Coach Balcomb: We played every defense you could think of. I know everybody thinks we just played matchup, but we played four different defenses and constantly mixed them up and tried to go with what was working best, and at one point they had just gone on a run, and we even tried to face guard their shooters at times when they had two shooters in. We tried everything, and they adjusted well to four different defenses.
The Press: When you guys started so strong, how much of it was it late in the game their depth that kind of wears teams out?
Coach Balcomb: They're so physical. I think that's the big thing. They're so physical and aggressive. Usually we wear people down even though we're not deep, we're in very good shape, and we're as strong as we've ever been, but they have such a height advantage, strength advantage, and they're very very physical, and when they're allowed to play that physical a game, it definitely did wear us down. Absolutely.
The Press: Was that the case when it was 59-59, from that point Tennessee went on a 13-0 run. Was it just a case of fatigue on your all's part, or what was the difference there that allowed that?
Coach Balcomb: I don't think we did a good job executing our offenses. When they threw different things at us, we didn't do-when they trapped us off ball screens, we didn't react to it well. It's like, when we ran things, it worked. When they denied or switched on things, we just got flustered, and we made poor decisions. There were plenty of times when our players have to decide whether to attack in transition or not attack, and we didn't attack when we should have attacked, and we didn't pull it out when we should have pulled it out and run something. And that takes time with a young team and young guards that are out there for a long time and being pressured all game.
The Press: Can you just talk the problems that Fluker presents inside, because as big as she is, it seems like she's impossible to defend.
Coach Balcomb: To be honest with you, I didn't notice her, they're all big compared to us, so I didn't notice her more than anybody else. She certainly had a good night, but Anosike causes problems, Fluker causes problems, they all cause problems inside, and we got beat on the boards 37-24 and of course your #1 key against Tennessee every game is you gotta win the rebound game, and you gotta check out, and we didn't get that done. Our guards have got to get more involved in our rebounding than they did tonight.
The Press: Coach, what did you talk to your team about halftime and again late in the game when Tennessee was pulling away?
Coach Balcomb: Just situational things, just trying to get them to stay positive and play through their mistakes. We made silly mistakes throwing the ball away. We lost every loose ball, we didn't go after the ball. I just wanted to make sure that we kept our head in the game. We're very young, and so I was really just trying to calm them down and give them confidence and be real positive with them at that point because the mistakes we were making were silly mistakes. We were playing into their hands and doing things we hadn't done all year. And I was just trying to settle them down more than anything and help them to make better decisions.
The Press: What positives do you think you can talk out of the game?
Coach Balcomb: That's hard to think about right now.
The Press: Should I ask you next week?
Coach Balcomb: Yeah. (Chuckles ruefully.) No, you always can lose and you always can learn, and obviously from losses you learn more than you do from wins, so I think our team cares very deeply about each other and about winning, and I think there's obviously a lot that we will learn from this game. The biggest thing is situational things, and knowing when to be aggressive and when not to. At the end of the game we should have been crashing the boards harder, and we were standing like we were frozen. And that is being disappointed and thinking of other things, and so a lot of it is mental and some of it is obviously physical, too.
The Press: Coach, when they were starting to that run midways to late in the first half, did you feel like you had some folks that weren't being as aggressive offensively as you'd like them to be?
Coach Balcomb: I felt like-- the worst thing that can ever happen to you is that you get a big lead like that, and you hit like your first 15 shots in a row. We were executing very well, taking good shots and making all our shots, And then everybody wanted a piece of the action and started taking shots, and we weren't getting the ball inside any more and to a high percentage. It was almost like we got over-confident, and I was trying to get them to run the offense and get better shots than we were taking,. We were taking too quick shots and not good shots. And again, those are situations that we need to learn from.
The Press: Still, did you kind of feel like some folks were kind of shying away from taking the shot when things got a little closer?
Coach Balcomb: I think we definitely-- I was just talking in the locker room about-- we definitely came out confident but in the last ten minutes in crunch time, we hesitated. Absolutely. At every position, we hesitated.
The Press: You might have already addressed this, but the depth obviously looked like it was big factor today. But you knew that going in. Was that a concern about the game?
Coach Balcomb: I only have what I have to work with. Everybody keeps asking me, are you too small, you're not deep, and, to be honest with you, that's what you guys think about, but I can't focus on what we don't have. I have to focus on what we have, and I hadn't even thought about it till you guys brought it up. I have to coach the kids I have, and I think we're better every game, and I think that we were ready for this game. We were as confident as we've been. We just didn't maintain it for 40 minutes. And, yes, in the end, they had a huge height advantage, they had a depth advantage. But we need to-- I'm used to being the underdog, and you've got to overcome those things, and you have to play a better game than we did to beat a team like this.
