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March 28, 2011
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Baylor student-athletes Jordan Madden, Destiny Williams, Odyssey Sims, Melissa Jones, Brittney Griner, and Coach Kim Mulkey.
We'll take questions for either student-athletes or Coach.
Q. Brittney and Melissa, obviously a team you're very familiar with, a team that's fought you guys very hard this year. I know they remember being 12-0, being up by 11 in Waco. Just talk about the aspects of trying to beat a team for the fourth time in the same season, and obviously just so much more on the line than just a Big 12 championship now.
BRITTNEY GRINER: Definitely more on the line now. Playing A&M for the fourth time, just looking back at film, looking back at mistakes where we had error, and just fixing them. We know A&M's a great team. They're going to make runs, and we just gotta withstand them, just making runs on our own.
MELISSA JONES: You just have to have a lot of respect for A&M. Every time we've played them it's just been within several close points. And every game has been a battle. And that's what we'll expect again this time around.
Q. Odyssey, A&M has very good guards that really get after you defensively. Does that make you want to kind of raise your level of play, because you've had some pretty good games against the Aggies this year?
ODYSSEY SIMS: Just give credit to their defense. They're getting in the passing lanes. They do a good job of ball pressure, and it's something that I can't change, as far as offensively I can't change up my game and play up-tempo. And that's going to create turnovers because that's not how I play. I just have to keep my composure and keep playing my game.
Q. Destiny, you guys have been very successful against Danielle Adams, holding her to half her regular season scoring average. You've drawn that assignment along with Brooklyn a lot of the times, getting some help. Talk about what your philosophy is against Danielle, where you've been successful and what you have to do tomorrow?
DESTINY WILLIAMS: I think me and Brook hold Danielle the majority of the game, but we also get help from other teammates. Like at some parts of the game, B.G. holds her, and then she drives, and then we have guards try and stop her, try to set the ball or something.
Yeah, me and Brooke may hold her throughout the majority of the game, but it's Baylor's team defense who keeps her scoring a lot of the time. And we just have to keep her off the boards. She got a lot of points off -- from us -- I mean, from Texas A&M, basically get put-backs. And just gotta be with her no matter where she is.
Q. M.J., you just talked a minute ago about what a great team A&M is, and obviously you guys know that from having played them three times this year. But along with that, is there -- because you're so familiar with them, is there maybe a comfort level for you guys, just maybe knowing what works well against them, how to attack them?
MELISSA JONES: I don't think you can ever get comfortable with playing A&M. But playing in the same conference, Big 12, you get to see them twice already in the South. And then same in the conference tournament.
For both teams you pick up on what Baylor does or what A&M does. So you become very familiar with that. That goes to show how important and how big of a game this is going to be and how much of a battle it will be.
Q. Destiny, at the risk of misreading the mindset of the Baylor Nation out there right now, I think there might be some fans who are a little concerned, worried that, hey, one lapse, we beat these guys four times, we beat these guys three times, one lapse could be really costly for us. What would you say to the Baylor fans that are a little nervous about that?
DESTINY WILLIAMS: Well, I think it's going to be a good game. I don't think it's going to be an easy win for us, and we just gotta play Baylor basketball and the best team wins.
Q. Brittney, last year as a freshman you got to go to the Final Four and got the whole experience of getting into the tournament. How different has the experience been this year knowing what to expect and knowing what you're trying to get to?
BRITTNEY GRINER: That's just knowing. Basically it's nothing different. We know what to expect. We know how the intensity is going to be, and with the freshmen we had last year we all got experience playing time. So it's not new. Our eyes aren't like deer in the headlight. So we're more calm and able to play our game and run our offense and defense.
So just experience and knowing what to expect is different this year.
Q. Melissa, I know you guys watched an awful lot of the A&M game against Georgia. Did that look like the same A&M team you faced three times or did it look like maybe they had raised their level maybe another notch in the NCAA Tournament? And a follow-up question, when you look at the way they shot 3-pointers, that hadn't exactly been their bread and butter, is that something -- especially the way Green Bay shot 3-points, is that something you have to be cognizant of against A&M?
MELISSA JONES: Starting off yesterday A&M came ready to play. When it comes to NCAA Tournament time, you have to expect everybody to have their best from both teams that are playing in the game. And A&M was on top of it and taking advantage of every situation they could. And the 3-ball, they're hitting a lot of shots that normally they maybe wouldn't be taking. But when they have that kind of confidence when the game's going for them, that's huge. And of course it's something we've got to look at and know that they have weapons all over the floor, and we've got to be aware of it.
