COACH VIC SCHAEFER (OPENING STATEMENT): Well, another record today, giving God the glory for number 29. It's an amazing, amazing group of young ladies I've been given the privilege to coach.
I thought we played extremely well tonight. Texas A&M has given us -- we've had two knock down, drag outs with them. I'm sure games in three days was difficult for them, especially with depth issues.
Our kids played hard. I thought we came out with a lot of intensity. We came out, executed offensively. I thought we were interested defensively, which is always something I can tell in the first five minutes.
Really locked into trying to keep them from doing what they wanted to do. But, boy, we made some shots. Dominique made shots. Morgan made shots. Morgan has, like, 33 points, 12 assists in the last two ball games, no turnovers, which I absolutely love. Scoot over here next to me (laughter).
Really, I thought our execution the first half was what really relaxed us. We made some shots, got a little bit of a lead after a quarter, just kind of kept it from there.
Second half, we talked about it at halftime, Texas A&M is probably the best second-half team in the country. They've come back from more deficits than anybody in the country. We talked about coming out of the locker room, really kind of stepping our foot out there and putting it on 'em, not letting 'em up. I thought we did that.
I thought our kids really came out with a focus and intensity, did a really, really good job in, again, making shots. Really loosens everybody up. I thought defensively, again, we were really good. Proud of our kids.
I've said this before, playing Coach Blair, that's not a comfortable game for me. It's very different. We were together for 15 years. For us to be in a competitive setting like that, it's very unusual to be on opposite ends. It's still not very comfortable for me. So much respect for him and his staff, those kids. Curtyce Knox is a warrior, fifth-year senior. I helped recruit her. They're going be tough out in the NCAA tournament. But proud of our kids.
Questions for the student-athletes
Q. Dominique, looked like you were aggressive from the very beginning. What was your mindset to try to be assertive on the offensive end?
DOMINIQUE DILLINGHAM: Before the game started, coach just told me to get to my spots. In the previous two games, I got to my spots any time I wanted. It was all about getting to my spots, knocking down shots, just getting where I wanted.
Q. Dominique, coach talked a lot about you were out-hustled at times over the last three games. How tired were you of hearing that game after game for the past three?
DOMINIQUE DILLINGHAM: Very tired, because that's not a typical Mississippi State basketball team. That's not how we are defined. It's frustrating to know that people were having more heart than us. It was just time for us to fix it.
Q. Dominique, I know you look at that game, you led the team in scoring, but every category, you had seemingly a different leader. A full-team performance. Is there something that maybe led to that, having all that heart you played with?
DOMINIQUE DILLINGHAM: I don't think anything led to it. On any given night, I think anybody can contribute. We have so many weapons on our team, it's hard to stop us. Someone steps up a different night every time. There's no one you can key on.
Q. Morgan, your recent play, what's been your mindset in terms of looking for your shots? I even heard you move somebody vocally in the halfcourt.
MORGAN WILLIAM: Being a leader, that vocal leader, I haven't been doing. Directing people where to go when the play is messed up, it's my responsibility. Got to make sure we have somebody in a good position each position. When I'm able to knock down shots, I'm able to attack and give my teammates open looks. I'm another scorer on the confident, just been confident.
Q. Morgan, how excited are you to face South Carolina tomorrow, given last year's result here, and that classic, hard-fought game in Columbia earlier this year?
MORGAN WILLIAM: It's exciting. Another opportunity to play against South Carolina again. They're champions from last year. Of course, we want to beat them. We just got to come out there and play the way we've been playing. Can't get excited. Just have to keep playing how we've been playing. It's been successful.
Q. Dominique, what are your memories of that last game? It was one of the best games in the season. Went down to the wire. What do you think you have to do maybe a little bit differently tomorrow against South Carolina?
DOMINIQUE DILLINGHAM: It was a really great game. It was hard-fought. I think we did some really great things in the game late. Some of the shooters got over. Alisha Gray, she hit a couple shots late. I think we maintained their post players for some of the game. A'ja Wilson, she got her usual numbers. I think we stuck with the game plan. At the end of the game, we had every opportunity to win the game, so... I think we go into tomorrow with confidence. We know that we can play with them and we can win.
Q. For both players, more games and more wins to come this season, but the significance of the 29th and setting another record for one of the seniors at least adding to your collective accomplishments, just your thoughts about the record tonight?
MORGAN WILLIAM: No. Dom got it. DOMINIQUE DILLINGHAM: It's just another accomplishment for the season. It's a team that I will never forget. Just an amazing team. It's just amazing to be on a team that's so good. It's just another accomplishment. But we have so much more to get. We just got to keep keeping on.
Q. Dominique, as a senior, you've had the opportunity to see this team grow over the course of your career. What has been the key to getting to this point where you're one game away from winning the school's first SEC tournament?
DOMINIQUE DILLINGHAM: The key has been just buying in. This year, a lot more players are getting in the gym. That's one key we missed from last year, consistency with our shooting. I think a lot of players are just buying into what Coach Schaefer has been preaching this whole time. I think that's the key. Players got to buy into what he's preaching.
