The Press: Coach, had you expected them to be that good or that proficient a 3-point shooting team?
Coach Balcomb: I was hoping they wouldn't be tonight. I knew that their key 3-point shooters were Lawson and Zolman and Jackson off the bench, and those were the two we were trying to make sure we got out on, and those are the two that really hurt us.
The Press: Was fatigue a factor? You guys spent a lot of energy when you made your run, did they get tired?
Coach Balcomb: I don't think we got tired. I think it's tough because we don't have a lot of depth, and obviously you saw Chantelle get hurt and Mac was hurt and wasn't 100%, and they both played almost 40 minutes. So in this kind of game, though you -- I was proud of how they played through it; they both played in pain and played through it, but the depth they have where they just keep coming at you. I think we showed in the first 10 minutes what we could do, but we got a lot of points off our defense and off all the energy we had and then we didn't maintain that intensity on defense and then we continued to just score. It was like we were trying to out-score them. We needed to shut them down, and we didn't.
The Press: How much difference did the injury to Chantelle make? How much was it bothering her and what did she not do as well?
Coach Balcomb: Number one, I think the biggest problem was it hurt our running game. Believe it or not, as you saw, we got shots in transition in the first ten minutes. We do run, and Chantelle is a very good runner. We didn't get any looks in transition after that. That really hurt us as far as her running the floor. That was probably the biggest thing, and defensively, getting out to the corners on their three's in the bottom of the zone.
The Press: Chantelle gets 21, Mac gets 16, nobody else in double figures, is that a problem? Not getting looks from other people?
Coach Balcomb: I don't think offense was really our problem. I thought when we executed, we got great shots. This is a great shot-blocking team, a very very athletic team. They go to get rebounds and they go to block shots and their hand is at the rim. We don't go against that every day. We don't have that sitting on the bench to go against. So that makes it very difficult as far as an intimidation factor early like with Ashley Earley inside and Jenni Benningfield inside. We didn't get the production from them that we usually do because of the fear of getting their shot blocked and fading and not going strong the way they should have.
The Press: Coach, what varieties of defense did you use in the second half?
Coach Balcomb: There weren't a lot we could use against them, because we don't matchup athletically, and with Mac's ankle and Chantelle's foot, there's nobody Mac can guard at that point, so you have to stay in zone, but they're beating you on 3's. So we tried to just extend the zone out. We played more 3-2; we had played a lot of 2-3, and we extended and played the 3-2 to try to match up more with the shooters and get out. And we did go a little man just to try to throw them off, to get them out of sync when it became the Zolman show for a while. But again they scored easily because we didn't match up with them in man. And then at the end we just tried to use our 2-2-1 press. And again, with lack of depth quickness, this is not a team you can really press with. But you have to some presses to maybe-- and some traps, we did some halfcourt traps out of our zone also to try to get them out of sync; they were so in rhythm and on defensively.
The Press: Coach, it looked like this game might have been a game made for Tia Battle, but I don't think she played the last 15 minutes or so.
Coach Balcomb: We needed some outside shooting; they really started packing it in, and when we got down, I went to Abi for her 3-point shooting, and she hit some 3's. And Tia in the second half wasn't giving us the defense that she was in the first half. I don't know if she tired, but she was not giving that defense, and if she's not giving us the defensive intensity, getting steals and getting layups, and doing the things that she gives which is her role, then you have to go with a 3-point shooter because you're down, and that was my decision with that.
The Press: Was this Tennessee more versatile than some you've seen in the past?
Coach Balcomb: I think it's the deepest Tennessee team I've ever seen. I know when I was doing the personnel in the pregame with my players, their second five could start for most SEC teams we've gone against. They have incredible depth. Pat is an incredible recruiter, and has signed probably the top five players in the last three years, so you know every player as a coach. I don't care where you've been coaching at. These are household names you've watched for four years and just dreamed about signing, and she signs so many of them. So They have so much depth. I think this is one of the deepest teams that I've seen her have.
