Women's Hoops: Hillary Hager interview

Wednesday afternoon after practice, VandyMania talked with junior guard/forward Hillary Hager about what the team learned from the SEC tournament, how they're using the time before Selection Sunday, and differences between this year's team and Vandy teams in the past.

VM: What things did you learn about the team from the SEC tournament?

Hillary: We watched film yesterday, and we learned a lot in that film session. We watched LSU, and we learned that we really didn't run any of our offense, and yet, we still scored. I don't know if it was through luck, or just our skill or talent coming out, but that just gives us confidence that when we do run our offense, and we do set screens, then we can score so much more easily and score a lot, because we were scoring pretty easily anyway.

Also, we didn't play any defense against LSU. When we're aggressive with our defense, we cause turnovers, and we get a lot of steals. So I guess in playing LSU, who went on to win the SEC tournament, it gives us confidence knowing that we didn't play even close to our best game, we regressed, and it was still a close game throughout.

VM: Looking back on it, do you have any insight into why you didn't play your best game?

Hillary: Well, I think part of it -- it was our third game, that isn't any excuse at all -- I think maybe we got a little mentally tired. I think that was it, because we were making mistakes that we normally do not make, mistakes during the offense, and we know the offensive plays. It's the end of the season; we've been running it all year, and I think that might have been part of it. So that's what I would say -- mentally tired.

VM: You've got these three days of practice before the Selection Show on Sunday. Right now, you have no particular opponent to prepare for. So how are you taking advantage of these days?

Hillary: Well, basically just getting back to our basics, like our man to man principles on defense, and running our offense in what is our strength, like the high-low for us. We've been working on stuff like that because a lot of times it doesn't matter what the other team does; it's about us, not them. So we're just working on what we do best and working on things we didn't do well in the LSU game.

VM: For people who were familar with the team the past couple of years, but haven't seen the team much this year, could you talk about similarities and differences between how this team plays compared to other years? .

Hillary: Similarities-- we're post-oriented. That's obvious with Chantelle and Jenni. We have the high-low; no one can stop our high-low. And differences-- I'd say we're a more up-tempo team this year. We're going to take one shot off the break, if it's open. If it's an open shot and you're ready to take it, it's a good shot.

VM: In terms of set plays, is that about the same as in the past, or do you run more or less of them?

Hillary: I would say we have more set plays, yeah. Coach loves the set plays and burning people with them. And it's fun. It's really fun, especially when you play a team twice. You do it one way for that game, and you burn them on it. And then they prepare for you, and the next time you do it, it's slightly different. And it's great, because it works, and you see it. That's fun.

VM: It seems to me like there's more of an emphasis on scoring points in lots of different ways, on in-bounds plays and steals, for example. Would you agree with that?

Hillary: I think this year, it's more of an attitude that we score on in-bounds plays, and I guess last year you could say that it wasn't emphasized. No doubt we wanted to score on out-of-bounds plays, I think that's obvious, but I think this year it's like we say, "We score on our in-bounds plays." I think Coach has had teams that have traditionally scored on their in-bounds plays, and we do. I think we get a lot of points off them. And steals and scoring off the fast break like that, that comes from our defense. That's when our defense creates our offense, so we don't put more emphasis on our steals and fast breaks, but we do put emphasis on pressure and that leads to the steals.

VM: And defensively, differences between this year and last year?

Hillary: Well, we play zone, and we played zone last year. And in past years with Coach Foster, we were traditionally a zone team, and I think Vanderbilt has been in the past. And we play zone this year. But I would say there are differences. Our zone, as we play it now, is more aggressive than it was in the past, I would say. And that leads to steals and turnovers.

VM: Gambling more? Going for steals?

Hillary: Yeah, I would say that. Yeah.

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