Women's Hoops:Holy Cross postgame press conference

After Vanderbilt's 86-54 victory over Holy Cross Crusaders, Vanderbilt senior center Chantelle Anderson, senior point guard Ashley McElhiney, sophomore guard Abi Ramsey, Head Coach Melanie Balcomb, and Holy Cross Head Coach Bill Gibbons met the press.

Usually Coach Balcomb answers question first, but the players came first today so that they could join the rest of the team at an autograph session in the lobby as part of Fan Appreciation Day.

The Press: Chantelle, obviously Holy Cross isn't Louisville, but it's like Vandy is two different teams . . .?

Chantelle: Well, you said it. We have been two different teams at home and one the road. No question. But you're right wasn't as talented as Louisville, but we were a different team, too. I can say that every home game so far and every road game, we have been two different teams. We have to fix that. I said it after the Louisville game, and I'll say it after this one, too. Every test we've come across, we've failed on the road. And we have to fix it. This one feels good, but we've got another one-- TWO other ones. Our next two games are on the road.

The Press: Ashley, that's not really anything new, is it?

Ashley Mac: The struggle on the road? We're not really thinking about that? We have a whole new system right now, and we're moving forward. You know, like we can't really look at what happened with the game at Louisville. It's over. It's done with. We've got a win today. We're leaving in the morning. We're going to get a win on Monday. That has to be our mentality from here on out. Every road game has to be a home game. And it's up to us as a team to get that enthusiasm and create that environment for ourselves.

The Press: How important is it to correct that before you go on the road in the SEC?

The Press: It's live or die for our season. It's important for our season. If we don't win on the road, our season's over early. If we do, we play as long as we want. End of story. It's crucial that we win on the road.

The Press: Is it another level, though?

Chantelle: Oh, definitely. Definitely. We're not gonna-- (Tennesseasn beat reporter Maurice Patton's cell phone rings.) -- Gosh, Maurice! (with mock exasperation; audience and Chantelle laugh) I'm just kidding. Just kidding! (More laughter.) I mean, the SEC is the toughest conference in America, so, yeah, it's going to be a different level, and it's going to be even harder to win on the road because they're more talented; they're better teams. And then when you're on the road, it's even harder.

The Press: Abi, a few games ago you talked aabout the advantages of coming off the bench. Today you started. Can you talk about the difference?

Abi: Before the game, Coach talked to me, told me I'd be starting. She said, you know you've gotten really comfortable having [Assistant Coach] Kristin [Schneider] right there and talking to her and getting to see what Tia and Hillary are doing while you're out here, so I need you to take that on the floor tonight tonight, just step up with that confidence. The past couple of games I've gotten my confidence up, and I think it was the past three or four games just gradual and got me in to starting. I came out kind of early in the first half because I noticed that it was a factor for me, that I didn't have Kristin there, but I think it's going to be a gradual process.

The Press: Kristin is the coach you most talk to on the bench?

Abi: She's the wing coach, the guard coach. Every game I sit right beside her, and we discuss and watch what other players do.

The Press: Chantelle, you seemed to find shots on different parts of the floor. You even had one off the dribble--

Chantelle: --thankfully that one went in.

The Press: --Are you finding yourself more comfortable with where you need to be on the floor and where your shots are going to be?

Chantelle: Yeah, I think the past couple of games I've been getting more comfortable in the offense and finding my shots. We've said all along that it was going to be a process and take time in the new offense to find where my shots are going to come. My teammates have done a great job of being patient with me and helping me get the ball in places where I need to. I've been getting more high post shots, I just haven't been making them. I made them today. I've been shooting more, so hopefully I'm going to keep shooting and hopefully I'll be able to make more of them.

The Press: Abi, do you expect to shoot better at home than on the road.

Abi: I should. Today was pretty bad. But yeah, I should, just because that's where I practice every day. That is my home, that hoop.

The Press: Chantelle, before you came here, Coach Foster said you're ambidextrous. Looking at the long lines of people with Chantelle Anderson growth charts waiting for autographs, I wonder if you sign autographs with both hands?

