Women's hoops: VU wins easily in exhibition

NASHVILLE-- Vanderbilt defeated the Ohio Legends 72-42 in the first exhibition game of the women's basketball season Tuesday at Memorial Gym. Four Commodores scored in double figures, led by Abi Ramsey's 13, Carla Thomas' and Katie Antony's 12 and Ashley Earley's 11.

NASHVILLE-- Vanderbilt defeated the Ohio Legends 72-42 in the first exhibition game of the women's basketball season Tuesday at Memorial Gym. Four Commodores scored in double figures, led by Abi Ramsey's 13, Carla Thomas' and Katie Antony's 12 and Ashley Earley's 11.

It was a night to get the kinks out and the rust off, to get over first-game jitters, to expose weaknesses, and get some good film for practice.

At first it appeared there was no rust at all, as the Commodores hit their first six shots from the field to take a 12-2 lead. Early on, it was obvious Katie Antony had become more offensive-minded over the summer, since three of those baskets were hers.

Although the effort fell short of perfection afterwards, Vandy continued to roll along. The lead reached 28-8 with about seven minutes left in the half, and the Commodores ultimately took a 43-16 lead into the locker room at halftime.

After sticking with the matchup zone, the Commodores' bread-and-butter defense, in the first half, head coach Melanie Balcomb switched to a man-to-man for most of the second half. The Commodores continued to build their lead, which ballooned 56-18 with 14:36 left. But suddenly the kinks started to surface.

Over the next three minutes, Vanderbilt racked up seven fouls, including five on the post players. The Legends made good on their repeated trips to the free-throw line, and by the end of the game, 23 of Ohio's 42 points came from foul shots. But even with Vanderbilt's post players saddled with fouls and the outside shooters having difficulty connecting from long-range, the deficit proved too deep to overcome.

Every eligible Vanderbilt player got into the game. The starting lineup consisted of Dee Davis at the point, Ramsey and Antony as the 2/3 guards, and Earley and Thomas as the posts. Sophomore post Jenn Hall and sophomore guard Caroline Williams were first off the bench.

Vanderbilt shot 53.7% from the field. In the first half, the Commodores shot a blistering 60%, which cooled off to 45.8% in the second half. But the outside shooting was on the chilly side for the entire game (an identical 3-for-11 in each half), as was the free throw shooting at 8 for 15 (53.3%).

The Legends shot only 22.5% from the field (16.7% from 3-point range) but were much more accurate from the line at 76.7% (23-of-30). Vanderbilt held the rebounding edge at 36-27 and had 17 turnovers, compared to 25 for the Legends.

Ramsey led Vanderbilt with seven rebounds, followed by three players with four rebounds each. Ramsey and Antony each dished out five assists, and Davis had four steals.

Vanderbilt's next action is a Nov. 11 exhibition game against EA Sports. The first regular season game for the Commodores is Nov. 19 at home vs. St. Francis. The game will be the first game of a double-header with the men's basketball team, which hosts Toledo in the nightcap.


After the game, Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb , senior forward Ashley Earley, senior guard Abi Ramsey, and sophomore guard Katie Antony answered questions from the press. Coach Balcomb took her turn first.

The Press: Did you like what you saw?

Coach Balcomb: We might not do this again. (Laughs.) I think what it gives us is what we need - a lot of good film work, a lot of things to work on, and it's going to be very beneficial for us to play earlier instead of later this season. I'm still glad we did it. It's early, and there's obviously a lot of things we have to work on, but I think we needed to see that.

The Press: It seemed like in the first half you were hustling more, getting more loose balls. What happened in the second half?

Coach Balcomb: I felt we got really complacent in the second half. I think we started playing down to the level of our competition and with the point spread and stuff, I think we relaxed and didn't maintain our intensity. Then midway through the second half had a real lull both offensively and defensively. But again, it's early, and I'm playing everybody. I'm playing all kinds of combinations that are not necessarily going to be played two games from now, so it's very different from what you're gong to see in a couple of weeks for a lot of different reasons

The Press: Did you get to work on the things that you wanted to work on, like different defenses?

