Vanderbilt-Louisville press conference

<i>After Vanderbilt's 92-82 loss to the Louisville Cardinals Thursday night in Louisville, Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb, senior center Chantelle Anderson, and junior forward Jenni Benningfield answered questions from the press. First, Coach Balcomb took her turn at the podium.</i>

The Press: What are the similarities between this game and the game at TCU?

Coach Balcomb: There were a lot of similarities. Obviously, they're two Conference-USA teams who helped each other tremendously in their preparation. And I think we did a better job than we did at TCU, but we still have a lot of work to do. We did a better job at TCU defensively; tonight we couldn't stop them. We really struggled on the defensive end.

The Press: Coach, can you talk about the difference that Lori Nero makes for them? I know you faced them at Xavier.

Coach Balcomb: She makes a huge difference. You can see that on film. We knew coming in that they were a different team once they got her from watching the teams before her without her and then the teams after, We finally stopped watching the tapes before because they were totally different team once they got her. She opens up Nord a lot more. She opens up their shooters, and she opens up that drive because you have to spend so much time trying to cover Nero who can score at the low block and is very capable also at the high post. It makes a huge difference.

The Press: One of the points you talked about after the TCU game was the mentality that's needed to win on the road. How would you describe the mentality in tonight's game over the course of the game?

Coach Balcomb: It changed after halftime because it probably wasn't the nicest halftime we've had. We were better, but we're not where we need to be, obviously, yet mentally, attitude-wise.

The Press: Louisville wasn't as physical as either TCU or Charlotte?

Coach Balcomb: No. And as you can see, we scored 82 points. That wasn't the problem. The problem was the pressure to score every time down. Tonight they weren't as physical defensively and didn't take us out of our offense, so we could score, but we had a pressure of scoring. It was almost like we were trying to out-score them because we felt confident in our scoring. But that's a lot of pressure to have to be able to score every time down because they we couldn't stop them from scoring.

The Press: There were a lot of offensive fouls called on Vanderbilt tonight. What's the reason for that?

Coach Balcomb: I don't know. Our shooters won't shoot the ball. They're driving in with their heads down, and they're not drivers. We have to have more confidence in our outside shooting. They aren't even playing some of our guards, and we have to have that confidence to shoot the ball. And the ones that are being played have gotta be ready . . . and be a player and be ready to shoot it. And we didn't do that tonight.

The Press: How do you feel Jenni Benningfield is fitting in, playing more with her back to the basket?

Coach Balcomb: I think Jenni's adjusted really well to the change. She's adjusted well to all the changes we've made with her. She's extremely bright and intelligent, which has really helped her. She's also very open-minded to everything that we're teaching. I enjoy coaching her very much.

The Press: Coach, you talked about the defense. Had you foreseen this type of defensive effort coming?

Coach Balcomb: No, because our defense had been our biggest strength, so that was the biggest surprise to me. I thought we were ready defensively. We had done a good job and kept people to bad shooting percentages, and this team in the first half was shooting 62%, and that's a team that shoots like 44. So at halftime, I just got on them about their defensive intensity and defensive effort and their rebounding.

The Press: Did you feel that picked up in the second half?

Coach Balcomb: Yeah, we made it a game in the second half, but again, we can't put ourselves in that position that we put ourselves in on the road against a good team.

Coach Balcomb left the room, then senior center Chantelle Anderson and junior forward Jenni Benningfield came in. Tammy Boclair asked the press to ask Jenni questions first so that she could go back out to visit with friends and family who came to the game.

The Press: Jenni, how did it feel to come home?

Jenni: Well, it would have been a lot better if we had won. I mean, it was very nice to come home and have a lot of support, a lot of friends and family and people I haven't seen in a long time, so I really appreciate them coming out and showing their support for me and for Vanderbilt. I just wish I could have given them a little something better to give back to them. But it was nice to come back.

The Press: Did it make you feel good that a lot of people came out?

Jenni: Yeah, that made me feel good that a lot of people support me and took the time out to come out and see me play.

The Press: What as the difference between this year and last year in playing Louisville?

Jenni: They had a lot more confidence this year. Like the paper said, they had a different mind set and so did we, because we didn't come out to play tonight. They're a totally different team this year, and they just came out and they were prepared. We had everything prepared for us. It wasn't the coaches, it's not anybody else, it's the team. We had everthing out in front of us, and we just didn't use any of it tonight.

