THE MODERATOR: If you could, Coach, a quick comment and we'll take questions for the players and then questions for you.
Melanie Balcomb: Well, I think it was a really hard fought game by both teams. Auburn did a great job defensively. We were really out of sync on offense, turned the ball over a ton, and they really took us out of what we do. I was really impressed with their defensive effort. On the other hand I was impressed with our defensive effort.
I think we did a great job rebounding, and rebounding was our number one key, rebounding the basketball and keeping them off the glass because that's what they're so good at. I think we knew each other really well playing so recently, and we both did a great job preparing our teams and taking each other's strengths away so you saw a really hard fought defensive battle.
THE MODERATOR: Okay, questions for the players?
Q. Jess, can you talk about how important you knew that free throw shooting would be down the stretch in a game like this?
Jessica Mooney: Free throw shooting is important in every game. Coach emphasizes it in practice. We work on it every practice. We have to hit 80 percent or hit five in a row, some kind of thing, before we can go home. We know it's an important emphasis for every game.
Q. Jennifer, can you talk about they did a good job of shutting down Christina, didn't score until 1:43 left. Do you and the other guys have to step up and take the slack there? Just talk about that.
Jennifer Risper: That's just what a great team does. You're just there for each other. Even if Tina's shots weren't falling, we actually could have done a better job of attacking the basket a little bit more, but as a team we're going to stick up for each other and pick up each other's slacks.
Q. Jen, can you talk about your teammates and your team's response to adversity, of which there was a fair amount at various times in this game?
Jennifer Risper: I thought we did a good job. Tina, for example, a lot of shots she shot didn't go in, but she hit a lot of big shots at the end of the game. And also Amber went to the free throw line and hit two big free throws. So yes, we were battling back and forth throughout the game, but when it counted our team stepped up the most.
Q. Can you talk about whether you think this game being close would have been more of a benefit than it would have been had it been a 15, 17 point game like it was a couple weeks ago?
Jennifer Risper: Yeah, I think it prepares us a little bit more, gets us more focused for the next game.
THE MODERATOR: Now for Coach.
Q. Melanie, was it a little frustrating? There was quite a discrepancy at the free throw line. You guys were having a hard time, and it wasn't like you weren't trying to get the ball inside.
Melanie Balcomb: Yeah, we wanted to get to the free throw line a lot more. We wanted to drive. We wanted to take them off the dribble and we wanted to get the ball in the low post to Liz and draw fouls, and the opposite was happening. We were getting offensive foul calls, travels. We were turning the ball over in the post, and when we drove we were just making bad decisions on when to drive, when not to drive. We weren't seeing the help and making the decisions on whether to kick.
Last time we played them we drove and kicked a lot. Tonight we drove and tried to shoot up over two and came up empty a lot.
Q. Did they do anything special on Christina? Or was it Christina's struggles?
Melanie Balcomb: I suppose they did a great job on everybody. You have to key on Tina. Obviously they did a great job on her. They took her out of a lot of things. She did get looks early on that she usually knocks down and didn't, but I think they continued to take her looks away, and we just started going to Risper a lot and Jess. Jence had a big drive, really because we wanted to penetrate more.
Q. You guys were tied up going down the stretch, and Kristina was 0 of 8 from the field. Talk about her stepping up and making that shot, her first field goal of the game.
Melanie Balcomb: When she made that shot we all breathed easy. We became as a team tense because she wasn't hitting her shots and we rely on her so much. She has been so consistent for us, so consistent, and has been the go to, has hit so many big shots.
What's nice to know is no matter how she struggled all game offensively, she took big charges, she stepped up at the end and made that shot, and to be able to do that says a lot of her maturity on the floor as a player.
Q. How much does it help being on this floor? I mean, this team has had so much turnover since the last title was won here. But you mentioned early in the week you were going to talk about what this program has done here. Is there a little bit to feed off of their familiarity?