Coach Balcomb: Yes, and in fact that's another difference. We played a lot of our matchup in the first half, and we worked on straight man-to-man in the second half. Because we played so much matchup in the first, we thought it was more beneficial on our man-to-man. And our matchup has been our better defense, and we're farther along with our matchup than we are with our man, so I thought in the second half, we got exposed off the dribble and in the post in our man, and that's what we need to work on. But that's what you want to happen in these games.

I didn't make any adjustments I would normally make either, not just in combinations and subbing. Defensively, we just wanted to work on our man-to-man the whole second half with that big lead. I would have gotten out of it because they were driving and we were in foul trouble, but there was absolutely no reason to do that in this game. We needed to work on what our weakness was, so you saw a lot of our weakness, which normally I hope I would make an adjustment, if that makes any sense. (Laughs.) But this is a game you're just trying to learn from. You're trying to get better at things, so you want to make sure you have people out there working on their game and the things that we're trying to teach, not is the score getting closer.

The Press: You mentioned the big lead. It looked like you all shot the ball well early on. I think you had been considered about post passing coming out of the open scrimmage, and it looked like ya'll passed the ball well into the post.

Coach Balcomb: I thought we came out and shot the ball very well, and I thought we did a pretty good job post passing. I think we still need to work a lot more from our high low, with our posts being ready to pass to their post partner. The guards did a pretty good job. And I thought that's what died off in the second half. We didn't shoot the ball as well, and I don't think our post passing was as good. We were starting to stand up, so then everything was up over instead of throwing our bounce passes and being nice and low.

And the same with our shooting. Our guards were standing up, and they were doubling our posts, and then our guards were not ready to shoot the ball when it came back out. The first half they doubled post post most of the time from the other posts, and in the second half, they doubled a lot from the guards. We shot, what 3-11 from halftime from 3; we finished 6-22 from 3, and yes, they played a lot of zone, but we're going to have to knock down more 3-point shots and a better percentage from 3 than that.

The Press: What is the story on Dee's right shoulder? She's wearing that big brace, or whatever it is.

Coach Balcomb: Yes, she's had that two weeks now. She just needs to get a little more strength in it. Just a minor shoulder injury.

The Press: Is that affecting her shot?

Coach Balcomb: Well, I imagine that brace is more than-It's getting stronger and she's close to getting it where it should probably come off. But we don't want to rush anything. Right now we want to be very cautious and make sure she gets all that strength back into it before we take the brace off.

The Press: What did you see watching Katie Eggers tonight?

Coach Balcomb: She was very nervous tonight, and I just wanted to get her feet wet a lot and play her lot and try to get her to play through that nervousness, because I really do think she's going to help us. Her timing was off, and she wasn't real physical, but she's just learning everything. But at the same time, she did some really good things in our offense that I've some players that it took them a whole year and they never did the things. She was nervous, yet she didn't panic and there were some really good things I saw from her. She had some travels and things, but to be honest with you, she was one of our few post players that weren't in foul trouble either. I think we counted up, and our posts fouled like 17 out of our 22 fouls, so at least she wasn't also hacking people inside. But I just wanted her to play. I think she just needed to go out there and play a lot, so I tried to play her a lot.

The Press: Do you think you can get 15 minutes out of Nicole every night?

Coach Balcomb: Nicole tired down the stretch, but she played so many minutes because we had three other post players with four fouls. But I thought Nicole did a good job. I was really pleased with Nicole's play tonight. I think that she's working very hard. I think that she gave a good effort and did some good things when she was in there.

The Press: What do you see in players stepping up into roles left by Hillary Hager and Jenni Benningfield?