The Press: How do you like the changes the coaches brought in this year. You're playing a lot more with your back to the basket.

Jenni: Four is a more comfortable position for me. Like I said, the coaches have brought in -- they've all brought in different things. They've given a lot to us on the table, and we've learned a lot from them. They're doing a great job, and we're enjoying them and learning something from them every day. Again, it's not the coaches. It's us. We've just got to come out every -- it goes back to practice. We've just gotta go to every practice and every game and come out fired up and effort, and we really didn't have any of that tonight.

The Press: Does that surprise you any? You'd think that you'd be more focused after the loss at TCU.

Jenni: After the TCU game we were all very upset about it. We came out at home -- it's easy to play at home -- we came out fired up and played well. I don't know what the problem was tonight. It was our first test after that game, and we didn't do anything that we're capable of doing, and it's just very very frustrating, very frustrating. So we just have to go back and try to find out what we don't have and go from there.

With no more questions for Jenni, she left the room, and Tammy Boclair announced that Ashley McElhiney had set the Vanderbilt record for assists in a game with 17. Then Chantelle took her turn at the podium to answer questions.

The Press: Can you talk about U of L this year and last year?

Chantelle: You have to give it to this team. They played really well. They played with a lot of heart, a lot of effort. They were very confident. They were everything that we were not tonight. They did all the things that it takes to win. Obviously.

The Press: How big of a difference does Lori Nero make?

Chantelle: Lori's a great player. She was great at Auburn. I played against her at Auburn. She's tough, and I'm sure she makes a huge difference.

The Press: For you, how much did it take you out of your game, picking up the two fouls early?

Chantelle: It's frustrating. (Pauses) Hmm. Tammy told me to good, so, how can I put this? Um. Post play is physical. Post players have to be allowed to play, and it's frustrating when certain things are called, and certain things are let go, and I can't help my team on the bench. Of course that is frustrating. And you saw what happened in the second half when I was on the court. I mean, that's just part of life, I guess. Obviously it's frustrating, and I'm not happy with it.

The Press: What's going on on the road?

Chantelle: That's a good question. I really don't know. It takes heart. It takes determination, and it takes effort. It is easy to win at home, and it is hard to win on the road. And obviously we do not have the heart necessary right now to win on the road, and that is very frustrating and really upsetting. And, I don't know, some people have it, some people have a chip on their shoulders, some people come in with confidence, some people have the attitude "Look, you're not going to beat me, you aren't going to guard me" and some people don't. And we're not going to win in tough games on the road until every person on our team comes in with that attitude and that mentality.

The Press: Chantelle, what was halftime like?

Chantelle: Did you ask Coach that question?

The Press: She mentioned it.

Chantelle: What did she say? (Press corps laughs)

The Press: She said something along the lines that it was not the most pleasant halftime ever.

Chantelle: I'd agree with her. (Press corps laughs)
The Press: Is that all we're going to get?

Chantelle: Yeah. (Pause)She basically covered everything I just covered right now. Jenni said it when she said the coaches have given us all the tools. It's not about coaching. It's not about x's and o's. It's not about talent. It's not about any of those things. It's about hustle, effort, determination and confidence. Coaches can't coach that. So she really didn't have a whole lot she could say at halftime, because what she can coach wasn't the problem. What she can't coach, that's our problem, and that's what was wrong. (Pause.) All night.

The Press: Chantelle, with all due respect to TCU and Louisville, when you lose to two middle of the road teams out of the conference, does that concern you when you start thinking about Mississippi State and beyond?

Chantelle: The SEC is a dogfight every night. And when we can't win on the road against teams that aren't ranked -- with all due respect, Louisville played a great game -- but against teams that aren't ranked, yes, it does kind of concern me. What are we going to do in the SEC when we have six or seven teams ranked in the Top 25? So, yeah, that is a concern because I know what the SEC is all about. I've played in it for three years, and it's tough. (Pause.) We're obviously going to have to fix something. (Pause.) Shoot, we need to fix something before we go on the road again. Forget the SEC, we're trying to win now, too. Obviously, it's not working.

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