Women's Hoops: Kentucky postgame comments

After Vanderbilt's win over Kentucky, head coach Melanie Balcomb and sophomore Carla Thomas talked to the press.

Coach Balcomb: I was really proud of how we fought down the stretch. I think we did a good job-- I thought we played we played harder in the second half than we did in the first half. But also, everything I asked them to do defensively down the stretch, they did and executed on defense, so it took a lot of pressure off our offense. We turned the ball over, we missed free throws, but then we came down and got the stops that we needed, and that keeps you in the game, every game, on the road. I was really glad we were able to execute that.

The Press: Can you talk about how hard it is when you have a team like this for other teams to guard them, when you've got one who does things well and another who can come pick up the slack?

Coach Balcomb: Well, I think it's very hard because they're both good at both spots on the floor. I think if they were both low post players, it wouldn't be as good. I think that they both work very hard at being able to play the high and the low and being interchangeable. And what becomes difficult is you don't know who to put on who because if your best shot blocker inside, you want to put her on Carla, but then the next play, she may step outside and take you off the drive. So I think it's because of their versatility inside and out and their ability to face up from the high post and shoot from up there is very difficult for people to guard.

The Press: How about the players? What about in terms of the effort and passion seemed to be there both ways. It was a very hotly contested game. Would you agree?

Coach Balcomb: Yes, for us, we really needed this win. We've been on a 3-game losing streak and we have won here before, so we did have confidence coming into the game, and what you saw was our desire to get a W.

Carla: The intensity that coach said that we needed to have coming into this game and that confidence was definitely something that we had to bring to the court because you need that kind of effort to win on the road in the SEC.

The Press: How key was it that your other players stepped when Carla got that fourth foul? They really managed to contain Elliott even thought Kentucky wanted to go inside to her a log.

Coach Balcomb: Yeah, I think we had two key substitutions. Nicole stepped up when Carla got in foul trouble late in the second half and played good minutes for us in the second half, and in the first half, Erica Grimaldi came in for Dee Davis, who has been playing 40 minutes at the point, and she stepped up and kept us together, and I thought she did a good job of executing the offenses and getting us so that we continued to have the lead most of the first half and not lose anything.

The Press: Talk about the 3 pointers that Ramsey hit that gave you guys some more cushion?

Coach Balcomb: That's something we really really need when you have these two, and that's what we've been talking about all year. Abi's been really unselfish to the point where she just wants to get the ball to these two, and she knows they're good and she knows they're shooting a very high percentage from the floor, and she knows that people are playing her tight and trying to take away her 3. So I've been on her about being ready to shoot whenever she has that opportunity, and especially in the second half, I benched her quickly and told her that we need that 3. We have to have that 3, and if you're not going to be ready to shoot it, I'm going to put somebody else out there can. And she really responded to that well, came back out and down the stretch she not only took the 3's, but she made the 3's that she needed to make. I think she really needed that confidence to hit those big shots. It made a huge difference.

The Press: Coach and maybe players too-- it's a little different coming in here as far as atmosphere. It's a little different than it used to be.

Coach Balcomb: Yes, it's very different. Like I've said to everybody, I think it's great what they done with their marketing and being able to put people in the stands and I think everybody in the SEC is seeing the results and is excited. I think when you do that and you start to win, then you see a big difference. They're winning their games at home so everybody else is pushing for those things at the their programs and their schools, and I think it's exciting for the conference. Yeah, it's a lot tougher to play here with the environment, but also I think that helps our conference.

The Press: Caroline Williams got a lot of minutes and got the start tonight. Can you talk about the factors that went into that decision?

Coach Balcomb: I just felt like she's been really confident from 3, and what we've been talking about here, we've got two post players that the people are really keying on and sagging on and doubling down, and I really want to be able to spread the floor like we were able to do last year with Hillary, and Caroline has been the most confident from 3 as of late, in the games and in practice, she's done a really good job, so we thought it would be important to start out that way tonight and see how we looked, and we were able to spread the floor and isolate these guys much more from the high and low post.

The Press: You talked about taking Abi out early in the second half to talk to her about 3-pointers. Were there other times tonight when you would pull players out to have a little instruction, rather than letting them play through something?

Coach Balcomb: Yeah, you lose three in a row, you have to make some changes, so one of the things I changed was the lineup, and another thing I changed was when people don't do the things that we're asking them to do, they're going to come out. And I think that's gotta uplift the people on the bench because they know they're going to get an opportunity, maybe not because they did well but because somebody else did poorly or we're losing, so you've got to change the lineup, maybe you didn't beat somebody out, it's an opportunity for you. And I think that's going to keep everybody fresh in practice and competing hard in practice, and I think we need that.

The Press: For the players, the way the schedule has worked this year you've had a number of consecutive Thursday night games, which means you're always missing your Thursday classes and you don't have much preparation time from Thursday night to Sunday. Does seem different to you than others years? What's it like having that kind of a turnaround in SEC games?

Carla: I only have one year of SEC experience, but I don't think it's that different. Your schedule's going to be hectic, regardless, and especially come mid-season you have to be able to get done what you need to get done in practice because you only have two practices before the next game.

The Press: Coach, is it different for you having so many Thursday nights in a row?

Coach Balcomb: It's not for me at all. I did express my concerns to the SEC office as far as class with us at Vanderbilt. It makes it difficult. Some of them have had trouble telling their professors they're going to miss the first four classes and that puts us at an academic disadvantage, and that's something she said that she would look at in the future.

The two years I've been here it's been different because I like when you're away Thursday-Sunday sometimes because then you have week to look forward to when you don't travel. And this way, they've split it almost consistently through the conference so next week it'll flip flop, but that means every week you travel. I would rather travel two tames in one week then have a whole week where you stay home. But that's just my preference, and nobody really cares about that. But I do think that they care about the class schedule, and that needs to be addressed. That makes it tough for us at Vanderbilt.

The Press: You forced Kentucky into 23 turnovers, which is really high for them this season. You talked a little bit about your defensive intensity, but was there something in your game plan that you thought maybe you could cause the miscues or a little difficulty for them?

Coach Balcomb: No, we wanted to switch up defenses like we've been and keep them off-balance and we probably threw more traps at them than we've throw lately, and I just thought it was something that we had done early on when we were winning. It was forcing a lot more turnovers and I thought we needed to get a lot more aggressive and get some easy possessions on offense. That's what we were doing early on - creating offense off our defense, and we had stopped doing that.

The Press: How big was Caroline's block of Phillips' 3 right there at the top of the key with about a minutes left in the game?

Coach Balcomb: I Just think everybody in general - she made a great play not fouling and blocking it, but I think she was right there either way. I think we did a great job with that. Carla did that on another play, where we were right there because we switched out on all the screens and did not let them get any looks from 3 down the stretch in that last minute.

The Press: You brought Erica back in in the second half for Dee as well. Was that an instructional situation or were you just wanting to give her a quick breather?

Coach Balcomb: It was instructional as well as whatever else I was doing tonight, just to talk to Dee about a couple of things.


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