Women's Hoops: LSU postgame comments

After Vanderbilt's 79-68 loss to #2 LSU, head coach Melanie Balcomb and players Ashley Earley and Dee Davis spoke to the media.

The Press: It seems like each time you made a run at them, you'd get it down to ten and they kind of answered back. What was the difference in them being able to hold you off each time you charged at them?

Coach Balcomb: They're a very very confident team right now, and I think that in close games that's really important. When we did make runs, they came back and they hit big shots. Obviously defensively we made some mistakes, but we didn't do that bad of a job defensively, and we gave up 79 points. They're an extremely good team. With the addition of Fowles now, it's really tough because you could come out and guard their guards, and now you have to worry about their inside game, their midrange game, and their outside game. It's like: Which of the three evils do you give up? They stepped up and hit a big three. In the second half they just lobbed and used their height with Fowles, and that really hurt us. So they played very very smart and went at us at their strength every time, and their players came up big.

The Press: Is this just a case where you kind of tip your hat and say that we got beat by a better team that executed better than us today?

Coach Balcomb: This is always a team that we play well against because we're so different. We're nothing like LSU and LSU is nothing like us. And I like to be different. The difference is that we have to execute as a team. We can't just make one pass to Augustus, who's one of the best players in the country, and she can make a one-on-one move and score and make big shots and big plays when it's close, or lob it to a 6'5 kid who's just going to jump over you and score. We have to do all the little things right. We have to out-hustle people. We have to make hustle plays, and we have to not make mental mistakes. And I think on both ends of the floor, we made a lot of mental mistakes, especially in our offense the whole first half, we did a poor job with our execution mentally.

The Press: Does that play into the fact that today was your worst shooting percentage performance of the season?

Coach Balcomb: Again, I wasn't aware of that. As a coach I'm looking at - Are we executing? Are we ready to shoot when we should be ready to shoot? Are your shooters ready to shoot? Are your post players posting when they should be? Are they all doing what they need to do in the offense, so that all five people have to be guarded and all five people do what they need to do, and if we don't get the first option, do we look, look, look, and then throw it there instead of just moving on to the next option?

I think we shot poorly because we were hesitant on offense at a lot of positions, especially the high post and from 3-point. We were hesitant and at times looked confused, and that's not a good situation on offense against a team like LSU, although in the end, we finished scoring 68 points. I think the key is we've got to find a way to be more relaxed on offense and maintain our defensive intensity for 40 minutes, for a longer period of time than we have.

The Press: What kind of a challenge is it when you lose three straight games like this to keep your head up?

Coach Balcomb: Yeah, I think confidence is the first thing that you worry about. Obviously there's positive in this game. I don't think this team is used to turning the ball over 17 times. The fact that we forced 17 turnovers, the fact that we out-rebounded them on the offensive boards, and, yes, we missed more shots probably so there were a lot of boards, but for us to get 18 offensive rebounds against a team like that is good. So there are some positives we can take from this game as well as things we can learn from. It's a time when you have to be real positive with your kids because you are playing every night. You've got to be ready for a great team.

The Press: You came in after the UT game and said you can learn a lot from a loss. Now you've got three to learn from. What do you feel like you're taking out of these? Is it different things in each game?

Coach Balcomb: No, I think a lot of the teams in the SEC are similar, and we have to be different, but we have to be good at being different. I think we're trying to look to much like the other teams. We have to be smarter. I think it's more mental than physical right now. That's why we're able to make runs. The positive is we don't quit, we keep fighting back, but we've got to be much more relaxed and ready to play on offense and have enough confidence in the things that we do as team and the things that we do individually.

The Press: When you say you're not relaxed, is that where the hesitancy coming in? Are some people thinking too much about taking shots?

