our side and not anyone else's.
MELISSA JONES: I think when somebody talks about Baylor defense, the first thing that comes out their mouth is Brittney Griner. And I think that's a very solid statement in the fact that if she's not blocking a shot she's altering it or she's altering a play that's set for an opposing team just because of her big presence in the middle.
So she helps out a lot.
MORGHAN MEDLOCK: And to add to all that, I think it allows our perimeter defense to extend out and pressure because they know we have a 6'8" kid who's going to help you, like Kelli said, if we do get beat. It just allows us to have more confidence and just to pressure opponents.
Q. Can you guys talk about the UConn winning streak and how -- I mean, the Oklahoma coach was making jokes about this being the UConn Invitational. What do you guys talk about when you talk about UConn and how do you get yourself in the right frame of mind?
KELLI GRIFFIN: Well, we don't really talk about that win streak much. I think it might have been mentioned in our locker room probably once, and I think that was yesterday. We don't really look at that. We are just looking at the next 40 minutes. We know that UConn is a great team and it's going to be tough to beat them. But we don't really mention their win streak much.
Q. A few weeks ago Brittney was known as the big girl who threw the punch. And the last couple of weeks Brittney is known as the great basketball player who just totally has dominated the game with 35 blocks, 14 in one game. Do you think that in any way that she was inspired after her suspension to show what she's all about, rather than any perceived notions some people may have had because of the incident?
MELISSA JONES: I think that Brittney Griner should be known as the great player who has been dominating the NCAA tournament, and I feel like she's the girl who is going to change the game altogether.
And I think it's not really talked about -- her punch was extremely talked about because it was so out of character. I think that's why it was blown up, because it's not something, if you know Brittney Griner, that it would ever even happen. So that shouldn't really be what is talked about her, because of what she does for this game, what she does for women's basketball and not just Baylor.
Q. Coach Auriemma was here just a little while ago. He said one of the strengths of their team is if they have a 38-point lead and there's a loose ball and somebody doesn't fall on it or there's a missed defensive assignment, that everybody gets pissed; that they have that attack mentality all the time. Do you think you guys have a little bit of that and do you have to play with that to beat UConn?
MORGHAN MEDLOCK: I actually think we have a lot of that. We go into every game and every scouting report with the mindset to attack whoever the opponent is. If you're better than us, not better than us, or just the same, we always think attack first. And, I don't know, I guess being the No. 1 team in the country they should have that mindset also. But we're Baylor and we think the same way.
Q. M.J., and I know the open practices aren't the most intense, but this is a very loose team. Does some of that come from the freshmen or is it just coming from everybody on the team how relaxed you are and how much fun you're having here?
MELISSA JONES: I think it comes from everybody in the entire program, from the freshmen to the coaching staff. Some of us are serious and want to get down to business. But we have those who want to help relax us, and I think everything goes hand in hand and has been working so far in the tournament.
Q. How do you deal with all the pressure in practices?
KELLI GRIFFIN: I don't feel much pressure in practice. We just focus. We try to listen to scouting reports and listen to the coaches and stay on task. So, you know, you do that and pretty much practice will flow pretty good.
MELISSA JONES: I think head coach, Coach Mulkey, does a good job of being really intense and keeping us on our toes. Like they were talking about earlier, if we don't run off a loose ball or if we're not putting out extra effort to get a rebound, that's when we get in trouble for it. So we're always trying to work our best in practice and everything.
MORGHAN MEDLOCK: I think our practices are fine. They're not long and drawn out. They're two hours, two and a half hours, depending on which part of the season we're in, and we just get right after. We're intense. We get right to the point. We get in there, shoot, take care of our business.
As long as we do that we stay on task in practice, there's never any pressure the next day when you come to practice or during the basketball game.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.
Q. Kim, what effect do you think the punch had on your team and the way you played and the way you coached?
COACH MULKEY: I don't think it's had an effect, other than I had to make a disciplinary decision and suspend her and do other things and reprimand and things and requirements that she has to abide by.
But as far as play on the floor, I don't think it made us -- well, maybe the effect was we lost the last game to Texas at home. That had a definite effect, on her presence on the floor. But if you're talking about circling the wagons and playing better, we were playing good before the suspension, and we continued to play good after the suspension. So I guess the one game that she missed affected our team for sure.
Q. Can you talk about Morghan Medlock a little bit, what you've seen in her since she's come into your program to where she is today and some of the expectations you've had for her?
COACH MULKEY: Morghan Medlock transferred. Before I take any transfers, I have a pretty tough one-on-one with them and basically try to run them off and get answers. Because, remember this, they transfer for a reason.
And after having a one-on-one session with her, I was convinced that she needed Baylor more than Baylor needed her. And for things that had happened to her off the floor, and obviously after her mother's murder, I thought that we were the best thing in Morghan's life other than her own family to help console her and help her heal. And I still think that today.
On the floor, Morghan went through a period when Melissa Jones was injured, and she basically was not playing very good basketball. And I know she felt it. I know being the only senior and the only -- one of only three that got lots of minutes the year before, she wanted to do well.
And I thought, consequently, she tried to do too much. And slowly but surely, with the help of the coaches, she figured out, let the game come to her. Don't try to do too much. And we're a very, very good basketball team when Morghan Medlock quietly gets you a double-double. And I think she's done that quite often in the latter part of the season.
