Friday's game against Davidson in the first round of the tourney was the first action for the Dores since last Sunday's loss at Michigan. With students out of class for fall break, the team spent the week hard at practice, zeroing in on some needed changes before returning to action in the tournament.
"We didn't have any 'fight back", we felt, against Michigan, so we worked on our 'fight', our mentality, and those types of things," Balcomb said after Friday's game against Davidson..
After all the work in practice, Balcomb was somewehat disappointed in her team's performance in the first half of the Davidson game, when the visitors kept the game close for much of the first half.
"I thought we would come out even stronger than we did," she said.. "We're still a little hesitant out of the gun after [the game at Michigan]."
But at halftime, Balcomb reminded her players about what they'd been focusing on in practice. "We really wanted to have a much more aggressive mentality," she said, and as a result, she saw more of what she wanted to see later in the game.
"In the second half I thought we had the mentality of being aggressive defensively and dictating and everything that we really needed," she said. One result of that mentality was getting more offense off of the defense. In the first half, the Dores forced 16 turnovers, but the TOs only led to 12 points. In the second half, 17 forced turnovers led to 28 points.
While the second half of Friday's game was a step in the right direction, Balcomb was even more pleased with the team's effort on Saturday afternoon in the championship game against Virginia Tech.
"We dictated today," said Balcomb. "We took them our of their offense to try to force them to play one-on-one, and we took their players out of their individual [strengths]. This is the best execution of the game plan that we have given them so far this season."
Balcomb credited Sunday's success to her team's work following the loss at Michigan. "The Michigan game prepared us for this game," she said. "You don't want to lose games, but if we wouldn't have lost at Michigan, we might have lost today.
"You saw a whole different team because of the changes and the way that we recovered our attitude, our effort in practice. They just really responded really well to the preparation that we gave them for this tournament after losing to Michigan."
So instead of a halftime talk of adjustments, Balcomb talked to them about "doing what we did for 20 minutes for 40 minutes and not letting up."
But the second half got mixed reviews from the coach. "I can't say we did that because it got real unaggressive, unattacking, midway through the second half. We talked to them in the huddle over and over. So I don't think we did it for 40 minutes. I think we did it for about 30 minutes and did it really well for about 30 minutes."
Tournament MVP Tina Wirth echoed Balcomb's thoughts, "I think that we have lapses," she said.. "You're never going to be able to play a perfect game, but we can keep putting it together one minute at a time and focusing on each possession instead of letting it get so "big picture" that you start to lose sight of the little things. If we can just win this posssesion, then win this possesion, then before you know it, you've played a pretty great game."
Photos from Saturday's game:
In the consolation game, St. Joe's defeated Davidson 78-68. The Hawk, St. Joseph's renowned mascot of "The Hawk Will Never Die" fame, traveled with the team and following tradition, flapped his wings continuously throughout the game, including time outs.
Merideth Marsh, who was named to the All-Tournament team, scored 12 points in the game, including four of Vanderbilt's first six points.
Hannah Tuomi, another member of the All-Tournament team, scores most of her points in the low post, but she showed that she can also score from the high post.
This foul sent Jessica Mooney to the free throw line, where she sank both of the awarded free throws.
Jence Rhoads scored on this baseline drive.
This 3-pointer by Jessica Mooney gave the Dores a 9-point lead at 19-10 midway through the first half.
Hannah Tuomi scores in the second half.
Merideth Marsh scores on a fastbreak.
Jessica Mooney scores on the fastbreak.
Chanel Chisholm is fouled as she attacks the basket.
How does Tina Wirth get so open? In this case, Jessica Mooney drove hard to the basket. When the defense collapsed, she kicked it out to Tina, who was wide open and knocked down the shot.
Amy Malo was fouled on this shot attempt late in the game.
After the game, Tina Wirth was named Tournament MVP after averaging 18 points and 5 rebounds per game, with a total of four steals, six assists and only one turnover in the two games.
She was joined on the All-Tourney team by teammates Hannah Tuomi and Merideth Marsh, along with Utahya Drye of Virginia Tech, Mariame Djouara of St. Joseph's and Mercedes Robinson of Davidson.
A closer look at the tournament trophy
The Dores pose with the championship trophy. (Click photo to view a larger image.)
Photos copyright 2008 by Whitney D. for VandyMania.com