Women's Hoops: Postgame Press Comments

After Vanderbilt's 84-50 victory over the Austin Peay Lady Govs, Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb, Vanderbilt junior forward Jenni Benningfield and senior point guard Ashley McElhiney, Austin Peay Head Coach Susie Gardner, senior guard Brooke Armistead, and junior forward Gerlonda Hardin met the press.

First, it was Coach Balcomb's turn.

The Press: Coach, I know they missed 48 shots, but is giving up 24 offensive rebounds still alarming?

Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb: Yeah. I think we had a lot of positives in this game, but we did have one glaring negative, and we just discussed that in the locker room. The tough part is, when you're up 30, it's really hard to get kids to check out when the other team is missing a lot of shots. The tough thing is, you have to get better. You have to prepare for down the road, no matter what the score is. It's an effort skill that we needed to work on, and that we've discussed. They've averaged 17 offensive boards a night, and we gave them 24, and, again, that was not one of the positives from the game.

The Press: What were some of the biggest positives?

Coach Balcomb: I think the biggest thing is our consistency, being able to put away a team that I think is very good on film. We were very prepared because we were very impressed watching them on film, the competition they've played and what they've done, and I think they have a very good team. So it was nice to see us not play in spurts, to play consistently defensively for the whole game. I don't think there were maybe more than two spurts where they scored more than two baskets in row, so they never really got on a run. And then the same thing offensively -- the huge positive would be the fact that we ran for 40 minutes. We kept the pressure on them for 40 minutes. We ran the floor and ran our lanes and kept the transition game going where they were on their heels defensively the entire game. And so we attacked -- part of the running game is learning to attack and get to the free throw line more. So when you look at stats, you always look at rebounds and free throws, and what the nice stat is, is the fact that we went to the free throw line and took 30 free throws. That's attacking, that's being aggressive, and that's what we've been trying to get better at.

The Press: What have you guys been doing so well defensively in the past couple of games in terms of the other team's shooting percentage?

Coach Balcomb: Y'know, this was a tough call because they have such good shooters. And I thought we've been doing a really good job in our matchup zone, and I really was scared to play it and see how well we could do. But we keyed on their two best shooters, 10 and 11, and worked all week trying not to give them open looks. I was also worried about their man offense because they set so many ball screens, and so I thought, well, we wouldn't have to worry about the ball screens and all the tough stuff to guard in man if we could get the matchup done, and I tried to motivate the team that way, and saying if we can get out on the shooters and really know the personnel, which was one of our goals tonight, knowing the personnel really well I thought helped us be able to stay in the matchup so long in the game. They also had not played against any zone. We watched every game film they've played so far, and they had not much game experience against a zone. So that gave me the confidence to thionk that even thought they had good shooters, and I had a lot of respect for their shooting, we could play that. And I thought we did a good job knowing personnel.

The Press: What was the plan on Brooke today? To deny her the ball?

Coach Balcomb: No, we didn't deny her the ball until the second half. In the second half we face-guarded her and Page some and denied them the ball. But in the first half we really just wanted to concentrate on when she caught the ball not letting her beat us off the dribble, and, believe it or not, we were trying to force her baseline because she likes to dribble two dribbles to the middle and pull up and shoot, and we did let her dribble two dribbles in the middle and pull up, so that's why in the second half we tried to face guard and we decided to go and try to keep the ball out of her hands as much as possible. I think she's an excellent player, a very good player. I just thought we wanted to go straight matchup to see if we could contain her basically so she couldn't get the ball screens that she gets in the man and creates. So any time she got it, there was always person. If she beat one, there was always another person waiting to pick her up. A lot of times it would be a post player that she'd have to shoot up over.

The Press: Even though you had such a large lead, you still had two girls in foul trouble. Does that concern you at all?

Coach Balcomb: No. No, not really, other than that it's the same two that -- that's getting too consistent. You don't want to foul when you have a lead, and I know that some of our fouls weren't real smart fouls. But again we really tonight wanted to focus on what our positives were, other than the rebounding. I really didn't focus on those two. And it's really nice to see other players step up. The big concern is if it's a really close game, but since it wasn't, so it was good to see other combinations out there on the floor.

