Women's Hoops: USC Postgame comments

After the Vanderbilt women defeated South Carolina on Saturday, Vanderbilt coaches and players talked to the press.

The Press: Coach, coming into this game, what were you most concerned about?

Coach Balcomb: Rebounding. Checking out. In SEC stats, they were #1 in the conference in offensive rebounding, and we were last. We were 12th. So that was a huge concern of ours, so we worked a lot on check out this week, and just rebounding the basketball on offense and defense. We didn't want to get dominated there.

The Press: Carla obviously got in foul trouble early, and in the second half she made a big difference.

Coach Balcomb: Yeah, she kept her focus, and I saved her. She's been in foul trouble a lot, so I decided we were going to really need her down the stretch in a big game, and that allowed her also to play aggressive in the second half, and as long as we had the lead or were going to be right in there at halftime, it allowed me to keep her out of the game and save her for the second half so she could be aggressive. I thought down the stretch she really stepped up and wanted the basketball, and we just made her the go-to inside, and I just loved her confidence.

The Press: They tied the game up in the second half, and then I think there were four or five trips where they could have gotten a lead, but your defense kind of stepped it up a little bit.

Coach Balcomb: Yeah. We called a timeout and really just focused again on defense and getting stops. We've got an offense which plays in spurts, so they had made some runs defensively and we started exchanging baskets and so we just focused on getting stops again, talking about our defense and our rebounding.

The Press: Your next game is a little bit of a big one for you guys. What's going to be your focus going into the Tennessee game?

Coach Balcomb: I think a lot of it is just attitude and confidence. They know what we do, and we know what they do. We just have to be ready and confident to play and getting a win on the road -- this is our first road win in the SEC -- at least we're going in with some confidence, and I thought we were ready to play today. We weren't ready to play at Arkansas; we got off to a slow start. I just like how we out-worked and hustled, and that's what we're going to focus on and not getting beat on hustle plays, and just working to stay in the game. Because if you work that hard, as hard as we did today, you'll be in every game,

The Press: Were you at all concerned that maybe their focus wouldn't be there just because Tennessee is such a monumental opponent?

Coach Balcomb: No, not at all. Tennessee is in the SEC, and we're really focused on the conference as a whole and every game is very important to us, like any other team. We focus on the next game. You don't have any mental breaks, and I think our Arkansas game really made an impact on my kids, and I think we've made a lot of changes since then, and we just have to keep going in that direction.

The Press: You had a lot of minutes from your freshmen going down the stretch. From the time the game was tied, you had two freshmen on the floor [Tina Wirth and Holly Rogers] almost the entire time.

Coach Balcomb: Yeah. Holly's just playing with such great confidence, making good decisions. She's not afraid to handle the basketball under pressure. She stepped up and hit two free throws. And Tina came in, and she's very confident in her outside perimeter shooting, and they had been doubling in the post, with Liz and Carla and Nicole being so deadly inside, they had been doubling and leaving the high post, the trail and the 3 open, so that really spread the defense out, and it gave Tina a lot of looks on the perimeter, which she can knock down, and she was hitting them with confidence, so I wanted to keep her in the game.

The Press: You were talking about Carla in the second half, and you had Dee . . .

Coach Balcomb: . . . and Dee in the first half. And I like that. It's been three games where we really depend on those two juniors, and I think they've stepped up in all three SEC games and been consistent and have done the things that we need them to do. We're going to have freshmen -- Liz is like a freshman, this is her first year and she's playing a lot of minutes -- so we have a lot of new people on the floor in key situations, and we have to count on Dee and Carla, and I like how they've played in first three games. The other ones are going to be -- one night it's going to be somebody, the next night it's going to be somebody else. We just have to keep them consistent, and I like what they've been doing in SEC play.

The Press: Only eight turnovers.

Coach Balcomb: Yeah, that was a really big key, and what happened was we handled the doubles better than we have. We've had too many turnovers because our post players have been a big part of our turnovers, and not handling the double team, 3 seconds, and offensive fouls, and we didn't have any of those things tonight. We handled the double teams, we didn't draw any offensive fouls in the post, and we didn't get any 3-seconds, so that cuts our turnovers in half. We've been really struggling, and so I'm really pleased with the post players making those changes.

The Press: Have you been working specifically on those things in practice?

Coach Balcomb: I hope so! (Laughs.) If they're causing turnovers, we better work on them!

