Women's Hoops: Auburn postgame comments

Vanderbilt rallied to defeat Auburn on, 73-67, on Thursday night. After the game, Vanderbilt head coach Melanie Balcomb, senior Ashley Earley and sophomore Carla Thomas talked with the media.

Coach Balcomb: I think the big thing was they did a great job in the first half of pressuring guards. We had seen a lot of zone and packing it in to take away our inside game and giving us outside shots, and they did the opposite. They pressured our guards, forced us into a lot of turnovers early, and made us go fast. Then I thought we made a good adjustment in the second half to really slow down on offense and really executed down the stretch. We had good patience and really got the ball to Ashley and Carla.

The other adjustment - we did a much better job of rebounding in the second half. We held them to two offensive boards, and they had ten in the first half, and then we crashed the boards, and Carla and Ashley really got on the offensive boards, and I think that was a big change, too, from the first half. So I was really excited about the adjustments we made at halftime and the ability of our players to execute those adjustments. I wish they always did everything I asked like that. (Smiles.) It would be too easy, though.

The Press: Ashley, how much did Payne affect you all in the first half and what changed in the second half?

Ashley: Obviously, she had how many blocks in the game? Eight? Coming in in the second half, it was just a matter of adjusting, being a little bit smarter, going around. And I think Carla did a great job with that in the second half, I think she finished with 32 points, and a lot of those were on Payne. She just did a great job of adjusting and attacked.

The Press: In the second half, did it feel like you were really just having your way on the inside?

Ashley: A team like that, every time we've played them, it's been a game. It's just whoever gets the last run in, pretty much. Both teams are tired, and we just kept taking it to them. In a game like that, it's basically the person who's more mentally tough . . . tonight, we were that team.

The Press: Carla, you picked up the two fouls in the first half, during the time that you sat, did that allow you to watch and pick up on some things?

Carla: In the first half, they were getting out on our guards a lot, and we had to score in the post. Normally that's not open for us, and we had to make a change and adjust to that and attack more instead of fading away on shots. That was something I saw, but overall, it was just matter of us attacking. She told us that at the beginning of the game.

The Press: Coach, you had three players play 40 minutes. You've been saying all year that one of the things you need to do is wear down teams in the second half. Do you feel like you're still able to do that when some players are playing so many minutes?

Coach: Yeah, absolutely. I think again we're in very good shape, and I think that I trust Ashley and Abi and Dee at this point - I think we have a good trust where if they were tired, they would let me know. I never saw any of them get tired, so I didn't pull them, and they didn't ask to be pulled. We needed all three of them on the floor that much.

What we talked about at the end of the game is I think we communicated very well, we stayed positive through all the runs. Like Ashley said, our games with them have been runs. One team runs, then the other team runs, and we kept the same face, the same emotion the whole time, and looked confident. Their eyes looked great to me, so I never thought that they needed it, and that they would let me know if they did. I just think that we kept the momentum, and they kept talking to each other, and our communication was good, and they got excited, we showed emotion tonight, and they didn't think about getting tired, and they just played through it. Again, like Ashley said, our mental tougness was really good, and I could feel that and had confidence. If they would have looked tired, I would have taken them out, but they didn't.

The Press: Late in the second half, you only had four team fouls. Was that specifically something you were trying to do?

Coach: Yes. In the second half, I asked them to back off the pressure -- they were going by us and then crashing. They were ahead of us the whole time, so I asked them to back keep off, keep everybody in front, so we were sagging a lot more, then checking out and trying to force them to hit outside shots and limit the penetration, and therefore we weren't going to foul a lot. We played a lot more of a passive defense in the second half, and, again, that was one of the adjustments that we made defensively, and our team executed everything we asked them to do, which allowed us to not foul - because their guards are very quick and they change speeds very well.

The Press: Did you ever expect to win an SEC road game when Abi Ramsey didn't take a shot in the first half and only had three points for the game?

Coach Balcomb: Last year, no. In the past, no. And she wouldn't have played 40 minutes. But what I think the neatest thing is that Abi just wants to win. It's her senior year and she will do - and CAN do - the things now to execute our offense even if they take her 3-point shot out of the game. And defensively, she's going a great job. She understands our zones very well, keeps people in front, so tonight-what I think is amazing is that she didn't shoot those 3's, and I still couldn't take her out of the game. We needed her for all the other things that she gives us. That is a first. And she's come a long way to be that kind of player for us. She was a leader, too. She was into it. And when she's into it, she's leading, and you see those eyes. She's helping us. She doesn't need to make a 3. In the past, she would have bummed that she hadn't hit any 3's, and it would take her out of the game. She's a lot more mature this year, and it's fun to see the development.

Photographs copyright 2005 by WhitneyD for Vandymania.com.

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