Women's Hoops: Sunday Afternoon Press Conference

Vanderbilt basketball players Jillian Danker, Ashley McElhiney, Chantelle Anderson, Zuzi Klimesova and Jenni Benningfield sat with Coach Jim Foster at a press conference prior to the game with UT.

The Press: For Ashley and Jillian, what impact do you think your style has on a team like UNC that likes to run, when it finally sinks in that it's a slow game not a fast game?

Ashley McElhiney: I think a team like North Carolina when you force them to play a slower tempo that they're used to, it kind of takes them out of their game plan. And I think last night we did that. I don't think, if any, we gave up many fast break opportunities for them. And I think it was just the 5 players on the court had a defensive mentality the entire game and did a great job of getting back.

Jillian: We were just trying to execute and do what we do well. I guess you could say that's our style, we just trying to play good ball . . ., all the way around, both defensively and offensively. If we do that, we're a tough team to play. North Carolina is a physical, rough, big team, and we just tried to focus on what we could do and didn't really think a whole lot about what they were trying to, just what we could do, and trying to make sure that we execute our game plan as perfectly as possible.

The Press: Do you get to a point where you feel like you impose your will, where you got the upper hand?

Jillian: I think that the best place that you can see will is defensively. Honestly. Because you can have the best scheme in the world for defense, perfect for the team you're playing, but if you're not going to put your heart out there and try as hard as you can to execute it, then it doesn't really matter what the plan is. So I think defensively if you do that, yeah, I think Ashley did a great job on Teasley yesterday,so you could say her will was imposed on her.

The Press: Can you guys talk a little bit about playing a team that's180 miles away from you in Ames? It's definitely a neutral site?

Zuzi Klimesova: I would say that playing Tennessee anywhere, they have their fans. They quickly make any gym they come to their gym. I still remember the past three yaers, our gym almost seemed like a neutral site until this year when our fans were so much louder and did such a great job of making it our environment. I think it is a very good question, but I don't think we look at it like that. We have played them twice. We beat them once; we lost to them once. We're going to go out there and try not to make the mistakes we made in our loss to them at their place. I think the gym will not make any difference, because the team that comes with the better plan and executes it better is the team that's going to win.
.
The Press: Obviously the home court made a big difference in the games with them, but what else happened that made them different?

Chantelle: I think in the first game we executed our offense, we ran offense and got great shots. In the second game, we didn't execute our offense. In both games we played pretty good defense, but in the second game we messed up on some key defensive plays. I think that was the difference.
.
The Press: How do you keep them from dictacting the tempo?

Chantelle: Get back on defense.

Ashley Mac: I think a lot of their fast break opportunities are off turnovers. I think we have to come with the mentality that we're going to take care of the ball tomorrow night. They like to pressure the ball, and I think if we take care of the ball, it'll limit their fast break opportunities, and I think that's going to be a key to the game.

The Press: Ashley, you've had the assignment of Lawson both games this year. If she's your responsibility, what's your primary concern, especially on defense?

Ashley Mac I think Kara's a great player. I think she can pretty much do it all. You can't back off of her, or she'll nail the three. If you get up on her, she's going to try to penetrate you. It's not just me. It's all five of us doing a job on her. And I think if we come prepared for that and we do it for 40 minutes, I think it's going to be all right.

The Press: Even though you've won 2 of 3, do they still cast a shadow over the state and nationally?

Chantelle: We don't feel like they cast a shadow on us. We've beaten them the past two out of the three times we've played them. And for younger players, that's all that they remember. They weren't there my freshman year. And we played them close two out of three games even then. I just think we need to focus on the game tomorrow night and forget about the past because I haven't been here 15 years. I've only been here for 3. I'm not worried about what happened before I got here. The only game I'm worried about is tomorrow night, and I think that pretty much speaks to the rest of our team. We're worried about the Tennessee team that we're playing tomorrow night, not the Tennessee team from five years ago or ten years ago.

The Press: Chantelle, do you feel like you haven't gotten the respect that beating Tennessee should have gotten you?

Chantelle: I think that we have earned a certain amount of respect for what we have accomplished this year. It has not escaped my attention that Tennessee is still out there and talked about a lot. I think the only way that you can get respect is by earning it on the court. We're going to come out tomorrow night and be prepared to earn the respect of everyone in the nation, hopefully for forty minutes. We have to play our hearts out for that, but that's the only way you get it.

The Press: Can you talk about the point guard battle tomorrow night with Ashley matching up with Kara and how that will impact the game?

Vanderbilt Coach Jim Foster: Well, I really don't think Lawson is Tennessee's point guard. Loree Moore and April McDivitt have taken over point guard responsibilities, and Kara has taken over the responsibility of being the scorer. So I don't see that as a point guard matchup.

The Press: How do you stop her?

Coach Foster: We have to guard her. No ands, ifs or buts about it. She's a very talented offensive basketball player -- terrific shooter, very strong. She can take the ball to the basket. Be disruptive.

The Press: How do you feel like the two teams compare from an athletic standpoint and a basketball skill standpoint?

