March 1, 2012
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Vanderbilt head coach Melanie Balcomb, Christina Foggie and Stephanie Holzer. We'll start with opening comments from coach, then take questions.
COACH BALCOMB: I just really liked our defense tonight. I thought we did a great job of preventing the middle drive and rebounding, not giving second shots. We took care of our turnovers. That's where they got most of their points. It would have been even a greater effort. I think we did a good job on what our goal tonight was to do, was to defend and rebound.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH BALCOMB: I wasn't telling them anything. They were telling each other what they wanted. They were leading. I just sat outside the huddle and listened. It started with Steph and Jas and Foggie, all talking about their body language, what they needed to change.
They all accepted it. It was critical at times, accepted the criticism and changed it. That's when I knew that we could make a run back and we could take care of our business.
They're leading each other right now. We have really good leadership. On the court in March they better be able to lead because I can't play.
Q. The foul line, the big discrepancy there.
COACH BALCOMB: I thought we did a good job of getting the ball outside. They were doubling down. In the second half I think they got tired of doubling down, fouling us. Tiff and Steph and Foggie did a great job of getting to the free-throw line and making all their free throws, seemed really relaxed and confident at the free-throw line.
Q. How big was Tiffany Clarke's play especially late on the glass?
COACH BALCOMB: She got aggressive. I thought we all got a lot more aggressive on the offensive boards, too, not just defensively, getting second shots. Because we got tight on offense because the game got close. This is the game that's the hardest. It's the one that you're supposed to win.
When they started making a run, we lost a little confidence in our defense, our scoring ability, we crashed the boards hard. I think Steph did, I think Tiff did, I think Elan did and Foggie did. They all went to the glass, got the ball out, kicked it out, hit some big shots, and got fouled, as well.
Q. Can you talk about meeting up with Tennessee for a third time.
COACH BALCOMB: I really haven't thought a lot about it. Like I said, our focus was on Mississippi State. But, you know, now that I think about it, again it's not really who we're playing, what the jersey color is going to be, what it's going to say, it's going to be about our game plan and how well we execute it. That's what our focus is going to be, is getting a game plan together and executing that the best we can tomorrow.
Q. Melanie, you mentioned the pressure on today. Obviously the pressure will not be on you guys tomorrow. Do you feel like having the game under your belt, not having the pressure on, do you feel that will help you or be an advantage tomorrow?
COACH BALCOMB: I've always said that it's not the end of the world if you don't have the bye because you do get the opportunity, I believe, to play on this court, and it is a different court. I think you saw this year every team played way better at home than they did on the road. What I thought would be neat about this tournament is who plays well on a neutral court. That's going to be really interesting because nobody knows that.
Sometimes not getting that bye gets you more comfortable with the floor. I don't know if it will be an advantage, but we've already shot on it twice and played on it once, and there is a comfort level there that our players will have.
Q. Melanie, do you feel like your team is an underdog playing Tennessee? You beat them handily not that long ago.
COACH BALCOMB: I would say we're the underdog 'cause they're ranked higher than us, have a better record than us right now in this season. They're a higher seed. I would think we would be the underdogs.
Q. For the student-athletes, you were plus 13 on the boards tonight. Going up against what arguably is one of the best rebounding teams in the SEC, how do you plan to bring that tomorrow against Tennessee?
Christina Foggie: I think definitely as a focus we have to team rebound and that means not rely on the post rebounding. We want to get guards in there and rebound a lot more. Tomorrow it's going to be important that all us five of check out and all five of us get in there and rebound.
Stephanie Holzer: I agree exactly with what Fogg said. It's part of executing our game plan against Tennessee. We know they're big and aggressive. We all have to make an effort to get in there, make contact, and go after the balls.
Q. Why do you think the press gave you so many problems today and is that concerning going forward?
Stephanie Holzer: I think we got a little ahead of ourselves. We were really anxious at first. We're in the SEC tournament. Like coach said, we needed to get our feet wet.
So tomorrow -- we had the chance to get that out of our system today, so tomorrow we're going to approach Tennessee as, Okay, we're going to settle down, be patient, we know this court, we know this team, let's get back to executing our game plan.
Christina Foggie: I agree.
Q. Coach, can you tell me just what Christina Foggie has meant to the team this year, the contributions this year, especially coming off injuries last year?
COACH BALCOMB: I think it's been huge. I don't think anybody expected her to do what she's done so consistently all season. I knew she had an edge and an advantage because I knew she was a great basketball player when I recruited her. I knew the troubles she went through last year. She wasn't herself.
I also knew that she went home over the summer to get better, came back tougher, stronger mentally and physically.
What I didn't know is she could maintain it the way she has. I thought she was our hidden secret, that she didn't get named pre-season anything. I think I said that to her. I said, We have this secret that nobody knows about and is ready to play.
When she first started playing as well as she was, I wasn't surprised in pre-season. I wasn't surprised in the beginning of the SEC. What I was surprised probably by was the consistency and the fact that as they started to tag her tougher, deny her more, put their best defender on her every night, box-and-one on her, she became more of a complete player. It challenged her to make her a better basketball player. Instead of being the best three-point shooter in the league, she became the best scorer in the league.
I'm really proud of her development and her being able to do that in a season. That's hard to do.
Q. For the players, are you looking forward to another shot at Tennessee tomorrow?
Stephanie Holzer: They're a great team. They're one of our biggest rivals. We have to go out there, have fun, keep working hard.
Q. You picked up your 400th career win. What does that mean to you, just the success that you've had?
COACH BALCOMB: That I'm old (laughter). Sharon Fanning is leaving, so now I'm the third oldest. All the people are talking about is that I'm the third oldest in the SEC.
It sounds like I coached a lot of games. But I don't get those wins, I don't get any of them by myself. I don't get to play, like I said earlier. I wasn't a real good player. Don't tell my players that.
I feel like I've had so many good players in the past. Right now I have such a strong staff around me. Because of the success I've had, I've been able to continue that. Just really to continue coaching as long as I have because I enjoy the players. I enjoy coaching them. I enjoy helping them. I like to see them be successful.
Q. Stephanie, how do you explain the wide-ranging results in these two games between Tennessee? You made Tennessee look bad here. They beat you by 20 or more there.
Stephanie Holzer: I think it's about how we came out ready to play the game. I think we started the first half at Tennessee, we were kind of anxious. The second half we just let down and they kind of hit us and we didn't fight back. I think the second time we played them, we were ready to fight back. We started at the tip. That's how we were able to take them over.
But I think it's going to be a good game. They're going to come at us ready to play and we're going to do exactly the same thing. It will be a really good game.
Q. Last time you played, you won points in the paint. Why do you think you dominated in that game? How important will it be to stay out of foul trouble tomorrow?
Stephanie Holzer: I think we need to be smart like we need to be smart every game. Our team is going to need us tomorrow. It's a bigger game. If we're not in there, our guards are going to have trouble because they're going to be pressured more. Having the ability to stay on the court and play inside out is going to be a big advantage for us.
COACH BALCOMB: And rebounding obviously. Every time you play Tennessee, you better be ready to rebound. They're big, they're athletic. That's one of the things why our record is what it is against Tennessee. A lot of it's been rebounding.
So far I think this is the best rebounding team I've had in the SEC. I think that's what helped us the first time around. We need to do the same thing - and even better - because now it's post-season and they're going to pick up their effort and we're going to have to pick up ours.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, ladies.