Women's Hoops: USC post game comments

After Vanderbilt's 88-43 romp over South Carolina, Vanderbilt head coach Melanie Balcomb along with players Dee Davis, Carla Thomas and Caroline Williams talked to the media about the big win.

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The Press: We talked yesterday and you were so concerned about their height and promptly negated it early on. Were the 3 pointers something you were specifically looking for?

Coach Balcomb: Really, it was a lot what they were giving us, because they went a lot of zone, just like N.C. State did, played us a lot of 3-2 zone, and they just gave us a lot of time. And we learned a lot from N.C. State. What we worked on was our zone offense, and our kids watched on film, they worked on in on the floor, and we had some time to improve and make some changes in our zone offense and have the confidence in those shots, and we hit them today.

The Press: Talk about where you suffer a loss like N.C. State, you obviously don't want that going into your conference schedule, but you came out strong and set the tone in the first five minutes.

Coach Balcomb: Sometimes it's a blessing to lose a game like that right before conference because you have your players' attention so much more after a loss than you do after a win. And when you have good kids like I have, they don't want to lose, and they're very competitive, and they're here to win games, and they were not pleased with their output in the last game, and they wanted to make changes. So we spent a lot of time on film. We had some long practices. We were smart physically, but we spent a lot of time mentally and made some changes, and I was really proud of how much they worked on the things and took those things to heart.

The Press: In the first minute of the game, Abi hit a 3-pointer, then there was a shot-clock violation. After that Abi went out and Caroline went in, was that more about getting Caroline in or getting Abi out?

Coach Balcomb: Getting Abi out.

The Press: And it just worked out fortuitously with Caroline?

Coach Balcomb: Yeah, it worked out for Caroline. Abi and I have been talking about a few things, a few changes she needs to make, and she didn't make those changes, so I told her I would take her out right away and talk to her, which we didn't do against N.C. State. We just kept hoping she was going to play through things, and instead one of the things I learned from NC State is we need to take Abi out and talk to her about those things and then get her back in instead of just assuming she's going to make those changes herself. And that's what we did. We got Abi out and talked to her, and meanwhile Caroline went in and made shots, which even motivates a player to make changes even more. That was good, and Abi went right back out and made those changes and really improved in this game.

And you have to be able to do that as a coach, and with our lack of depth lately, especially at the guard with Katie out, that's been tough, and they just keep playing and don't get the time to sit out and really think about the things that they need to change.

The Press: Is this one of those situations where you don't make too big a deal about how well things, just like if you'd lost by that much you wouldn't make that big a deal of it?

Coach Balcomb: Oh yeah. We needed this game after our loss to NC State for confidence, to get on a roll heading on the road to Auburn. But no, we still have a lot to learn, and my players know that. We made a lot of mental mistakes tonight, and we need to be a smarter team, and I think we talked about a lot of those things - to be honest with you, I didn't have a real positive halftime because I still was not pleased with a lot of things, and I think they understand that. My kids are pretty mature, although we need to get smarter.

The Press: Those changes that Abi needs to make, is one of them to shoot the ball?

Coach Balcomb: Yes. One of them is her footwork and being low and ready to shoot the ball. My shooter's gotta be ready to shoot, absolutely. And that is one of the things that-- she picks and chooses when she's ready to shoot and when not to, and she has to be ready to shoot ALL the time. And that's a positive thing from your coach.

The Press: She passed up a shot right before that shot clock violation, didn't she?

Coach Balcomb: Probably. (Chuckles.) It's not her defense, I'll tell you that. I think she's doing a great job defensively for us, and it's not her effort. It's just little changes in her footwork and being low and ready to shoot shots that she has to take and be consistent in being ready to take.

The Press: Being a player short like you mentioned, what kind of a boost is it to have someone come in light it up like Caroline? She's only average 3 or 4 points a game coming in.

Coach Balcomb: I think that's one of the positives of a bad situation. Usually when something bad happens, I always try to find the positive in it, and something good to happen. The good is that Katie gets to sit there and right after the game told me last game, "I'm learning so much sitting out and seeing things; I've never sat before, never in high school, never in college, and I'm seeing things and can't wait to go back out there and do the things that I haven't been doing, that I'm learning by watching."

