The Press: Ashley, where did you feel like the game got away from you in the second half. What was the difference after leading by seven at halftime?
Ashley: From the beginning of the second half, we came out flat, me in particular. I came out flat, rushing shots, turnovers. I think that was the difference.
The Press: Ashley, last year at this point against Stanford, you all had a couple of defensive breakdowns late, and that was your motivation throughout the off-season and through this season, defensively talk about your second half and what you did and didn't get accomplished.
Ashley: We just gave up buckets. I don't really know. We gave up buckets. We traded baskets with them. Once you get down, you can't trade baskets with a team because you're obviously going to lose. You have to make up that point spread somehow.
The Press: At the half, I think you had 15 assists and three turnovers, which any coach on any level will probably take in a heartbeat. Then in the second half, almost from the beginning, your ball movement just seemed like it wasn't there. What do you think broke down offensively?
Coach Balcomb: I think they did a great job. Obviously they picked up their intensity. They picked up their ball pressure, and they really got out on our shooters and our guards. Initially they were really packing it in and were more concerned about Ashley and Carla, and we hit shots and made nice passes inside out, so what I think they did in the second half is they out more on our shooters and tried to take the 3-point shot away first and made some adjustments that way that our kids do a good job adjusting to at the start of the second half. Where we made our mistakes were in the high post and the low post, and that's what they were giving us instead of those 3's.
The Press: Coach, what did you think was different defensively during that I guess it was an 18-3 run to open the second half?
Coach Balcomb:We didn't do anything different defensively, I just think we lacked the intensity we had in the first half, and we lacked the ball pressure, and we talked about the ball pressure was good, we were forcing outside, and then we stopped doing that. They started attacking the middle of the floor and going inside out, and I don't think we did a good job. We got beat off the dribble, and then they kicked out to their shooters, and those were all the things we had worked on not getting beat on and did a better job of in the first half. Check-out was a problem the whole game. We gave them too many second shots, and that's when they got 3's, and we got fouls and things after they got offensive rebounds and kicked the ball back out. They got second shots, sometimes the big girl would shoot and miss and get it back again.
The Press: Melanie, can you elaborate on what you said about over-achieving and how you did that this year and also the state of the program, where you think things are right now despite this loss tonight?
Coach Balcomb: Well, I'm really proud of what we did this year. I know the expectations are obviously very high at Vanderbilt, and maybe some people won't agree, but I think this team showed that it improved all season. We competed with the best down to the stretch in every game, from our three games with Tennessee you could see our improvement and coming in third in the conference is the best that we've done in the three years that I've been here. I think to beat Georgia at Georgia down the stretch and only lose to Tennessee on the last possession and in each game get better. I thought we showed the improvement that we needed to have, and I thought we were playing the best basketball that we had played in March, which is what you want to do.
The Press: Did you still feel like late in the second half there was a still a chance, they were kind of around the 7, 8, 9 point mark. Did you feel like even with four or five minutes left - because you've done that before this year - what did you feel like at that point?
Coach Balcomb: I thought we were going to win the game still, and I know my players did. That's the belief system that we have right now. We have kids that believe in what we're teaching and trying to execute the best they could in our game plan. They've come back in every game this year, and we've won a lot of games coming back. We've actually played better this year being down and being able to play freer on offense, so I didn't think that being down 8 or 9 was going to be a problem because we had done that, and I think our kids were confident that they could come back because they always have.
Photograph copyright 2005 by WhitneyD for VandyMania.com.