Women's Hoops: Anderson Press Conference

After Vanderbilt's 92-68 exhibition victory over Anderson College on Saturday, Head Coach Melanie Balcomb, junior guard Caroline Williams, and freshman guard/forward Tina Wirth answered questions from the press.

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The Press: I noticed that Carla [Thomas] wasn't dressed and playing, and neither were Jen [Risper] and Amy [Malo]. Can you talk about those situations?

Coach Balcomb: Don't know too much, other than that they all have knee injuries. They've all hurt their knee. With Carla, it's day-to-day. It's all how it goes, day-to-day. Same with the freshmen. It all depends on the rehab and quickly they get back. There's no determination, there's nothing but we see how it goes and how quickly they can get themselves back.

The Press: They've both had surgeries?

Coach Balcomb: The two freshmen have. With Carla, she got hurt last week during practice, and she hasn't been cleared to practice yet. We're hoping another day off tomorrow, and we'll see how it looks.

The Press: Can you talk about the difference in the difference between the halves? Vandy scored 46 in both halves, while they scored only 26 in the first half and 42 in the second.

Coach Balcomb: Well, I think most games most teams score more in the second half. At the first time out,[in the second half] they were beating us 16-15, so I thought we definitely came out in the second half flat, and that's where we struggled. And then there was another gap where we got tired about three quarters of the way through the second half where they made a run again, and we did not read the game well on defense.

We did not make adjustments to their 3-point shooting, and we obviously would have changed defenses but we wanted to work on things, and film work for things so we didn't necessarily make the changes that we would have in a game, just because we want to see what reads that as a team we can make on the floor. Right now we're just better at adjusting and reading the game offensively in game situations than we are defensively, and that's what we talked about after the game. We need to be able to read the game defensively better than we did and make those adjustments during the game. But as far as changing things, we did stay in some defenses that we needed film work on that obviously gave up too many easy three's especially to one player.

The Press: What do you think you learned about the team today?

Coach Balcomb: Oh, I learned a lot. I think what I'm excited about is our depth. I'm excited about all the people I put in today were ready to play and gave us good minutes. Actually, what we've been getting in practice, we got in the game. A couple of people were more gamers than they were practice players. That's kind of what you find out - who's going to be able to step up in games. You've got kids that are great in practice then they go into games and don't handle the stress and anxiety well and that's bad. We're in the reverse right now. We've got some players that - and it's more than one - that are playing better in the game than at practice, which is probably a better problem than the flip-flop. But we have high expectations in practice, and we need to get better at practices.

The Press: At the same time, if you've got a kid who tells you 'I'm better when the lights are on', if you don't see that, you're a little more reluctant to find that out, aren't you?

Coach Balcomb: Yeah, they're all going to tell you they're gamers, but they've got to earn the playing time in practice where I always tell them, 'We'll never know if you're a gamer because you won't be in the game.' And that's a huge adjustment from high school to college. In high school, you're just a gamer. If you're good and can play at this level, you don't really have to practice really well. You just show up for games, and I think they're realizing the competition is good in practice and that they have to be consistent in practice to earn the playing time in the games.

The Press: Caroline had 28. She came out on fire and stayed that way the whole game. Were you expecting that? Or do you expect that, not 28, but . .

Coach Balcomb: Yeah. I think the big thing with Caroline was she was practicing so well and so confident and becoming more of a complete player. . . . We got to see her drive right away and put the ball on the floor and passing better. Her 3's, she's always been good at, so when you add that combination of being more of a triple-threat type player, that's when you expect the 28.

And she had been doing that until that black and gold scrimmage, I think she was disappointed in her play and not being ready to shoot, and one of the things we talked about after that scrimmage as a team was Caroline didn't shoot the ball enough, but she wasn't ready to shoot the ball. So I think she's made huge adjustments since that scrimmage. She learned a lot from that scrimmage.

The Press: You talked about her passing. I think when it was about 61-46, she had three straight assists into the paint and you all went on a 14-0 run.

Coach Balcomb: Yeah. Like she had four assists. She's just reading the whole game better. She used to be really hesitant passing, just not confident, and she's so much more confident in the game because she's reading the game. She used to just run the offense and look to shoot, but now she's starting to read the game, and it's fun to watch.

The Press: She looks more confident. Not just with the 3-point shot. She shot one from inside the free throw line. I don't know if I've ever seen her shoot from there.

Coach Balcomb: She read. She curled, and last year she couldn't have curled. She couldn't read, and that's a big thing we talk about on offense. Now she's going to be like Abi, and they're going to chase her everywhere. She got shots last year because of Abi. Their best defender wasn't on her, it was on Abi. Abi had earned that respect. So now what we talked about is instead of Caroline just running the play and trying to get open, now she has to read the defense, and if they follow, she's got to curl. If they go up the middle, she's got to slide. She's got to actually read the defense, and last year she didn't read the defense, or have to read the defense. Now she's reading the defense, and that's where you saw her curl, and she got that shot in the paint, and last year she couldn't have done that. She wouldn't have had the shot. They would have followed her, and she'd have caught it up top and had to pass it. And so for her to get more shots, she's got to read what her defender's doing and react to it.

The Press: So you're not looking for her just to be a 3-point shooter.

