The Press: You must have had a long day of practice.
Coach Balcomb: We had a long day of practice. We had a long film session. We had a long trip back from Phoenix the day before. We had a long film session, then a long practice. But I think they saw on film how disappointing it was. It made us just so much hungrier. We talked about character. The sign of a good team is the character they show after they lose, and that's what we talked about. Nobody should want to be the next team to play a team that mentally has that character. And I think we just wanted to prove to ourselves that we're not going to be happy losing, and we're going to send a message to ourselves.
The Press: Could you tell early on that the team was going to be more aggressive offensively?
Coach Balcomb: Yeah, just because they saw on film how timid, how -- it wasn't taken away from us, we took it away from ourselves and just not having the confidence and aggressiveness, and we were so tentative. I think they had to see -- they played tentative in other games and still won, and by losing I think we learned a great deal. You never want to lose, but sometimes they have to see that they can't keep doing what they're doing to lose, and I think it was just a great learning experience.
The Press: Abi looked like she kind of got on a roll at the end of the Purdue game. Did that carry over to tonight?
Coach Balcomb:Yeah, I think it would have been nice -- I think the biggest thing we were saying tonight is I wish we had this game before we went out and played Purdue because Abi had a breakout game. She missed a bunch of three's early against Purdue when we really needed that outside shooting. When the game was over, and she was relaxed and confident, she made her shots. So tonight, she came out confident, and she hit 'em. It was like a breakout game for Abi, and I wish she would have had it going into that game and not after. But we really need her outside shooting, and she's a great shooter. She did a great job coming ready to shoot it.
The Press: Could you see a more relaxed and confident Chantelle tonight?
Coach Balcomb: Yes. And you saw Chantelle score from other areas on the floor. She did a better job of scoring from different areas, not letting people take her out of the game. She was not fazed this time, and you could tell by looking at her that she wasn't fazed by the fact that they had three people guarding her initially. And that was just like, "Okay,we have to still play, I still have to get open, and we still have to run our stuff, and we'll work through this" And I think she's going to start to get more confident and used to what's going on.
The Press: Was it my imagination or was she also involved in more hustle plays, going for steals, and so on?
Coach Balcomb: Yes. She also threw some excellent passes. And her passing has improved because of this because of the doubles and the triples. She was just a scorer, and people fed her all the time. I think she threw some of the best passes tonight. She's worked really hard at her high post passing because there are going to be times where she's going to have to come out to the high post and dump it down to Benningfield and Earley down low. And that might be an effective way to open things up. It's a matter of getting out of her comfort zone. She's so extremely skilled in so many areas, but it's getting her to get confident in things that she's not used to doing and is confident and comfortable doing. She needed a game like this to see that she can do those other things -- that she has other weapons and things she can go to. I thought she was more aggressive also on the boards, and she got fouled a lot more because she was more aggressive, and she said, "I'm still going to get the ball, I don't care how many people are guarding me, I'm still going to post up and get the ball."
The Press: 27 shots from the free throw line tonight. Is that more aggressive at the line?
Coach Balcomb: Yeah, getting to the free throw line was a huge issue against Purdue, and not being aggressive and taking it to them and attacking, and that's usually where games are won and lost -- who gets to the free throw line. It's not field goals. Usually you can tell by the free throw line, and we have to get to it more, and I think that was one of the things that was our emphasis -- not just being aggressive defensively but being aggressive on offense.
After Coach Balcomb finished, Vanderbilt senior center Chantelle Anderson, senior point guard Ashley McElhiney, and sophomore guard Abi Ramsey took their turn.
The Press: How much did the last five minutes of the Purdue game help you tonight?
Abi: Well, I've been struggling most of the season so far with my shot, and I guess it just kind of gave me the confidence that I've been needing. I've been hesitating a lot so far, and I guess tonight I was just kind of ready to take it.
The Press: Abi, why were you hesitant early on, are you still feeling your way into the offense?
Abi: Yeah, I think so, just adjusting to the new coaching style. I knew I was free to shoot, but I think I still kind of struggled with Chantelle -- you know, Chantelle's in there -- knowing when not to take a shot was probably of the hardest things for me. So I guess when I realized during the Purdue game at the end that that was a strength for us, that was something that they wanted me to do.
The Press: Chantelle, are you getting a little more used to seeing 2 or 3 people on you?
Chantelle: Well, yeah, definitely. I'm really glad that they started hitting their outside shots, because at the beginning of the game, I had three people around me -- Ashley says five -- (laughter) -- I had three people that I could see, and I'm sure that the other people were in the paint. But they started hitting their shots, and it opened things up. They had to come out of the zone, because they were hitting everything, so it definitely helped.
The Press: Ashley, coach said you watched a lot of film after the Purdue game. Can you talk about some of the things you saws?
Ashley Mac: We played a bad game for 40 minutes, and yet there were still positive things we can take from the film. Like I think it's us as players getting confident or trusting what they brought with them. I think yesterday in practice we started that. Today we had it in a game, and I think that's the first step hopefully, and I hope now we won't take a step backward. We'll just move forward. We can't be going forward then taking steps back. We've just got to go for it and believe in what they're teaching.
The Press: Is it tough to play an inferior opponent coming off a game like that, where you can't tell how much is improvement or how much is the difference in the opponent?
Ashley Mac: I think this game was about us. It wasn't about who we were playing. We came out with a mentality -- we're going to get better, we're going to make adjustments that we watched in film, we're going to carry it over to tonight's game. Our transition game was better, our defense was better, our overall game was better tonight. Our pregame talk was not about the opponent, it was about us. And I think right now, that's what it has to be about.