The Press: Coach, it seems like as the season progresses, that your team gets more and more easier and easier shots?

Coach Balcomb: Yes. Like today, we shot 62%. And that's because we're getting good looks. We're starting to understand. When you first start a whole new system, you're just trying to get to the right spot. Now we're trying to read the defense and actually do what we're supposed to do when we get to that spot and take advantage of the defense and do the things that we're teaching. So it takes a while to start clicking offensively and taking advantage of the defense.

The Press: Will you know that the offense is closer to where it neeeds to be when Chantelle gets more than five shots?

Coach Balcomb: She sat a lot tonight. She was in foul trouble. That has a lot to do with it.

The Press: How do you feel about some of your players coming off the bench and geting production out of them, like Abi the game before and Ashley tonight?

Coach Balcomb: Yeah, I think Ashley and Abi are doing a great job. Every night they're giving us more off the bench. I feel very confident putting them in, and they're in the rotation and playing more and more each game, and it's nice to be able to do that. As a coach, you want to have at least an eight-man rotation, and we're trying to get that eighth player, and as you saw tonight, we're trying to work Erica in there so Mac doesn't have to play 40 minutes every game and get that point guard rotation going a little bit.

Coach Balcomb left, then Vanderbilt's Jenni Benningfield and Ashley McElhiney took their turns.

The Press: Jenni, most of your shots last year were 3-point range. Do you feel like this system is kind of designed to you to finally unlease your off the dribble and inside shots?

Jenni: I don't think it's designed for me. My points have come from my teammates getting me ball in position to score. To use my strength, now I'm playing a 4, which is my natural position which I'm more comfortable with. I think that's all it is. Ashley's gotten me the ball in positions to score. My inside game is something that I've been working on, especially over the summer, knowing that I was going to move to a 4, which I haven't played in two years. So I think it's just a matter of getting in the flow of our offense and just executing and doing my role, whatever that is. If I score how many points, or none, it's just a matter of what the defense gives us, and I think that's whatt my teammates have done.

The Press: Ashley, can you talk about the flow in the first half when you came out and shot 70%? It seemed like wherever you went on the court, you could throw up a shot that goes in?

Ashley Mac: Well, it's pretty good. (laugh). No, we had very much respect for this team, Austin Peay. They've been playing very well, and I think us shooting well from the outside, and also inside, that just opened it up for us. That put us in position to be successful, and we did a great job executing and taking what they gave us. We had both inside and outside shots.

The Press: Can either one of you talk about the advantage they had on their offensive boards?

Jenni: Well, definitely a negative of the game. But again, this was an important game, and every game you have to have something to learn and grow on. There's a lot of things we're going to learn from this game, but most importantly, is the offensive rebounding. They're a very athletic team, and we've just got to improve on that, especially with the SEC coming up pretty soon. So it's something that we've got to realize and work that much harder because it's effort, and it's just a matter of doing it, and getting it done.

The Press: Ashley, can you elaborate on the job you did clamping down on their guards and how you managed to achieve that?

Ashley Mac: Well, that's been our focus when preparing for this team. They're their core players, 10 and 11. They're great players -- 3-point shooters and drivers, and we had to know where they were in every defense that we played tonight. And I think that each person that came off the bench, we knew where they were. There weren't too many shots that they got that were open looks. They made some good plays, but there was still someone in their face pretty much the entire forty minutes. Second half we threw something at them. We played a little triangle and 2, and I think it kind of got them flustered. They didn't know what we were playing, and I think that helped a lot.

The Press: Do you know what the technical foul was about?

Ashley Mac: I think after the shot was made, she pushed Chantelle in the back.

The Press: Jenni, could you talk in some specific ways about how the current coaches have helped you develop your game?

Jenni: All of our coaches, they're incredible. They all bring something to the table. I'm playing 4, and I haven't had that much experience with it the past couple of years. I was pretty rusty on little things, like positioning and angles and footwork and things like that, and I think all the coaches have helped me with that, Vicki and Steph more importantly because they're more the post coaches. They just kind of gave me the confidence that I know what to do and in the things they teach me. And I have confidence in them and what they're teaching me. It's an awesome feeling to know that the things that we execute over and over and over every day, and it works, and it's like the best feeling, and to see them on the sidelines jumping up and down. That makes all the hard work and everything -- such a wonderful feeling -- and it pays off. I think all the coaches have -- not just me, but everybody -- they all bring everything to the table, and it's just a matter of us being confident, making the effort, and using it because they know what they're talking about. They're great coaches. They've had the experience. It's a matter of us doing us.