Q. Jordan, can you talk about what last year's run to the Final Four did for you, just in terms of confidence and maybe how you feed off of that this year, and A&M's ball pressure particularly on the wings? I know they kind of kept it out of your hands particularly at A&M.
JORDAN MADDEN: Last year at the Final Four it was our first time ever going, the freshmen last year, it was like a good experience for us to go.
And then, like, Texas A&M, like, their defense is really, you know, good. On the wing side they pressure the ball on the wings, not try to get it in our hands so we can feed it down to the post. So it's actually really good.
Q. Brittney, I know you don't have the primary assignment on Danielle Adams, but Gary Blair was talking about you're always a factor when she gets the ball especially in the low post because she knows you're there. How much are you shading over, trying to provide that help and be the presence so she knows you're there?
BRITTNEY GRINER: Just being big. If she catches down low, I might take a half a step down, just have my arms up so she knows I'm there.
It's a team effort guarding Adams. Destiny do a good job on her. And sometimes I'm on her. It's just going to be a team effort all around on the post to guard them. They have great post players.
Q. Odyssey and Destiny, these players sitting around you obviously got to experience the Final Four last year. And this is your first chance at it. Does that give you guys some confidence knowing that they have been to this stage and maybe know a little bit what to expect?
ODYSSEY SIMS: Yes. Because they've already experienced it, so it just gives us something to feed off going into the tournament. Just as far as like they've already been through it. They know what to expect. They know how the atmosphere is going to be.
So us not experiencing it, they give us like motivation and it does give us confidence just to keep our composure, knocking it down and just keeping our head.
Q. Brittney, does A&M's defense do anything different against you and what do you expect from them after seeing them for three games?
BRITTNEY GRINER: I don't think there's doing anything different. They're going to guard you. It's going to be a physical game. It's not anything different that they do. They just don't go away. They're going to guard you the whole time and they're going to make you work to get the ball.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, ladies. Questions for Coach.
Q. Kim, obviously the question is when you get prepared for a team that you know so well, you've already beat them three times, talk about the challenge of trying to do it a fourth time, when there is so much familiarity with you and Gary and both teams.
COACH MULKEY: Well, the challenge is what are either of us going to do differently. He's not going to change what got him here. I'm not going to change what got us here.
The players aren't going to change. You might tweak an inbounds or tweak a way you're going to guard Griner or throw a zone out there. You're going to do what you do best. And we're just going to show them film. We're going to keep teaching and getting better.
And regardless of what happens tomorrow, it's not going to take away from the fact that this program, again, has done things for the first time. We've won 34 basketball games. That's never been done at Baylor. We have got a No. 1 seed. That's never been done at Baylor. We won the Big 12 regular season and the tournament championship. That's only been done once at Baylor.
Does this one gain or have a little bit more weight because it's a Final Four? I guess, yes, you could look at it that way. But it's not going to erase if we get beat anything that this team has done.
I've said it from day one, that's a freshman point guard down there. That's a sophomore post player. That's a sophomore wing. That's a sophomore post, and Gary can say it until he's blue in the face, it doesn't matter if; if you can play, you can play.
Your talent is only going to take you so far until you experience things in life. It's like raising a child. And what this bunch has done with their youth, it's probably not fair the expectations that are placed on them, and a lot of it is because you have Griner.
But those other players have had to play a lot of tough basketball games this year. And we will be better because of the fact that we've played a lot of good ones. The Tennessees, the Connecticuts, the Oklahomas, the A&Ms, the Texas, the Notre Dames, the list goes on.
Q. Kim, at the same time y'all have been to a Final Four. Is there any built-in advantage, particularly in the experience that your players have in getting there?
COACH MULKEY: I don't think so. I don't think there's an advantage. I think they are hungry to go back there and do a little bit better than they did. But A&M is hungry to get there. They've never been there.
So you have that hunger on both sides.
Q. At the Big 12 tournament, fall back behind early in the game, 12-0, obviously come back and win. After the game we asked you you feel like that might prepare you well for the NCAA Tournament.
COACH MULKEY: I didn't know at that time that we would be in the same region with them.
Q. That's my question. Could you have imagined the scenario where it would have prepared you for A&M again?
COACH MULKEY: No. It was a shock to me that they would do that to us. It was a shock. And Gary knows it was a shock to him. When we shook hands at the Big 12 Tournament, we were like we can get there, we're telling each other we'll see you in the Final Four. That's basically the conversations that were taking place between me and him and the players.
