5/5 BAYLOR 86, NR/NR CALIFORNIA 46 Monday, March 20, 2017 Ferrell Center (Waco, Texas) Attendance: 3,910
BAYLOR POSTGAME QUOTES
Kim Mulkey, Baylor Head Coach
Q. Kim, talk about that stretch in the second quarter where y'all did take over the and the fact that Natalie hit those two threes and it seemed like the whole momentum of the game shifted at that point.
Kim Mulkey: Well, Natalie, she's comfortable now, and I think when Kalani got in foul trouble, Cox, freshman, goes in, and was big. Beatrice played big. Jones came in, and then Natalie. We shared the ball, Kristy did a tremendous job of pushing the ball up the floor, but looking to the backside and finding shooters, and when a shooter makes one, find her again and let her make another one.
Q. Kristy mentioned during that stretch that the defense stepped up. Was there one particular area that help side rotation ball pressure that stood out to you?
Kim Mulkey: Yes, we want to hedge big on the on-ball screens. We didn't care if that post player slipped the screen, so the help side that's guarding that wing player over there, we made sure she came and helped. We didn't do that very good in the conference tournament, in any of the games. So we were able to come back and just work on us, just work on help side. You get caught up in this game. Look, this game has changed. When they started shooting threes, it's changed everything about your defense, and you get caught up in -- I got mine, you take yours, make sure you have your girl, and I just can't play like that. That's just not how I was taught the game.
We just got back to being better help side defense, and I thought we took away all their transition baskets. A team that's as athletic as they are, take away their transition baskets.
Q. Asia Thomas, I think she was the one that hit like five three-pointers for her. Kristy was on her most of the game. Talk about the defense, and what did they make, 3 out of 13 for the game; is that a good basketball question?
Kim Mulkey: That's a great question, and you even knew her name. Kristy was assigned to guard her. We didn't want to help down ball side. When the minute Anigwe turned, then you could hit from the backside. If you were ball side and it was not Thomas, we covered down and we wanted them to make threes. We didn't want them to penetrate and get in the paint and get us in foul trouble all night, and she hit big shots against LSU. We knew that, but we were very willing to give them the three-pointers tonight.
Q. The ball movement, again, 28 assists tonight; how impressed were you on that?
Kim Mulkey: Well, very. I think sometimes -- there were spurts in that first half where we dribbled too much in the same place waiting for on-ball screens and they were trapping us, and I didn't like that. So I got out of our offense where we were setting on ball screens and just do the high-low look with the two bigs, and then Kalani got in foul trouble, so when you go small with Nina she can't see in there to get the big the ball, so just spread the ball, just move it, slip the screen, find the open player. Kristy does that as good as anybody I've coached. She pushes it up the floor to the wing players and lets those guys go find a post player in transition.
I thought all of them were big tonight. I thought our depth has surfaced big time in these two playoff games. We knew we had depth. We've seen it all year. You've seen them play. But you don't know how they're going to produce in the NCAA Tournament.
Tonight, while you don't ever want Kalani Brown to play two minutes in the first quarter and sit, it may have been a blessing in disguise because it allowed me to gain confidence in Cox, who went in immediately and defended a tremendous athlete. Beatrice has all of last year's experience, and we didn't miss a beat. And that's important for them and for me and for our team.
Q. Obviously next is Oklahoma City. Talk about facing Louisville for the third time in the Sweet 16 in nine years and just how different is that team from ones you've faced in the past or if you know much about them yet?
Kim Mulkey: Well, I watched a little bit of their game with Tennessee prior to our game. You know, the first time that we played Louisville, I thought they had the better team. You know, Jessica Morrow tried to take us on her shoulders that year, and we competed. We competed. And then we all know what happened the year that we were supposed to win that third National Championship when we had Griner and Odyssey and all those guys, and they were good. They made, correct me if I'm wrong, if memory served me right, 16 out of 25 threes. Well, you can win every game if you do that. And for us to have come back and even made it a close game and a shot to win it was miraculous because they couldn't miss.