Coach Balcomb left the room, and junior guards Dee Davis and Caroline Williams came in for questions.

The Press: What were you concerned about coming into the game?

Caroline: Rebounding. That was our biggest concern because that they are #1 in the conference in offensive rebounding, and our game plan was if we check out, if we stop their offensive rebounding, we definitely have a chance, a really good chance, to win the game, so that was our key.

The Press: Caroline, you hit three 3's in the first half. After that, were they covering you pretty closely?

Caroline: Yeah, some, but I guess I could have-- I had some open shots, but we were really trying to focus in the second half on running through the offense and really getting shots that were really high percentage shots. So in the second half, that's what we were most focusing on.

The Press: You had the lead, then they come back to tie it up. It looked like from that point on, you turned the defense it. There were a couple of points where they could have gone ahead. Was that a focus of yours?

Caroline: For sure. They got some run outs, where it seemed like we just couldn't stop them. They were kicking the ball up the floor, and that's what we tried to really key in on in our timeout where they had that run, and we had to pick up our defense. We had to pick up the ball pressure, picking up the ball and then finding their shooters. Yeah, we definitely turned it up on defense, and that's what helped us.

The Press: How did you guys stay composed through that stretch?

Caroline: I think it's knowing that if we just get back down to the basics, we're fine. Like, yeah, they went on a little run, but we know that it's all about we have to check out and take good shots, and we'll be fine, and I think we just got back to it instead of freaking out and getting all scared. We just settled down and got back to what we'd been doing the whole game.

The Press: Was there any concern about looking ahead to Tennessee? Was this game as important as that one?

Caroline: Oh yeah. Every game in the SEC is just as important as the next, and we have to win on the road, and this game was huge. We definitely weren't even thinking about Tennessee. Now we can start preparing. We definitely took South Carolina as a really tough team that's playing at home, where it's really tough to win. It's definitely an SEC game on the road.

The Press: Dee, Carla didn't play much in the first half because of two quick fouls. What does she add to your team when she's back in the game?

Dee: Post dominance. She's really good in the post. We count on her to score, block shots, be a defensive stopper. She's a good leader on the floor as well. It's good to have her in the paint. You don't have to worry about getting beat and somebody scoring on you because Carla will be there to block the shot. She's a great presence on the inside.

The Press: In the first half when she wasn't in, you kind of pushed things yourself, and then in the second half when Liz and some of your big girls were in there, you were able to dump it down to them and let them handle the scoring load. Is that how you saw it?

Dee: To some extent. You see an opening and you take it. My number one goal out there was to attack and be on the attack and to get my teammates involved when they're open. If I see a driving lane, I'm going to take it. So I just realized that a lot of time that the posts were guarding me, and I'd just take it to the hole. But mainly when I'm out there, I can count on my big players in the post, and I'm more than happy to dump it to them.

The Press: Coach was saying that she was pleased with the variety that you guys show; one game somebody's going to step up and do this and in the next game it might be somebody else. You're a team with a lot of parts that can make things happen.

Dee: Definitely, because we have young players who are stepping up. They stepped up early, and they're being more consistent as games go on, and our upperclassmen are still doing our parts, too. But some nights, everybody's on top of their game like they should be, but we can always count on somebody on the floor to step up for you.

The Press: Second half down the stretch there were a couple of possessions where Carla hit a shot almost at the end of the shot clock. Is that how you planned it?

Dee: When you have the lead and it's getting late in the game, you want to use more of the clock. We knew that Carla was going to score. She's game time. If the game's almost over, she's going to do whatever she can to make sure we come out with the W. If it was Liz, or if it was Caroline posting down there, I'd expect them to do the same thing.

The Press: How much energy now do you put into Tennessee? Obviously, it's a big game in your state and a rivalry game.

Dee: Well, we're going to take it as any other game. Every SEC game counts, and it's really tough and we're going to take it as it comes. We're not going to focus on them to the point that that's the ultimate game. We have games after that, too. We're just going to play our game and hopefully come out with the W.

The Press: As you're going around campus the week of the Tennessee game, do you hear more comments around campus about it?

Caroline: Maybe a little bit more than other games, just because it's a rival, but maybe not to the extent that it's much of a difference. But everybody knows it's an SEC game like any other, but, yeah, everybody wants to beat Tennessee, everybody wants to win the SEC, so we're going to go after it just like any other game.

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