Women's Hoops: Post game press conference

<i>After Vanderbilt's 101-77 victory over UT-Martin Sunday afternoon, Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb, senior center Chantelle Anderson, and senior point guard Ashley McElhiney met the press. However, unlike press conferences held at Vanderbilt, all three of them were present at the same time.</i>

The Press: Okay, Miss Ashley, let's start with you. What was it like to come in here and see all the home folks?

Ashley Mac: It was fun. It kind of felt like high school again. I remember playing the sectionals here, and it kind of felt like that again. It was fun and exciting to bring my team here. We had a great time. They were all very nice to us. It was special.

The Press: What about your assist total? Is the record something you've been thinking about?

Ashley Mac: No, I'm not really a big stats person. It was exciting to break it, but obviously I had to have teammates to do it, and that's the reason I did it. I'm passing the ball to some great players, and they finish some tough shots a lot of times, and I guess the credit goes there. Without them, there's no way I could have got that.

The Press: Did this feel like a home game almost, with the support you got today?

Chantelle: Yeah, the crowd was really supportive. I noticed we got a lot of cheers when we ran out. It was great. It wasn't quite home because we didn't get sleep to in our own beds, but we got to go Ashley's house for dinner last night, pregame, and all the fans -- it was great.

The Press: Coach, could you talk about the difference between the first half and the second half?

Coach Balcomb: I think the tough part is when you get such a big lead and not getting complacent. I thought we struggled defensively at times in the second half and gave up too many easy baskets. I think we exchanged baskets too much once we got the big lead and that's something we've been working on. You've gotta make sure you play the same kind of second half, and I think especially right now at Christmas time right now that was tough for us, with a lot of other things going on . But we need this break, and we'll come back focused afterwards.

The Press: Ashley, you scored 11 points in the first half. Was that kind of a flash back to high school when you were actually a scorer?

Coach Balcomb: Yeah, I heard that you were a big scorer listening to the kids last night. I can't get her to shoot!

Ashley Mac: That's kind a change that I'm having to make personally, to look for my shot more, and compared to when I first got here, I'm looking for it more. I have a shot, I need to look for it when I'm open especially. It was nice to knock down shots in the first half.

Chantelle: Nice for us, too!

Ashley Mac: It opened up Chantelle.

The Press: You played a lot of zone tonight.

Coach Balcomb: We switched it up a lot tonight. We wanted to keep them off-guard and not keep playing the same thing because I think you have to keep people off their rhythm, and if you play the same defense all night eventually the offense is going to get in a rhythm and have a chance to beat it. So we tried to keep switching up our defenses.

The Press: I didn't see any presses tonight.

Coach Balcomb: We pressed 3/4 court a little bit and trapped a little bit and actually got a couple of turnovers off it, but we didn't do it a lot.

The Press: What about Ashley setting the record? You weren't here for all of them but . . .

Coach Balcomb: I don't know what she did before I got here. I'd never seen her before. (laughter) No, I saw her on tape quite a bit, I'd seen them on TV and we'd played against them, and I knew coming in that she was going to be a great leader. She was very tough to play against, so I knew she had a good sense of the game and court knowledge, and what's nice is that she's really adapted to what we're doing. I don't know how many assists she used to get a game, but she's doing exactly what I'm expecting. I like to have point guards that have 10 to 13 assists per game. The tough part is I'm also asking her to shoot it, too, so she has to be pretty active.

The Press: Are there many coaches that don't want a point guard that averages that? (laughter)

Coach Balcomb: I've just been lucky. I coached three point guards at Xavier and they were all first or second or third in the country in assists. I like to have point guards that distribute the ball and then hit the three when they're open or drive to the basket.

The Press: You tried to push the tempo early in the second half. What were you trying to accomplish there?

Coach Balcomb: We were trying to push tempo for the whole game. (chuckles ruefully) It only looked like it the first half and first part of the second, and that's not good. But we tried to push tempo, and we tried to keep them on their heels the whole game.

The Press: Were you mindful of them having played a triple overtime game yesterday? Did that work into your plans?

Coach Balcomb: Not at all. We knew they played last night, but it's kind of like a tournament. A lot of times you play back-to-back nights, and we knew with this big crowd, they'd be excited and be up, and to play an in-state team that's in the SEC, we knew they'd be up for us and this game and that the adrenaline would be flowing, so I didn't think their playing a long game last night would be a factor at all.

The Press: 77 points, Coach, isn't the kind of average you want to continue to allow on defense, is it?

Coach Balcomb: No, and that's what I was saying at the beginning. I think that's the most points we've given up all year. We became too complacent. We knew we could score, and then we didn't take care of business on the defensive end.

The Press: Chantelle and Ashley, there's been a lot of talk lately about getting ball in to Chantelle more. Did you have more success with that today?

Chantelle: I think that a lot of teams we've played have just packed it in, and they didn't, and so they seemed like they were trying to guard everybody, and so the post pass was open. Our guards got a lot of shots, too, and I think we took a lot of shots, and they were evenly balanced. But they didn't pack it in. They didn't have four to five people in the paint on any given possession, and so I think it was more open.

The Press: So it was more what they were giving you defensively rather than what you were doing offensively?

Chantelle: Yeah. Definitely. I mean, we're running the same things. When the defense takes away something, they're giving you something else. They weren't putting a lot of people in the paint. They decided to see what happens.

Coach Balcomb: We've been getting the ball inside, and if you look at our stats, most of our shots are coming from inside, just not as many to Chantelle, because Chantelle is getting a lot of respect that she deserves and has earned, and she's getting triple-teamed. Ashley Earley and Jenni Benningfield have had a field day, and a lot of that is because of Chantelle. Chantelle is opening other people up, also. Now, we're starting to hit some shots from other areas, and that opened up Chantelle. And that's what being a team is all about. If they key on certain people, those other people have to step up and open up other people. And in this particular game, it was vice versa, and that's kind of nice.

The Press: Chantelle, coming in, did you all think you'd be able to take advantage of their lack of size?

Chantelle: That's always a goal when you look at a team and they have one person over 6'1 or 6'2 or whatever. But we just knew we had to play our game and whatever they gave us, we were going to take. I remember at the beginning of the game, I said, "Throw it up, no one else can get it, but me." But other than that, no, not really. (Pause.) Coach did say, though, that we were going to be able to work it inside a lot.

The Press: Do you feel like you took advantage of that, their lack of size?
Coach Balcomb: Yes. I'd say we had at least five passes thrown to the back side of the zone that we got just because of the height advantage.

Chantelle: Hillary threw a real nice one.

The Press: Ashley, what was on the menu last night?

Chantelle: Ahhh. . . . .

The Press: Or Chantelle?

Chantelle: It was so good. SO good.

Ashley: For real??

The Press: Yep.

Coach Balcomb: Are you all done with me? (The Press gives a collective nod, and Coach Balcomb leaves the room.)

Ashley: Baked ham, pork tenderloin, corn, green beans, baked potato, salad, like cutup celery . . . pretty much everything.

Chantelle: Good desserts, banana pudding, cake -- ah, it was so good, chocolate cake. That was SO good.

Ashley Mac: Yep.

Chantelle: Oh, pregame today was great, too!

The Press: What was pregame today?

Ashley Mac: We had it at my aunt's house in Martin. We had three different pastas, fruit, rolls . .

Chantelle: . . . dip, yeah, it was really good, some good dessert we're about to eat now. (laughs)

* * * * *
After the press conference broke up, Ashley Mac stayed to talk on to the local press, while Chantelle signed autographs and posed for photographs with young fans. (Photos by Whitney D for VandyMania.)

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