But that's history. So now you go to this game, and they're a different team, we're a different team. They have great players, we have great players. They're well-coached. I don't know if we are or not, but we'll see. But we'll compete. I think we have a size advantage, but really what does that mean at this level? If you can play, you can play.
Our size is young, and I think people tend to forget that. Our size -- and Nina and KK are small, but our three bigs are a freshman and two sophomores, and I just think the more they can get NCAA experience, the better they get, and then maybe some day they'll win them a National Championship here.
But two different -- three different times we've played -- this will be our third time to play them, and we'll prepare tomorrow and Wednesday, and I think leave Wednesday night and go to Oklahoma City.
Q. Is Alexis -- her shot was off a couple times today. Is that a matter maybe of not having that practice time during all this? Or is her knee still bothering her?
Kim Mulkey: No, her knee is fine. I asked her. When you get fatigued and you're not running up and down the floor, sometimes you're short because of your legs. But I thought she took good shots. I thought that she drove some to show you that she can get in there. She got her shot blocked. But she gave us 20, 22 good minutes, and if you look at her stats, they're pretty good. She gave us, what, six rebounds and eight points, five assists. She's good.
Kristy Wallace, Guard
Q. Talk about the fan reaction when all four of you got taken out at the same time.
Kristy Wallace: I think we got going on the defensive end. Yeah, we stopped kind of the big presence and kind of helped down and covered down, and we were able to run off that, and we're really good on the run, especially with these two on the wing. They can just create and do some athletic stuff. That's where the momentum kind of changed, and we kind of just kept pushing forward.
Q. Kristy, y'all assisted on about 80 percent of your makes. What did you think of the ball movement, especially in the half court today?
Kristy Wallace: Yeah, great. I think we played a good team game on offense. We didn't settle for just regular shots. We kind of looked to find some good shots, and yeah, we made them, so that was really great.
Q. Kristy, there was the spurt, but there was also the two back to back threes by Natalie, but the first one you come over to the right side and she was there and you motion her over and a couple passes later she made it. Talk about what that sequence did for you, the two threes. I guess you were telling her to get open, right?
Kristy Wallace: Yeah, Nat hit some key shots, and that was a huge momentum shifter. I show she's been working hard on her threes, so it was great to kind of find her, and she got herself open, and yeah, she hit them, which was really exciting.
Alexis Prince, Guard
Q. Talk about the fan reaction when all four of you got taken out at the same time.
Alexis Prince: It really hit me once she said it was our last time going in here. I don't know. We had a good year. Played hard, finished it the way we were supposed to. Kristy, there were like six lead changes there early, and y'all went on a nice run and then had another run there in the second quarter where it went from like six points up to I think it was 35-16 maybe. Was that your offense, or do you feel like it started on the defensive end?
Nina Davis, Forward
Q. Nina and Alexis, just talk about just your last home game and what it meant to go out like this, just to have a performance like this in your last game.
Nina Davis: It was great. We wanted to come out, we just wanted to kind of do like we did in our first game, come out strong and aggressive and just kind of try to put them away early.
As I say, it's a bittersweet thing. We wanted to just leave our mark here. Of course you wanted to give the fans the exciting thing, and just wanted my last game here to be a good one.
Q. Nina, y'all go back to Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City. You lost to West Virginia there, you lost to Notre Dame there a couple years ago. Does the arena matter at this point?
Nina Davis: It doesn't. We've had losses there. We've shed plenty of tears there, but we've also celebrated in confetti there, as well. We're not really worried about the location where we're playing at, we're just worried about our next opponent, which is Louisville, and just focused on us and what we have to do to get to the next round.
CAL POSTGAME QUOTES
Lindsay Gottlieb, Cal Head Coach
First off, we want to thank you for being here and the coverage, and I think it's a great sport of women's basketball, and for you all to be here I think is really meaningful. I'd also like to thank the folks at Baylor who have run this weekend. They're obviously used to hosting. They do a great job, and the people from the -- the workers and people who checked us in were not only on top of things but gracious and kind, and we appreciate that.
