Coach Interviews

After Vanderbilt's 84-44 victory over Harvard in the 1st Tennessee Tournament Sunday afternoon, Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb and Harvard Head Coach Kathy Delaney-Smith met with the press to talk about the game.

The Press: It's a lot easier when the other team doesn't score, isn't it?

Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb: I think today was the best game so far we've put together offense and defense, and that was so nice to see. We've had some games where we have played well offensively, and we've had some games where we played well defensively. And I think that we finally put it together today.

When we got the lead instead of letting up defensively and exchanging baskets, we continued to play defense the way we did at the beginning of the game, and therefore, we pulled away. It was the first game we were able to pull away from another team, and that's just because we took care of both offense and defense today.

The Press: When a game is out of reach like today, what do you try to accomplish?

Coach Balcomb: I think the biggest thing you try to accomplish is improving on every aspect of the game, whether you're executing offense or you're executing defense. In our timeouts, we talked to them about improving against another opponent instead of just improving -- every day in practice you talk about improving against each other, but now you want to improve in game situations, and you want to continue to execute your offense and your defense, and you also try to look at combinations of people. When you're subbing, you're trying to figure out what combinations at the guard and the post, and who works well together. I think that was one of the things -- Nicole Jules and Ashley Earley just played really well together, and they were fun to watch working well together. I like to see that.

The Press: 17 turnovers. Does that concern you?

Coach Balcomb: No, to be honest with you, I think -- No. That question caught me off guard because I didn't feel like we had 17 turnovers. We probably had seven of those in the last five minutes of the game with a freshman walk-on point guard that they decided to trap full-court, God love her. They put on a full court press and trapped when I had that group in there, and I think that was really tough, and she didn't even have anybody on the floor with her that had game experience against those things. I kind of looked at it like we took care of the ball most of the game when we needed to. I didn't think that was a factor.

And we're going to run and take chances, so we are going to make some turnovers in transition because if you want to have that mentality, you can't be afraid to take risks and throw some passes. And I think we hesitated in the first three games, and this was the first game where we didn't hesitate, and as you can see, they had a lot more fun in the transition, and we executed transition a lot better. And what that did was take a lot of pressure off our check out. Our defensive rebounding was very, very good. If you look at the offensive rebounds, they had three at the half, and they finished with 12, but there was one series there where I think they had six, so it was like the turnover thing. I thought we did a great job checking out and controlling the boards, and a lot of that is we were making them pay in transition. We were scoring when we had numbers and attacking and were not hesitating. You don't want to crash three, four or five people like Syracuse and Boston U got to. You've gotta sprint back, and that takes a lot of pressure off that defensive checkout, and then they don't get as many easy baskets on the offensive game, so I think that they got to see success with that.

The Press: Hillary Hager had quite a game for someone who didn't score any points.

Coach Balcomb: That's funny you brought that up. I actually looked that up after the game. I thought Hillary played so very well, and then I looked at her numbers and thought, geez, her numbers don't reflect that at all. Her eight rebounds, yes, but Hillary Hager is -- I call her the Iron Woman. She's going to play, and she's going to play all the time, because she just does almost everything we teach well, and correct, and as hard as she can possibly do it. She will not the trophies at the end, but she will be on the floor a great deal of time for us, and those are the kids -- she's not doing it for the glory anyway, but she's going to be one of the best role players that we have and that you'll see. She does all the little things right, and maybe only a coach can appreciate that.

The Press: I don't want to burst your bubble, but have you thought about the game with Purdue coming up?

Coach Balcomb: I just think it's a really important week for us. This is a big time program that we're going to play, and I think it's a challenge that we're looking forward to and have been working towards. I'm glad that we put a game together where we did play well on both ends of the floor for the majority of the game, so that going into that game we will have more confidence. But I think that Purdue is such a good program, a good team, and I've only faced them one time. They beat us after we beat Tennessee. We're very concerned on how we treat this week. We have to improve every day, and we will be all business all week to prepare for that game.

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Press: Coach, I haven't looked back at stats from previous games. Is 33 three's for your team out of the norm?

Harvard Head Coach Kathy Delaney-Smith: Yeah. That was way out of the norm and way out of the game plan. Yeah, we didn't play well today. Not to take anything away from Vanderbilt; they were clicking on all cylinders, I think. We did just what I didn't want us to do. We were intimidated by their height inside. I have a fairly young team, and we just didn't want to go inside. We weren't getting the calls, and so we chucked up three's. We didn't really shoot them, because we're not a bad 3-point shooting team. We're actually pretty good. Vanderbilt's defense was good, and we weren't patient, and the worst case scenario -- we couldn't have played worse, unfortunately. You can't play a team of Vanderbilt's calibre and be off. Even Hana, who hasn't had a bad game in three year, Hana had a bad game today, and I would certainly credit Vanderbilt's game plan, but even shots that she hasn't missed ever in her life, she missed today.

Press: Was there much to Vanderbilt's transition game that seemed to rattle your team?

Coach Delaney-Smith: I know they like to shoot their shots in transition, but I was more impressed with their offensive patience. They countered everything we did . . . When we tried to double or deny down, they'd kick it back out to #22 for the three. I thought they played a very very smart game, and I don't think it was their transition game. It was fine, but I was more impressed with their defense and and how smart they were at countering what we did defensively. They were very smart.

The Press: Coach, it may not be fair to ask, but you knocked off a #1 seed several years ago. How does this team compare to that team?

Coach Delaney-Smith: Yeah, this team is as good as that team. This team is BETTER than that team, in fact, they're just not as old. They're younger in age in school and also in experience. I only have 1 senior, and she doesn't even start. I expect this team by the end of this year and next year to be better than that team that knocked off Stanford.

Anybody have any coaching hints about what you would have done? (laughter) Before I leave, a couple of hints? Come on, you guys are all coaches! (laughter) Help! Help me! (laughter)

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