Chantelle: No, no, no. I write and eat left-handed. And I shoot right-handed. But I would rather turn left-handed-- turn and shoot left-handed with my back to the basket, but I go both ways. Yeah, I'm weird.

The Press: Would you have been less happy if Chantelle poster day was less of a success, as far as a victory goes?

Chantelle: Yeah, just because we all have to go and sign autographs after this, and I would have been mad if we had lost and we had to see all those fans and look them in the face, and be like "Oh, good game!" "Yeah, it wasn't, but thanks".

The Press: What was it like seeing so many people out there for a game?

Ashley Mac: Great. To look out there and see the first, the second and people in the third level. It means so much. Believe it or not, we feed off that. A home game you want a home advantage, and today we had it. It was loud at times, and in the huddle, Coach had to bring us all in close together because we couldn't hear. That's how it's supposed to be at home.

The Press: There wasn't even any orange in the upper deck.

Ashley Mac: Nice.

Chantelle: That's what I'm talking about.

The Press: Given everything that's happened the last couple of road games, how important was it to come in and put your foot on Holy Cross's neck?

Chantelle: Well, we've been playing well at home. It was important just for a confidence level, and to try to get a winning streak going. Every game is important, and you want to win every game. So it was important on that, but our next game I think is even more important so we don't get into the mindset, like "Oh no, we have to go on the road again!" We have to be excited to go on the road and step up to the challenge. It was important, but the next game's more important.

The Press: At this point in the season, how comfortable are you with the system?

Ashley Mac: We're scoring high numbers. We did it at Louisville, and we still got beat. I think offensively you can tell that we're more comfortable. People are more comfortable in their new spots and new positions, and we'vre figuring out where the shots are coming. I think it's just going to keep improving, practice after practice, game after game. Defensively is where we've got to step it up. We can score all we want, but if we can't stop, it's not going to matter. We have to have a stopping mentality every possession, every game.

The players leave to sign autographs, and Coach Balcomb takes over.

The Press: Talk about the difference, is it as simple as being home and on the road?

Coach Balcomb: We're a very different team at home right now, and that's not a good thing . But I think we need these games for confidence, and a lot of it is confidence, and when a team doesn't play on the road, usually it's because they're not confident, so they're better when they're in a comfort level, and they're very comfortable here and that really helps their confidence. We did some things tonight that we work on every day in practice but haven't been able to do in a game yet, so I think maybe this game we can carry over enough confidence into our next road game, and we need to get a good win on the road. I've been saying that for a while, but it's still true.

The Press: Do you think that the team made the defensive strides here that will carry over to Duquesne?

Coach Balcomb: Yeah, I think so. Again, this is a team that we didn't match up well with. They were pretty much all guards. They didn't have a strong post player. They had a great player who is a forward, but she really likes to play on the perimeter. So we had to get our matchup and our traps, and we had to do a good job, or we would have been forced to go man, which we didn't want to do. We didn't want Chantelle and Jenni and Ashley to try guard players on the perimeter. So we told them they really needed to take care of business in the zone so that we didn't have to go and have mismatch situations, and I think that was motivating for them. I think they like to play the zone. I think they're getting better at it.

The Press: Coach, where would you see your progress. You're about at the mid-term of the season. What kind of grade would you give on offense and defense?

Coach Balcomb: It's really tough to guage right now because we're like two different teams home and away, but the other issue is that we've played the better teams on the road. That's what's making it very tough to guage right now. When you look at the schedule that I inherited when I came, I saw all these tough games, and every one said "at so-and-so." You'd rather play early on with a new team and new system, you'd rather play those tough games home, and if we had done that we could see really where we're at, but we've played them on the road, and that's made it even tougher. Yes, I think our Louisville game was better than our TCU game, so I think we're improving. Believe it or not I think we're getting better, but it's hard to guage because of the way the schedule is with the opponents.

The Press: Will you be able to tell whether you got better from Louisville to today to Monday against teams that maybe aren't as good as Louisville?

