Vandy vs. St. Louis postgame comments

After Vanderbilt defeated Saint Louis on Saturday, 94-51, head coach Melanie Balcomb spoke with the media along with players Ashley Earley and Carla Thomas.


The Press: Can you tell whether you've improved from an 8-point loss to a 43-point win?

Coach Balcomb: I don't know if 'improved' is the word. I don't know if you have two days how much better you can get. I know your attitude has to change, and your effort has to change, and your determination has to change. And those are the things that we talked about, and I think you could see in our eyes, it wasn't about Saint Louis today, it was about us, and we needed to make sure that we were determined to play defense, took pride in our defense and make the adjustments that we did work on from the tape from Western, and I saw that. I saw changes, more than improvement.

The Press: So that's what you wanted to see -

Coach Balcomb: Yes.

The Press: --you didn't feel like your effort necessarily was there Thursday night?

Coach Balcomb: Our effort was there, it just wasn't smart effort. We didn't play smart up there. But, no, it wasn't effort-it wasn't like we didn't try. I think we played hard. It was a hard-fought game.

The Press: Could you walk through the steps that you take starting from the loss at Western Kentucky to the game today to pick out what needs to be worked on and where you go from there?

Coach Balcomb: We watched the tape on the way back from the game on our laptops and got a lot of it done, got right on the bus and started watching tape, and as a staff all just sat around and watched and looked at what we saw that we needed to work on. And then we got up the next morning and watched the rest of it, and then watched Saint Louis at the same time.

But then we had the players in, and we watched the entire second half as a team the next day in practice. And then I made them write down things they were going to be committed to changing offensively and defensively. It's like chalk talk. You're being a teacher. They have to hand it in, so they're paying attention.

Then we got to the floor and worked on those things that we needed to do to defend Saint Louis better because we didn't want to go so hard-it was a lot more mental the day after because a lot of people had played hard, and it was very physical, and then went really hard actually [Saturday]. But I think so much we talked about was making changes, and being smarter and all those kind of things.

The Press: Can you tell whether you were smarter playing against a 1 and 7 team as opposed to Western?

Coach Balcomb: At some things you can tell. Other things we won't know until we go out and get on the road again, and I'm sure when we play BYU on the road - I know enough about them already, and I'm impressed with how good they are and physical and tough, the teams they've beaten. We'll get that test again very quickly here.

The Press: Was it important to come out strong like you did?

Coach Balcomb: Yeah. I think it was lot tonight about pride and recovery and we talked about coming out ready to play and taking care of business right away and being the aggressor and being on the attack and all those things that we want to do and set the tone immediately, and I think we did that.

The Press: Does Nicole get better the more she plays?

Coach Balcomb: I think so. I think the game experience has really helped her. Because of her knee, she can only play in spurts, but I think we're getting smart at how much and how long she can go, and she's learning to do the things that we need within that time period, and I do, I definitely think she's improved each game.

Coach Balcomb left, then sophomore post Carla Thomas and senior post Ashley Earley entered the room for questions.

The Press: Ashley, how much of the difference today was the level of opposition and how much of it was you all?

Ashley: I think a lot of it was us. We had a terrible outing at Western Kentucky. We came into this game focused a lot on defense. We were trying to communicate more and just take accountability for our person. We played a lot of man today and that showed a lot of heart, like individually and made us play harder and more aggressive on defense.

The Press: Carla, was there really an attempt to stay away from those kind of foul situations that occurred in Western? Is that one of those lessons that was really emphasized in the days leading up to this game?

Carla: That is something the coaches have told me and Ashley's told me. In the last couple of games I've gotten in foul trouble, and it was a focus to try and stay out of foul trouble because we need to.

The Press: And that's probably a lot easier with Saint Louis that doesn't really attack all that much, as opposed to Western. Was it a different tempo, meaning you guys didn't have to-

Carla: It's more about being smart, about where to take your opportunities and attack and where to let the offensive foul, or something like that, come to you.

The Press: Can you walk me through the steps of how you went from the time the game ended at Western until the game today in order to try to improve, to change, to get better?

Ashley: We learned a lot from Western. From the end of the game we just focused on everything that went wrong.

The Press: How do you go about doing that? How do you go about deciding what the things are?

Ashley: I think a lot of the things were obvious, watching a lot of film. Coming in, we had a lot of breakdowns in practice - guards and posts break down. It was just defense, I think a lot of it was just effort skills and you realize -

Carla: Honestly, it was our mistakes that we were making. It wasn't something that they were making us do. It was more things that we could change and we could control, and we learned a lot from the game.

Ashley: You all were talking about the foul situation at Western. I think defense is like an effort skill. I think a lot of times we were being lazy in guarding people. If you move your feet on defense you're not going to get a lot of calls, and I think that's what we didn't do at Western.

The Press: Building on that, did each of you yourself take something in particular to focus on, or is it more of a team attitude, or does everybody have individual "I need to do this differently" -

Carla: Coach gave us - the next practice actually after Western - she was like, okay, write things down that you need to work on individually, that you need to focus on. But as a team, you still have those keys-

The Press: So she asked you to write down things?

Ashley: When we watched film, she asked us to write down two things offensively and two things defensively.

The Press: Everybody had their own paper?

Ashley: Right. We had to take notes. That's a little student-athlete coming out there. We had to take notes while we watched film and focus on those things.

The Press: Ashley, you talked about not moving your feet on defense against Western. Might that have been a situation where, again, against lesser teams you've been able to do some things and get away with them and maybe they got exposed against-

Ashley: Yes, that's true, I think. Everything - the teams before Western Kentucky we were getting away with not moving our feet, just not really contesting shots and people would just miss because they were just - I don't know, maybe we scared them being on their back, but Western made those shots - or we fouled them. So, yeah, I think Western was a learning experience.

The Press: I guess the same thing would hold true with turnovers, too. I think the 21 was a season-high at Western. Is that another thing that you can say, hey, that's another opposition category, something that . . .

Ashley: I think with us as of right now, a lot of our offense comes off of our defense, and we weren't playing good defense at all, so I think we started rushing things, and I think that's where our turnovers came from.

Carla: And we get our confidence from our defense as well, so we were losing that as well.

Ashley: We were unsure, I think, a lot of times, going too fast.

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