The Press: Does it make it easy for someone like Zolman to come in because she doesn't have to carry the load?
Coach Balcomb: Yeah, and again, Zolman's a great player, and she just turned it on, and the next night, it's going to be another player. All their players have those capabilities.
The Press: Coach, how much did you know about her coming in?
Coach Balcomb: Zolman? Oh, I coached in Cincinnati, she played in Indiana, so I've watched her for years, and, like I said, dreamed about coaching those kind of kids. And she committed to Tennessee very early; I think it was her sophomore year. It was her dream to go Tennessee, and as soon as she had that opportunity-- They've built a program that kids just dream to go to play for, and there's not much you can do.
The Press: Melanie, this is your first exposure to a UT-Vandy game. What's your response to the atmosphere?
Coach Balcomb: To be honest with you, I was proud of the crowd that we had. I've had Tennessee games before, and I've seen a ton on TV and I know the kind of crowd they can bring, and I expected a lot of orange. But a lot of the media told me we might be the team that gets boo'ed on our home court, really kind of painting an ugly picture for me. So to be honest, when I went out there I was prepared for the worst, and I was proud of how much black and gold I saw and how vocal our crowd was. I thought it was a great environment for a women's college basketball game.
The Press: Do you think you can recruit the same calibre of players here?
Coach Balcomb: I'm trying. That's what I'm here to try to do. I think we have a great class coming in, but she's built up the premiere program in the country for years, and the success-- kids follow success, so you're going to have to win with maybe not the best players for a while to get the best players to come there.
The Press: Melanie, could you talk a little bit about your defense at the start of the game?
Coach Balcomb: We were trying to really pressure the ball. We were trying to force them to put the ball up over their head. What we didn't want was dribble penetration, rotation, and then them crashing the boards. I think in the first half we did a great job with that. They were standing around a lot, picking the ball up over their head, and we could pressure them, we could pressure the ball-handler. They didn't really want to put it on the floor. The second half they were totally different. They put the ball on the floor, penetrate. Our one-on-one defense wasn't good. Zolman and Lawson and Ely kept penetrating on us, which they didn't get in the first half. And then your posts have to rotate up, and then when you shoot the ball, everybody crashes. That's what we did not want, and that's what happened to us in the second half. They really changed and did a lot more things offensively, much more aggressive against our zone. We wanted to get them stagnant and stand around, and I think we got that in the first half. In the second half we didn't get that. They made a lot of changes at halftime.
Coach Balcomb left the room, and senior point guard Ashley McElhiney and sophomore guard Abi Ramsey took their places at the table for questions. Senior center Chantelle Anderson was still in the hall talking.
The Press: Ashley, did you feel like Chantelle was really getting into a rhythm when she was injured?
Ashley Mac: I think she was playing, she was doing just about anything offensively and defensively. But I think she came in, and she got right back into the flow of it after she got used to running on, used to the pain, I guess. I thought she did a good job of coming back in and picking up where she left off.
The Press: What was going on in that spurt when you guys got the lead? Coach said was defense.
Ashley Mac: It was defense. We put the pressure on, and they were turning the ball over, taking bad shots, we were giving them one shot, we were rebounding, we were running. It was defense all the way. And we didn't play defense for 40 minutes. We played defense for maybe 10 minutes of the first half, and that's when we got our lead, and we didn't play defense second half.
The Press: Did you have a feeling that they would come back?
Ashley Mac: They're Tennessee, they're not going to lay down. Every player on that team is good. We knew that from the beginning, and defense, we didn't play.
The Press: Ashley, can you comment on your last game at Memorial Gym against Tennessee?
Ashley Mac: We didn't win. We could have played better.
Chantelle Anderson entered and took her place at the table.
The Press: Chantelle, did you feel the momentum swing when you came out of the game?
Chantelle: Well, I watched some of it, but I was kind of talking to Kris and the doctor, and then I went out in the hall and tried to run on it, so I didn't see too much of the time I was out, and then as soon as I came back from out in the hall, I went back in. So, no, I really didn't see it.
