Friday in Toledo with the Commodores

March 21, 2014

Day 2 in Toledo | Press Conference | Mattos Interviews Smith & Foggie

Day 1 in Toledo

The Vanderbilt women's basketball team awoke to snow flurries Friday morning in Toledo. It didn't take long, though, before things were heating up for the Commodores.

They hit the floor at Savage Arena at 10:30 a.m. and had a spirited and intense practice as they continued to prepare for Saturday's NCAA Tournament opener against Arizona State.

The No. 8-seeded Commodores (18-12), who are appearing in the tournament for the 15th consecutive season, face the No. 9-seeded Sun Devils (22-9) at 10 a.m. on ESPN2.

Prior to Friday's practice, Vanderbilt seniors Christina Foggie and Jasmine Lister, along with head coach Melanie Balcomb, attended a press conference and they each discussed how excited they are to once again be apart of March Madness.

Balcomb referred to the NCAA Tournament as "the third season" while Foggie mentioned that playing in the postseason "gives you a new life."

Balcomb and the players also discussed the emotions they experienced during Monday night's Selection Show, when the Commodores nervously waited through most of the show before hearing their name announced.

"That was the most joy I've experienced by one of my teams during the show," said Balcomb, noting that there is usually no doubt about the Commodores being selected. "(And once we found out we were in), I was the one saying 'hey, let's turn on the music. Let's dance."

Lister and Foggie each talked about Arizona State, with Lister calling the Sun Devils "a well-rounded team." Foggie said the key to beating Arizona State will hinge on the Commodores being able to slow down the Sun Devils. "Everything starts on the defensive end," she said.

Vanderbilt and Arizona State have both struggled in recent weeks. The Commodores have lost nine of their past 11 games, and will enter the tournament on a four-game skid. The Sun Devils have lost six of their past eight, and bring a three-game losing streak into the tournament.

Neither team has played a game in roughly two weeks, but Balcomb said that shouldn't be a factor. "(Being in the tournament) gives you a fresh momentum," she said.

First Look at Savage Arena
The Commodores got to see Savage Arena for the first time Friday morning, as all four teams at the site had their closed practice sessions.

The arena first opened in 1976, but underwent a $30 million renovation in 2008, making it an outstanding venue to host NCAA Tournament basketball. The facility holds 7,300 and is the home for the Toledo men's and women's basketball and women's volleyball teams.

The renovation included suites, loges, a club hospitality area and video board. The renovation also included the addition of the Sullivan Complex, which serves as a new entrance to the arena and houses the ticket office, merchandise store, Toledo Athletics Hall of Fame and strength and conditioning room.

Large crowds are expected at all three NCAA Tournament games held at Savage. The Rockets have led the MAC in league attendance for more than two decades, and consistently rank in the top 25 nationally.

Mattos Interviews Smith & Foggie
Before the Commodores took the practice floor Friday, Vanderbilt play-by-play announcer Charlie Mattos interviewed Kylee Smith and Christina Foggie as part of his pregame radio show that will air 15 minutes before tip Saturday.

Smith, a freshman, and Foggie, a senior, were able to provide unique perspectives heading into the NCAA Tournament first-round matchup with Arizona State.


Vanderbilt Press Conference
Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb
"It's the time of year you want to be playing. Vanderbilt is very fortunate to be here, and we're excited to make our 15th appearance in a row in the NCAA tournament. This is the time of year we get to have fun."

"We're calling it our third season. It's a fresh start and we worked very hard to get here. We had a lot of time off, and it kills the momentum either way. We're really looking forward to playing our best basketball here in March."

"Arizona State doesn't remind me of any team in the SEC. If anything they remind us somewhat of us or Kentucky. We don't have a lot of teams in our conference that does what she (ASU Head Coach Charlie Turner Thorne) does. She's a very unique and good coach."

"Arizona State's players play very hard, especially on the defensive end. They remind me of Kentucky in how they sub all five at a time and press full court for 40 minutes. Spreading the court, running right into the post, getting three's, that is similar to us. It's a different combination, but we have seen pieces. We have played against everything we could possibly have went against. I think her coaching is very unique to the game."

"We have gone against everything they have done, but it has never been the same team. We scouted against full-court pressure, ball screens on offense, teams that can play off the dribble and drive. Their break is similar to ours than most people."

"We have had all of that, but it was never with one team. And I feel that we have done a good job preparing for that. Having two senior guards, that helps, because they have seen it all."

"We are very blessed to get in 11 years in a row getting into that show, but it's the first time I ever wondered if we were going to get in. I had very mixed feelings, knowing that I would have to prepare this team for the worst. And I had to tell them for 14 days that we might not get in, and our hearts might get broken."

"I'm happy at how they responded not knowing that they were going to get in. Our motivation in practice was up. We have never lost in the first round of the conference tournament before, so that upped the drama and emotion of not knowing. The girls and myself learned a lesson to appreciate that we are here."

"We practiced really hard, and after we found out we were in we practiced hard and had fun. The whole key is the kids having fun and working hard. We are just happy to be here in March."

"I have a lot of friends and family in area coming to support us. Working at Ashland first being a Division II school, and then Xavier for 7 years, and going back and playing there still is interesting."

This is a great basketball area, that's where I got all of my good kids from while at Xavier.

Vanderbilt senior guard Jasmine Lister
"We were aware there wasn't a 100 percent chance of us getting in. We definitely prepared for the worst but hoped for the best. We never really doubted we wouldn't get in, but seeing that we had to wait until the last bracket kept us on our toes. It made the celebration and excitement even better. It was the best celebration i have been apart of in my four years. Everybody was so happy and excited. We can't take that for granted."

"Arizona State is a very well-rounded team. They can get to the post and their guards are very good, and they push the ball in the transition. I don't think they have done anything we haven't seen."

Vanderbilt senior guard Christina Foggie
"Our celebration was awesome. We were so happy that when we came into practice we had a new step and a new life. Knowing that you're in the NCAA tournament really gives you a new life and new motivation. Our team has capitalized on the opportunity to be here, and we're not taking it for granted."

Defensively we must be better than we have been lately, and we have really improved on that. I believe that everything starts with your defense. And we can always improve on that."



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