What She Said: Coach Yo, Angel Baker and Snudda Collins talk about the 71-48 win over Gonzaga
Ole Miss marched into the Stanford Regional as the No. 8 seed in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. And after a 71-48 hammering of No. 9-seed Gonzaga Friday night, head coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin and her Rebels find themselves with the program’s first NCAA tourney win since 2007.
Here’s what Coach Yo, Angel Baker and Snudda Collins had to say after the win.
YOLETT McPHEE-McCUIN: Tons of respect for Gonzaga. Incredibly well-coached program. A team that they have done a lot of great stuff all season. Fought through adversity. I consider Lisa to be a friend, so I’m just glad we are on the winning side. We knew it would be a physical game. We knew that we were on their time zone. It was their comfort.
But we felt like if we defend, good things can happen. It’s one of the sayings we say is we pack our defense in our sought case no matter where we go, so really proud of our group.
Q. What does it mean for you to be able to do this and help the program achieve this?
ANGEL BAKER: It means a lot. It’s very exciting. I think team 48 deserves this. I feel like we worked hard for this, and it just means a lot for this group. We got a lot of goals and this is one of them, so it feels great.
Q. Hats off to you. You made I think three or four three-point shots, which is way more than the entire Gonzaga team had. Talk about being in the groove tonight?
SNUDDA COLLINS: Coming into this game, I think I was 0-for-22 and I knew that and I kind of took it personal. I knew I have to score for the team. So tonight, I guess I came in with a different mindset and ready to just let it go.
Q. You’ve seen this program build up, all the different parts. What does tonight mean to you to get the NCAA Tournament win and take the next step for this program?
SNUDDA COLLINS: It means a lot to me. I’ve been here when we wasn’t the absolute best, but we wasn’t the worst either. Last year we came in winning the first round and we lost. Of course we kind of — me and Madi we took that personally. We were like when we come back next year we are not losing the first game. That’s been our goal from the beginning of the season, and now we’ve accomplished it.
Q. I don’t know how much of any of the game before you saw, but have you thought about the fact that you’re about to play one of the top teams in a country and a recent national champion in Stanford?
ANGEL BAKER: First all of mindset has been on Gonzaga. Now we can focus on Stanford now that we’ve finished the job. I think our coaches will set us up for that.
Q. For both of y’all, everybody was talking about Gonzaga and the way they shoot the three coming into this game. I know obviously you guys talk so much about how much pride you take in your defense. Was it kind of personal, I guess, for you guys to stop that to run them off the line the way you did tonight?
ANGEL BAKER: Absolutely. We wanted to take away their three ball. We know they shoot the three-ball very well. But like Coach said, we pack our defense and we take pride in defending the ball.
Q. You are in rarified company as the only team to beat Gonzaga by this much. Stanford was the only other team to beat them by over 20 points, and you’re the only team that took south Carolina into overtime and Stanford was the other team that took them no overtime. Given those two facts, does it give you confidence going into play Stanford on Sunday?
SNUDDA COLLINS: After the South Carolina game, she showed us what we could do. I wouldn’t say that this familiar game gave us confidence. I mean, we already know what we can do. We defend and dictate and disrupt. You know, we just ready.
Q. So you actually keep track of the misses you have, but is that something your team does, or is somebody giving you a hard time in practice? How is this going? You just said you missed 22 in a row. Do you remember your last one that you made?
ANGEL BAKER: Did not know that —
SNUDDA COLLINS: I personally keep up with — I go back and look because I know I didn’t make any shots in the SEC Tournament. So I just wanted to see, like, how many did I take and attempt. That’s how I knew that.
Q. But it was three-pointers or field goals?
SNUDDA COLLINS: It was both.
Q. So you were really —
SNUDDA COLLINS: I was in a slump.
Q. How did you kind of just hit the practice floor this past week and say, okay, I’m going to knock these down?
SNUDDA COLLINS: Just not overthinking and just shooting how I know I can shoot. Just being ready.
Q. Angel, did you know that she had missed that?
ANGEL BAKER: I did not know that. Every time Snudda shoots, I know it’s going in.
Q. I know Snudda brought up Madison but for her to have the impact she made on both ends of the floor, what has she meant in the pig games?
ANGEL BAKER: Madi brings something nobody else can bring, her energy, the way she defends the ball, her length, like I said, nobody else can bring it and I’m very grateful to have her as a teammate for sure.
Q. So first of all, Coach, it’s a coincidence that I was actually born in Lafayette County — oh, I’m sorry, Lafayette County, and so it’s always a cool deal whenever Ole Miss is involved. But my question is: Now that you guys advance to this level what is it going to be like going against Tara, a legendary coach and a team that won a couple years ago? What is the moment like for you right now?
