Women's Hoops: Kentucky press conference

<i>After Vanderbilt's 85-63 victory over the Kentucky Wildcats in Memorial Colisseum in Lexington, players and coaches for both teams answered questions from the press. First, Kentucky Head Coach Bernadette Mattox and junior center SeSe Helm entered the room to answer questions.</i>

The Press: SeSe, you all got it down to 48-46 about 5 minutes into the second half, and then they went on a 11-2 run. What did you feel like happened during that stretch?

SeSe: It's one of those little-- That's something that we basically have to work on --those droughts that we had. There was a time when we were scoring and at the same time they were scoring, then we hit that drought, and they continued to score while we were not. It's just basically something that we're going to have to buckle down and get more focused and just get it done

The Press: You guys had like 6 turnovers during that run, bad passes, that were kind of the cause of that--

SeSe: We're working on being patient in our offense. It can come from being impatient, making bad decisions, trying to make it happen, trying to make that play, like we said, trying to get it done. But it's really not being patient. We need to get more patient, buckle down, and do what we need to do.

The Press: What does it say that Rita would still come out and play after what happened last night?

SeSe: I commend her tremendously . . . That's heart and a lot of love, and it showed me that she really loves us and cares for us, and that she's not a selfish person.

The Press: Coach, turnovers again are a big problem for you guys. What do you do to fix that?

Coach Mattox: I think that's something the players have got to correct, that's just something they've got to correct. We do drill after drill after drill. And, you know, even with the 25 turnovers, I'm surprised that we played as well as we did under the circumstances, especially after last night with the players rallying around Rita as they did, and not taking anything away from Anderson, I thought their post players played tremendous. But the turnovers are way too much, and the players are going to have to understand that they have to take care of the basketball.

The Press: Coach, what happened to Rita?

Coach Mattox: Her brother passed yesterday.

The Press: Coach, you all closed in to 48-46 then Vandy went on a run. Do you think that Vandy kicked it up, or--

Coach Mattox: No, I don't think they kicked defensively. Offensively, they went to work. They've got a Kodak All-American on the block, and they've got an outstanding player in Benningfield, and they've got an absolutely outstanding point guard, and I think those three went to work, and they really did a super job on that block on the offensive end.

The Press: Coach, defensively, what do you have to do against a team like this?

Coach Mattox: Well, you know, talk about Lanky Lank (the Wildcats' nickname for Jennifer Humphrey), she's a freshman. Both of those kids have four years of muscle and experience over her. She's going to just get stronger and better, and all this experience is going to help her. I thought Keiko played well. She got in foul trouble and fouled out way early, with about 5:11, I'm not sure what the time was on the clock. I thought we were doing well about the 15 minute mark with them, then about the 11 minute mark till, about, I would say about the 15 minute mark till about the 11 minute mark, we just kind of lost composure out there on the floor. Vandy because you know they are a final 8 team, just kept plugging and plugging and plugging and getting those opportunities. Anderson sitting on the bench, she comes back fresh and just gets right back into it.

The Press: Sese, do you feel like you guys kind of lost your composure?

SeSe: Yes, a lot of it is working on being patient, just doing fundamental things and making the correct decisions. Like I said, it's going to come down to being more focused.

Coach Mattox and SeSe left, and Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb came to the table to take her turn.

The Press: Overall, in terms of putting together a complete game on both the offensive and defensive ends, how would you rate this game to other games this season?

Coach Balcomb: I don't know, I hadn't looked at it like that. I think the big thing was the runs. . . . The biggest thing I was impressed with was, when both teams got tired, we were mentally tough enough to get that 8 point stretch, and then they had to fight so hard back all game, and then, in the second half, when they made a hard run and both teams were tired, that's when we made our second run. I think in a lot of ways, it's a lot like -- it was even the rest of the game, and who can be mentally tough enough for those runs. Yes, I think our defense created a lot of our offense during those runs, and I was really happy to see that.

The Press: You were in the passing lanes a lot in that big run. You had looked at Kentucky on tape, was there anything that led to you getting into the passing lane?

Coach Balcomb: What we did, was at halftime we decided to be more aggressive on the wings because they had hit five three's, especially Potts and Adams, and we didn't want to give them those good looks from three, and actually, they weren't great looks, they hit some really nice shots with people in their face, so we decided that ... we'd just go out and deny them -- the less they touched it, the better we would be off, so we actually -- which we don't do in our matchup zone is deny but we were trying to deny Adams or Potts any time they were on the wing and really try to keep the ball out of their hands more. I noticed they finished with seven, so they only got two three's in the second half, and I think that was really important to cut down on the 3-point shots that they got.

The Press: Was this the most consistent example of Balcomb ball we've seen this year?