Coach Balcomb: The level of competitiveness of the opponent is really what's making this all hard to tell and where the games are being played, and the other problem is we're playing 5 games in 10 days. You don't have a lot of time in practice to get better, so everything I'm watching on film that I want to fix, I can't fix it in a day practice because the next day, they've just played. That's usually your day off, so we either travel and practice or just practice, and all we're doing is preparing for the next team. So you're going over Holy Cross, you're going over Louisville, you're going over UNC-Charlotte. The Louisville game they had four days to prepare for us, and we had one day that's normally our day off. So we couldn't try to fix-- You want at least a day or two to fix the things you see-- we would watch film, but they physically couldn't fix those things.

So that's the tough part is -- I want to fix things, I want to add things. We can't. We have to just prepare. You can maybe fix a little and go over a couple of things, but we're also not deep, so we're playing a lot people a lot of minutes, and you don't want to practice long either. You want to keep them off their legs. They're in a stretch. They needed a day off, and they haven't been able to have it. Our legs looked very tired at Louisville. You travel three days to play one game at TCU, you travel three days to play one game at Louisville, and you have no days to prepare, and those teams had days to prepare for us. And Louisville was very prepared for us.

The Press: If the players had been in the system for a while would that make it easier?

Coach Balcomb: Much easier. That's a great point. If these players knew everything we're already teaching, we'd have so much stuff in by now, and we'd be better at the things we're doing. Yes, that makes it extremely difficult for a new coach to inherit a schedule of that demand. When I say it, I was like, "Hoo boy." We just call it "The Swing", and we just want to get through The Swing with a decent record.

The Press: So then regardless of what happened today or monday, will you still be concerned about what happened at Louisville until after Starkville?

Coach Balcomb: Yeah, we'll still be concerned about what happened at TCU and Louisville and still be working on those things.

The Press: At what point do you think you'll get to in the season, where you won't be saying what you're saying now? Is that a season long process?

Coach Balcomb: Yeah, I don't know if it'll happen this year, but it'll be nice if it does. I just think there's so much more time to prepare once we get to the SEC, and I'm looking forward to that.

The Press: You've talked about the need for better rebounding and checking out, and the stat sheet says they had 35 rebounds and we had 27. Is that a concern?

Coach Balcomb: Yes. Today that's the biggest thing. We want to learn from a win or loss, and I think tonight that's the biggest we learn from. And that's all we worked on yesterday -- checking out. And we really need to do a better job checking out in our matchup zone. They had 11 boards offensively at halftime, and we talked about it at halftime. I think sometimes it's a statistic that's misleading since we shot 58% and they shot 34%. They're going to have a lot more misses. I think our defense did a good job making them shoot poorly, so they had a lot more misses than we did, and we didn't miss a lot so we only had 7 offensive boards. But that's another area we're working on. We need to get more offensive boards. Rebounding in general needs to get better.

The Press: Can you see how this could be a home court advantage?

Coach Balcomb: This was a great crowd tonight. This was the first time I had seen Memorial Gym with the atmosphere that really makes a difference in the game. And I thought they were very involved in the game and very loud, and I was very pleased that it was an offensive game because when you get a crowd like this, you want people to come back. You want to impress them. You want it to be exciting, so I think they got to see what the atmosphere could be like, and it's a fun atmosphere, but they also got to see how offensive-oriented-- we scored 86 points, and we shot the ball well, and people like to see that exciting brand of basketball, and I think it was. We're hoping they keep coming back.

The Press: 24 three's, 57 shots, is that about the kind of breakdown that you want to see?

Coach Balcomb: It's going to depend on what people do to us. In transition, where we scored a lot of points, they packed it in, and didn't come out and match up with our guards. In halfcourt, they played a zone and a sagging man. They did not pressure us at all. They let our guards do whatever they want. We've seen that combination -- um, what are we, 9-3? -- 12 times, where it's either a zone -- and we got good at zone because we had played eight games of zone, other than TCU, so now what the people are doing is playing a sagging man, where they just sag off our guards and pack it in, but it's a man-to-man.