YOLETT McPHEE-McCUIN: It’s incredible. I grew up being a student of the game, so obviously Tara is someone that I have admired. But I’ve had time to, like, meet with her a couple times. But I think this is the first time she like knows who I am (laughing).
As far as playing a team that has had success, I think she would even say that’s in the past. You know, we don’t — we’ve had a lot of success and we don’t talk about it. We’re going to focus on the present. I do think us playing in the Southeastern Conference has prepared us to play anybody in the country.
Like it was just stated, we took the No. 1 team in the country today into overtime. So as far as we’re concerned, this is just another incredible opportunity versus another incredible game. The same type of thought we had versus Gonzaga. Nothing more, nothing less.
Q. I’m sure you’re going to have plenty of time to go over Stanford film, and we’ll ask you about it tomorrow, but since you mentioned you watched their game against Gonzaga —
YOLETT McPHEE-McCUIN: I did.
Q. Super quick, did anything stand out about Stanford, even though I know you were focused on Gonzaga, I think?
YOLETT McPHEE-McCUIN: I think Stanford is just a great team. Look, I watch a lot of basketball. So had Sacred Heart won, I would have been prepared. And Stanford has watched us. You know, we got a lot of calls from Stanford when we almost beat South Carolina. I think they were rooting for us.
You know, we just have a lot of respect for them. They are just super talented. I know Cameron didn’t play tonight but we’ll expect her to be there on Sunday. They are just a really solid team. They are experienced, and when you play experienced teams, if you’re going to beat them, you need to try to beat them in regulation. So that’s what we’re going to try to do.
Q. On the court, seemed like you were locked on on defense — sounds like you lost your voice; how much you were screaming at them. How impressed are you your team’s defensive effort, especially Gonzaga only made one three all night, and what you guys did on that side of the ball, did it completely take them out of their offense?
YOLETT McPHEE-McCUIN: I always get a workout when I coach. I don’t sit, and I defensive-slide up and down the floor. That is why I don’t dress up; so that I can get a workout. I’ve been tracking my calories, and I’ve burned a good bit on here.
As far as our defensive performance, elite. We held them — we wanted to hold them 12 or less per quarter, and we did that because they only had 48 points.
So was really impressed. I was just in awe watching our team defend, and we — that is who we are, you know. We wear shirts in practice that say “We Defend.” And usually, when we defend at a high level, we can score a lot.
So I know people don’t look at us as an offensive team but that doesn’t mean we can’t score. We just defend so that we can score, and we did that, and it was fun to watch.
Q. When I look at the box score, the number that immediately jumps out to me is 24 offensive rebounds. How important to set up what you guys can do defensively is it if you can keep extending possessions the way that you guys did tonight?
YOLETT McPHEE-McCUIN: It’s who we are. I’m telling y’all, it’s playing in the Southeastern Conference. Every night, we are playing against elite level talent. We’re playing against elite athletes. And we have to fight. I think we’ve had, I don’t know — Madeline will be able to tell me, but we have had multiple 50-rebound performances in conference.
So we did not think that that would be impossible for us to do tonight or any time in the NCAA Tournament unless we face South Carolina again; they are monstrous.
But other than that, I mean, that is what we do. So I was more impressed by us holding them to 29 percent from the field. This is a really good offensive team, but like I told you all in the presser, you know, I think that was yesterday or the day before, we’ve done that all year.
So it is what we expect. You get what I’m saying? We are not cocky. It is who we are.
Q. When you say, though, with the exception of South Carolina, what makes them an exception, is maybe — especially Stanford’s inside size maybe a similar level exception to come?
YOLETT McPHEE-McCUIN: Yeah, I mean, you know, South Carolina I mean, I see South Carolina, their front court is 6-6, 6-5, 6-4, 6-3. Stanford’s big, but I don’t remember their 2-guard being 6-3, you know.
Listen, I think that they are going to be really good on the glass, as well, but even versus South Carolina. We competed. We didn’t — they didn’t just annihilate us on the glass. I guess that’s the point I’m making. That’s just who we are. So no matter what, we feel like we can rebound with the best of them, and we’ve shown that because at the end of the day, South Carolina is the No. 1 team in the country until someone beats them, and we’ve been able to rebound with them.
So if anything, it gives us confidence.
Q. You mentioned how much Tara meant to you, how you looked up to her. But your contemporary right there in that conference, Dawn Staley, what has she meant to you and what she’s accomplished, first black coach to win multiple championships. What does she mean to you in that conference and as a whole as a black woman?
