Women's Hoops: Liberty press conference

<i>After Vanderbilt's 54-44 victory over the Liberty Lady Flames, Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb, senior center Chantelle Anderson, and junior forward Jenni Benningfield met the press. Afterwards, VandyMania talked with junior forward Jenni Benningfield and junior guard Hillary Hager. First, Coach Balcomb was asked to make an opening comment.</I>

Coach Balcomb: Overall, like I told me team, it's a win, it wasn't pretty, but I know is very very good defensively, and I could see why they lead the country in field goal percentage defense. They're extremely physical. . . . I thought our team handled our composure down the stretch well. It wasn't one our best games, and we didn't shoot the ball very well, but I think the key is that we won the game on defense, and we held them to 29% field goal percent. I think it's really important right now that our defense is consistent, and I'm real pleased with the fact our defense won the game.

The Press: If you will,talk about your defense inside on Katie Feenstra.She didn't have any points in the first half and didn't score her first basket until less than 14 minutes left in the game.

Coach Balcomb: I think out matchup zone was really a perfect matchup for what they do after we watched them on film, and we always front the post, pressure the basketball, and have somebody behind, so we stuck with that, and I think it really hurt them as far as getting the ball to her a lot. I think the toughest part was checking her out. She had 12 boards and six offensive rebounds, and she crashes especially well on her own misses. And I thought that she was key and also Tharp, number 35, those were the two kids that we were keying on defensively, and we wanted to make the other players beat us, and I think we also accomplished that.

The Press: In the latter stages of the game, could you talk about your feeling when Liberty made their runs to cut it down to 3?

Coach Balcomb: Overall, I think this year we've won a lot of close games, and i have great senior leadership on the floor, and we kept our composure in the SEC in some really crazy games, especially on the road, and I felt real confident still. Maybe I shouldn't have, but I still felt very confident in our team and how we were going to handle the end of the game.

The Press: Did you make any adjustments when they cut the lead to 3 midway through the second half, or did you start to do anything different defensively, or did you just let the game play out the way it would?

Coach Balcomb: Not really. I change defenses a lot, a lot more than we did tonight. I believe in changing defenses, but really defense wasn't our issue. I think we did go to man-to-man, switched out on screens to try not to give them the 3's that they got. I think we should have done that earlier. But again we wanted to make other people beat us. We just should have switched our man sooner so that they wouldn't have gotten the looks from 3 that they got off the screen.

But, no, nothing major. I think we needed to work on our offense because that's where we were really struggling. Even though they made shots, we weren't executing down on our end. We started not running our offense, and we talked about that at the break.

The Press: Ashley, were ya'll consciously looking for the 3 point shot more maybe than you would in other situations?

Ashley Mac: We knew they were going to pack it in because there aren't too many people who can guard Chantelle and Jenni down in the block one-on-one, and I think that's been a lot of the other teams' philosophy, to pack it in, and make us shoot from outside. And I think me and Abi both were shooters, and we've got to look for our shot. That's going to give Chantelle and Jenni more room down there to operate, and we hit some 3's, but we didn't shoot very-- we weren't hot, I guess. I can shoot better and maybe help them out even more down low.

The Press: Ashley, you seemed to hit some big baskets and free throws down the stretch there. Could you talk a little bit about your performance today.

Ashley Mac: My shot was going in. (Smiles.) I don't know, I guess you say players are feeling it, and I kind of was the first half, I guess, as far as 3-pointers. My shot was there, and I gotta knock it down. I'm not just a passer. I'm not just the floor leader. I can score, and I have to have that mentality right now. It's now or never, and why not go for it.

The Press: What was the battle like inside with Katie Feenstra? Was it a typical game inside for you, or was it more physical, less physical than normal?

Chantelle: It was pretty physical inside. Usually people that are that physical are not that tall, so it was a little different in that respect. But as far as how physical it was, no, it wasn't too much different. I think it was a pretty good matchup.

The Press: Chantelle, when you picked up your fourth foul and had to leave the game, and then when you returned, what was it like for you personally in this game, having to really try and contest your shots against Katie?

Chantelle: Wait, me trying to con-- her contesting my shots, or me contesting her?

The Press: When you attempted a lot of your shots and Katie was right there--

Chantelle: Actually, the shots that I hit were over her. I had the problem with the wide open shot, so I don't think that was a problem. I just have to concentrate and make the easy ones. I went 3 for 7, and two of the shots I missed were wide open, so I don't think it was her.I just have to concentrate.

The Press: Chantelle, did you tweak the toe again?

Chantelle: (Shakes head.) Uh-huh.

Coach Balcomb. No, Maurice, she's fine. We did have a sneaker blow out.

Chantelle: I know -- it wasn't me! (Laughs.)

The Press: For any of the players, it looked like at the end of the game there was a prayer circle on the court. Is that what was going on, and, if so, how did it come about?

Chantelle: Well, I heard that Liberty prays after every game, so I guess they just--

Ashley Mac: Number 10-- we were shaking hands, and she asked, "Do you want to pray?" I thought she said, "Do you want to play?" (Laughter.) I said, "Yes!" (More laughter.) She said, "Do you want to pray?", and I went to Coach, and she said, "Go for it," and I just thought that's sportsmanship, and it was good on their part to ask us, and we did it.

Coach Balcomb: They're a Christian school, and I think they do that with all the teams that are willing to do that.

The Press: Abi, can you address the importance of the perimeter game today?

Abi: Well, we knew coming into this game, just like Ashley said, that they were going to be packing it in. They were right in our shorts most of the time with the guards, but if we would kick it in, we got the easy kickout for the shot. So they pushed Chantelle around today, and it was hard to get her the open shots. She found us open, so, yeah, it was big that me and Ashley hit the shots that we did hit because we weren't very hot, but it was a good team to take that advantage on.

The Vanderbilt contingent left the press conference, and VandyMania caught up with Jenni Benningfield and then Hillary Hager to ask a few questions.

VM: Jenni, what's your take on the game? What's the mood in the locker room?

Jenni: Oh, everybody's excited. It's a W. It was ugly, but it's a W. That's all that matters right now. They're a great team, and Coach said going into the game that they're the type of team that makes the teams that they play against play ugly. Their size down low was kind of a factor, and we just couldn't really seem to get in sync. We haven't played in two weeks, not that that's an excuse, but it helps to get-- we're just trying to get this first game out of the way and especially against them because I know they're a great team, but they make us play ugly, but just gotta get that out of the way and get a W.

VM: What were they doing specifically to make it ugly?

Jenni: We had a lot of ball pressure on Mac, and that made it hard to get into offense, but mainly, we won it on defense, and that's a big step for us to win that game on defense and be able to have an offensive game next time.

VM: Hillary, could you give some general impressions of the game?

Hillary: Well, it wasn't pretty, obviously. But it was a win, and that's what you've got to do at this time of year. It's about staying alive. So, good win.

VM: In the second half when they cut it to 3, you had a couple of big shots. Can you talk about stepping up and hitting the shots when they need to be made?

Hillary: I hadn't really scored all game. I hadn't really gotten any looks, I guess. I just got looks, I was open, so I took the shots, and they fell.

VM: In that kind of situation, where you haven't had earlier shots in the game, is it easy for you to maintain confidence? If you see a shot, you just take it?

Hillary: Oh yeah. I don't think twice about it. It doesn't matter if I take 16 shots -- well, I wouldn't take 16 (smiles) -- or none. It's just a shot, so step up and take it.

* * * * *

VandyMania.com Top Stories