Women's Hoops: UK postgame comments

After Vanderbilt's win over Kentucky, Commodore head coach Melanie Balcomb, guard Dee Davis and center Carla Thomas talked to the press.

The Press: You said that defense was a problem. Did it improve tonight? How much did it contribute to Kentucky's 27 turnovers?

Coach Balcomb: I thought we did a good job defensively, especially our #1 key, which was checking out. They're #1 in the league in rebound offense, so that was our #1 goal, and we had more offensive rebounds and beat them on the boards, and I think that was a very important key. I know I had told you that we weren't sure what was our better defense, and we went to straight man-to-man in the second half, and in the halfcourt I think they scored one time against our man. There were times we fouled them, but actually they had one basket, and in the second half, I thought we played our man-to-man very well.

The Press: Did you do a little more trapping--

Coach Balcomb: We have done that periodically, depending on the team, how much we think we can get away with that. I thought Jen Risper made a big difference on defense tonight, and I think her being so aggressive with our traps -- and we wanted to be aggressive trapping -- I think that helped us force more turnovers than we've been forcing.

The Press: I think you made 11 of your first 17 shots or so. Obviously after the Georgia game this was a good way to come back. Were you pleased with how you started?

Coach Balcomb: Yeah, and I think we were so concerned not to live and die with the 3, and we knew the same thing ,that they didn't have the depth in the post to guard us, so we went really early into the post a lot, and at halftime, we had 14 turnovers and 11 of those came from our posts. So in the second half our adjustment offensively was to move the ball more, move the defense more and not to just cram it in, and to make sure we were getting looks from the outside. I think we tried so hard to make up for what we didn't accomplish against Georgia that it kind of hurt us in the first half. We were just pounding it in there, pounding it in there, pounding it in there, so in the second half we cut our turnovers in half because we shared the basketball more.

The Press: How much motivation for the game tonight was still being alive for the bye in the first round?

Coach Balcomb: We haven't talked about that at all. We're not talking about the SEC, we're not talking about the NCAAs. We let media and everybody else talk about that. What we talk about is playing hard and getting a win at home and getting back on the winning track after you lose to a Georgia like we did. I think our team did a very good job of just keeping to one game at a time and not looking past it. At some point you have to look at the big picture, but I think that's for the staff and for the media. We try to get the kids not to look at the big picture sometimes, especially with a young team. We were trying to focus on everything else but that.

The Press: You talked about a young team. You obviously got minutes out of Jen, but you also got Tina in, you got Holly in, Rachel played a few minutes.

Coach Balcomb: Yeah, and they're all quality minutes, whether we get a lot of production or not. I feel comfortable that they've all played enough all year in different situations, like we played Tina more tonight when they went zone, trying to get her some looks from the outside. We tried to get Holly in there when Caroline and Cherish weren't hitting their 3s because Holly has been hitting her 3s, she just hasn't been that aggressive taking them, so we actually have other things to go to that, in the past, we didn't down the stretch. We do have more depth and players that are young, and again, when it's close at the end, you want to go with your veterans and your starters, so I had the juniors back in there, but I thought we had great minutes from the freshmen.

The Press: Can you talk about Carla Thomas? It seemed like in the second half every time Kentucky made a run, she had an answer.

Coach Balcomb: Carla's been sick and didn't actually practice the last two days, and it was kind of obvious that she was. I was concerned at halftime because she was turning the ball over, and she wasn't ready to score. In the second half I think she slowed down -- she was going too fast -- and I think her body tired and sometimes it's an advantage when you're sick because your body tires, and she was so more relaxed on offense and just read the defense and made some great plays and really stepped up. And she hit the big shots when we needed them.

The Press: Can you talk about your ball pressure on Carly Ormerod, the freshman, because she hasn't turned the ball over this year that much.