And I said it last night, and I'll say it again, there's no need to get angry at the committee. The committee is given a set of parameters and agendas, and that's hard to do. They have agendas and they have explanations for why they do things. I guess maybe the only thing that personally I would like to see as a coach is I would like to let us know ahead of time that geography isn't going to be a factor so we're not caught off guard.
Some years we use geography. Some years we don't. We use geography in the first round where you can't have a first round opponent in your conference, but yet when you get down to it we want butts in the seats.
It's just hard to all embrace that, in my opinion, a top 2 seed is playing not the four No. 1 seed, probably about the third No. 1 seed from the same conference. And it's not fun. It's not fun for y'all. It's not fun for our fans.
Is it good for women's basketball? I don't know that it is. I'm not sure that Baylor needed A&M here to sell tickets. And I'm not sure if A&M was here without Baylor they would need Baylor here to sell tickets.
I don't buy putting rear ends in the stands. So it is what it is. And we're going to always have agendas in women's basketball. But I just hate it because both teams are good enough to be in the Final Four, more so than, in my opinion, the other regions.
Q. Could you just talk about the luxury of having somebody like Destiny and Brooklyn off the bench that you can kind of throw a tag team at Danielle that you didn't have that last season where you could do that sort of thing?
COACH MULKEY: Well, those kids were in our program last year, spent the whole year guarding Brittney Griner and learning the system and every day in practice. And they're both McDonald's All-Americans coming out of high school. Not that that matters; I've seen some that had McDonald's in front of their name and wondered how they ever got on there.
But they're good. Destiny Williams is quietly good. She can shoot the ball. She's defended Danielle the most. Brooklyn does her work in more of an exciting way. You see the blocked shots. You see the leaping ability. You see the rebounds.
And they both are starters in my eyes. I just can't start but five, and I start Destiny and get a feel during the game on when I need to insert Brooklyn.
Q. We know what an intense game it's going to be tomorrow. Gary was in here earlier saying it's going to be the best college women's basketball game ever in Dallas, maybe in Texas. But the question I have for you, we know what a dogfight your team had last night against Green Bay and they had a little bit of an easier game, does that play into it at all?
COACH MULKEY: No. Not at all. It's the NCAA playoffs. You need to, first of all, give Green Bay credit, guys. They're like the Butler on the men's side. They play that style. And Butler's now in their second Final Four. Green Bay, their system and their style just is good. It's hard to defend. And I don't think that anything that happened yesterday will be a factor in the game tomorrow.
Q. There's always going to be a lot of talk about Brittney and Danielle and all this stuff. But seems in this tournament the 3-pointers end up being the dagger for a team one way or another, start a run, end a run. Can 3s be a pretty big factor in the game tomorrow on both sides?
COACH MULKEY: I think big shots maybe could be a factor. You've got to remember, how many of those 3s did A&M make yesterday against a zone?
There's no secret with me. If I play a zone, you're going to say she lied to us. So I might lie to you. But I would hope that if we play a zone, we're not giving A&M as many open looks. They had some serious open looks yesterday. And they did what you're supposed to do at this level. You're supposed to knock those shots down.
But I think big shots from other people could be the difference in the game. I think rebounding could be the difference in the game.
Q. Just looking back through the box scores, Kim, and Brittney hasn't left the court against A&M in the three games, she's played all 120 minutes, I notice that in the West Virginia game, Green Bay game, two fouls, you had the luxury of sitting her. Would that change at all against A&M in the first half if she picks up two? Do you feel like you need her on the court?
COACH MULKEY: There's a reason you're a sportswriter. Since when is it a luxury to sit Griner? Let me think.
I had the horror of sitting -- no. Brittney really doesn't get in foul trouble. I could probably play her with two fouls in the first half and feel very comfortable. But when you're in the game and you have the lead, there's no need. But if you're way behind and you're catching up or the momentum's swinging, you leave her out there.
She hasn't really gotten into foul trouble against A&M. And you've got to remember styles of play. West Virginia's style of play and Green Bay's style of play is much different than A&M.
They're coming in there flying at you with guards and trying to just basically duck their head and get into her body with no prayer of making a shot, throwing up prayers, I guess I would say.
A&M has post game. They're going to play their basketball. And so I don't anticipate it to be any different than the last three games, guys. It's going to go down to the wire. And kids are going to have to make plays to win.