Questions for Vic Schaefer
Q. Vic, having seven turnovers against Texas A&M is really tough. To have that kind of performance, how important is that going to be for you guys going forward, both tomorrow and in the NCAA tournament?
COACH SCHAEFER: This has been one of my better teams that I've ever been associated with with taking care of the ball. I think that's attributed to us getting more shots. As Dom said, we're making more shots. It's helpful when you have a point guard that's taking care of the ball. It starts with her. In our offense, sometimes we have a lot of people that handle the ball. That lends itself to turning over the ball sometimes. We've been harping on take care of the ball, get a good shot. It starts with Morgan and Jazzmun, our two point guards. Last night Dominique had seven assists. Tonight she had two, no turnovers, so... It's very important. It's going to be really big tomorrow. That's where we lost the ballgame last year. We lost the ballgame about three minutes to go in the second quarter. We turned it over. It was a layup fest. We got down 9 or 11 at half. It was all off of their intensity defensively and our lack of ability to handle the ball and get something good offensively.
Q. Coach, you've talked before about Dominique's role on the offense, when she's aggressive and scoring. Her performance and Morgan's performance both were very aggressive from the start. How did you see them come out attacking?
COACH SCHAEFER: Again, I think when those two are making shots... When Morgan is scoring for us, her and Dom add another dimension to us offensively. This is two nights in a row, Tori goes four for 14, had 10. We still were able to do what we wanted to do. Let me tell you something about Tori tonight. She was a rock defensively. She was in stance, in help. She did a great job. We talked today about what we needed to do to try to take away some of their inside presence. It had to do with our help side. Tori was in a spot a lot. So even though she may not have shot it well, she was really big defensively for us tonight, not only guarding, but also in help side. I've said this all year, when Dominique gets 12, 14 a night, we're a different animal. You're not going to beat us. I'm going to say, it's hard to beat us when Dominique gets 12 or 14, and you got Victoria on the other wing. Morgan's getting her 14 she got tonight or 12. It's just hard to beat us typically. We're typically pretty interested defensively. We're going to do a pretty good job there. Again, I was really proud of just our intensity and our interest tonight on both ends of the floor.
Q. Vic, the kind of hard-fought game that you played in Columbia earlier this year might have really dented and damaged some teams. It obviously didn't for you guys. How much do you think that will help heading into tomorrow?
COACH SCHAEFER: Again, I think you walk out of that building knowing that it was one play. You did it in front of 14,000 screaming people. Might have a few more fans tomorrow, by the way, than I had over there. Really, I walked out of that building with a bunch of confidence. I mean, we missed a layup with 30 something seconds to go up one. We've got the ball, 17 seconds. We've got an out-of-bounds play. We had our chances, bottom line. We had our chances to win a ballgame. You walk out of that building with a lot of confidence. I think that's how we did from there. We didn't walk out hanging our head, We just lost the championship. We walked out of there going, We're pretty good. They're still going to have to play a bunch of games. See how the chips fall. They fell and gave us our chance. We have another opportunity tomorrow. When we started the year, there were seven championships for us to win. We won the first three. The fourth one we were eliminated from. This is the fifth one. Here we are. I'm sure our kids are going to be excited. I'm going to be excited. But, again, we'll have to do it on their home court. But we've got experience there so, it won't be anything we're not used to.
Q. Tonight seemed like it was a full-team performance. Like Dominique said, a little bit more heart than the previous few games. Did you see that from your vantage opponent? What went into that, if you did?
COACH SCHAEFER: Again, the film doesn't lie. We spent a lot of time looking at film the last few days. I think what our kids have found is that when you're looking at film, coach says this, he's right, there it is. For our kids, there's a sense of pride. Again, I think our kids see the investment that is in our program in a number of ways. When you got all those fans out there that have traveled this far and spent money to be here, I'll tell you what, I know for me personally, I don't want to let them down. I think our kids appreciate that. When you go to Mississippi to play, half the arena is full of maroon and the other half is empty, that's what you love. I think our kids understand that and appreciate that. We stubbed our toe against two really good teams, okay? They bounced back. That's what I expected them to do.
Q. Victoria looked to be more aggressive offensively in terms of looking for her shot. Driving to the basket a little bit more. What can you try to do to maybe get her off, so to speak, get her feeling in the rhythm, get her feet set so she's really comfortable?
COACH SCHAEFER: We're going to keep giving her the ball. She took good shots tonight. She may have taken one we may not have wanted to take because it was quick. She can get that shot anytime she wants it in the shot clock. She missed a driving layup. Instead of four for 14, she should have been five for 14. Tori is a confident kid. I'm going to go to bed tonight confident she's going to wake up tomorrow and have a heck of a game tomorrow night because that's the kid I know. I just think in the moment, she's going to embrace that opportunity. I've seen it too many times. Tori will be fine. Again, when other people are scoring, it helps our team, but it might even affect her focus a little bit knowing she's got some help. That's a good thing.