For Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb, senior center Chantelle Anderson, senior point guard Ashley McElhiney, and junior forward Jenni Benningfield answered the questions. Here's what was said.
The Press: Coach, will you talk a little bit about what you know about Boston College and what you know about the matchup tomorrow?
Coach Balcomb: I think they're very very balanced. I think some of the keys are: They've got good shooters on the perimeter, they've got a good penetrating point guard, and a very very smart and hard-working post player, and some very good role players. So I think they have a very well-balanced team.
The Press: Did you watch the game yesterday?
Coach Balcomb: Yes.
The Press: Shocking, huh?
Coach Balcomb: I didn't see the end until the news last night; I had to go in and talk to my team. But I saw most of the game except for the last couple of minutes and then saw the finish on TV last night. It was a hard-fought game. Even at the start of the game, both teams were so hot, hitting every shot I thought Old Dominion was very very up for the game, and the crowd was really loud and into it, and it was a great atmosphere. it was just a really hard fought game.
The Press: Did they compare to anybody you guys have played?
Coach Balcomb: Not in the SEC, really.
The Press: Speaking of the home crowd, this strange seeding system that allows 12 to be at home against 5, were you expecting to play ODU?
Coach Balcomb: No, not at all. I don't know. I was expecting there to be some home court upsets, but there were no upsets last night or yesterday. But I was expecting it to be a very close game like it was because I thought the home court and the crowd would be a strong advantage to get them right there with Boston College, and I hate to sound like I know what I'm talking about, but I did predict it to go either way. We had no idea which team would win going in, so we scouted each team equally. I thought that would be the even maker, which it was. They just didn't win it at the end.
The Press: Having said that, are you kind of glad that it went the way that it did?
Coach Balcomb: No, that was hard, too, just sitting there because it's so much about matchups at this point, but then you factor in the crowd. I was like, "Okay, the crowd -- we don't need that." But you can't even think about which one you want to play because you have no control over that.
The Press: For the players, once you get the first game out of your system in the tournament, do you get it out of the system and hit your stride?
Chantelle: Well, you're playing better teams, so it doesn't necessarily get easier, but that first game you kind of have butterflies. It's the first time you've played in a while, so it feels a little different from other games, maybe. I don't think it gets easier at this point in the season.
The Press: Chantelle, were you frustrated yesterday? Does scoring only 7 points give you an incentive for Monday night?
Chantelle: Not really. I just know that I don't have two bad games in a row. Shooting-wise, I would just say the law of averages is going to catch up.
The Press: Coach, your knowledge of the Big East conference, how does their style of play compare to other teams in the conference?
Coach Balcomb: I don't know. To be honest with you, I didn't get a chance to watch a lot of the other leagues. I just know from some coaches I know in the Big East, talking to them at some recruiting places, they thought it was a very strong year for the Big East and they thought there was an opportunity to win the conference tournament was just wide open, and there was a lot more parity than there's been in years, and I know that's been talked about and talked about on the games that I've watched last night and today which were televised in the Big East that I saw them play against. But I don't know, but I think they were strong top to bottom, and I think there was parity, and a lot of that has to do with not having that dominant team as UConn, with everybody knowing they're just going to win it all. So I think that kind of opened up, more or less. But I think they really felt like it was a strong year for them, and obviously the committee did, too.
The Press: Coach, yesterday you said the team's issue wasn't defense, but that there were struggles offensively. How do you go about addressing that before the next game? And Ashley, could you comment on that, too.
Coach Balcomb: I think two things. Number one, I think Liberty is a very very good defensive team. They lead the country in field goal defense. They're good, and they're big, and they're different than the teams that we had seen all year. So I have to get them a lot of credit and not blame ourselves so much.
And number two, as far as ourselves go, being accountable on our end, I feel like we were over-trying in a lot of ways. I watched the game last night, and I almost feel like we just need to relax more on offense. I know just watching our players play, they were tighter than they had been, and it's like the monkey's off our back. You don't want to ever lose that first round game, and I think our players really want to win right now. And I think that makes it easier on defense because you can be tight on defense and play real hard and be successful. But then on the offensive end of the court, you've got to loosen up and play, and I think we'll be much looser playing against Boston College, playing in the 4-5 game, where both teams are very even records, both teams very even where they landed in two good conferences, and I don't think they're going to feel the pressure or expectations of winning like we had in the first game. We just over-tried on offense. We need to just relax and be ourselves.
Ashley Mac: Like coach said, Liberty is a very good defensive team, and a different team than we've faced all year. They're big, from point to post. They're huge, actually. I think we rushed a lot. We were trying to make things happen instead of letting the game come to us. We're a better team when we let the game come to us. We're not one-on-one players, and we're not the type of players that create and do all that fancy stuff. When we run our offense, execute, and play like we practice everyday, that's when we're best. And yesterday, we didn't do that all the time. It wasn't so pretty on the offensive end. But we won.
The Press: We've been talking about Liberty players, now it's time to talk about Gottstein and just the challenge of going against different people, players you haven't seen, those matchups, how you approach something like that when you really don't know a whole lot.
Chantelle: Our coaches have done a good job. We have a scouting report on everybody. We watch film on them, so that helps a little bit. But I think that's what makes the first couple of minutes of the game so important. Each person's trying to feel out what the other person's doing, trying to get into the game. So you need to come out aggressive, come out like you want to play the rest of the game. Obviously, she's a different player than I played yesterday.
The Press: Do you think there's a difference between how the athletes themselves think about the games, and how fans might? I'm thinking of yesterday's game that was said to be an ugly game offensively. It's almost as if sometimes outsiders award style points offensively, and that game didn't get a lot of style points. From an athlete's point of view, do you ever get the feeling that you look at games differently than the way fans might?
Jenni: I definitely think there are two totally different views. It's kinda funny that you said that, because we've actually been talking about that, the two different perspectives on last night's game compared to what we thought about it. We knew going into the game last night that they're a type of team that makes their opponent play ugly and play not in their most comfortable style of play. So we knew that going in. If we're preparing for another team, we concentrate on the team, what they do, on an everyday basis, whereas fans see us for 40 minutes. We concentrate all the time, it's something day in and day out, where they're not there in practice in the gym to see the little things that add up to big things that we do in practice that lead up to games, so sometimes fans or people watching don't really understand what we actually see and what we actually work on, what our focus and what our concentration's on. And it's definitely interesting to hear other people's view or what they think of the game, but we obviously try not to concentrate on it. We're the ones that practice on that every day and know what we have to do. So it's definitely interesting, but definitely two totally different points of view.
Coach Balcomb: We weren't surprised the game was the way it was. We were glad to win. We had them scouted; we knew what we were going against. They're a very good team, extremely good defensively, great size. We knew. I think we felt better about the game probably than our fans did.
Chantelle: Yeah. We haven't blown teams out all year, really. I mean, ten is a pretty good margin for us. (Laughter.)
Coach Balcomb: And that's okay.
Chantelle: Even teams we're better than, we haven't blown them out.
Coach Balcomb: I think we know ourselves better than some people know us, and we're okay with it.