I want to congratulate Baylor. Kim gave me a baby gift at shoot-around today. I thought that was really thoughtful. She said she has a place in her heart for moms and coaching, and that's the kind of thing that women's basketball is about.
They have a darned good team. I know they have to go to Oklahoma City first, but I think they have a great chance to be playing down the road here in Dallas and a shot to win the National Championship, so it was a great challenge for us.
I'm really proud of our team. I think it was a huge step for us to get here, and not just to prove to people that we belonged in the tournament, but more taking a look forward, I think this is a group that can do some special things, and we needed this experience. We needed to see that we could win a game on this stage, and we also needed to be humbled and see what a No. 1 seed looks like, because that's where we want to be.
Especially appreciative of Courtney Range, without whom we would not have gotten to this point, because there were some times in the year where it's rocky, and I think her leadership helped us get here, and I think next year when we're a better team and these young kids are playing deeper into the dance, we'll be talking about Courtney's leadership at that point. So I just wanted to say that.
Q. Coach, you played these guys three years ago I think it was; what's different about this team? Is this a better team, I guess?
LINDSAY GOTTLIEB: That's a tough one to answer because they're both pretty good. This is a truly unique team in women's college basketball with the waves of post players coming in. And it's not like -- I mean, I don't know, maybe you saw, our game plan early on was to really pack the paint. I tried to use the West Virginia prototype, pack the paint, make them shoot jumpers; then you look at the stats, and those kids shooting jumpers are 40 percent, 40 percent. Oh, Natalie comes off the bench, 45 percent. It's not like they have a glaring weakness.
I think if Alexis Jones kind of gets back in her rhythm a little bit, I think she's a first-round WNBA pick. If she's playing well and the post players and the guard play, I mean, that team we played back then was pretty darned good, to too, but this team is really, really special, and I think as people thought from the beginning of the year, they're a legit national title contender. They played Connecticut tough the first time. They're really good.
Q. Once you guys hit your first three shots and had some good passing and stuff, with Kalani on the bench, I know they said the depth that Baylor has is tough, but did you see that as an opportunity?
LINDSAY GOTTLIEB: Yeah, I mean, if you had told me that we would start the game and we would get Kalani two quick fouls, I would have thought that's favorable. I would have chosen that, but I wouldn't also have been like, okay, now we're home free. You just know that their depth is a huge just weapon for them.
I thought the main thing was we struggled to score so much, which actually didn't even allow us to try to do our defensive game plan. When you let them get going in transition, that's when they're up scoring in the high 80s and 90s, so if we could have scored more I thought we could have set our defense and maybe tried to at least bother them into some shots they weren't as comfortable with, but once they get going in transition now, now it's tough to get your doubles on the posts, it's tough to get a hand up on shooters, so I think our inability to score consistently was trouble.
Q. Lindsay, I know your team would have liked to have been the seventh, but it looks like the Pac-12 is going to send six teams to the Sweet 16. What does that say about the challenge that you guys have but also just about how strong this league was all year?
LINDSAY GOTTLIEB: Yeah, so Washington and UCLA both won? Great. You know, I can't say I'm that surprised. Like I remember having a conversation with Mike Neighbors, my buddy in the league, we talk about this stuff, about getting the RPI and all that kind of stuff. We said early in the year, I don't know if we have a Final Four team. I don't know if there's a legit top five team, but we said we could get five or six in the Sweet 16, and maybe there is a Final Four team or two, and I hope there will be.
But I think it speaks to the depth of the league. I mean, we've said it -- it sounds like lip service, but it's real. Our fifth place team took the SEC champ to the wire last night. Our -- is it five? Five teams, yeah. And our sixth place team tonight beat a top ACC team, with Duke -- did Duke come in second or third? Really towards the top. So the depth of the league is no joke, and I think we prepare each other for moments like this, and I'm super happy for my colleagues and our Pac-12 brethren, and I think five Sweet 16 says a lot, and of course it makes every night in the league harder, right. Going back the days when it was us and Stanford battling it out, only two teams in the tournament, maybe my life was a little easier night to night, but it doesn't make you better, and I think this is what's good for the league. Glad to be part of it, and sure, we want to be one of the ones at the very, very top next year.
