Women's Hoops: Auburn post game comments

After Vanderbilt's 57-53 win at Auburn on Saturday, head coach Melanie Balcomb spoke with the media.

The Press: What do you consider the keys to your comebacks?

Coach Balcomb: It was different each time. I think one of the important things was getting more aggressive on defense. We took a lot of charges, we threw some traps at them, and we picked up our pressure three-quarter court. We tried to get more aggressive on defense to get some transition baskets and that opened us up, because we had a lot of trouble scoring on them in the half court.

The Press: They were very tall.

Coach Balcomb: Yes. (Laughs.) We had trouble going inside and not getting our shot blocked, and so that limits you to outside shooting. Basically, if Caroline Williams didn't score, we didn't score. So we were really looking to push the ball in transition, and to do that, you've got to rebound or you've got to get a turnover and try to get some open looks, and that's where Caroline got a lot of hers, was in transition. And then Nicole Jules did a good job in the second half starting to post up and going inside as they tired a little bit. We tried to keep them running also so that maybe later in the game, they wouldn't rotate over on our drives so well, because they really rotate well, even from weakside and come over and block. That's why they have so many blocked shots. It's not just their player in the post. If you drive, they'll come over and block your shot, too. So it takes away drives, and it takes away a lot of points in the paint.

The Press: How about Carla? First, how is she, and second, she had ice water in her veins at the end with those free throws.

Coach Balcomb: Carla's actually been a great free throw shooter for us in her whole career and this year especially, she's been very confident. I just wish-- like the rest of my team, we're shooting it very well, I just wish we would go more. Carla split her lip open really bad. It split open in half and so it kept re-splittting. They kept trying to -- I'm not sure what the right word would be -- to coagulate it so that it would stay closed. But it just kept reopening. She bit it all the way through.

The Press: Cherish Stringfield made some big plays for you.

Coach Balcomb: Yeah, and one of our comebacks in the first half was when I put Cherish in at point. Again, when Dee was hurt, somebody had to step up, and Cherish did that, so she gained confidence while Dee wasn't playing in some of those games and very limited minutes, so Cherish gained confidence at point, and that really helps us, especially in the first half, to have a different look because Cherish can hit that 3 from up there with confidence, she's shooting well, and also it gives Dee a lot of rest so in the second half, Dee was more aggressive and pushed more because she played less minutes.

The Press: In the first half, you got some looks from Jen Risper penetrating and dishing.

Coach Balcomb: Yeah. Jen Risper, that's what she does. She attacks the basket, and she dumps to the other post. We knew we could do that because their posts would just step up to try to block-- their posts rotate quickly and they rotate up to block the shot, and you want to dump it because you don't want to shoot over that or you're just going to eat it. So we worked on that all week, believe it or not, driving middle, posts coming up, and you dump it to that post, and Risper had two really nice plays with that. I wish we had been able to do that more.

The Press: How hard it is to deal with that, when you have Carrier, Payne and Bonner blocking shots?

Coach Balcomb: I think it's difficult because you aren't used to it. Not many teams go against that every night, so the first half, like you saw, it's a real struggle. We got down a lot because we weren't used to it, and we were intimidated and hesitated on everything. We wanted to bring them away from the basket and drive more and shoot the outside shot more, and we missed those and didn't drive real well, so that hurt us. It's different. They got a lead because we were intimidated on offense inside. There's no doubt. Nobody wanted to go in the paint.

The Press: You were up by three with seven seconds left, a similar situation to what you had in Arkansas. Did you have any special instructions for your team?

Coach Balcomb: Yeah, it was the same situation, but believe it or not, we showed them film on special situations over and over, and we've worked on them on the floor, and we actually brought our defense to turn the dribbler and to slow it down more and make sure that if we got beat right away, the next person was there. We didn't want them to go as quickly as they were down the floor.

The Press: Has it gotten to the point where you just put a W down next to Auburn?

Coach Balcomb: No, you never do that.

The Press: How many different ways have you beaten them there at the end during this 10-game winning streak?

Coach Balcomb: I don't remember, I just know every game with Auburn has been tremendous. I think they're the hardest fought games I can remember. I was telling Charlie [Mattos] the year we won the SEC, we played them for the third time, and every game that I remember in the four years, here or home or on a neutral court, has come down to the last possession. Early on I was a little worried that maybe it wouldn't come down to the last possession, but I knew that was something that has always happened, and we just have happened to have been on the positive end each time. Maybe that's just the kids having the confidence and passing it on from year to year.

The Press: Coach, what do you think about Auburn's five freshmen? They're getting a good year of experience. Do you Coach Fortner has things going in the right direction?

Coach Balcomb: Oh, definitely. All those freshmen can play. I think one of the keys is that Bonner got in foul trouble, and she's such a good slasher, rebounder, goes to the free throw line and is very active, and I think that's hurt them down the stretch not to have her out there. Their point guard, Boddie, getting so many minutes, she's going to be a solid point guard. She's got a good assist to turnover ratio. People are trying to do everything to her, like traps, like you saw us, just because she's a freshman, but this is all experience that she's gaining. And then you throw in a 6-6 player inside that you've gotta throw two and three people at. I think the key there is how many people does she draw, and where does it hurt you elsewhere? She doesn't even have to score that much. She gets people open even if she doesn't score. So I see those kids helping immediately and getting so many minutes is just positive for her program in the future.

The Press: Even with the comeback, were you disappointed at times with your execution down the stretch? I think at one point when it was 50-49 you had three possessions to either tie or take the lead before Caroline finally hit the 3 that put you up.

Coach Balcomb: Well, I think in the half court we struggled all night with the intimidation inside. I think they switched on so much stuff, it was confusing. You really had to slow down and read the defense and not plan ahead. They were switching, they had intimidation inside, so you miss your drives and your point blank shots, so it throws you all off. I think it's very tough. I think Auburn has good defense in the half court, and I think they are tough to score on, even out of bounds under, they played man and then switched and then played zone at the end. So she changes up her defenses a lot and keeps you off balance. So you saw us off balance a lot.

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