March 24, 2008
Vanderbilt Head Coach: Melanie Balcomb
"I'm just really impressed with our level of conditioning. We just wore them down and wore them down and that was one of our major goals. The other was getting out on the three-point shooters and rebounding and to dominate the rebounding game and I think we did that. I just think we did a great job executing the game plan never getting flustered, never getting down, staying together as a team for 40 minutes.
Can you just talk about how you were able to get the teams ready right at the opening tip and at halftime to make some of those runs that you guys have had?
"We talk a lot about the mental part of the game and I think we have smart kids, we have kids that have really bought on to what we want. Once you get them to buy on you get to choose, what I value carries over to them what they value, and I value the first four minutes of every game and the first four minutes of every half. I think that it can really take a lot of wind out of another team and I think those are the most important time other than the end of a game in a close game. We always want to send that message that we are going to be the aggressor that we are going to attack whether it is on offense or defense. They have just really bought on to my philosophy and have done a really good job accomplishing that."
I was just talking to Jessica Mooney down stairs and she said you weren't very happy at halftime with all of the turnovers. Can you just brief us with what went on in the locker room?
"We talked first about that is where they made their run. We got a good lead and when we were in man they couldn't guard us, we executed, got great shots and converted. Then they went zone. We also turned the ball over in transition. My philosophy in transition is to go fast to slow and fast again and to change speeds. We went fast to faster and got out of control. I think we turned the basketball over when some of them were totally unforced, not protecting the basketball, and then they went zone, same thing. We had people in the passing lanes, we weren't ball faking, we weren't taking care of the ball. That was a big focus on us at halftime and that was one of the adjustments that we tried to make is to slow down on offense and to take our time, to not force things initially to go fast and then force something and take a quick shot or to turn it over, but to slow down and make them defend."
Could you talk a little bit about what Liz (Sherwood) was able to do in the second half. It seemed like (Olayinka) Sanni came out and got a couple quick baskets and you basically put her in and that was the end of that.
"Liz came in and she was huge for us defensively especially. Liz is known to come and be big for us on offense. Tonight we used her height advantage in the post. Sanni does a great job... in the post and we were trying to change position and come around Christina (Wirth) and Hannah (Tuomi) and they got two quick easy baskets and... when she drops steps and scores you double down from anywhere, you can't help. What we tried to do was put Liz in and let her play behind and let people help down and have Liz challenge her shot and make her shot over Liz."
We talked a little bit about this yesterday how you guys were able to rest your starters against Montana, it kind of looked like West Virginia hit the wall, do you think that you guys were a lot fresher in the second half?
"Yes and I think we could sense that they hit a wall. There was a point where there was a time, I think it was the eight minutes mark where we said they had lost momentum and they were all putting their heads down, they were walking. They were looking over to the coach for time outs, and they were going like this and we talk about coming together when we are tired, when there is adversity and we saw them going that way. That got our kids excited."
Vanderbilt Players: Jennifer Risper and Christina Wirth
Christina (Wirth), following up a little bit on what your coach just said, would you agree that you guys had the fresher legs down the last ten minutes of the game? Could you tell that they were wearing down?
Christina: "Yeah, I think that we could see that. We got talking about that in timeouts and how we could see that they were tired. We are in great shape .We thanked our strength and conditioning coach in the locker room for getting us ready. The stuff that you do in the off-season, all the conditioning doesn't seem fun at the time, really is paying off now. I think that our team realizes that that we are in great shape and we can run hard and play hard for 40 minutes. I think that is hard to hang with for other teams."
Jennifer (Risper), it seemed like I saw a lot of players smiling out there every time there was a dead ball and you guys were just really having a good time even before you made that run to pull away to kind of pull away in the second half. Can you talk about how fun it has been on this team and this experience?
Jennifer: "Well, one of our goals and keys to every single game is to run and have fun. Even when games get tough like that we're still trying to get excited for each other. We're like that's how close we are. We want to have a good time when we're playing cause it's not fun when you're just out there playing with people you don't feel close wit, it's not going to be fun, but we're a close group of girls, so that's fun. Also, too we just believe in each other and we had faith and we knew that we were the team that's going to last long, so even though we're excited, even though the game was still close you know that is what carried that over and I think that is what allowed us to push and get that lead."
At half time you guys had 15 turnovers and you really shut that down in the second half. What kind of turned that around in the second half?
Christina: "We just talked about it and just really made it a focus. I think we were starting to get a really fast, they started playing us in the zone and we were just kind of forcing things so, I think we talked about how there is no reason to do that, they're not taking anything away from us, we can get the same things we get in every game, so we just needed to slow down and execute and just read the defense."
West Virginia Head Coach: Mike Carey
"First of all, all my seven seniors, I am very proud of them. They have done more for the West Virginia University basketball program than any set of seniors in the history of the program. I am not going to sit up here and talk negative. They have had a great career. We just didn't get it done. You can look at the stats and see what went on, but I am very proud of our seniors. These two young ladies right here (Meg Bulger and Olayinka Sanni). I am glad these are the two that are up here. Just to give you a little background...Olayinka Sanni has been with us for four years and has just been a great player. She continues to get better and better. She has a bright future and is going to graduate. All seven seniors are going to graduate. When it is all said and done, I guess that is the most important thing. Meg Bulger, three ACL injuries, same leg. Out there playing. So that says a lot and I don't need to say a lot more about her dedication to this program. Ii just want to say I am proud of all of them. The game speaks for itself and we'll go from there."
Could you talk a little bit about how it looked like your girls didn't have their legs in the second half?
"I don't know. I am like them (the players) I don't take that for an excuse. I just think that we didn't execute. We just didn't get out. We let (Christina) Wirth stand out there and shoot 3's wide open and she hit them. She was 4-for-7 and that got them going a little bit. Offensively, we didn't reverse the ball. There wasn't one timeout I didn't say `We're not reversing the ball. We're not getting space. We're not cutting.' You can't do that. We probably took more bad shots tonight than we have in five, six games. You just can't do that. We missed easy shots and then took bad shots on top of that and then didn't get out and defend. You are not going to win a game against a team like Vanderbilt by playing that way."
Typical of Chakhia Cole at the end, hurts her ankle driving in, stays in the game and scores a few more points. That kind of typifies her career doesn't it?
"Absolutely. She is a warrior. She has been for four years. She has started every game since her freshman year. These seniors, we'll all miss them, but the program must go on. I am very proud of them. They are going to graduate all seven of them and there is no doubt that all of them will go on to be successful."
West Virginia Players: Meg Bulger and Olayinka Sanni
This is for Meg (Bulger). You guys kind of hit the wall midway through the second half it seemed like. Could you elaborate on that a little bit? And how much was the fatigue factor was a factor?
Meg: "Yeah, you can always blame it on fatigue but that's just kind of giving it an excuse. They could have said the same thing if we would have won. So fatigue defiantly shouldn't have been a factor. They just went on a run. Starting hitting some three's. We kind of hit a slump offensively. We weren't moving the ball as much as we should have. They capitalized on that."
Olayinka (Sanni) what did you see as the key there in the second half when they were able to build that double-digit lead?
Olayinka: "I think they just had a lot more intensity in the second half. When they brought number 32 (Liz Sherwood) in, their post player, big bodied, athletic, I think she brought a lot intensity for their team coming in for their post player. Very athletic, just taking a lot of space up. I think in the second half the key was for us to stay focused. I think we lost focus and they kept their momentum going."