Coach Balcomb: I think Ashley and Abi are ready to play. Again, this is the first game, so we didn't need a lot of leadership tonight with the lead we had and things. There wasn't a lot of adversity to overcome. Everybody just took care of themselves tonight because that's the first game, and that's what they need to do. But, yes, we'll keep talking about the leadership and the team dynamics, and what they need to do to get their teammates to do other things. But I think the first game, you've just got to let them make sure they get confident in their own game first.

The Press: Did you like what you saw of Katie Antony on the offensive end?

Coach Balcomb: Yeah, definitely. I think she looked for her shot more than she did last year, and she hesitated last year as well, and that's been something she's really worked on in the off-season individual development was her outside shooting, and I thought she came out a lot more aggressive. She's always been a good passer, but I think she did a good job of slowing down on offense. She has a tendency to go real fast. And I thought she made some good reads tonight because she slowed down.

Coach Balcomb departed, then Abi Ramsey, Ashley Earley, and Katie Antony took their places at the table.

The Press: What can you guys say about getting the kinks out and getting the rust off?

Abi: I guess it's pretty obvious that's what we were doing. It was good. We've only been practicing for about two weeks now. For the most part, we did well. We hustled. There were a few mental mistakes we made in our offense, and we got into a bad kink where we started fouling. I think it was like four minutes where it was like go-stop go-stop with fouls. But that's what it's about. We had to see where we're at right now. We had to play against someone different, and we kind of saw tonight where we stand.

Ashley: The good thing about having a game this early, I think, is that you expose a lot of things that you were neglecting in practice, so I think that's what this game was for.

The Press: Any particular things?

Ashley: There were a lot of particular things. We did a lot of good things, and there were a lot of bad things.

The Press: Last year you won games on your defense. You held them to nine field goals, though they made up for them with free throws, but would you say that defense is a positive you can take from this?

Abi: Yeah. I mean, there were still some things. They weren't taking outside shots, and we didn't adjust to that. We kept letting them kill us on the drives. And a foul is just as good as a score. It's two points. I don't think they ever missed a free throw. Our intensity on defense tonight wasn't consistent, but still the focus was there all night long.

Ashley: A lot of times I think we did play hard. We just need to play smarter. I think that's where the fouls were coming in.

The Press: Katie, what were your goals to work on over the summer?

Katie: My goal was to be a player so I can attract the defense to help out the posts inside like Ashley Earley and Carla and Nicole.

The Press: Katie, can you talk about how you need to slow down on offense to be more productive? How do you do that? Is that something that you actually thnk about on the court?

Katie: I think the most important thing to do is that you need to relax when you're out there and not rush and panic. You just need to read the defense, which we've been working on in practice, and we need more to work on, which was definitely exposed today, what we need to do.

The Press: It looked like you came out on a roll offensively. Talk about that good start early on.

Abi: Well, I was that was the excitement of the first game. Everybody was ready to go, ready to look for that first shot. We were all pretty confident coming out there. I think we did a pretty good job of reading what was there. I think the second half it showed that we played down to their level, like we didn't bring it back the second half and start the way we did the first half.

Ashley: And that is one of our goals for the season, just to be more consistent in playing 40-minute games.

The Press: Ashley, is it tough to adjust playing man-to-man defense for an extended period? The matchup zone seems to be your strength as a team.

Ashley: No, I don't really think so. I think we work on it a lot in practice. It just so happens that in this game we kept scoring and they kept making their free throws so we didn't get a chance in the first half. We had to purposefully start playing man. But, not, I don't really think -- That's the mental part of it I was talking about. That's what we have to work on on defense. We have to consciously be in help side. That's the difference between man and zone.

The Press: Katie, were you mindful tonight of looking for your shot?

Katie: Yes, sir. Last year I feel like I was more of a role player. I'd just get out there and tried to get good passes to everyone and try to help them score, and this year, I'm having to fill some big shoes from Hillary, and I'm trying to be a little more productive than I was last year on the court for the team.

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