Q. Kim, Gary talked about some things that Green Bay did last night. Have you watched that film, and were there things that concerned you about that? Because he said we might try to use some of the things that work for them.
COACH MULKEY: And you believe him? Unless he's going to change what got -- Gary, I love that man.
I don't know how to answer that. No. I thought we guarded them pretty good. Give those guys credit. They moved the ball around. They're very difficult to guard. They brought Griner out. But who is Gary going to bring Griner -- if he brings Danielle into the post, we're just going to switch 'em. We're just going to counter with whatever he does.
If he brings Elonu to shoot the 3, I don't know how many 3s Elonu's going to make out there. She's kind of at the foul line area. Why change what you've done well? It's been three outstanding ballgames. It hasn't been two teams that one's dominated. It's just been two outstanding teams, and down the stretch we made more plays. I just don't see him changing a whole lot.
Q. I haven't seen all of the previous three games that you played against A&M, but I just wanted to get your view on all three games have been similar in that I guess nobody's hit 70 yet. And I just wanted to talk to you a little bit about the pace of the game that these two teams play together and whether you think it will be like that tomorrow. Is that to your advantage?
COACH MULKEY: I don't think either team really has an advantage. It could come down to bench play, truthful, who produces off the bench. Because I think the best description I could give in football, it's smash-mouth football. And tomorrow it will just be basically smash-mouth basketball.
And they have post players. They have perimeter players. Both teams play outstanding defense. And it's just going to be a battle.
Q. You talked about obviously what all this team's accomplished and how much it's grown up and how much it's still growing up. But what did this team show you in those two games against A&M, the one in Waco where they were up -- A&M was up by 11 in the second half and your girls came back, and the Big 12 championship coming back from a 12-0 deficit right from the start?
COACH MULKEY: Their will to win. I think they feed off of me and my intensity. And sometimes when we're not very good at executing a half court offense because of our youth and because of pressure defense, sometimes you just will yourself to a win, find out a way to get a loose ball, get that extra rebound, get to the foul line.
And I think we have a competitiveness about us. I watched Gary's team play yesterday. You're looking at a senior in Danielle. You're looking at a senior in Colson, and you're looking at three juniors. That's a poised basketball team. That's an experienced team.
And sometimes when you have the youth I have and you're not doing too good and things aren't going your way, you gotta kind of just have a little personality and just have a will to win and a toughness about you and just gut it out and grind it out, and I think we've done that in a lot of games until we reach that experience factor of being a little bit smoother in tougher times.
Q. Chuck Carlson, just a sportswriter.
COACH MULKEY: A luxurious one, luxury. Luxury. Luxury of sitting Griner. How about the misery?
Okay, Chuck. Don't you have a heart attack on me now. This man's my man here. He's still writing when he's sick.
Q. I'll try to avoid a heart attack until the final horn. That should be interesting on the ASAP transcript as well. But, anyway, can you talk about Brittney and the evolution of her offensive game from last year to this year, whether it's more polished or more versatility or more confidence, but it does seem like she's definitely added to her skill set there on the offensive end.
COACH MULKEY: First thing is her strength, just a year older. Her body is never just going to add a lot of weight. She's just been in the system now of weightlifting and taking care of her body.
She's just stronger. She really is. She's just stronger. A year ago she couldn't handle the double and triple teams without having a turnover, lots of turnovers, and now she keeps her base wide and strong and picks you apart.
Truthfully, a lot of what we do with Brittney, and it's probably not something that's written about, is Brittney can shoot the 3. She can take you off the dribble. She picked up her second foul last night because she got excited on the baseline there, and she just saw a one-on-one opportunity to act like a guard.
And truthfully she can, but I wouldn't be a very good coach if I allowed her to do a lot of that during the game, but in practice and in her individual workouts, she loves to shoot the 3. She loves to take players off the dribble. She loves to shoot the step-back move.
And yet we have developed her really into more of a back-to-the-basket post player than she's probably ever had to do. And she can turn around and just shoot it right there off the glass with her back to the basket, and she loves the game.
I mean, she just comes up to the office early and talks to the coaches and watches film and cracks up or makes a joke about a bad thing she did or something she wants to do. She's just fun to coach. She makes it enjoyable to go to work and coach her because she just doesn't have an ego about her.
She wants to please you, and in a lot of respects, as a player -- and I've played at the highest level -- I wouldn't want to be Brittney Griner, I wouldn't want to see that kind of defense every day and that pushing and shoving and banging, because I'm not sure I could keep my composure with everything that she has to see.
But she handles it beautifully.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports