Feb. 3, 2009
Audio: Listen to the entire teleconference at SECsports.com
Vanderbilt basketball head coach Kevin Stallings and Alabama interim head coach Philip Pearson fielded questions about their head-to-head matchup on Thursday with the national media during Monday's SEC Teleconference. Find out what each coach had to say about the matchup.
Kevin Stallings, Vanderbilt head coach
Opening comments on matchup with Alabama:
We got a badly needed win over the weekend. We had been struggling, and it felt good to get back in the win column. I was really proud of our guys because we had been through a very rough stretch. To be able to go on the road and get a big win for us was really, really good.
In terms of preparation for Alabama, they do what they do. They always have. Philip Pearson (UA coach) has kind of been reared in that system, if you will. They have great athletes and maybe some of the most explosive guys in the league. We're going to have to do a good job in every way - offensively, defensively, on the backboards - in order to have success in the game. So hopefully, we can take the win over the weekend, and that'll generate some confidence and momentum for us as we head into this week's play.
Have you addressed the poor foul shooting against Auburn?
I think we've been a good foul shooting team all season long. For the better part of the season we've been up around 73, 74, 75 percent as a team. A couple of things happened on Saturday. One is some of our lesser free throw guys shot a much higher number of free throws than we're accustomed to them shooting, Brad Tinsley notwithstanding. He's been an excellent free throw shooter for us. I think Brad just had a bad day at the line.
Aside from that, I'm not too concerned about it. I think that we'll be a good foul shooting team, because Jeffery Taylor's going to shoot around 70 percent; A.J. Ogilvy's going to shoot 75 or 80; Jermaine Beal's going to shoot over 80; Tinsley's going to shoot around 80. Those guys are the one's taking most of the free throws.
We got into a situation the other day where a couple of the guys took more free throws and didn't make them. You don't want to go 16-of-31, but it is nice to get a victory when you do.
What is the energy level like for the team after the Auburn win?
We did not practice Sunday. We were off, but I think that the most impressive thing about our team has been, even through this tough stretch here, our energy level has been great. We haven't had a day where we haven't had good energy. I would anticipate and expect it to be the same as it's been, and hope that is because it's been very, very good even through our losses.
What's your take on the Tennessee Volunteers?
I don't know if they're finding their stride right now or what, but obviously they must have played very well against Florida the other night. Tennessee's very, very good inside. When they make shots from the perimeter, they're very difficult to beat, very difficult.
Wayne Chism and Tyler Smith give them a chance on most nights, because they're two of the better big guys in the league. They've started playing more half-court man-to-man (defense) more exclusively, and kind of shrinking the floor as opposed to spreading the floor out like they've been known to do in the past.
Bruce (Pearl) is going to find a way to do what's right for their personnel, and that's what they're doing. They're very long. They bother shots, and again they're very difficult to stop, especially when they're making shots from the perimeter.
Why do you think the RPI (Rating Percentage Index) for the SEC is down this season?
I think there are a couple of things. I think you have a couple of leagues that you might be catching at an all-time high, and you're catching us at an all-time young. It'll come back around to where it normally is with us being near the top of that RPI chart shortly. People sure want to make a big deal about it now, but that's OK because they need to take their shots while they can. We won't stay young forever.
Can you talk about the young talent in the SEC?
There are a number of really good young guys in this league. We have a couple as a matter of fact. It's a very, very good group of freshmen. I think it's an outstanding group of sophomores for that matter. Yes, this league has terrific young players. I've not seen them all yet, but I know I'm going to. It's what makes our league so good year in and year out because there's always good talent coming into it.
Philip Pearson, Alabama interim head coach
Opening comments on matchup with Vanderbilt:
First of all, we were happy to get the win over Georgia on Saturday night. It was a very difficult week for our team and our staff. It felt like they fought through it about as well as could be expected. We're lucky that we took a day off Sunday, and sort of got regrouped mentally and physically for our team.
Vanderbilt had a great win over the weekend at Auburn on the road. We obviously know how tough it is to play at Auburn. They shot it very well, and obviously we know it's going to be a tough game in Nashville on Thursday night for us.
Are you doing some things differently defensively than the previous coach, and if so what?
We've mixed in maybe a little more zone (defense) than normal. We just felt like that was something for us that would give us a chance to guard the perimeter at times a little bit better. Sometimes, you think that in a zone you can't find a shooter, but a lot of the times at least you know where they are. We've played that some.
We haven't had a lot of time to practice the 3-2 zone. We're going to spend some more time on that. It felt like it helped us at times in the Georgia game. There were some times where it showed that it was something new to us. It's something that we're going to continue to take a look at.
How do you go about putting your own stamp on this team, or is that something that you try to do at this point?
I don't know necessarily if I'm looking for a personal stamp of any sort. I think what we're doing at this point in the year is we're just trying to do the very best that we can on a daily basis for this Alabama basketball program. I've been apart of it for a number of years, and it's something that is very important to me.
We have a good group of guys on our team, and we have good enough playing ability that if we will begin to play a little better... I think if we could have one or two good things happen for us, who knows what could happen for our team down the stretch of this season. There's a lot of basketball left to play in the SEC. We're just kind of taking it day-by-day, game-by-game, and looking forward to the next one.
What do you think you bring to the program that's different than the previous coach?
I think it's always different when you've been sitting in the other chair and now you're sitting in the main chair. I was a little bit of a different player. I played at Alabama, and I was one of those guys who redshirted about four out of the five years I was here. I was kind of a scrapper and just happy to have a uniform. I had to be very smart with the way I played. I had to be very tough with the way I played. I think a lot of times people think your teams mirror the personality of the head coach... now whether our team's going to mirror my personality remains to be seen.