Abi: On that last play? I thought I had it! (Laughter.) I thought I had it! And then she pushed me right when I was finishing. I looked back and thought it was in, and it rolled out.
The Press: What's it like to go to the free throw line when you know you have a chance to win the game?
Abi: I was more calm than I expected. It's a lot of pressure. I'm not going to lie. You're sitting there thinking, "I can end this game now," or the only possibility was we could go into overtime. The best thing is to have everybody stop to get freebies, free shots. Yeah, it was a lot of pressure, but the whole team did a really good job of showing me confidence and being like, "You're the one we want to shoot this." So when I went to the line, there was only one thing on my mind: I wasn't going to miss them.
The Press: Was it more pressure on that shot than if there had been suicides if you missed it?
Abi: (All the players laugh.) Just a little bit. (Laughing.)
The Press: Chantelle, did you make the outlet pass?
Chantelle: No, that was Jenni.
The Press: Jenni, can you describe the last scramble?
Jenni: Well, I saw #31; she was starting to drive, and I think Mac knocked it away--
Ashley Mac: No, Abi knocked it away--
Jenni: -- and I just got to it quick, and all of a sudden I see Abi flash, and I just threw it, and she had time, and we were just yelling, "GO! Just GO!" (Squeals and laughter erupt from all the players, as everyone chimes in.) I was looking at the clock and-- (Everybody still talking at once.) She did awesome, though. It was great.
The Press: Do you try not to joke around with a teammate in a situation like that, with all that pressure on her. How do you guys try to handle dealing with her before she goes to the line?
Jenni: I was like, "Abi, you got this, we're all behind you, we have all our faith in you, you make them every day in practice."
Ashley Mac: I don't think that's the time to be joking, when there are 0.7 seconds to go. We just have to instill confidence in her that we have confidence that she's going to make it. And we did. I think everybody on the bench did, too. I think everyone in the stands did.
The Press: Question for everybody. You are so good offensively, but coach was very complimentary after the game, about how tough you were on hustle, going after loose balls, scramble plays. This is kind of an open question. Can you talk about how good you were defensively and took them out of any kind of rhythm?
Chantelle: Well, we didn't shoot terribly well tonight, I don't think. I don't know what our percentage was, but it didn't seem like we were lighting it up.
Abi: 0 for 5. (Sighs, and everybody laughs.)
Chantelle: But we were just talking on defense a lot. I think this is possibly our most complete game defensively as a team thus far. I don't know, we just did a really great job. It seemed like we got on every loose ball, and if we didn't get it, there was at least one or two or three people going after it trying to get it. We got on a lot of loose balls, a lot of difficult rebounds. There just was a lot of hustling.
The Press: Was there an urgency to do that today?
Chantelle: Of course, the score was what, 28-26 at halftime? No team was scoring well. We played horribly on offense during the first half, and our defense was what kept us in it. So we knew that it we could just continue the defensive intensity and pick it up on offense a little bit, then we put ourselves in a good position to win this game. And that's what we did.
The Press: Ashley, can you talk about that first half. It seemed like things were a little out of sync. At one point you had more turnovers than field goals attempts. What happened in the first half?
Ashley Mac: They were making us play fast, I think in every position. If you look at Georgia, they're good on-the-ball defenders, and that's how they get their steals. Once you get past that, you can score. But we were having trouble with the ball in our hands. They were knocking it away. We couldn't complete passes. We were just playing too fast for us. Once we finally took a deep breath and slowed down, I think-- I know we didn't have as many turnovers in the second half. We made an adjustment, and that's a huge improvement for us.
The Press: About you mental attitude. There were times during this game, Jenni and Chantelle, when you looked like, "They aren't going to have this ball!" or "I AM going to get this shot!". Can you talk about your mental mindset in this game?
