THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Mississippi State. Coach, congratulations.
COACH SCHAEFER: Thank you very much. I'm honored and humbled to be here. So proud of my girls and our team. What a tremendous effort today against a heck of a basketball team in Baylor University. Kim and her team are absolutely phenomenal. It took a gut-check, gut-wrenching performance by our kids today, and we delivered.
I thought our kids were unflappable. I thought they were resilient. They showed tremendous toughness, a lot of character, and their heart. You have no idea what's inside their breastplate, but you saw it today displayed firsthand. They just played with a tremendous amount of poise. Our point guard was as good as they get today. She put us on her back. She led us. She was obviously feeling it. Ran a couple different things for her. Just had to keep going back because they were having a hard time dealing with it. She wanted the ball.
Thought Tori was back to herself today. I welcomed her to the party about midway through the third quarter. Told her that. It sure helps to have that out there on the perimeter, that big two guard that can get you a bucket, can rise up and jump over people.
For our seniors, they believed in a vision when it wasn't real easy to believe. I'm really happy for them. I know how hard they've worked. I know the blood, sweat and tears, the commitment they've put into this. I couldn't be happier for them. I couldn't be happier for our university, administration. Tremendous basketball at Mississippi State. We're seventh in the country in attendance, and our administration supports these young ladies and gives them every opportunity to be successful. They're reaping the dividends, because these kids are doing everything that they're supposed to do right now. I'm awfully proud of them. Giving God the glory for number 33 today.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Morgan, 41 points today, 7 assists. I don't think you had a turnover. What allowed you to do what you did tonight?
MORGAN WILLIAM: Just confidence. I mean, I came out here early to shoot because I had issues the last couple games. I was feeling it. Coach let me make them. It opened shots for my teammates, too. When I was open, I knew I could knock down the shot. That really helped us from inside-out. It was just tough to guard us.
Q. Morgan, I didn't see the interview that you and Coach gave to TV. Looked like a very emotional interview. You said you did it for your dad. Explain what the thoughts were. Were they going through your head during the game? Were they there afterwards? What were the thoughts?
MORGAN WILLIAM: I mean, I was just using it as motivation. He's the reason I am where I am today in basketball. He just did so much for me working out when I was younger. Everyone doubted me because of my height. Did so much work in the gym. For me to come out and do that, it's amazing. I just wish he was here to see it.
Q. Victoria, a big moment in the ballgame you get called for a charge on one end. How difficult was it to kind of maintain your composure there?
VICTORIA VIVIANS: If you was on the court, you wouldn't say I maintained my composure. I just tried to keep it together for my teammates because if the call didn't go my way, another call would go our way on the other end. I just kept playing and knew we had to keep playing in order to win the game.
Q. Victoria, I know you've been struggling to hit shots. What did it feel like to get those first three under your belt? What did it feel like to get back in the groove and start hitting shots again consistently?
VICTORIA VIVIANS: It felt good. But mainly today I was really focused on my defense, because I knew our defense was going to win the game. Like Coach say, keep shooting, the shots will fall eventually. I was just mainly worried about my defense.
Q. Morgan, 24 lead changes. What was it like to be in that sort of matchup with the stakes as high as they were tonight?
MORGAN WILLIAM: I mean, that's why it's a game of runs. We live for moments like this, back-to-back lead changes. We just know we got to make a run when they make a run. Got to get stops in. Once we make our run, we got to get stops and keep running from there. I feel like we did that. We got a stop, and we kept executing. After that, we got a lead.
Q. Dominique, you spent a lot of time on the bench in the second half. When you were inserted into the game at a pretty critical moment, what was that like? Could you share why you weren't in the game more?
DOMINIQUE DILLINGHAM: I just knew I had to stay ready. I knew my time was going to come to play defense. So I just had to keep myself ready. I was just happy for my teammates. They played really well tonight. Coach needed a little more offense tonight. I'm completely fine with that. I was ready when my time was called. I was ready to play defense.