And then you have a player like Caroline, who's only gotten to play in spurts because Katie's played so well and so hard and is doing so many things we're teaching, and Caroline's going out there and has a lot of pressure because she knows if she doesn't do it right, she's gotta come out. Now she knows she's going to play, and she can play looser and much more relaxed, and that's what she did tonight. She was a lot more relaxed knowing she was going to play a lot of minutes. And then for her to do well, I think can really help the team. So in the end one of the positives could be with Katie out is that she was able to step up, and now we will. We will look to go to Caroline sooner and maybe she'll be able to be more positive out there and more productive.

The Press: Is she the kind of player who can make four or five in a row like that? It doesn't surprise anybody that she's that good of a shooter?

Coach Balcomb: Yes. She's a great shooter. She just hasn't been able to take her consistency in shooting from practice to the game.

The Press: How is Katie? When do you expect her back?

Coach Balcomb: I don't know. Head injuries are really serious stuff, and so you want to be really cautious with those. She has to pass certain tests that the training room puts her through and until she's able to do that, we can't play her. It could be anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks. I've seen all different things. I know when she got hit, it was the toughest blow I've seen since I've been here. She really got clocked and really hit her head hard, so I don't know what to expect. Now we have some time till Auburn, but I really don't know what to expect.

The Press: She's going to another doctor visit soon?

Coach Balcomb: Well, our doctors are here every day at Vanderbilt, so they'll be checking on her daily.

The Press: I know you say it doesn't necessarily surprise you, but you surely you haven't been expecting five 3's and 17 points from Caroline.

Coach Balcomb: No, I'm not expecting five 3's and 17 points. I know she can shoot the ball. That's one thing I knew when she came here, that she was a shooter, and against zones - they played zone 90% of the game tonight, every time they went man, we scored immediately, got the ball inside, set good screens, and they couldn't guard us in man, so they had to play a lot of zone, and against a lot of zone, she's gonna get shots. And she's a streaky shooter, so she could miss five in a row and, like we've seen her do, she could also make five in a row. Most shooters are streaky. It's very mental, it's a mentality. Get on a roll or get off a roll and then you have to play yourself through it and get that confidence back.

The Press: Is it tough when you're coming off the bench like that to play your way through it, because you don't have a margin of error?

Coach Balcomb: Well, yeah, like I was saying, I think she was more relaxed because she puts a lot of pressure on herself knowing I've gotta come off and hit this three, and that's really what we wanted her role to be, was to be able to bring her off against zones and be a 3-point shooter. To be honest with you, what I was more encouraged about and was impressed with - I know she can shoot the ball and I know she had a lot of time and was relaxed today and it wasn't close, they weren't on her and she was wide open - what I was more impressed with was her four assists, to be honest with you. What she needs to work on is her passing and her ball handling. She is a shooter, so it was nice to see her do that, but we're pleased with her four assists, very pleased with that, and knowing that she can also do that in a game situation. That would really help us also.

The Press: Do you think that Caroline's performance tonight was one of the pluses of the non-conference schedule, allowing her to get playing time?

Coach Balcomb: Well, she got to get a lot of playing time. She's played a lot, just hasn't been relaxed and hit her shots. She's played, but I don't know, you'd have to ask her. I think the difference is the opportunity she got today where she KNOWS she's going to play for an extended amount of time, and even if she misses shots, she's going back in again, or makes mistakes - she's going back in again. She has to with Katie out, and she saw that last game. She got to play more relaxed. That's something we've been working on with her, is for her to slow down and play more relaxed, and she did that tonight. Of course, we're all excited about that and looking forward to more of that.

Coach Balcomb left, then sophomore guard Caroline Williams, sophomore point guard Dee Davis, and sophomore post Carla Thomas took their places at the table.

The Press: Caroline, it appeared that when you went into the game that Abi had just been pulled for passing up a shot. Was that on your mind when the ball came to you on that first possession?