Jenni: Playing against Georgia, they have some great post players in Christi Thomas and Kara Braxton. They have a really good high low game, but we also realized that we have a good high low game, and we work just as well in the game, and we're on the same page. We just had a sort of confidence in each other, keep each other focused. I know we both talked to each other during the game and just really tried to make sure that we're doing the right things and just kind of helping each other. I just love working with Chantelle. She makes me better every day. She's an awesome leader, so it's great to work down there with her.
Chantelle: There were a couple of times when Jenni would come to me and be like "They're not getting this ball", like you said, or I would come to her and be like "It's ours." Like, back and forth, little stuff. You have to communicate with the other post player on the floor because we do work so much together. And when you have two great post players like Georgia has, then it becomes more urgent for us to work together, and I think that's what happened tonight, which is a great feeling.
The Press: Tia, can you talk about the confidence with the coaching staff putting you in there and providing the spark they're talking about, the defensive spark, the fast break .. . ?
Tia: I just got out there and did what I knew they wanted me to do and what I knew that my team needed and expected me to do, and that's what I tried to do -- loose balls, if I can get to them, being on defense, helping people out. I just played basketball. That's' what I'm best at, I guess.
Chantelle: Her runouts are so pretty, aren't they? (Players all laugh together.)
The Press: Chantelle, were you a little sick in the second half with something?
Chantelle: Yeah, I don't know what was going on over there.
The Press: You were throwing up on the bench over there.
Chantelle: Yeah, yes I was. I don't know why. I got a little nauseous coming out of halftime, but I didn't think it was anything big. I got on the court and started playing and got really sick.
The Press: Something you ate?
Chantelle: I didn't feel too bad even in warmups or whatever. I know I'm on a lot of pain medication for my toe. I took a few more of those at halftime. Maybe it irritated my stomach, I think that's the biggest thing. I didn't eat anything unfamiliar.
The Press: Speaking of the toe, How's it coming along?
Chantelle: It's all right. It felt pretty okay today. I haven't been practicing too much, and it's a little difficult to get a rhythm when you're not practicing, but my teammates have done a great job of keeping me involved and knowing that they still have confidence in me on the court and stuff like that. So it's doing well.
The Press: Chantelle, how important is it to get that 7th win and get 4th place by yourself?
Chantelle: I think it's very important because fourth place guarantees us a bye in the SEC tournament, which means we have to win three games in three days as opposed to four games in four days. Me, personally, speaking from a personal standpoint, I would have to play four games in four days, but with my foot, that would be very difficult, considering I'm not practicing. That'd be kind of crazy. I just think fatigue-- Mac plays 40 minutes a game. Hillary plays a lot, Abi plays a lot, all of us. And so when you don't have a deep bench, it's important to have that extra day.
The Press: Ashley, can you explain how Jenni's been able to make such a smooth transition from perimeter to post this year?
Ashley Mac: Well, I think the position she's playing this year, that's her home. That's really where she belongs. She's got a great outside shot, she can bbring the defender out, she can drive, she can shoot in the high post. She's got post moves. I would say that she worked on it this summer. The post coaches this year have done a tremendous job with both of them. And she's just made the transition. She knew coming in she was going to be in there with the big people. And she's dominating.
The Press: She's pretty big herself.
Ashley Mac: Not compared to Kara, Christi and Chantelle. (Players laugh.)
Chantelle: It's all relative.
The Vanderbilt players left the room, and Georgia Head Coach Andy Landers, Georgia junior forward Christi Thomas, Georgia sophomore forward Kara Braxton, and Georgia freshman guard Alexis Kendrick came to the table. Since Christi had a sore throat, the Press was asked to question her first.
The Press: Cristi, 22 turnovers. Coach Balcomb was very complementary about their defense. Did you think that played into it, or your not taking the time getting the shots you wanted to get?
Christi: I think it had a little to do with both of them, as far as us not being real patient on the offensive end and them being patient themselves. And then we were being a little careless with the ball. Any time you take away possessions from a team that's going to be a major role in. And today it came out in their favor.
. The Press: What did they do defensively on yourself and Kara to limit the number of touches?