Coach Balcomb: I think they look like they're thinking a lot because-- You know, we practiced yesterday against our practice guys and it was the best practice we've had. Our execution was excellent. It was all five people doing what they needed to do, and we've got to figure out why we're not translating that into the game, and why mentally we're not executing and running the things that we know how to run and positioning ourselves, footwork, and everything that we just did yesterday.

Next, sophomore point guard Dee Davis and senior forward Ashley Earley answered questions.

The Press: It's the third straight loss for your team. What are the challenges involved in keeping a positive attitude and moving forward?

Dee: Well, for one, Ashley Earley and Abi, this is their senior year and every game is my motivation not to let that season end on some losses that could have been won. Right now we're just trying to challenge our teammates to step up with us and try to win these games.

The Press: Ashley, was today a question of what LSU did to you defensively or was it just a matter of you all not doing what needed to be done offensively?

Ashley: I think that we didn't do a good job executing our offense. That's a change that we're yet to make. We've lost three games in a row, and we're out there just not running our plays. It's almost like we're trying to play like the LSU's, trying to play like the Tennessee's. We're a different team. Vanderbilt's always been a different team in the SEC, and we have to get back to playing our game and executing our offense because we've been successful doing it.

The Press: What is that difference between you and LSU and Tennessee?

Ashley: It's pretty obvious looking at us. Every night out, I'm a 5'10 post player. We're going to be shorter, so we're going to have to out-work teams. They had a Sylvia Fowles. We don't have that. They're more athletic. We have to run our offenses. We can't just shoot and go rebound because we're not Sylvia Fowles. We don't have that presence in the paint. We have to out-work teams to get good shots.

The Press: . . . . do you feel like you were trying to force it inside too much?

Ashley: I think the hesitancy was from not running our offense. People were catching the ball on the perimeter and they don't know what to do because we're not in our offense. I think that's what it is.

The Press: Dee, when you're running the team, how can you tell when things are out of sync and not running properly?

Dee: Well, . . . when an option is taken away or something and people freeze up, I have to run back out and run a quick hitter, and sometimes I try to avoid that and see if we'll work out of it, but many times you just have to go back and get the ball and see if you can run something else to get people moving.

The Press: Ashley, I want to be sure I understand what you just said. Like someone on the perimeter will get the ball and they're looking and not seeing what they're expecting to see?

Ashley: You're talking about people being hesitant about shooting? I think a lot of that is a matter of people being "a player on the catch". That's a term that we use a lot.

Dee: Being ready to shoot or drive, if need be.

Ashley: Right. Because a lot of times, people are sagging in the post. They're double-teaming, and you have to have somebody on the perimeter, whoever's sagging off of them, being ready to shoot on the catch.

The Press: Did you say 'be a player on the catch'?

Ashley and Dee: Be a player on the catch.

Ashley: Like the triple threat position, being ready to pass, shoot, dribble.

The Press: When you say that people hesitated, do you mean that people who got open shots are thinking too much about it, or passing them up?

Ashley: Yeah. Yes. I do. I think we do that a lot. I think we do a lot, and it especially happens when we get out of our offense, like at the end of the play or when we don't run the play, I think it happens..

Dee: Catch the ball and then you realize you're wide open, and then you're hesitating, second-guessing your shooting.

The Press: How can you try to push through this and get everyone on the same page?

Ashley: I think it's mental. It's obviously mental.

Dee: It's a gut-check.

Ashley: It's a gut-check, yeah, exactly as Dee said. You just have to-- We have to determine individually that we want to make a change, that we want to turn this around. We've lost three in a row. It's gut-check time. We just have to play harder. We have all the elements. We can win. We can win our next game. I don't know who we play, but we've been in all these games. We lost by 11 to LSU - what are they ranked? 3rd? 2nd? We lost by 11, and we played horrible. It was awful, and we lost by 11. So we're a good team. We just have to play smarter and stop making mistakes. We could say "LSU's defense". They do have defense. Sylvia Fowles in the middle, that low post presence, but we play against guys every day. We just have to carry that over.

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