Caroline: Maybe not on the mind, but what I've been working on is just being a player and being ready to shoot, and I was wide open the whole game, so I was just ready to shoot any time they left me open. I was just going to be ready to shoot it if I had it, and I did.

The Press: (inaudible)

Carla: The sign of a good team is how you react after you lose, and basically this game was to build our confidence, and we had to come aggressive and attack from the start, so that was definitely something we focused on, coming out aggressive.

The Press: Dee, talk about the lift that Abi and Caroline gave you all early ?

Dee: Well, it's always good to have shooters that can shoot the ball. That gives the team more of a drive. It just makes it a lot easier out there and takes a lot of pressure off myself as the point guard, not feeling like I have to create something where they're making the shots for themselves.

The Press: Coach said it wasn't much of a positive halftime. Were you surprised?

Dee: No, we were expecting that. Granted, we were up 30. That wasn't a compliment to our defense and how we were playing and stuff like that. We deserved it because there were things we needed to change, and we came out the second half and had a little bit more energy and were more communicative, and we tried to make a change.

The Press: Caroline, coach described you as a streaky shooter. Did you feel like you were on a streak tonight?

Caroline: I don't know if that's a good thing if I'm a streaky shooter. But I definitely felt confident tonight. It's always good to hit my first shot and give you a little bit of confidence. And always I feel like if you get on a roll and hit a couple, you get more and more confident with each shot. I guess I could say I'm a little bit streaky. If you hit some, it just kind of flows from there.

The Press: Do you feel it during warm-ups?

Caroline: Sometimes. Sometimes you can just feel it, and sometimes you can't. I guess that's a bad thing with a shooter, but sometimes, everything just seems to go in. You don't even have to look at the goal sometimes, it just happens to fall. But yeah, I definitely felt really comfortable tonight.

The Press: Caroline, did you feel like you had a little more margin for error, that you didn't have to be concerned with every shot going in, being that Katie wasn't available?

Caroline: Yeah, I definitely knew that I was going to get some minutes because Katie's out. Katie, we miss her a ton. She's a hustle player. She does all the small things right, all the small things for our team. I knew I was going to get minutes and I wanted to come in and fill the gap and be some kind of player for Katie. We really needed to step up for her because we miss her a lot. This was a big game for us, and I wanted to step up and help out anyway I could. It just happened tonight I scored some.

The Press: Dee, since the last game I know you have worked as a team to make some changes. What changes have you personally been working on in your game?

Dee: Every game I have to do something different. This game in particular coach made it a point to tell me that I needed to be more aggressive and go to the basket and get to the free throw line. She feels like I'm a good free throw shooter, so I need to get to the line to contribute more, and that was a goal for today. My shot wasn't really falling so much, so I knew I had to go to the basket. Every game it's something different. One game I only had two assists, and that's unacceptable for a point guard, so I knew I had to come out and be patient and see where my shooters are and my post players, and if they're open I have to get them the ball regardless of whether I'm feeling like I might throw it away. I have to take that chance sometimes.

The Press: So going into a game you have those things particularly in mind?

Dee: I think about it for a while, then I can't really focus on one particular thing, because then, what if it goes wrong? Then I'm stuck, so I just go out and be ready to play each game.

The Press: How doe sit feel to be one rebound away from a double double?

Dee: It feels good. Stats don't really mean too much, but it feels that I could be contributing to my team in rebounding. Coach made that another point, we need to rebound more, rebound more. And that just tells my teammates that they're checking out better, and that's giving me the opportunity to get down there and get the boards.

The Press: Could that loss on Thursday have been a blessing in disguise for you guys?

Caroline: I think so. We definitely after that loss, we were, like, maybe this is the best thing that happened to us because it gave us a chance to work on tons of things in practice this week, and we knew there were situations we had to work on. We had to close out games. It just so happened that this game we were up by 30, but we've been working on how, if it's a close game, how to close it out and not give away a lead, and just tons of things that we had to work on from that game, so I definitely say it's a blessing. We always hate to lose, but we took a lot of good things from it.


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