Women's Hoops: Florida press conference

After Vanderbilt's 74-58 victory over the Florida Gators, VandyMania talked with junior forward Jenni Benningfield then went to the post-game press conference. At the press conference, Head Coach Melania Balcomb, senior center Chantelle Anderson, and sophomore guard Abi Ramsey answered questions from the press. Here's what they had to say:

VM: Jenni, what things are you pleased about -- either for you personally or as a team -- when you look back on this game?

Jenni: Honestly? I think everybody at every position stepped up throughout the game. First half wasn't really all that great. I think we kind of played to their level. We didn't really play to our capability. But I think second half we really stepped up, especially on defense and offense. When they double-teamed down load, it gave the trail a wide open shot --

VM: Did you say "trail"?

Jenni: Like the high post, the other post player. And Abi, Hillary, and Mac, all of them stepped up and hit some great three's, everybody was hitting on the same night, so it was great because it made the defense really frustrated because they didn't know who to guard or what to take away, so that's definitely a positive thing that we all had going right now, so that'll be a good confidence booster for tomorrow played against Georgia.

VM: Early in the second half, on one play you drove to the basket and scored, and the next time you drove and kicked out to Hillary for a three, then the next time you kicked out to Abi for a three.

Jenni: Yeah, this is great. Everybody was -- well, second half, everybody was really calling for the ball and talking. A couple of times I was double-teamed, and I'd look and I'd see Abi just wide open, she was calling for it. It was great because I wouldn't have known they were there if they hadn't talked, so I think we have some great ball movement at times. We had some spurts, but I think overall it was a pretty good game, except for the offensive boards they got; they got 20 offensive boards, so that's definitely something we need to work on. But it's a W. It wasn't our best game, but that's great 'cause we're leaving that for tomorrow and the rest of the tournament. So it's one game at a time.

Jenni headed into the lockerroom, then VandyMania went to the press conference. First Coach Balcomb made some opening comments.

Coach Balcomb: I think a big thing was our defense. In the first half, I was very unhappy with our defense. I think we picked up our defense and-- we played in spurts in the first half. We'd play hard, get a lead, and then we'd soften up our defense, and I wasn't pleased with that at all, and we talked about that at halftime. And then in the second half, I thought we were much more consistent for twenty minutes, and it didn't put so much pressure on our offense. It was like in the first half, we had to score. We had so much pressure on our offense to score; we were trying to out-score them instead of defending. Then in the second half we picked up our defense, and then we were able to break it open because of our defense.

The Press: You were 10-of-14 from three. If you can do that, you must feel like you'll win a lot of games.

Coach Balcomb: (inaudible) . . shooters; tonight we happened to get all three of them. Chantelle and Jenni have played so well, and they're playing so well together high low, we needed our outside shots. We needed one of our guards to step up, and all three of them stepped up. I just hope we can continue to gain confidence from that. But that's important that our guards step up and hit those three's.

The Press: Your post players did a good job of kicking the ball out for open three's?

Coach Balcomb: We're really unselfish. Everybody asks why we shoot the ball so well. We shoot the ball well because we make the extra pass, and when we're doubled, we don't bad shots with two and three people on us. We pass it out for a higher percentage shot for somebody that is open. It's just unselfish play more than anything.

The Press: Abi, at what point did you know that you were on tonight?

Abi: I guess after my second three.

The Press: Why the second?

Abi: Just because I usually don't shoot that well from the corner. I had it wide open. . .

The Press: (Inaudible.)

Abi: . . I tried to step up a little bit and try to get some steals tonight, because I don't want to be one night defense and the next night offense.

The Press: Chantelle, compare this year's team to last year's team at this point, especially in offensive efficiency.

Chantelle: I don't really know. I think we're playing great, and we're getting better every game. We're executing on offense very well right now for the most part, and when we execute our offense, (inaudible) . . . As far as last year, I think some of the same traits -- last year when we executed our offense, it was a lot of fun to watch and very unselfish play, and things like that. But as far as comparing the two, I really can't compare them. I just know that I'm happy that we're getting better every game.

The Press: Does it make it easier for you when your guards can shoot 70% from 3-point range?

Chantelle: Oh, it's definitely great. It's great because when they double in the post, you kind of pick your poison. If they want to double me, then that's fine, I can kick it out, and we know we're going to score anyway, whereas if we're not hitting from the outside, you feel kind of pressured to put more on your shoulders and sometimes you take bad shots; you try to to do too much. Nobody had to do that tonight because everyone stepped up and was playing really well.

The Press: Chantelle, how's your toe doing?

Chantelle: It's all right. (Pause.) I'll be better tomorrow.(Laughs.)

The Press: Are all those offensive rebounds not troubling if they don't make the shots that follow?

Coach Balcomb: Yeah, it's still troubling. 20 offensive boards. They had 9 at half, and we talked about that. I think they had 13 more shots than we did at halftime. I didn't look to see what they finished. I told the players, we're shooting 50% at halftime, and we're only up by 6, and they're shooting 30%. The problem is, you're giving up 13 more shots. I don't care how well you shoot, you can't give up that many more shots to another team. . . That was really hurting us, and it continued to hurt us throughout. We were lucky that they didn't make a lot of those put-back. Other teams are going to make those, and that's the big thing we need to improve on.

The Press: Y'all had the biggest margin of victory in any game today. Does that help get some of your starters off the floor?

Coach Balcomb: Yeah, I tried to motivate them. At one point, I had Jenni and Chantelle out at the same time, and I don't think that's happened since before in the SEC, to be honest with you. I told them, "Don't make me put them back in. Don't make me. You need to step up and play well enough to finish this game," and they did.

The Press: With you looking at potentially four games in four days, it's going to be nice to get some folks off their feet?

Coach Balcomb: Yeah, and we haven't-- to be honest with you, I think this is the first game in the SEC that we have put anybody away where we could do that. I don't think that's a bad thing necessarily. I'm not sure we're the kind of team that's going to put people away. I think we've done a great job of winning a lot of close games, and I'm fine with that because we have good senior leadership and good experience on the floor in clutch situations. Not every team that you have-- it's not how many points you win by. That's not been one of my concerns. I'd rather be a team that can actually win close games under pressure. I think I talked that up a while ago, y'know this just isn't going to be a team that puts people away, and that's okay. But today we really wanted it to happen for rest for the tournament situation.

The Press: Along those lines, McElhiney played almost all of the game. Is that because there isn't anyone else to bring the ball up under pressure?

Coach Balcomb: Yeah, the pressure is very very good, and we just couldn't afford to take her out all year. Mac's a machine, so I'm not worried about her. She'll be fine. She's just about one of the most mentally tough players that you'll ever see in women's basketball.

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