The Press: Jenni, was the 4 more what you played in high school?

Jenni: Yeah, if I had to say one specific position, I'd say the 4. Yeah.

Jenni and Ashley Mac left the room, as Ashley Mac asked a friend, "Are you coming next weekend?" "To where?" "To Gleason!" -- making it pretty clear that she's excited about her homecoming game at UT-Martin, just up the road from her hometown of Gleason. Then Austin Peay coach and players entered.

The Press: Coach, what did they do especially in the first half to disrupt you?

Austin Peay Head Coach Susie Gardner: They run a matchup zone. We thought we were prepared for it, but it's pretty big. Sometimes they bring Anderson out on the wing, Benningfield, that disrupts our shooters. We've got some pretty good shooters, but it wasn't evident tonight. But when you have 6'6 coming at you, it kind of altered Page's shot. If you noticed, she was shooting it really really high, and I think that -- But it's a really good matchup zone, it's a really good defense, and when you don't face it every day, you have to spend extra time preparing for it.

The Press: Did you think that maybe the team was too eager there in the first half with the 3's?

Coach Gardner: No, we usually shoot the ball a lot better than we did, and what were we going to do? Pass it in to Gerlonda at 6'2 and have Chantelle standing right behind her? We knew we'd have to open it some by hitting some outside shots. And plus the shot clock started going down on us sometimes, too, and we had to take that shot.

The Press: Obviously one of the positives tonight was your offensive rebounding?

Coach Gardner: Well, one person. We missed a lot of shots. If you miss a lot of shots, you're going to have a lot of offensive rebounds, hopefully. If you look at Vanderbilt, they only had 9, but that's because they shot 62%. We talked about rebounding, because we thought when they're playing a matchup zone we thought we could sneak in from odd places, high post, maybe from the baseline we might get some. I think our players were a little frustrated with their shooting, so they knew to redeem themselves they needed to go to the glass.

The Press: Gerlonda, can you talk about playing against Chantelle, and maybe getting her frustrated in the first half?

Austin Peay junior forward Gerlonda Hardin: I don't know if I had her flustered. I'm pretty sure that getting into early foul trouble might have been an issue. But playing against her, she's one of the best in the country, and it's really a great opportunity. It was a great opportunity.

The Press: Brooke, they said that their whole game plan was to pretty much shut you and Page down. Was it frustrating to you not to get those open looks?

Austin Peay senior guard Brooke Armistead: No, in the first half, me and Page, we both had open looks, we just weren't knocking them down. In the second half, they really tightened their defense up, and I wasn't getting as good shots, but it wasn't that I really wasn't having open looks in the first half, I just wasn't knocking them down.

The Press: What does a game like this do for you guys? What does a game with Vanderbilt do with you early in the season?

Coach Gardner: We came in here pretty confident. We had just won the Missouri tournament, which was a great win for our program. We've had some big wins in our program. We've won some games perhaps we shouldn't have in the past. But I think it was also an eye-opening experience for some of our players. You watch Vanderbilt on TV or whatever -- I played in the SEC, so maybe I understand a little bit better, but I think sometimes our players need to understand that there is another level right there. And hopefully,we're not going to dwell on this at all. We're not even going to watch clips of this game. We're going to move for our next game before Christmas and hope we have a positive experience. I don't thionk we'll see a team of this caliber unless we get to the NCAA tournament. It was a game we felt like our program needed to schedule because of our in-state players. It brought some community interest, but at the same time, the outcome was not as respectable as I had hoped it would have been.

The Press: Gerlonda, inside even with Chantelle out, it seemed that like they were still really deep in the post, were you surprised that they were that deep?

Gerlonda: No, we pretty knew sizewise what we were looking at and preparing this week, so no, it wasn't a surprise. They're pretty solid in the post, and that's understandable for a team like Vanderbilt, so I was ready for it.

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