. . . . And then we went to TCU, and that was the first time our players had run the system man to man in a tough situation. So I think we're getting more comfortable and if we get good at this and keep shooting 58%, somebody else is going to try something else. And I assume in the SEC it's going to be very different. They're going to be so athletic. They're going to pressure us. The first couple of games that's going to be the first time we've seen that defense, which is probably hopefully going to be to our advantage anyway. These teams are choosing what they think would be the best way to pack it in and shut down Chantelle, and she's our strength. So I think in the SEC it might be a positive difference, but I don't know, again, it's my first year in the league and we can only guess at this point what people are going to see on film and decide to do.

With all questions answered, Coach Balcomb left, and then Coach Gibbons took his turn.

The Press: Coach, first of all, that must have been about the quietest technical that's ever been given.

Coach Gibbons: Yeah. I don't want to talk about that. I still can't figure that out. She said, "Do you want a technical?" I said, "No, no, no. I'm just trying to stand up for my kids. They're giving blood out there," and the next thing I knew, after the timeout I had one. But I don't want to talk about that.

The general comments on the game are that we played UConn last year when they were coming off a loss for them, which was like a 15-point win on the road with that team at Miami. They played their worst game in two years, and Geno said that in the newspaper. And my comment was that the only thing worse than playing UConn at UConn was playing UConn off their worst game of the year at UConn. And we had a tough game against Northeastern Tuesday night, and as soon as my assistant called me and said, Vanderbilt lost to Louisville, I said, "uh oh" because, again, the only thing worse than playing a team like Vanderbilt at Vanderbilt is them coming off a loss. So I tried to psychologically play it to me team that they were down and had lost two out of three and were struggling, but I knew in my mind that they'd be very focused and play a terrific game.

I really don't think my kids played badly. I thought we out-rebounded them, we out-hustled them, we out-scrapped them. I thought my bench was terrific. They just made shots, and we missed shots. A lot of that was their defense and stuff, too. But as a coach, it's tough to be disappointed when your kids give you blood and give you guts and give you heart, and the other team is just better that night, and I thought that's what happened today. We just ran into a buzz saw and played them at the wrong time in the wrong spot.

The other thing I said in the locker room was like deja vu. Seven years ago, when my assistant coach Anna Kinne was a freshman, we played down here with one of my best teams ever and lost 80-50. We played a similar type of game, and went on to win 14 in a row and go 24 and 3 and go to the NCAA tournament. So I'm hoping for deja vu all over again, but it's my job as a coach to keep the girls up, but I thought if we gave up, if our bench wasn't into it, if we stopped scrapping, and if we stopped hustling and had our heads down, and I think a lot of teams get beat by 50 in a game like that, then I think that's a horse of a different color and I'm really saying back to the drawing board and it was a bad game to schedule. Conversely, if we build on this, there is no one in our league anywhere near as good. We've got Colorado State, a great team, on Thursday then we start our league at home. So I still think it's going to make us better, as much as it stinks . . . and that's why I scheduled this team. Four of our five losses have come to top 20 teams. I still think it's going to make us better for our league, and our league is our ticket to the NCAAs.

The Press: Can you talk about your approach defensively?

Coach Gibbons: Well, defensively, we wanted to try to disguise things and keep them off balance. The thing with a team like this is you pick your poison. We chose to try to shut down Anderson and Benningfield inside and pack it in and make them hit from outside, and they did that. And again, the other thing, I don't think they shot it well from three the other night, so that's the law of averages, too. I wish they had shot lights out the other night and won by 25 and then maybe tonight they're missing those shots, and we're stil in the game. So, we can't play a man-to-man, they were too big and strong, so we tried to junk up the zones. But our philosophy was let's give them the outside shot and hope that they're missing it. Unfortunately, they were making it. So that was our philosophy. We had done that against UConn and against BC and against TCU, and fortunately they were missing shots, and we stayed in the game. But we tried to control tempo a little more against those teams. I didn't think we could control tempo against Vanderbilt because of their pressure defense, and I thought that made us hurry some shots and rush some shots, especially in the first half.

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