Women's Hoops: VU-MSU press conference

<i>After Vanderbilt's 78-75 loss to Mississippi State in Starkville, as usual, the players and the coaches met the press. First Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb took her turn answering questions.</i>

The Press: What were the differences down the stretch?

Coach Balcomb: I thinking being on the road is one of 'em I think it's tough on the road in a close game with the crowd. I felt like they really did a nice job. Their big players stepped us, and I think that's the toughest part. I'm really proud of our team's effort. I'm proud of the way we came out ready to play on the road in our first game in the SEC. The toughest thing to swallow is we let their two great players beat us, and we were trying to make someone else beat us.

The Press: You got a pretty good look at the end . .

Coach Balcomb: Yeah, and we haven't been in a close game all year, so I also was very pleased with our effort at the end as far as execution. We executed the play we wanted to run and got a good look. It just didn't go down.

The Press: Can you talk about Jenni Benningfield and her play when Chantelle was on the bench with foul trouble?

Coach Balcomb: Jenni did what she's been doing all year. She's been a low post presence for us all season, and I know that's been a particular improvement in her game and something that she's added, going into the post this season, and she's been a dominating rebounder for us, and I think she's also stepped out and shot the wide open 3 that we're looking for in transition. So I think she did what she's been doing every night, and she's been very very consistent for us.

The Press: Coach, you say you want to learn from your wins and learn from your losses. What do you think is the main thing you'll learn from this game?

Coach Balcomb: I think the biggest thing we want to learn is that every day preparation and improvement and confidence is so important. I felt like this was the first game-- I know we lost, but I felt like we made huge strides today as a team. And i think the team felt the same way. We were much more ready as far as effort, enthusiasm, and confidence, and we've been working on those things. We were right where we wanted to be on the road against a great team in conference. And I just think that we need to build on that.

The Press: Coach, after Hillary's 3 made it a 3-point game, was there any thought of a foul?

Coach Balcomb: No, what we wanted to do was trap right away and get the ball, at least try to get a trap. And we tried to do that off the sideline, too, and just didn't do a good job of it. We wanted to get the trap, and then if we didn't get the trap, to foul. But our traps had been effective pretty much during the game, I thought, and we wanted to continue to do that if we could.

The Press: It was a pretty big play when the ball got loose on the rebound with 12 seconds left. and went out of bounds. Obviously it makes a difference if you get the call.

Coach Balcomb: Yeah, that was a big play. That's why I said -- I dunno, it's just so hard to swallow, and it's just the whole dynamics of being on the road. And of course I have to be careful what I say.

The Press: Coach, what's your general impression of double fouls?

Coach Balcomb: (Rueful chuckle.) If that's a political way of asking me a question -- I just think that -- how can I politically say it? -- it's just -- not a cop out, but then you don't have to call it or upset either team, so you just call it, but it can make a huge effect. I'm not sure why there have been so many double fouls this year called this year, but we've had a lot of them. And that I can't answer. Tough question, Maurice.

The Press: What was your thought about Chantelle's last foul?

Coach Balcomb: Again, we're on the road, and I guess what you expect is what you expect. But I think they're all tough calls, close calls, and we just didn't get them down the stretch when we needed them. And that's going to happen on the road. You have to have a lead on the road and be able to protect it when those things happen. And that's what we talk about.

Coach Balcomb left the room, then Vanderbilt senior point guard Ashley McElhiney, senior center Chantelle Anderson, and junior forward Jenni Benningfield took their their turn.

The Press: Chantelle, what happened on your fifth foul?

Chantelle: That's a good question. She drove, and I was supposed to be helpside, so I started to rotate over, and then I moved out of the way because i realized I had four fouls, and he called me for it anyway. So that's what happened. I was trying to get out of the way, and I honestly don't think I touched her, but, hey, those are the kind of calls you get on the road. I need to not put myself in that position -- like the second foul I got after missing that easy shot was a stupid foul. I can prevent that -- or calls like that earlier.

The Press: Jenni, you've said that the team needs to learn something from every game, win or lose. What do you need to learn from this game?

Jenni: The first thing that comes to mind is to really execute what we've been practicing. There were times when we didn't execute our offense. And also, our checkout and rebounding was better today, but they also got rebounds at crucial times, and that's something we need to continue to get better because rebounding is important. There's offense, and there's defense, and defense wins games. So it's a little bit of both, a little of defense, a little bit of offense. We've just gotta go back and work on the things that we didn't do, but concentrate on the things we did good.

The Press: What are some of the things you did good?

Jenni: I think this week in getting ready for this game that every single person, from starter to everyone on the bench -- we all had enthusiasm, attitude, encouragement and confidence going into this, and I think that's something that we should be proud of and grow from. That's something that we need, and I think that was the difference in a lot of our games earlier in the season.

The Press: Mac, is this one of those games where a lot of wierd things happen . . . like the loose ball on the rebound?

Ashley Mac: The one where they called it our ball and then reversed it and called it their ball? We all thought it was our ball . . . but it did go their way. But there were so many other plays in the 40 minutes that we could have controlled. We had the ball in our hands, and we didn't get it done a couple of times. That's stuff we can control and get better at. We can't control what the refs are going to call. And we have to take the positives and build on it and also learn from the game and the kind of things we can get better at. This was the kind of game we haven't seen in 13 games, how many games we've played. . . . This was a pressure game, and we executed.

The Press: You got a pretty good shot there at the end.

Ashley Mac: Yeah, that was a pressure situation. We called a play, and we had 12 seconds to run it. Abi got a great look; it just didn't go down. That's going to happen sometimes. That's a positive that when you're under that much pressure to try to tie a game, and we still executed a play and got a good look.

The Press: Chantelle, you were matched up on Latoya quite a bit. Two All-Americans - Do you get caught up in you vs. her, her vs. you, that kind of thing?

Chantelle: No, I don't think I did at all, and I'm pretty sure that she wouldn't. It's a team game, and I had help on her. Hillary was on her a lot when we were playing our triangle and two defense. i was on her some, but . . . a player like that, you just try to contain 'em. There's a reason why she's a three-time, about to be four-time, Kodak All-American, and she showed that a lot tonight.

With no more questions for the players, they left to get ready to return home. Then Mississippi State Coach Sharon Fanning, freshman guard Doceide Warren, sophomore guard Tan White, and senior forward LaToya Thomas prepared to answer questions. However, it was time for the bus to depart for Nashville, so remembering the old adage, VandyMania had to settle for a thousand words.

* * * * *

VandyMania.com Top Stories