Q. I’ll ask one of the more obvious questions: The
difference between this game and the regular season
meeting against Texas A&M?
JONI TAYLOR: First of all, Texas A&M is such a tough
team. They’re the No. 2 team in the country for a reason.
They stretch us. They challenge us. They gave us a huge
To answer your question, Jenna Staiti played 12 minutes in
the regular season. Tonight she played 35 minutes. She
has 13 points, six blocked shots. Her presence on the floor
is a game changer for us. Even when she’s not scoring,
she’s a rim protector, she rebounds, she stretches the
defense for us, offensively stretches the floor. That was
the first thing I would say.
Also we’re playing a lot better now than when we did in
January when we met up with Texas A&M the first time
around. We’re shooting the ball better, more balanced
offensively. We’re really set in what it is we’re doing.
Q. Can you go through the emotions of making it to a
championship game? Your birthday is tomorrow, so is
it good to be spending your birthday coaching a
JONI TAYLOR: Extremely happy for the program. We
haven’t made it to a championship game since 2004. I was
an assistant coach at Troy, Alabama living off of ramen
noodles and peanut butter and jelly in 2004.
To be doing this now, I’m really happy for the program. I
think about Coach Landers, I think about the text
messages I got from Teresa Edwards, Saudia Roundtree,
Lisa O’Connor. Just the commitment they have to us,
several others for that matter.
I’m happy for our present team. Our seniors especially.
We talk about checking boxes. We’re just continuing to do
that. They’re doing it the right way.
It’s something we obviously are going to enjoy today.
We’re not going to act like it’s not a big deal, but it is a big
deal. It’s a big deal for us, our program. We got to settle
in, get ready to face the winner of the 6:00 game.
Q. I was wondering how Mikayla bounced back so
quickly. It looked like she was pretty significantly hurt
when she went down, helped off the court.
JONI TAYLOR: Yeah, I mean, it scared me to death.
She’s someone who has had injuries in the past. She’s
had a torn ACL. She knows when she’s hurt. She’s a
really tough kid. She had a torn labrum and chose not to
have surgery. We know she’s an extremely tough young
lady. When she went down that, I was extremely worried.
Credit our trainer Stacey Kisil for getting her ready to go,
taping her up. She had a tremendous third and fourth
quarter for us obviously.
Q. Does she flash that kind of style in practice? Do
you see her doing that during workouts? Is this really
one of the first times we’re seeing it in a big spot like
this for you guys?
JONI TAYLOR: Oh, yeah. This is par for the course for
Mikayla, absolutely. This is what she does, who she is. I
think she went through a spell in the SEC season where
she — I mean, again, for all practical purposes, this is the
first time Mikayla has had this type of responsibility on the
basketball floor. So I think she did hit a wall around end of
January, beginning of February as we were in SEC play.
Credit her for getting in the film room, for getting in with
Coach Karen and figuring out how people were guarding
her, finding another way to score.
Again, when Jenna is on the floor, shooting the ball, it
opens up things for her. She’s continued to stay the
course and be aggressive. When Mikayla is aggressive,
she’s hard to stop. Her first step is so quick, she’s
someone who affects the basketball on both ends of the