Coach Balcomb: We wanted to pressure them, but what's tough is that they drive so well. But we wanted to make sure that we pressured Ormerod and Pfeiffer because she's a freshman and you want to pressure her and she runs everything. She's a good point guard and that's one of the reasons they've really improved this year. And then you want to make sure that you pressure Pfeiffer because she's a great shooter off the bench. Other than that, you wanted to make sure you kept people in front of you and gave them a gap because they're such good drivers, so I think knowing the personnel as far as the scouting report, I think we did a good job knowing the personnel and doing the right things. What I was disappointed in was we didn't contain her drive. She drove left all night at will, and that's one of the things we just talked about in the locker room. We pressured her more and we forced them into more turnovers, but she beat us left all night and went the same direction, and we didn't adjust.

The Press: Can you talk about their lack of depth in the post and those quick fouls on some of their post players?

Coach Balcomb: Nicole Jules, being a senior and stepping up the way she is, she's the one who wants the ball in the post, and she got lower than the defense, and they were fouling her just because she was posting up so hard and so low that they couldn't stop her. I don't even know what her numbers were, but Nicole Jules is one who really helped to get their posts in foul trouble. Everybody talks about Carla and Liz, and it was Nicole Jules I was really pleased with on the offensive end.

The Press: Liz coming off the bench -- can you talk about the instant offense she brings?

Coach Balcomb: Yeah, that's what she brings. She's a great sixth player because she's instant offense, and she can score right away for you in the post. We just want her to be more aggressive and want to take those shots right away, and as you saw, she kicked out the first time she went in, and I took her right out and made her think about it and then go back in, because we wanted her to take it at their post players. Each post player was already in quick foul trouble, and she was kicking out. I think she did a good job the second time she went in. She was much more aggressive.

Coach Balcomb left, then junior post Carla Thomas and junior point guard Dee Davis entered the room for questions.

The Press: Someone on press row early in the game after you had had a couple of drives and scored said it looked like you were playing like you had something to prove. Did you come out with a mindset of what you wanted to do against their defense, or was it something that you had seen?

Dee: I had to make a change from last game. We all had the mindset that we had to come out, attack and play hard, nothing that we haven't done all season but we just came off a loss, so of course I'm going to come out and play a lot harder. I don't have anything to prove. I've shown what I have. Every game is going to be a little different, but today I felt like I was in the attack mode and I have a lot more driving lanes and was able to get to the basket as much as possible.

The Press: Can you talk about this week from the loss last Sunday to tonight?

Dee: We didn't do anything differently. It was just our effort. Once again, when we were losing to other teams, it was all about effort. We never gave up against Georgia. Things just weren't going right. We could never convert and get back. We let them get on the run and then we would stop the run, and they they would get on another run. Today we were able to keep the lead pretty much the whole game, and when they would score or do something good or get fouled, we came together a lot more today and said we've got to stop right now, we're going to have to keep pushing forward. We knew in the second half most of our games have been a little shaky towards the end, and we knew that we had to make a change today and I think our team adjusted pretty good.

The Press: It even looked like your huddles were better and that you were making an effort to pull everybody in

Dee: Definitely. You have to lead a lot more. It's getting to crunch time. It's getting to March and everybody has to bring it every game, and I just wanted to pull everybody together and keep everybody close.

The Press: Carla, it looked like in the second half they didn't have an answer tor you defensivlely. Was there anything in particular that you were looking for or felt like you could do?

Carla: It was more just handling their style of defense and getting lower. That's something that the coaches stressed. They got on me and Liz and told us that we needed to step our game up and do something different.

The Press: How did they challenge you specifically for this game?

Carla: Before this game, like in practice? I wasn't in practice actually.

The Press: Well then, before the game or at halftime.

Carla: Basically they told us exactly how many turnovers we had caused for the team. I think we had something like 11 of the 15 turnovers at halftime, amd they were like, that's unacceptable and you need to step up and you need to get lower, and you can't let this team outwork you.

The Press: Do you feel like it took some of the wind out of the Kentucky post players' sails when they picked up early fouls? Did you feel like you guys could take it inside at that point?

Carla: I think it was that and also they got tired. We kept running, we kept pushing the ball in transition and kept getting rebounds so that was part of it.

The Press: Had you guys as a team or individually talked about a first round bye and having to win tonight?

Dee: I don't think we so much thought about that. We have to focus on these two games and then the SEC. We're taking it game by game. I don't think anybody's thinking about what's ahead. We just know that we have to take care of business to get to the next level.

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