Women's Hoops: LSU press conference

<i>After Vanderbilt's 70-59 loss to the LSU Lady Tigers in Baton Rouge on Sunday afternoon, Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb and several Vanderbilt players answered questions from the press. First, Coach Balcomb took her turn.</i>

The Press: What happened to the shooting percentage in the second half? What did they do different defensively?

Coach Balcomb: They turned up the pressure. They started trapping, and we missed easy shots and easy layups and wide open 3's and just didn't knock them down. I think their pressure was very physical all game, and they had depth than we had. I think we tired, and that was noticeable in our shots, but also the pressure makes you go fast, and then we rushed our shots, and we also turned the ball over a ton also, and that created the mistakes that we made.

The Press: How much different is LSU since you came here last year? How much have they improved?

Coach Balcomb: I didn't come here last year.

The Press: The team -- how much did LSU improve since you came here last year -- Vanderbilt?

Coach Balcomb: I have no idea.

The Press: How much did the complexion of the game play when Jenni picked up her 4th foul?

Coach Balcomb: I think that was a really tough sequence there. We missed an open layup down at one end and then went down there and fouled and scored getting the three-point play. And we didn't check out, and we fouled again, and that put Jenni on the bench. I think that was a huge turning point in the second half and put us really back on our heels. We just didn't play smart at that point.

The Press: Was Ashley's absence really felt in this game?

Coach Balcomb: Yes, when you have no backup point guard but a walk-on, it's very noticeable. That's why every team's pressing us. We've been working on our press breaker and having other people trying to break the press by committee because we're talking about a point guard walk-on that had no experience whatsoever until Kentucky and Arkansas game And then Hillary Hager's been a 3-guard. She's became our third point guard and had not played any point guard until the Kentucky game and just started learning all the plays. Same thing with Ashley Earley being a guard. We've had to spend the last five days just trying to make everybody learn more positions because of our lack of depth and with Ashley McElhiney out trying to pick up the slack for her.

The Press: Coach, what did they do different from Arkansas?

Coach Balcomb: What did they do different than Arkansas? (Pause.) They were at home. (Chuckles.) I think that was a big factor. It was a tremendous crowd and a different environment. When we got ahead and Arkansas tired, and they made a run, we were able to hold them off and then get right back up. And when you have that-- I'm playing a lot of people a lot of minutes, and so you're not as tired at home when the crowd is screaming and hollering, you don't even notice you're tired. And then here when we got the lead, and they kept coming back at us, I think the crowd energized them. And it's very physical, like I said, we're not playing a lot of people, and I think being at your home court, you're more confident in your shots, you're more confident overall, and I think that has a big difference.

The Press: Coach, did it take Mac's going down to re-discover your inside game?

Coach Balcomb: No, it has nothing to do with that. It has something do with teams playing us man to man, instead of packing it in in a zone, which is what we saw until we played in the SEC. It's like two different seasons. Every team played us zone all year, just packed it in, or box in one on Chantelle, and then Jenni started scoring a lot, so now people can't do that. Ever since we started the SEC, it's been a new season.. The first team played us man, and every team has played us man. They're so much more athletic than we are, so that's what people are going to play us in this league. But it's been like two opposite seasons. So that's why everybody says, well, all of a sudden you're not taking 3-point shots . Well, they're not packing it in a zone doubling and tripling Chantelle and Jenni anymore and giving us wide-open three's. They're pressuring our guards, forcing them to put it on the floor and doubling and trapping and trying to get us out of our halfcourt man offense. It's very different. Like I said, two seasons offensively.

The Press: Siemone goes for 21 points. What problem did she present for you?

Coach Balcomb: The biggest problem she presents is she's a tremdnous player, can put it on the floor and can spot up and hit, so you can't play her just as a driver or a shooter. So I think the tough part is that as a defense you want to take her strength away and her strength is that one spot on the floor, and we never took it away, and she probably scored from that same spot all night. That's our fault defensively. We should have tried to take her out of where her favorite place was on the floor. But we didn't do that.

Coach Balcomb left the room, and Vanderbilt senior center Chantelle Anderson, junior forward Jenni Benningfield, and junior guard Hillary Hager entered to take their turn answering questions.

The Press: Can you talk about defensive pressure late in the game?

Hillary: Yeah, I don't know how much time was left, maybe about eight minutes,they came out and pressured us . . . and we just didn't respond to it, I felt.

Jenni: I think everybody on the court -- we all had to work together to get the ball down the floor. They had good pressure, and we've been working on it this week. We had turns where one possession we would all come to the ball, and we had no trouble with the press, and the next possession a couple of us wouldn't, couldn't get open and come to the ball and help the guards out, and that kind of turned the game around.

Chantelle: They are so athletic. You have to take your time. They have great athleticism, and against teams like that, you have to take your time and you have to ball fake and keep your composure, and we didn't do that.

The Press: When you go back into the gym, what will you be working on?

Chantelle: Did you ask coach that? (Laughs.) Well, definitely we'll be working on the press breaker.

Jenni: I'd have to say, to keep our confidence. Every game we have to learn from and keep our confidence and definitely focus on the things that we did wrong to get better, but also focus on the things we did well. I mean, for a good portion of the game we were winning, and we just have to keep that in mind and see what we did right for those minutes and really focus on that, too. We have Auburn and then Tennessee -- I mean, every game in the SEC is big. We all know that. So it's definitely important to keep our confidence every game.

Chantelle: Free throws, layups.

The Press: Chantelle, you've been playing against them for four years. Is this a different team than you've seen the last three years?

Chantelle: A little bit. Siemone Augustus definitely does make a difference. Yeah, it's pretty much the same team. Aishya Smith has made herself more of a threat by developing more of an outside shot. She can shoot the three now. I don't know if she could before, but that really wasn't on the scouting report before, whereas now she's a 3-point threat. She can shoot the high post jumper and drive, which makes her a bigger threat, so she's improved, added stuff to her game. Of course, Siemone Augustus -- amazing. She's going to be amazing. She had 21 playing like a freshman. I can hardly wait to see her in-- maybe even next year or the end of this year. She's amazing. She definitely adds--

The Press: It was a tough assignment for you in that part of the zone, wasn't it?

Chantelle: Tell me about it! But I give my team total credit. We played a great game, we worked so hard, and I think the thing that killed us was that we didn't handle the pressure well at all.

The Press: Anything they did to you the last 11 minutes, you had some shots that didn't go in -- was it just doubling you better?

Chantelle: On defense? I know they doubled me from the middle, and so I know I was drop-stepping baseline and kicking corner a lot, and on other nights a lot of those shots would fall for us, and they didn't tonight. I don't think it was anything different that teams have done to me in the past, but the shots just weren't going in.

The Press: How much difference did it make when Jenni went to the bench in foul trouble?

Chantelle: Well, Jenni is a huge part of our team. She's really stepped up this year, and she's playing even better, better and better every game. It's never good when one of your starters goes to the bench. I think Ashley came in and she's been hitting the boards well and stuff like that, but Jenni gives us that extra intangible -- she can hit the three, hit the 15-footer, can post up, and a great high-low passer. So of course when she's not in the game, we have to look somewhere else for that.

The Vandy players left, and the LSU players came in. However, VandyMania had to catch a plane and was therefore unable to stay for that portion of the press conference.

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