Women's Hoops: Ole Miss press conference

<i>After Vanderbilt's 67-60 win over the Mississippi Lady Rebels Thursday night in Oxford, the coaches and some players talked with the press. First Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb, junior forward Jenni Benningfield, and sophomore guard Abi Ramsey answered questions.</i>

The Press: Coach, can you talk about the game that Jenni Benningfield and Abi Ramsey stepping up with Chantelle not having the kind of game that she usually has?

Coach Balcomb: I think Jenni and Abi both are given a lot of opportunities because of Chantelle. This team really did a great job of packing it in and these two players beside me really stepped up and were ready to shoot the ball and shot the ball well when they had the opportunity.

The Press: Jenni, talk about your night, you kind of stepped up?

Jenni: Y'know, it all goes back to my teammates getting me the ball in a position where I can score. . . more inside than outside, and I tried to take it to them down low. But again it just goes back to my teammates getting me the ball in a position where I can use my strengths and score.

The Press: Tell about your first half, Abi.

Abi: : Yeah, I guess one of the things we've been focusing on is just running the floor and being in position whenever the ball goes in because a lot of people are collapsing on Chantelle and Jenni, just being ready . . . to shoot.

The Press: Talk about playing against Ashley, especially in the first half when she was guarding you a lot of the time.

Ashley's a great player. We've been compared a lot this season because she's stepped up her shooting and stuff. There wasa little bit of rivalry, but she's a great player.

The Press: Does that motivate you more?

Abi: A little bit. (Laughs.) A little bit. But every game's a big game, so you've got to come out every game and play.

The Press: Can you tell that you're going to have a good game, maybe when you score on your first chance?

Jenni: Always when you start the beginning of a game and you hit your first couple of shots, that's always a coInfidence booster. I felt pretty good, but I really didn't think about it all that much. I was just trying to do the things-- execute the things that we're supposed to be doing. I was just worrying about that, really.

The Press: Talk about the Ole Miss defense. You shot 39%, coming in shooting over 50%.

Coach Balcomb: I can talk about that. I thought it was excellent. I was very very impressed. LIke I said on our radio, they were very prepared for us and took good things away from us and really packed it in, but they were also physical and I just thought they did an excellent job. I think they never quit. For 40 minutes it was just as intense as it was at the beginning of the game. And I can honestly say that's the first thing I said at the end of the game. I don't think it was us shooting the ball badly as much as-- and I'd be the first to criticize my own team -- (Abi and Jenni laugh.) But I really have to give Ole Miss credit. I thought they did an excellent game, but their game plan was very good, and they were very prepared and executed for 40 minutes what they wanted to do. A lot of teams we've been playing look good, and then we start to wear them down. And this team was in better shape than most teams we've played, and they did not wear down, and they kept coming after us and I was just really impressed with their overall effort and ability to execute their defensive game plan for 40 minutes.

The Press: Jenni, can you talk about the level of physicality in this game compared to other games?

Jenni: It was really physical out there, but you expect that in the SEC. We kind of expected that they were going to-- this is their home gym, too, and they always play a little bit higher up when they're at home, too. They had nothing to lose, and we came in knowing that. We knew they were going to be aggressive, and they were going to the things-- 'cause they were hungry for a win as much as we are, so they were very physical, but it was kind of expected, I guess.

The Press: Can you talk about the point in the game when Ole Miss closed within two points with about five minutes left?

Abi: Well, I think it was kind of like the Kentucky game. One of our biggest focuses was composure, like staying calm, and there were a few moments when we kind of went wild, but in the end, we came under control, and I think we went on a 9-0 run. (Coach Balcomb nods.) I guess we made some defensive stops.

The Press: And, Abi, you had five steals tonight.

Coach Balcomb: And five steals last game, too. She's just added that to her game. (Inaudible joking amongst the three, along with laugher.)

The Press: Abi, talk about getting 40 minutes tonight.

Abi: I guess I just didn't get tired tonight. It was a big game, and it meant a lot to me, and playing against Ashley, I'm not going to lie. It's one of those games you want to get in, to be a part of. It was a 40 minute game.

Coach Balcomb: I think the big thing with Abi is she's worked harder in practice every day. I think she's in great condition. This is the best condition I've seen her in all season. She did not tire. If she was looking tired, I was going to take her out, but I wanted her on the floor because of not just her ability to shoot the 3, but she was playing, like we said when we joked about the steals, but she's playing both ends of the floor very well and very smart. So I was only going to sit her if she looked tired or told me she was tired, and neither happened. And I think a lot of that is she's pushing herself harder in practice than she had early on.