Q. Dom, Bre, Victoria, can you tell us your feelings about watching Morgan be huge tonight.
DOMINIQUE DILLINGHAM: I'm just so happy for her. I'm just so proud of her. I know she does it for her dad. I just feel so proud for her because I know how hard she worked for this moment. I know people doubt our team, but people doubt her as a point guard just because how small she is. They're not that valid in that. I love the way she plays. She was just awesome tonight.
BREANNA RICHARDSON: That was really good. Basically same thing Dom said. We live and die by Morgan at times. So her and her point guard play, she just gets us going. We know when Morgan's going, we're all going. Just to see her come out, six of eight from the three, it was amazing. When you just see her going, we're like, Give her the ball. We can't stop her, so just keep giving her the ball. To see her have a game like this, it's amazing. Like you say, everybody doubts us and they always doubt her. I just got to say congrats.
MORGAN WILLIAM: Thank you.
VICTORIA VIVIANS: Well, I know tonight she got my assists up. I had six.
COACH SCHAEFER: Career high (laughter).
VICTORIA VIVIANS: I'll take that (laughter). But I'm just proud of her. She can do this on any given night. You never know with her. If she's in attack mode, she's going and doing it. I am super proud of her. She's my point guard. We're together a whole 'nother year. I don't know about those two down there, but I'm happy to have her.
THE MODERATOR: We're going to let our student-athletes go back to the locker room, and we'll take questions for Coach.
Q. Vic, we talked about the size yesterday a lot. The guards were really critical in this game. How big were those guards, especially with Victoria and Morgan, against a team that we kind of hyped up as having a lot more size?
COACH SCHAEFER: I thought even though Kalani went 11-13, and Nina was 7-11, I thought the game turned into a guard game toward the end of the half. I love my guards. I am not trading 'em for anybody. I thought after watching them against Louisville in person, I thought we could do some things. You know, again, at some point I think you've got to learn to stop -- stop worrying about trying to guard somebody and try to figure out, Okay, let's just try to score more than they do.
Boy, I thought we were really good offensively. It starts with Morgan. But it also starts with Tori making a couple shots early, because you can just see our team relax. When she's taking good shots, she took a couple bad ones in the first half, but just getting her back to the party. I mean, I did, I told her in the -- I think it was the second or third quarter, I said, Welcome back to the party, baby. You're playing good. It just relaxes the whole team when she plays like that. Morgan obviously was feeling it. I was running about three different things for her, just trying to mix it up so they couldn't get comfortable with her. They had two different people on her. Every time we switched, she switched somebody on her. We went right back to the first play. Just tried to really be engaged offensively, hoped that we could get enough stops down the stretch.
Q. About the size, you talked about the size of the heart of the kids that you have. How much has Morgan used the death of her father as motivation? Has that been throughout the three years of her career?
COACH SCHAEFER: Well, obviously it was a tragic thing. It was sudden. I still remember where I was standing when I got the phone call. Her dad was so proud that she was coming to Mississippi State. I had just been with him at the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game. Like she said, he ate, drank and slept training her. You know, yesterday was the three-year anniversary of his passing. I remember going to the funeral and all that, again, before she ever stepped foot on campus. It's tough for her. That's the kind of kid, though, she is. She appreciates everything that he done for her to get her to this point. You know, Morgan rooms with Blair. She's at my house probably more than anybody on the team. She's very, very special to Holly and I. You know, she's obviously very special to Blair. So it's tough sometimes for kids. But I thought she bottled it up nicely today and really played to an audience of one.
Q. You mentioned you told Victoria, Welcome to the party. Do you know what she was doing wrong or if she was doing anything wrong prior to this game, or was she just not hitting shots? Was it as simple as that? Was there something she needed to adjust or anything like that?
COACH SCHAEFER: I think, again, nobody knows us better than the people in our league, number one. She gets everybody's best defender, everybody's best defensive game plan. But the other piece was, you know, we watched some film together one morning. We talked about good shot, bad shot, you're running out of your shot here, stay in your shot. Sometimes it's just as simple as, you know what, you're making three out of ten, how about following your shot and go getting some of those misses? What that creates is a little more focus. If you tell somebody, Go follow your shot every time you shoot it, now they tend to stay in their shot and they don't tend to drift, they tend to follow it. Now they stay with a good foundation. We talked about that a little bit. She's been shooting it great in practice. Last four, five days, those kids were chomping at the bit to get back in the starting lineup. I knew yesterday I was going to do it, get them back in, so...What a great day to get back in and play like they did.