Coach Foster: I think there is a great deal of similarity. I think our players are unfairly stereotyped as not being athletic. But I think they're very athletic. We played a very athletic team last night, and we out-rebounded them, and we had as many athletic baskets as they had. I think we match up very well in that dimension, and from a basketball point of view, we have a certain style that we play, and we're pretty good at it.

The Press: What did you consider the most decisive elements in the game. Carolina's top scorers hit 12 for 46. How key was that?

Coach Foster: Well, we didn't want Nikki Teasley to take any shots standing still. A lot of people are afraid to get up and get on her because she's so skilled with the ball. We probably had the complete opposite mentality. We wanted to get up on her and make her shoot on the move, and if she was going to score, it would be degree of difficulty shots, which she's very capable of making. But the games when I've seen her stand still shooting, that's what gets her going, and then she comes back with timely shots off the dribble. So we just wanted to make her play a certain way all night, and I think we did a good job in the post area defensively, of being big when we needed to be big. The Brown kid had to work hard for everything she got last night. Even though she scored 19 points, she had to do it on 18 or 19 shots and I'll trade that off any day of the week.

The Press: Could you talk about last night when you kind of alluded to last night to playing in front of a neutral crowd?

Coach Foster: I sort of look foward to this opportunity because we're never played them in an environment like we're going to play them tomorrow night. They oftentimes feed off the energy of crowd. They're a very emotional basketball team. In Memphis last year there were 12,000 at the game and I think 10,000 were probably wearing orange. And obviously when we play up there, 21,000 people were wearing orange. I expect to see a lot of red tomorrow night, and that ain't orange.

The Press: Why did Zuzi struggle so much last night, and was it anything Tennessee could take advantage of?

Coach Foster: I think she struggled on the offensive end of the floor because she was a little hesitant, and just a step shy, and I think she understands that. I've never seen her go back to back with that kind of performance.

The Press: You talked about the Teasley/McElhiney matchup from last night. What have you seen in her throughout the career that let you think she was up to the challenge?

Coach Foster: The muscle you can't see. It's bigger than any in the country.

The Press: What were the big differences in the two games against Tennessee in terms of performance?

Coach Foster: I think we had a lot of defensive breakdowns in the second half up there, and I think they really got into the emotion of the environment and took advantage of that. I think we still really fought back. We didn't feel very good about our performance, and that game was decided in the last minute.

The Press: Jim, since you played a style Carolina isn't familiar with,do you see doubt creeping in when things aren't going the way they expected?

Coach Foster: We're going to play a 40 minute every possession game. I don't think a lot of teams play every possession games. A lot of teams like to run up and down the floor, and when they're extended defensively for a longer period of time than they're used to, it starts to break them down a little bit. Kids don't like being in a stance. I've never seen a kid in a stance in a summer game. That's something that coaches impose on players. And I think our team stays in it longer than most when we're on the defensive end, and makes the other team stay in it longer than they would like when we're on the offensive end.

The Press: How unique to you think your style is compared to other teams in the top 10?

Coach Foster: Unique.

The Press: Are you the only one that plays it?

Coach Foster: I think the only one that might be close to some extent is Colorado, but they'll take quicker shots. But we understand how good our post players are and how good they make our shooters, and they may not be as patient with their post players. They use their post players, but maybe not be as patient as we are relative to them. We have a pretty good understanding of who we are.

The Press: Last night's game was pretty physical. Do you expect the same thing out of TN?

Coach Foster: I think the whole purpose last night was to disrupt Chantelle between the ears and that didn't happen. I think as she's progressing as a player and maturing as a player, that was sort of the last hurdle for her to get over. And I thought that she handled that very very well last night.

The Press: If you look back in the history, TN has the best record and the most titles. Do you see any common denominators that keep them there?

Coach Foster: Yes, they get the best players.

The Press: But Geno is getting the best players, too

Coach Foster: And that's why Connecticut is starting to have the success that Tennessee has. They get the best players. One of these years, and hopefully maybe this is going to be the year, where there's a breakthrough year, where other teams have enough players to compete where young women are going to start to make the decisions that guys make. Duke has imposed its will on the men's game for a long time, but a lot of teams -- Maryland within the framework of their league and obviously Indiana -- didn't play against mystique, they played against the team. And the reality of it, I think when teams in the women's game start playing against the team and not the mystique, and there are more of them, then we probably won't have the kind of domination we've had. We've got to expect more from our players.

The Press: Jim, going back to the style that you favor, is that something that evolved with you, or did you pick it up in your Philadelphia days?

Jim Foster I generally coach what's in my gym, but I have tinkered with what I've wanted to do offensively for a lot of years, and I'm very comfortable where we are offensively and have been for the last two. Defensively, I always coach what's in my gym and adjust the defense to who it is that we have. If I were Geno, I'd probably be playing the way he does, if I were coaching who he's coaching. But you coach who you have in the gym, and you have to get a comfort zone with those players.

Commodores Daily Top Stories