Melanie Balcomb: I don't think here. I don't think anybody played if I'm correct. I was here (laughing), so I have a lot of familiarity. I haven't brought a team here that's lost a game yet. But I really just keep telling our kids that we're successful here, and we joke about it with the freshmen, we don't lose here.
I think what's more familiar is winning last year and having a lot of players from last year, the sophomores so successful and the juniors and the seniors playing in that game. That's probably more important to them right now than where the game is.
We love playing in Nashville because our home fans get to be here. It was just amazing how many people stayed tonight when the weather is so bad and it's so late.
Q. Do you think it's more of a benefit for this game to be close like it was than if it was more of a blowout?
Melanie Balcomb: I hope so. You know, you don't ever want a game to be close, but at the same time, we haven't been in a lot of close games down the stretch. We've been playing really well and our games have not been close and we have not had to hit big free throws or execute down the stretch, and that's one thing we just talked about in the locker room is building confidence from that, that we were able to be successful doing that.
Q. Same question for you as to the players. Can you talk about your team's response to the various kinds of adversity in the game?
Q. Well, a lot of times during the season you have built a lead but tonight they came back. There were travels called, there were fouls called.
Melanie Balcomb: You mean my technical (laughing)? I don't know if it's adversity. I think things weren't going our way, and generally they have been going our way. It's one of the things that our staff and players on the bench really had to step up for everybody else. We talked to each other about staying calm. Obviously I didn't do so well at it. But I did tell my players let me talk to the officials, don't lose your cool.
I think we were starting to do that, just getting very, very tight. You could see it in their body language, so we asked for our players on the bench to help, as well as the staff, to just encourage and be positive down the stretch, and I think they really did that.
THE MODERATOR: We can start with the players. Questions for the players?
Q. DeWanna, can you talk about the comeback, and were you guys just spent at that point, or what happened down at the very end?
DEWANNA BONNER: I thought we fought hard. We hit some big shots. Our free throws killed us at the end, we were 11 for 20. We just kept fighting hard, and I'm proud of the team and the way we played tonight.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, do you want to go to a comment?
COACH FORTNER: I feel like I just got done with a prize fight. It was just one slug and then another slug and it was just a hard fought defensive battle. The free throw line really hurt us tonight. If we could have knocked those free throws down it would have been nice.
But I thought we just both teams just played very tough, and it was just a tough game.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for players?
Q. For either of you, did the recent game against Vanderbilt help you in any way to prepare for this game, and if so, how?
JORDAN GREENLEAF: Yes, we knew that Vanderbilt is a very good three point shooting team, and we knew in order to stay in the game with them we had to limit their three point shots, and that was one of the things we focused on in this game, and I think we did a good job with that.
DEWANNA BONNER: Yeah, they were kind of fresh on our mind. They have a great inside and outside game, so we just had to play tough defense. We came out there and we fought and we limited the three points like Jordan said, and we just kind of stayed in the game.
THE MODERATOR: Okay, players, thank you. Now for Coach?
Q. After you played Vanderbilt just a couple of weeks ago, what kind of adjustments did you make prior to this game?
COACH FORTNER: Well, we knew we had to take that three point shot away because they shot the ball really well against us at Auburn and they were 10 for 20 from the three. We really made an effort to make sure we were out on shooters. I really thought if we had three or four made threes we could win the game, and we could have if we had hit the free throws.
I thought our defense was much better. It was not good when we played them at Auburn. Much better tonight, but it's very hard for us to score against Vanderbilt. They're a very tough, physical defensive team. But when you get yourself to that free throw line you've got to take advantage of that, and we just couldn't do that tonight.
Q. Talk about what you all were able to do to limit Christina Wirth tonight.
COACH FORTNER: We were switching in our defense, and that kept her from they run a lot of things like she'll screen and pop out or screen and pop up, so we were switching those, and we ended up having somebody on her. She wasn't getting many looks.
But God, she killed us with that one at the end, at the elbow. Boy, that was nice, got a little free right there. But we were switching in other man defense, and I think that kept her from getting looks.