Women's Hoops: Alabama postgame comments

After Vanderbilt's big win at Alabama last night, the Commodores Melanie Balcomb and Liz Sherwood spoke with the press.

The Press: You went 16-0 to close it out. I think Alabama turned it over six times down the stretch. What were you all doing at that point that you hadn't done earlier?

Coach Balcomb: One of the things is we switched our defense to man-to-man and wanted to hold everybody accountable. We knew we had to get stops. We knew we were in a real close game, we needed stops and rebounds, and in our zone we were giving up too much penetration and kick, which was giving shooters wide open looks, and plus they crashed really well against the zone. It's better if you can make your kids accountable and that they're responsible in the checkout and for who. My kids really stepped up defensively. I thought they pressured the ball and had really active hands.

The Press: Do you remember exactly when you made that switch?

Coach Balcomb: It was about at that time right before-- I didn't wait. I thought about waiting until the last media timeout at the 4-minute mark and instead I called it at one of the free throws just before that because I felt like we couldn't wait till the timeout.

The Press: Coach, since their point guard's been down, people have pressed them pretty successfully and it looked like you had some success.

Coach Balcomb: Early we did. We did it more than we've done it against anybody all year. We're not really a pressing team, but I thought we could press them and trap them in the half court, three-quarter court and full court. We used all three, and we forced them into some turnovers early, but then what happened is they got too many drives in the open court, and I felt like they got the ball into the middle too much. We exposed the middle and the drives, and then you're having guards driving on post players, and then we started fouling. We actually thought about going back to it at the four minute mark if we were down, but once we got the lead playing straight man, we didn't go back to the trap. We just settled down in our man-to-man.

The Press: Do you get the impression that Liz doesn't like coming off the bench?

Coach Balcomb: I don't know if that's it. It's all mental with Liz. If you watched her body language, once she hit a couple of big shots, all of a sudden she was monster rebounding and doing the things we've been working on with her. She was very timid until she gained confidence. If she misses shots, or if she loses confidence, she can take herself out of it mentally. So as she hit some shots early on and got some good rebounds, you could see her confidence building, and then I knew I could keep her in at the end of the game for rebounding.

The Press: Caroline said last weekend that one of the things you're focusing on in practice is effort. How would you rate the effort tonight?

Coach Balcomb: The last four and a half minutes is the effort we need for 40 minutes. We're not there yet. I think it's improved. I thought the second half of Ole Miss we picked up our intensity and our effort, and I thought here we worked hard. We just made a lot of mental mistakes tonight. We've gotta make better decisions. Tonight a lot of our problem was on offense, and offense isn't effort. Offense is where you relax and where you make good decisions, and I didn't feel like we made good decisions on offense, and I thought we weren't relaxed when we shot the ball until Caroline -- I challenged her in the huddle, then she stepped up and hit two 3's. When she's pressing, I think everybody else started pressing because she's been our leading scorer all year and our confident shooter, and I think they feed off Caroline. Right after I challenged her -- and it's great to know that I can challenge a kid like that now -- she went out and buried a 3, and then another 3, and then everybody was like all of a sudden real confident, and that was really good. They started feeding off her again.

The Press: Were there times out there offensively when you wondered where the shot was going to come from?

Coach Balcomb: Yeah, and I never thought that would be our problem this year. I thought our problem would be on defense, and I looked up and said, if we're in the 50s, we're not going to win this game. We have to score in the 60s to win, and we had low 50s at the time, and I was like, ohmigosh. I thought we would have a lot more offensive threats. We do in practice, but we're not relaxed enough yet on offense.

The Press: Did Leah Drury show a little more for them in the game than she does in the scouting report?

Coach Balcomb: I don't know. We seem to make people show up that don't even make the scouting report. That's been one of our things. I think our biggest problem was Lauren Hill shows up in the scouting report, and we still gave her four 3s, and that's what I was so unhappy about. We gave so many looks to her, and she looked real good in the scouting report.

The Press: So she was in the scouting report?

Coach Balcomb: Yeah, and we talked about her at halttime, not getting another one, and she came out and hit two more right away, and you saw every person that was on her I took out immediately. I think the words were "strangle" and then I said, "I'll just take you out." (Chuckles.)

The Press: This year marks the third year you all have lost 3 or more games straight in league play. Each time you've come out of it impressively. Is this going to be another one of those runs?

Coach Balcomb: Sometimes you don't want to look in the past, but other times I hope they build confidence from what has happened in the past. I think sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to go up in anything in life, and I felt like we hit rock bottom, and now I think we're going up, and I think the team feels that way.

Coach Balcomb left, and sophomore center Liz Sherwood, who led the team with 23 points, entered the room for questions.

The Press: Liz, you were 9 of 12 from the floor, 23 points. Are you liking this sixth man thing, or was that a "get me back in the starting lineup" plea or what?

Liz: Nicole's playing well in practice, and I guess I just need to prove myself in practice before I get back in the starting lineup, but I think I just need to do whatever it takes for the team to win right now, and if that's being the sixth man and doing what I did tonight, then that's a role that I have to fill. Whatever works.

The Press: What were you trying to do in the game tonight?

Liz: Trying to score. Obviously I wasn't playing defense (self-deprecating laugh). I don't know, just bring energy. I haven't played well for a couple of games. I don't know when I played well last, so I just needed to change some things and go for it a little more.

The Press: Coach said that when you make a couple of shots, it boosts your confidence then you play better.

Liz: Yeah. Making shots and getting rebounds boosts everybody's confidence, but, yeah, sometimes I get a little discouraged when I miss a couple of shots, so it was nice to make a few early ones.

The Press: How many different ways did they try to defend you?

Liz: I don't really know, We just kept getting it to the high post and throwing it in. Were they doing different stuff? (Laughs.) I don't really know what they were doing.

The Press: Speaking of defense, one of the bigger plays in the game was somehow you ended up way outside the 3-point line --

Liz: -- and Dee and I were trapping?

The Press: Was that where you were supposed to be?

Liz: We were playing man, and she set a screen and I decided to go for it, and it turned out to be a good idea.

The Press: Do you feel like Cherish does a better job getting you the ball than maybe some other people? It looked like once both you and she were in the game like she found you right at the rim maybe three straight possessions.

Liz: I don't know if she does a better job than anybody else, I just know that coach was saying throw it up to me and give me the ball and stuff like that. Cherish tries to do what the coach is saying, so she was trying to do that, I guess, so maybe that's what it was.

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