Q. Vic, you told Victoria, Welcome back to the party. What do you think got her into the party?
COACH SCHAEFER: Again, all I've done is just tried to tell her, Hey, you're shooting it good. You shot it well today in practice. You're making good decisions. I think you've got to fill her head, anybody, you got to keep being positive with kids. I think that was the biggest thing with her, is just trying to stay positive with her. But at the same time, you know, the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again if it is not working. Just trying to coach her, teach her, let her know the importance of getting her back. I told her before we left town, Hey, we won't win this weekend without you. We won't win without you being an impact player. But I've told y'all every press conference, I don't worry about Tori. I've just seen her do it way too many times. She made that shot off the glass, I've seen her make a hundred of them. It's not that she's calling it, but I've still seen her make 'em. So, it doesn't surprise me.
Q. Coach, when Geno Auriemma goes out to recruit, he's able to tell the players, Come play for us at UConn, you have better than even odds of playing for a national championship. Till now you haven't had that ability to say that. Could you describe what goes into taking a program from where you started to this level this quickly? What does this accomplishment means for you and the future at MSU?
COACH SCHAEFER: I do have a little experience of being with a national championship team when we won it in 2011 at A&M. I know what it looks like. I knew what this looked like with this team. I've told them since day one, I thought they were a Final Four team. I thought they were good enough to win it. What it takes to get it to this level this quick is a tremendous commitment from your administration. We knew what 13-17 looked like that first season. We didn't panic. We signed those four freshmen, though, before we ever played a game, because we might not have got them if they'd have seen us play that first year. At the same time, those kids, we went and got kids that could impact our program at that time, then we backed it up with a top-20 recruiting class. Since then we've had another top-20 recruiting class.
But I tell you, the biggest key for me was Johnie Harris coming with me. I couldn't have done it without her. I wasn't coming to Mississippi State without her. This would never have happened if she said, Vic, I'm not going. That was the first thing. I'm smart enough to know I cannot do it by myself. I have to have a great staff. I have an unbelievable staff. Great role models, great coaches, great teachers of the game. What goes into it is a commitment and a love for kids that it's got to be your every thought every day all day long. I mean, we're in the kid business. Sometimes you have to make decisions that have nothing to do with basketball, but if you really care about the kid, and that's first and foremost with us, I think those are the things you have to do. My staff deserves so much credit, so much credit, for where we are today, what we're doing with these young ladies. Again, I think, just like Geno would tell you, it's the quality of the young ladies that we have, their character, what they're made of, what's inside their breastplate. That's the piece that is hard to get to know when you're recruiting. That's the piece that I want my staff to get to know before we ever make a commitment to a young lady. We got to make sure they're committed like we are because nobody works harder in the country than my staff, I promise you.
Q. I wanted to comment both on the number of turnovers against a pretty good ball-handling team and your ability then to capitalize on those. I noticed in the first half especially you didn't face much foul trouble at all, but you were pulling players almost immediately after they were blown for a foul. Is that part of your normal practice, to keep people conscious of defending that well, but not doing it without swatting at the ball?
COACH SCHAEFER: Those two bigs, I try to rotate them in and out. I don't want them to get back-to-backs. Chinwe was starting earlier. Teaira came off the bench, she was SEC Six Player of the Year. Teaira has been playing better, so I've been starting her. I don't need Teaira in foul trouble. Those two good a little bit of yo-yo, so to speak. The rest of the kids, I don't think I pulled them as much as those two. Just trying to keep them in the game, impacting the game, is really big for us. Teaira obviously had a huge game for us on Friday. I knew Baylor was probably going to come after her a little bit today. They went right to her early and often, got a quick one on her. So that's kind of the game I have to play with those two down there. That's two aircraft carriers that do a great job for us and have really impacted our team and our program. Those two have great chemistry. When one's in, the other's out, they're both cheering for each other. There's a lot of love between those two.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, best of luck next week at the Final Four.
COACH SCHAEFER: Praise the Lord and go Dogs.