The Press: Chantelle, what couldn't you do as well after the toe injury?
Chantelle: It just hurt running the floor. Obviously I wasn't running too fast down the court. That was one thing we really focused on was trying to get fast break points and run on them. But that was pretty difficult.
The Press: What about on defense, as far as trying to get out in the zone on their outside shooters?
Chantelle: I don't think that was because I was hurt at all. I mean, you have to kind of judge your quickness and judge how long it's going to take you to get out there. I might have been a step slow, but obviously you have to judge, so that wasn't any reason at all. A couple of times we just didn't communicate inside, and I was late getting out. It wasn't because I was hurt.
The Press: Chantelle, how did it happen?
Chantelle: I don't really know. I jumped up, and my shoe came off, and then landed on it and it hurt when I landed it on it -- like immediately, and then I looked and saw it at a wierd angle, I was like "AIIIEEEEH". I mean it hurt, but the way it looked scared me more than anything, 'cause I was like, "Omigosh, my toe is wierd!"
The Press: Abi or Ashley, with all the weapons that they have did you figure that Zolman would be the last one to go off like that? How much did you know about her?
Abi: We knew she was a shooter. The problem was we gave her all the shots and all the looks that she wanted and needed, and she made the big shots.
Ashley Mac: I don't think it was a surprise. We had a scouting report, and she's a 3-point shooter. A good 3-point shooter.
The Press: Can you explain why was she getting the looks?
Ashley Mac: We weren't moving as one on defense. I don't know, I'm sure we'll find out Tuesday what we were doing. We'll watch film. We didn't make adjustments. In those situations where one player is lighting it up, we need to know where she is at all times and make someone else shoot it.
The Press: Is that part of the set plan, when someone's going off like that, you've got to stop her from getting into a rhythm?
Ashley Mac: You don't ever want one person to beat you. Zolman and Kara got some great looks and knocked great shots. We didn't make an adjustment to them.
The Press: Does it make it even harder to come back when you don't have depth, and have injuires? It's kind of an uphill battle? Did you still feel like you could win?
Chantelle: Of course we felt like we could win. If we didn't feel like we could win, it would have been a 30-point game instead of what it was. We kept playing, we didn't quit, but yeah, when you get down by that much, it is an uphill battle because you have to outscore them, obviously, by however much. But I don't think we ever knew we were going to lose.
The Press: Chantelle, did you become less aggressive offensively ith the toe injury?
Chantelle: No, I don't think so. It was a little weird that --
The Press: They started laying off you.
Chantelle: Yeah, they guarded me weird, and I didn't make an adjustment. I'm not used, I don't know, I wasn't used to that. Normally you just have to slow down, take your time and realize what they're doing. And I didn't do that.
The Press: What did they do?
Chantelle: They just stepped off me and gave me a wide open shot. The first time I've had that all year, I'll tell you that. It was just kind of weird. And I finally settled down and took my time and got a pump fake, one dribble drive, that was good, but I should have finished the shots before that.
The Press: So were you shootng the shots expecting to be contested, expecting contact?
Chantelle: Yeah, 'cause there was contact throughout the game and at some point they decided to lay off, and I didn't adjust quick enough, and as a good player, you need to adjust, take your time, adjust to what the defense is doing, and I didn't do that soon enough.
Theh Press: It seems like last year got on a pretty good roll at the end of the season. How can you guys bounce back and get on that kind of roll again?
Chantelle: As soon as I know, I'll let you know. We just need to keep coming to practice every day, keep believing that we're going to get better, that we're going to improve and trying to get better at the things that we do well, and some of the things that we don't do so well.
Photos of Coach Balcomb, Ashley McElhiney and Abi Ramsey, Ashley McElhiney, Chantelle Anderson, Abi Ramsey, and the Vanderbilt players by Micah Miller for VandyMania.