Coach Balcomb: She can't be. We have to have more complete players on the perimeter for us to do better, for us to be a better team. That's really what has limited us. We've had shooters, we've had - like everybody's just this role player. We need complete players to be able to beat the big teams.

The Press: How much do you y'all emphasize hustle plays, like taking charges? I saw Cherish Stringfield take a charge with 3 minutes left when you were up big late in the game. How much do you emphasize that?

Coach Balcomb: A lot. Our goal for each game is four charges, and we had seven today. Tina Wirth had five of them. Tina Wirth, what she did today in taking a charge -- She shot the ball from the baseline, missed it, and instead of hanging her head and standing there, she sprinted all the way down and got a charge on the opposite baseline. To me, I told the team, that's inspiring. That kind of hustle, that kind of getting back after a miss, is something that makes everybody else hustle more and inspires everybody else to make those hustle plays. I wanted to go out and play after that. That's fun. That was a great play. And we need more of those defensive play and defensive efforts.

The Press: Coach, I know your philosophy of trying to get your kids back home and play close to home. Have you ever taken a freshman home?

Coach Balcomb: I don't think this quickly. Her first game's going to be in her back yard. I just thought it would be a great opportunity for her, and I was real excited when we got her signed, and I thought it would be a great opportunity for us as a team to play early. I thought with the returners that we had, this was the year we should play a preseason tournament, so that's why I looked at that one. I wanted to play a preseason tournament this year thinking that we had enough players to be ready a week earlier, and then when I saw there could be one in Tina's back yard, I thought it would be great for her to go back right away to her family and friends and maybe get a crowd for us.

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The Press: Caroline, talk about the difference in your game and in the past.

Caroline Williams: I think this year is a complete new year for me. Last year obviously Abi was our shooter, and I could kind of let her do the big things, and I'd kind of step in and hit some 3's when I needed to, but this year, we're upperclassmen now, and it's time for me to step up and be a complete player and do things a little differently this year. Hit some 3's, but be a complete player at the same time.

The Press: You talked about being a complete player. You had a run of assists there in the second half when the offense was kind of struggling, getting a little out of sync. Talk about seeing the whole offense, the whole defense, not just being a 3-point shooter.

Caroline Williams: Right. I think I know what you're talking about. Our posts are unbelievable obviously, with Liz down there and Tina also and Nicole, all those big girls. They're open, and they're going to have shots. It's just that the guards have to be able to get the ball to them. When we need big baskets, that's who we want to go to. It's a high percentage shot, and that's where we want to go, down low, get us a good layup and get a run going. So yeah, those girls were posting hard. It makes it easy to pass to them.

The Press: Tina, did you have any jitters today?

Tina Wirth: I think we've been working pretty hard in practice. I felt prepared. Maybe the first couple of plays or so , . . but our captains are great leaders and make sure everybody was on the same page, so it wasn't too bad.

The Press: Tina, during the course of the game, you switched positions a lot. Can you talk about that?

Tina Wirth: Well, they talked to me when I first got here about the 2 and 3 pretty much are the same and the 4 and the 5 are the same, and my size allows me to be pretty versatile, and so they talked to me about whether did I think I could handle learning both spots, and I said I could, so all through practice I'll switch positions and switch teams so I can go guard and post. Yeah, it's nice to be versatile. I think that can help the team, depending on the matchups that we need and so I just have to keep working on it.

The Press: During the course of the game, is it a smooth transition for you? Do you have to stop and think, what am I doing?

Tina Wirth: I felt the game was actually easier than practices because I have a little more time to think about it, because it's not like I have to jump on the other team real quick and be a post. It wasn't bad. Everyone communicates pretty well when they come in.

Caroline Williams: We're thinking about putting her at point guard next week. (Laughter.)

The Press: Do you prefer Tina or Christina?

Tina Wirth: Either one. I usually write "Christina" but say "Tina."

The Press: Well, I write.

Tina Wirth: "Christina" would be great. My dad prefers that. It would make him happy.

The Press: Talk about going home next weekend.

Tina Wirth: Obviously, I'm excited to see everyone. That's going to be a great test for our team to see where we are. I think we're getting pretty pumped for Arizona State and for the whole tournament. So, yeah, we're going to work hard this week like we have been and go out there and see what we can do.

The Press: Were they ever a player in your recruitment? Did you ever consider staying home?

Tina Wirth: I really like their program, and I like Charli Turner-Thorne, the coach there. But I pretty much knew that I wanted to leave Arizona. They tried to talk to me about staying home, but I really wanted to get away.

Caroline Williams: Thank goodness!

The Press: Caroline, do you all take any kind of motivation out of the fact that usually when you host a tournament, you don't want to play-

Caroline Williams: I know exactly what you're talking about. It's a huge motivation. We definitely saw they picked us first. That's okay. That's fine with us. It just gives us a little bit of extra boost. They picked us. They want to play us, and that says something. So we have definitely taken note of it, and we're definitely working hard. We want to meet them first and show them that we're ready to play.

The Press: Christina, does that give you any extra juice going out there to play the team from your back yard right out of the box?

Tina Wirth: I don't really care who we play. They're a good team, so that's basically why I'm excited, just because it's going to be an early test for us. I think we're going to learn a lot from that game. They've gotten a lot better over the years, and their program is getting pretty strong, and so I'm just excited to go out there and play a tough team and see where we are.

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