Q. I take it having a team with some younger players has tested you along the way and drilled you. Could you talk about the mix and how I guess some days you've wanted to kill them and some days you wanted to --
COACH MULKEY: You're right on with that. Duke game is a classic example. You really felt at the three-minute mark how are we even going to pull this out, and within seconds you're going to win the ball game.
And I think that that's been the case all year, especially with Melissa Jones's injury. The silver lining to her injury is that we're in a Final Four and I'm not afraid of those freshmen anymore. They're still going to make mistakes, but I'm not afraid to put them in the game. They've had enough experience on the floor, and you just hang in there with them.
You take the good with the bad. They will make you look so bad on the defensive end of the floor sometimes, and they'll go do something on the defensive end of the floor that's just spectacular. And you can sneak one or two in the lineup, but when you play as many as we do on the floor at the same time, it scares you sometimes.
Q. I understand on the bus ride down you guys watched a certain movie. It was Miracle I believe. Was that -- whose choice was that and if you had anything to do with it, was there a particular message behind watching that movie?
COACH MULKEY: It was three hours. And, sure, there's a message behind it. We're the underdogs. The hockey team beating the Russians was big. I'd love to tell you that that's going to motivate us, and, man, we're going to go out and beat UConn, but, to tell you the truth, I think half the girls fell asleep.
Hockey in Texas is not something they can relate to (laughter). But I didn't want to listen to some of those movies that I've had to listen to all year. And I thought, this is my three-hour bus ride, so put it on. Some of them watched it. But some of them, they couldn't tell you if it was on. They had their headsets on and probably fell asleep.
Q. I take it you stayed awake and watched it.
COACH MULKEY: I did watch it. I sure did. Yep.
Q. You knew that having Brittney and this young group was going to make you good eventually. But could you talk about it happening to this -- being this good this soon?
COACH MULKEY: I knew we were very talented. I said all year long, this team is going to be special. But I didn't know when it would happen. And to have the expectation of being in a Final Four, I don't think, would have been fair to them. They were conscious of where the Final Four was and where we're located and it sure would be convenient.
But you can't put that type of pressure on a team and on a player that's just being introduced to the college game.
Q. You talked about the other day playing that underdog role. Obviously it's pretty easy for this one to play that underdog card. But how inside your team do you sell them on or believing that they can do this?
COACH MULKEY: Maybe it's just my personality, Leon's personality. You know, this ain't our first rodeo. Leon has been to 14 of these; I've been to 13 of these. Geno, how many has he been to? 11?
So we've been here, but these kids haven't been here. And they're excited, and they need to enjoy it. And they need to go out there and relax and have fun and dunk and shoot. That's not where our work is done.
Our work is done before we ever come here. Our work is done when we leave here and we go to that film room tonight and we go to that next hour practice.
I don't have to spend my time coaching them because they're fearful. What I have to spend my time doing is coaching them because they're still freshmen and I know the mistakes that they're going to make against an experienced team tomorrow.
And so you teach them the game, the Xs and Os and the strengths and weaknesses. You don't have to talk about a win streak. You don't have to talk about the No. 1 team in the country, because you're so focused on the Xs and Os part of it, and helping them develop into a better basketball player, which will make us a better basketball team.
Q. Coach, you mentioned how well your team was playing at the end of the regular season and into the playoffs. What were the factors that turned a very good basketball team into the team that has come this far in the playoffs?
COACH MULKEY: I think it's Melissa Jones's injury without question. She was told not to play or I was told she couldn't play two days prior to the Big 12 beginning at Oklahoma State being our first game.
And we had to quickly, on the fly, start playing kids that we didn't want to play a lot of minutes. And that was the freshmen. And we would win a game, we'd lose a game. We'd lose a disappointing game, then we would win a game.
And I just think that we put enough wins together that they became more confident. And then we got M.J. back, and that piece of our puzzle, that glue that was missing, was back. And we're better because of it.
Q. M.J. said that UConn has no weaknesses. Obviously Coach Brock, the rest of the coaches, you guys have been looking at film trying to find something to attack or expose or whatever. I guess the question is: Is there a balance between what you can attack and still being yourself, what got you here?
COACH MULKEY: I think so. UConn -- we can't compete with them on the offensive end. They score at all positions. They score anytime they want to, transition, half court.
That's really not what we do, because we're still young. And we'll take bad shots. We'll take unadvised shots. We have to be smarter on the offensive end of the floor than they do.
I think both defenses will play extremely hard and try to take away our strengths. We'll try to take away their strengths, but I think the offensive end of the floor we may just have to be a little more creative.
Q. Not that you would tell us, are you going to sell them on the Rocky angle, on you can make history, you can shock the world, be on the evening news, anything like that?
COACH MULKEY: No. See, I don't have to. I don't have to. They're aware of the streak. They watch TV and they read the newspaper. Of course, they know things before I do through computers and all that stuff.
But I'm going to be me. And whatever I do to motivate them in that locker room prior to the game will just be something that I think of at the last minute. It really won't be anything that I have to plan. This is the Final Four. And if I have to motivate them and use some kind of eat a worm or something, then -- we're not going to win anyway if I have to do that.
I think they're just at the Final Four. They're loose. They're young. They're excited. They're talented.
And who knows what you're going to see. Who knows.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
End of FastScripts