Coach Balcomb: The first half I was bummed because I thought that we could run, and I thought we had transition opportunities and didn't run our break as well as I wanted to and didn't take advantage of that. And in the second half, yes, we took advantage of that. And what Balcomb ball gives you is those runs. And that's what I really like to see. I felt really comfortable with our effort today. I actually felt like I knew the team out there. (Smiles and laughs as Ashley Mac enters the room.) That felt good. Hey, Ashley, how are you?

The Press: Defensively, you forced 25 turnovers -- is that part of getting out on the wings?

Coach Balcomb: Yeah, just being more aggresive with our hands and getting out on the wings. I know Abi did a really nice job and had a lot of deflections and steals. She was reading the passer really well. Really, this was Abi's best all-around game. I think she played defense, and she came out ready to shoot with the three. Abi was an all-around player today, and I think that made a big difference.

But I also think Hillary was doing the same thing in the post. She was getting around, getting a lot of deflections and getting all the loose rebounds and things like that, so I think you had some really good things happening defensively to create and then we also were throwing in our traps, so that we could get them off balance, because when they just ran their stuff, like in the first half, they were hitting those three's.

So we needed to be more aggressive, and I think we did that. We made that adjustment at halftime, and the team made it on the floor. There was a lot of things tonight, even offensively, that we worked on all week, and they made the adjustment in the game, which we had not been doing, either, things that were in our game plan to do against what Kentucky had done to us last time, and I think we did a great job of executing those things and looking for those things.

The Press: Ashley, coach was saying this as a game of runs. Could you see signs that Kentucky was losing their composure?

Ashley Mac: Well, they started being really physical, and I think teams do that a lot of times when they don't think they have a shot at winning. They start maybe throwing cheap shots, or doing stuff that's normally not in their game. And I think a couple of players noticed that, and I guess that's the biggest thing that we noticed.

The Press: Defensively, do you feel like you stepped it up a notch in the second half?

Ashley Mac: Yes. Like we go in at halftime, and we say we want to [step up] the intensity on defense the second half, but it's usually -- or it has been in the past -- mostly talk. And today, we started off the second half just a little bit slow, and then we got together and got stops and got steals. Abi and Hillary did a great job. I think Ashley Earley did a good job, too. It was a team effort. We had communication definitely on the defensive end.

Coach Balcomb: The last game we gave up 16 points at half, and 53 in the second half, and that was heavily discussed through the week. And it was a great adjustment. We made a change, which is what we've been asking all year to do.

The Press: You've got to like that balance offensively?

Coach Balcomb: Great point. Like I said, that's a tough thing to guard. The next team that plays us looks at that balance. Hillary had 9, and Earley comes off, so you get 15 from one person off the bench alone, which is huge. And then you have everybody else on your starters in double figures except for Hillary, and she just had 9. I think she had 9 at half, but she was scoring up until half, and she just kind of gives us whatever we need, and we didn't need it second half, and so we got her defense. But I think that's really important that we got some other people some minutes and also that we know that everybody-- it's balanced, so that way, it's tough to stop us, because some nights, somebody else will take over. And it also helps that Ashley McElhiney, the girl sitting next to me, is also looking for her shot more and I think has made a big change in what the team needs her to do also.

The Press: We've seen Jutta in the past couple of games,. Can you speak to that?

Coach Balcomb: She's working really hard in practice. She's so athletic, and she's working hard, and I'm just looking to get her in whenever I can because of that job she's doing in practice. She's focused in practice, she's working hard, and if I can give somebody a blow, I've been really trying to get Jutta in. She's earned that from practice. It's that simple.

The Press: The first time Ashley Earley came into the game for Chantelle, Kentucky went on a 9-0 run. The second time, Vandy not only held their lead by increased it. Did Ashley playing better the second time in have something to do with that?

Coach Balcomb: Yeah, I think Earle -- and I talk to her about this all the time, too -- she's always better the second time she comes in, and I tease her about it, but it's the truth. Like I talked to her, we've got to get her warmed up so she's ready to go right away. The second time I put her in, she's always very very productive, as you've noticed. So I try to get her in early, but Jenni was playing well, and Chantelle. So she didn't get in right away. But, yeah, I've noticed that throughout the year. We need her to come -- I think the world of her, and 15 points -- I think she can give us that every night. I think the world of her, and I consider her a starter, not a -- She's the best 6th player. She's very good and could start; it's just the position thing. I look for her to give us that, what she gave us tonight off the bench. I just think she needs to be ready to come off the bench. That's been her role, and she's gotta be ready to do it the first time she gets subbed in.

The Press: You talked about Jutta earning practice time. I noticed Tia only played 5. Was that the same thing?

Coach Balcomb: No, I'll be honest with you, it was the way Abi played and what we needed tonight. It was strictly a decision based on what Abi was giving us. I'm telling you this was the best all-around game. She gave us defense. She gave us offense, and she ran hard and played hard the entire time. So really I didn't sub for Abi unless she was tired and needed a sub. And that's just-- she's earned that spot,and it really had nothing to do with Tia.

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