The Press: Did you feel like they were particularly physical with Dee?
Coach Balcomb: Um, not any moreso than everybody else in the SEC. They're all going to play Dee that way. They're all going to be very physical, and they're all going to deny her the basketball. She's still getting better every game, and I'm really proud of how she played. I know this wasn't one of her best games, but she's playing for 40 minutes under that kind of pressure, different people on her all night that are bigger and stronger. I think it says a lot for her, and I am really proud of how she played tonight.
The Press: Melanie, how do you get it across to players that when they get that kind of start that what got you there was running your offense. What do you say?
Coach Balcomb: Well, I just kept telling them that we had learned that in a different game and that we needed to remember that we now have a big lead and now we don't want to take quick shots, and we were shooting the ball off one pass all the time and with somebody in our face. It wasn't one person. Everybody started to do that, and we were falling right into it. Then when they were coming down and hitting 3's, so they caught up very quickly. But I just-- we have young guards, and they got caught up in it, and that's easy to do, especially in a big game like this with a big crowd at home. We haven't had that all year.
Coach Balcomb left the room, and the senior guard Abi Ramsey, sophomore center Carla Thomas, and senior forward Ashley Earley took their places at the table for questions.
The Press: Ashley, in a game like this where you get up by 15, how frustrating is it to see a team just blow by you and win after you had such a big lead like that? You had things going so well early.
Ashley: Um, like Coach said in the locker room, we made like 15 shots in a row. You know that's not going to happen the entire game, and we just have to do better and just be more mentally tough is what it comes down to at the end. At halftime, the score was tied. It was 0-0. We had 20 more minutes to play. Unfortunately, second half wasn't like the first few minutes of the first half.
The Press: Abi, what was going so well early in the game and then did you feel one or two plays turned it, or was it just a matter of them making a couple of shots in the first half?
Abi: Well, in the beginning of the game, we were playing our kind of basketball. We just ran our offenses and were getting easy shots. We got a lot of shots in transition also when they weren't ready to defend. In the second half, I don't know if it was their press or what, but that definitely took away our transition points. Also we just sped up. We started playing their kind of ball, one pass and a shot instead of running through some of our stuff.
The Press: Carla, defensively it looked like you were giving them some trouble from the start as well. What changed defensively?
Carla: I think a couple of our players got in foul trouble, and we started having to play carefully, playing tentatively, and they knew who was in foul trouble and they attacked more, and also we weren't getting out on shooters and making adjustments.
The Press: Ashley, can you talk about being "mentally tough"? How does that translate specifically to what you're doing on the court?
Ashley: When I say that, I'm talking specifically about some of the turnovers that we made. Like specifically, when we were down by nine in the second half, I just -- on our outlet, we throw the point guard, and I was throwing it to Carla. Things like that, just mental breakdowns. Like, even some of those turnovers. I don't think they were necessarily forced. We just make them. They're unforced turnovers. We gave them the game, I almost feel like.
The Press: So it's like keeping focused?
Ashley: Yes. Just keeping focused throughout whatever happens. Just keep playing through it.
The Press: Ashley, can you talk about the physicality of playing a team like that and their height and their strength because they have the ability to do what they want inside?
Ashley: They are a strong team. They are tall, but in my opinion, height really does not matter. We're strong, too. They were doing a lot of things-I guess their game plan was to be physical and to try to hold us and push us, and I think they executed that well.
The Press: Ashley mentioned one particular play. After a game like this, do all of you tend to think of specific things that you could have done to make a difference, and does that give you something to work for, to try not to do those things in the future? Is it something you take personally?
Ashley: Yeah, I think so. Anytime you lose a game like this, you always go back and shoulda coulda woulda, you know what I mean? And of course we're all doing that right now. But you've got to look at a loss, and you've got to see what you did wrong and learn from that so you won't do it the same way next time, so the outcome will be different.
The Press: Abi, earlier this week you talked how Tennessee knows how to close games. Is that basically what we saw here today?
Abi: Yeah, I think so. We showed them in the first half, those last five minutes, that they could play with us. That was a mistake. Once their momentum gets going, it's hard to -
Ashley: Yeah, I think Tennessee's a team that plays off their crowd. Wherever they go, they bring a great fan base. And I think we let them back in the game and we let the fans back in it. You seem them pumping fists and talking a little
Photos copyright 2005 by WhitneyD for VandyMania.com.