Christi: I think they did a good job of pressuring the ball out on top, and they ran a lot of zone, and staying with the cutters, and things like that.
With no more questions for her, Christi left the room.
The Press: Kara, it looked like they went small on you with Chantelle on the bench and both you and Cristi in the game at that time, did you feel like you capitalize as much as you could have?
Kara: I think we could have done a little bit more. They played real good defense. Anytime me and Christi are in it together, we try to give it to each other, feed each other, and feed off of it. So, yeah, if we did score off of it, it was great. But If we didn't, then something's wrong.
The Press: Kara, going into the game, did you feel like you could negate or surpass their high low post game with your own?
Kara: Right. You have me, 6'6, Christi, 6'5 and then Chantelle is 6'6 and, um, Benningfield 6'3. So it's a great matchup. We knew it was going to be tough, and it was going to be a great game . . . but, yeah, I thought we could have contained it. It would have been great, but it went in their favor.
The Press: Alexis, let's just talk about the steal at the end. Did you just kind of lose the handle?
Alexis: It was simple-- I was irresponsible and lost the ball, and .. . I can't really explain it, but it was -- I don't know the word to describe it, but it was just a mental mistake on my part. . . . They had great defense, we just didn't execute correctly.
The Press: You were on the left wing -- and looked at the shot clock, were you trying to create something?
Alexis: I checked the clock, I remember checking the clock. Coach said . . . then I was looking at Mary Beth, she was covered. I was going to pass to her and then get it right back out, but she was covered so I guess I tried to go out top and re-set it, and I lost the ball. . . . it was a bad mental mistake. I guess there are a lot of things I could have did better, but I guess you could say, "it happens", but it doesn't happen a lot in key games like that
The Press: Andy, talk about the turnovers. Was it too many?
Coach Landers: I thought it was way too many. Alexis had 7 too many. We were playing against zone most of the day. There's no real reason to turn the basketball over. We didn't set our zone offense where we needed for it to be set. We kept setting it too low, which allowed them to match and consequently, if you go back to the first half, we could never pass the ball to the corner back out to the wing, because they matched us there, and we just kept doing it over and over and over. One or two turnovers come from there. We forced some passes inside. Driskell throws a couple of no-look passes, and that's ill-conceived.
Alexis is sitting here, and if she wants to take responsiblity for it, she can. But she needs to understand that she can take the responsibility for it two or three different ways. There was a wing standing on top of her, and that was HER defensive man that reached in and deflected the ball. The wing didn't get out of the way. So you could play the wing's mentality and just stand in there and watch it. Alexis handled the ball with 8 seconds left. Instead of clearing her man out of the way and getting Alexis back out to the middle of the floor, so we could run what we called in the last time out, just a few seconds ago. But we're standing there watching. Alexis can take -- and I'm sure these are things she hadn't thought about -- she can take the responsibility for not waving that man out of the way. She got in a hurry and tried to split between two defenders and got the ball deflected, and it cost us a possession.
But we turned the ball over too much. We went against zone. We turned the ball over-- we didn't fight the fight. Be honest. We played hard, but we didn't fight the fight for 40 minutes. We took some breaks out there, and every time we took a break, they made us pay. I would imagine that there probably eight points on that board right now where we were not even in
The Press: They were saying their defensive intensity and hustle --
Coach Landders: I think they out-played us. If that's what they're saying, I think they out-played us. We played hard. We had a lot of people play hard. We had some people play hard all day, but we didn't have everybody play hard all day. And when you don't sprint the floor every possession, and you don't match up every possession, in a game like this, you lose. And anybody that thinks differently is stupid. They know nothing about basketball. Because we've been doing this with this team for 24 years. It was like this in the last game. It's going to be like this in the next game. And if we don't want to sprint, get matched up, and do what we're supposed to do, shame on us. We're going to get our butt kicked.
Photos of the Vanderbilt players by Micah Miller for VandyMania.