YOLETT McPHEE-McCUIN: Listen I’m the young Thunder Cat in the group, right. I look up to a lot of coaches. Dawn Staley is a mentor of mine, except for when we play then she’s a foe. But other than that, she has always extended knowledge to me, and has been someone I can call on. And she’s in-conference.
Tara, not so much. I’ve just admired her from afar. She’s a G.O.A.T. in my opinion. Just what she’s done, what she’s accomplished. She hung around. She’s old school. So she kind of waited till we got out. She was hanging around, and I said, “Coach, let me touch your hand because I need you to rub off some of your championship residue on me.” And I said, “And you played Gonzaga, so give me the scoop.”
And she looked at me and she said, “Yo, Gonzaga’s good, but so are you.”
So I took that as a compliment. And any time I get a chance to coach against who I consider to be some of the pioneers of the game, I feel like I owe it to them to give my best effort, and so that’s what I’ll do on Sunday.
Q. What does a win like tonight do for y’all momentum-wise, and not just taking care of business but winning in such a dominant fashion and the way you did on both ends of the floor?
YOLETT McPHEE-McCUIN: You know, we felt like we have been the underdogs. I know we were the 8-seed, but they flew us out to the West Coast and had us play a team that had to take an hour flight. So we didn’t feel like the 8-seed.
As far as we’re concerned, you know, we feel like we have something to prove. I feel like the whole sec feels that way. I think all of us got a win today, and so we’re all rooting for each other and I’m just proud to be a part of this conference. I’m proud to represent the University of Mississippi, and I don’t believe in skipping steps.
And last year, we lost, and Keith could tell you, like after we lost, I said, you know, maybe this is how it should be. We made it to the tournament. It was the first time since, like, 2007, 2008. But now I felt like we needed to take another step.
And it we win on Sunday, then we are going to keep going. And if we don’t, then we’re going to celebrate the season. But at the end of the day, we still made a forward step. I just believe in growing it organically that way.
Q. Snudda brought it up, but she had had a rough stretch, she had not make a shot in three games. To see her come out the way she did especially in the second quarter, somebody who has been with you for a while how nice was it to see her have her moment?
YOLETT McPHEE-McCUIN: I knew Snudda was going to give me a compliment because I’ve been in her ear all week. Really proud of her.
I told Snudda she needed to get back to the non-conference Snudda. The non-conference Snudda was scoring in multiple ways, not just three-point shooting. She was driving to the basket, rebounding, and ones. And tonight you were able to see that and she missed the first two threes, you know, I just told her, like, “Snudda, stop praying that it goes in. Just shoot it.”
Usually she — when she just doesn’t try to make it and she just trusts her form, she’s able to do it. The whole team was really proud of Snudda, and we’re going to need that from her.
Like you said, she’s been with me from the jump. She tried to give a sob story but she wasn’t in the dark days when Snudda came, we were in the postseason. She don’t know about the dark days. But she was one of the — her and Madison Scott decided to come to Ole Miss when we went 0-16. You talk about belief; those two believed more than anybody.
Really happy for her.
Q. I guess talking so much about defense and obviously that’s kind of what you built your program on, so I guess just for you, what’s it like for the first win that you get here in the NCAA Tournament for it to just kind of epitomize what you’ve built in the way that it did?
YOLETT McPHEE-McCUIN: Poetic, is all I can say. It was poetic. I mean, we clinched fourth place in the SEC out right by getting a defensive stop. And Snudda got a block and that’s how we claimed fourth. And so today, to be able to do it in the fashion and to hear our team, like they really didn’t want Gonzaga to get 50 points.
And then to see Jordan Berry, who came in as a walk-on, you know, guard 94 feet, is was poetic, and it’s something that makes me proud. Because here is the thing: We don’t want to have on identity crisis right now. We want to be who we are and that’s defense, and our defense is the engine to our offense.
That is what we intend to do on Sunday. We intend to guard. And if we can do that, we feel like we’ll have success. So for me it was poetic.
Ole Miss and Stanford tip off at 8:30 p.m. CT Sunday, March 19. The game will be televised on ESPN.
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss)
Evelyn has covered sports for over two decades, beginning her journalism career as a sports writer for a newspaper in Austin, Texas. She attended Texas A&M and majored in English. Evelyn’s love for Ole Miss began when her daughter Katie attended the university on a volleyball scholarship. Evelyn created the Rebel Walk in 2013 and has served as publisher and managing editor since its inception.