Q. Building on that, like the league is getting -- the Pac-12 is getting so strong now; what are you going to do with your team to keep pace or even catch up really?
LINDSAY GOTTLIEB: Yeah, I mean, I think different things matter right now. Like we used to be able to be young and talented and go win on the road in the league even when we didn't play our best or something like that, and now the league is so good that that's good for everybody. I mean, what I said to them in there is the year prior to the Final Four year, we were an 8 seed. Again, we finished second in the Pac-12 and we were an 8 seed at Notre Dame. We won the first game, and we played Notre Dame tough. Played them tougher than this outcome was. But I remember saying in that locker room, I think Muffet McGraw had said, hey, that's a top-10 team next year, and I said, I want us to be great next year not simply because we return everybody but because everybody in this room is better than what they are now, and it was a very similar message. We will definitely miss Courtney, but we have the majority of our team coming back. We have some great kids coming in, and my challenge to them is let's not just be better next year by default, because other people graduate, but I want to be better because we've seen the bar and we want to get to the top. We have competitors in there. They expected to come in here and win. Not in any type of like unrealistic or -- but they're competitors. Like they're going to come and say we want to beat this team. So now we have to channel that into off-season workouts that get us to the point where we can and get us to the point where we can be first in the Pac-12, and I don't have a doubt that that's what's on the players' mind right now.
Q. What did Kim get you today?
LINDSAY GOTTLIEB: It was one of those like carrier things, the things that you wear when the baby is like 8 to 35 pounds. It was really cool. Yeah.
Kristine Anigwe, Center/Forward
Q. Kristine, Kalani Brown picked up two quick fouls early in the game. I think it was the first minute and 10 seconds. Did y'all sense that as an opportunity with her on the bench?
KRISTINE ANIGWE: Um, they have like six 6'4" players, so I just tried to play them the same way, and if one went out, another one came in, took her spot and played hard. Another one came in, played hard. So I just tried to do the same thing. They all like played kind of the same.
Q. As Coach just talked about, the experience of getting here and the win and then tonight, talk about trying to put that -- I know it's a little early, but put that in perspective looking ahead what that can do for this young group and everybody coming back.
KRISTINE ANIGWE: Wow. I wish I was celebrating going to the Sweet 16, but you don't always get what you want. And so I personally am just going to work really hard and take my team there next year. Last year we didn't even make it here. It's just a step, a step -- we won the first round, lost in the second round by 40 points to the No. 1 seed. Next year I really hope we can get to the Sweet 16 and not be that 9 seed playing the 1 seed.
I'm just going to work really hard to not feel this way ever again.
Courtney Range, Guard/Forward
Q. Courtney, for you as a senior this is your last game in the Cal uniform. Talk a little bit about how that feels for you, and also Coach's words about your leadership, helping to get Cal back on this stage.
COURTNEY RANGE: I mean, it's a bittersweet feeling, you know. I mean, it sucks, you wish you could be like Baylor celebrating, going on to the Sweet 16. But like Kristine said, her individually, she's going to work hard. I know her, her work ethic. She's going to take the team, put it on her back, and have them follow her and what she's doing, and she's going to make sure that they don't feel this feeling anymore. Like she said, they're going to work hard not to be a 9 seed. They're going to work to be that 1 seed to potentially be hosting at Cal.
Yeah, and me personally, I mean, four years, I mean, it's gone by -- I wouldn't say fast. People say it goes by quick. I wouldn't say that. Yes, it has its ups and downs. It was fun, and I mean, the group of girls throughout my four years, I just love them all, and I'm happy that I chose Cal.
Q. Courtney, you guys shot 29 percent. I know as Kristine said, they've got a lot of size, but what is it about Baylor's defense that makes it so tough? Is it the length?
COURTNEY RANGE: To me, yeah, just like Kristine said. One goes out, another 6'4" comes in, so we had our game plan, we tried to execute it the best we could. Obviously today it wasn't in our favor, but like I said, if we get a -- if they get another shot at them again, they'll know what to do.