The Press: Coach, you only used 2 players off the bench, and Nicole Jules was only in a short time. Ashley Earley was the only one with significant time. How long can you go with that?

Coach Balcomb: I think we can go all season. It's all a matter of when we can use our bench. I would love to use our bench more. I continue to feel that way, but when we're in close games, especially on the road and can't break it open, I need to have Jenni and Chantelle on the floor, and right now when Abi's playing well, I need her on the floor. The nice thing is we've become more versatile as far as with injuries. Hillary's learned to play some post and did at Kentucky. Ashley Earley's learned to play some guard and did tonight and that was something that was in our game plan. We had seen the mismatch that their third guard was a small guard, and we knew that if we put Ashley Earley in at the 3, we would be able to post her up . We knew that either 22 or 20 would be guarding her, so that was something that was already in our game plan from film, and that's why you saw Ashley Earley in at guard at that point. .Jenni and Chantelle are scoring so consistently every night inside, sometimes it's better to-- we're looking to do some other things, and one of them is posting up Ashley Earley at the 3-guard, and that was successful for us tonight when you saw her get those buckets inside.

The Press: The two folks here were 14 of 26 from the field, everybody else combined was 4 of 20.

Coach Balcomb: I'm not that quick with the math.

The Press: Again, does the credit go to Ole Miss?

Coach Balcomb: Yeah, and I think one of the good things they did, I think Ashley McElhiney is the only one I'm surprised didn't get more points, and that's because I thought they defended her very well. They rotateed people on her, ball-hawked her, picked her up all game. And also, they sagged from the wing, but they did not sag from Mac at all. That's what I mean their game plan was so well-- where they chose to double from, how, when, everything they did was very smart. They tried to take away the three players who had been consistently scoring, and Mac's averaging, what, 11 points?, she's our third scorer, and if you look at our last five games, she's come out looking to shoot, and that's opened up Jenni and Chantelle a lot, so that's why we needed Abi to step up tonight. Mac didn't get the looks, and that had a lot to do with what their game plan was defensively, because Mac has been getting very good looks. (Pause.) It's nice to have another person to go do.

The Vanderbilt contingent left the room, and Ole Miss Head Coach Ron Aldy entered to take his turn answering questions.

The Press: (inaudible)

Coach Aldy: Well, that's being kind. We had 48 shots inside the three, and we hit 10 of them. And the thing about it is, they blocked a few of our shots early, and then we got intimidated, and we got to stopping ourselves. They didn't stop us. We had plenty of opportunities, if we could put it in the hole and finish, converted it. We stopped ourselves. They didn't stop us. So that's what so disappointing, that we-- one game our posts will look like they're playing pretty solid and pretty confident, and then we'll come into a game with a person like Anderson, and we just play in awe, kind of like we did at Tennessee. Same kind of deal. And that's a deal where it's a mind, it's a heart, it's a thing where we've got to stay within ourselves. We've got to play more disciplined, we've got to be able to be more consistent regardless of who's there, who's present, and I know they present a tremendous presence in there, but at the same time, that didn't lead to all our miscues and all our failure to convert.

The Press: Amber -- I think she missed her first eight shots, then all of a sudden she hit three in a row to close the gap.

Coach Aldy: Well, she hit those three in a row, and it's kind of like she was way overdue. She had missed several, several opportunities that normally-- no one was around her close enough to her to make her alter her shot or change her shot or rush her shot. And I think it was just a deal where, again, she just finally made the play rather than making the plays previously to that. But Marie's 0 for whatever, 6. Tywanna's 0 for 3. A lot of our shots we go in there and it's just, again, we were just a little bit off when we got inside that arc and around that lane.

The Press: Can you talk about your game plan-- you held Chantelle and McElhiney down.

Coach Aldy: We came close the entire night of when they got in their halfcourt offense . . . we had good helpside, good help in and around the lane when Anderson was posting up. She didn't get very many -- just a couple in there late, maybe but not very may to that point as far as just being able to catch the ball and you know-- it was either double or a lot of pressure on her to where she either couldn't get off a very good shot or had to kick it out, and that's really what we were thinking about. But we didn't cover out on Ramsey the first half, We didn't get back in transition and pick her up and left her open for some three's. And that was probably the biggest thing that concerned us at halftime. In the second half, like I say, we got in a little foul trouble, we had to swap Amber off her and put Marie on her, and Marie just got man-handled in there. And then Amber switched off and got in a little more foul trouble so with Tywanna getting hurt and going down-- when she was able to play that first half, we had enough interchange there and with Tywanna on the floor it gave us a little presence physically. She got after it, and she hustled and she scrapped, and we lost a lot when she couldn't come back into the game the second half.

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