Post-Auburn game quotes

March 8, 2009

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THE MODERATOR: Congratulations to Vanderbilt – a 61-54 winner today. We have Melanie Balcomb and student athletes, Jennifer Risper and Christine Wirth, both members of the all tournament team, Christina Wirth M.V.P. of the all tournament team. Coach?

COACH BALCOMB: First of all, sorry for my hair, I apologize. I’m just really proud of the way our kids fought through the whole tournament, but I’m really proud of the execution of a game plan. That’s not easy to do, and having kids believe in what our game plan was and execute it as well as they did today. It was awesome to watch as a coach.

The two seniors next to me, I can’t wait to play again. We’ve got a while before NCAAs, but I think we’re ready to do some great things and I’m excited at how we reacted all game today, with our body language, our confidence and making big plays. When we needed them.

Q. Melanie, you guys have beaten them twice this season, only one other team was able to beat ’em, period. What do you guys know that nobody else can figure out?

COACH BALCOMB: We know we can’t play ’em straight up, they’ve got great players. You have to do different things to get them out of their flow on offense, disrupt their offense and limit touches to their shooters, and then you have to fight on the boards.

You have to rebound as well as keep them under control in transition. They’re the fastest team up and down the court in transition that I’ve ever coached against, and we tried to limit those transition buckets.

Q. Melanie, how many different defenses did you use against them tonight, I counted triangle, box, some kind of basic matches

COACH BALCOMB: No, we actually didn’t. We worked on a lot of different things and we’ve used a lot of things during the tournament, but today we used two different defenses.

Q. Which were?

COACH BALCOMB: We did use three, that’s right.

Q. I was close.

COACH BALCOMB: We worked on about six. We used some triangle against ’em, as well as some man and some I don’t want to give out all our secrets, we’ve got games to play.

Q. We know about your M.V.P. and all tournament players, but can you talk about the unsung heroes of your team?

COACH BALCOMB: Yeah, when I was up here the other day, Jen liked when I talked about when one door closes on Hannah, and hopefully we will get her back, but one door opens, and somebody else gets an opportunity.

I just think Tia Gibbs has made the most of this opportunity, and we’ve gone to a small lineup and moved Jen to the post and brought Tia in and she has played a lot. And I think she has been tough in our defenses as well as hitting big shots for us, big plays.

But as a whole, everybody has stepped up and given us something. She stands out the most because she has taken the most advantage of the minutes, from not playing a lot to playing a lot.

Q. (Away from mic.)

Jennifer Risper: They helped prepare us for the game. A lot of players didn’t get in tonight, but they helped to prepare us play the game.

Q. You missed your first eight shots to start out, and Tia hit one to take it to six to three after about five minutes. Were you relieved at that point?

Christina Wirth: We got off to a slow start, but I guess, you know, 6 points is not too much of a deficit to come back from, and so we said, you’re fine, we’ve just got to go out there and relax and our shots will fall.

As soon as we scored, the game was basically almost tied, it wasn’t a big deficit, so we knew we were fine.

Q. Jennifer, you had Bonner, was there anything that you were doing that she seemed to be out of it tonight?

Jennifer Risper: Just defense, that’s all.

Q. Melanie, Nell said she thought Christina may have played her most inspired or best game that she had seen on tape this year or at your place. Your thoughts on her overall game and Christina’s comments?

COACH BALCOMB: Yeah, Tina was big time tonight. And I mean that in the confidence level that she carried for her team and for herself. I think what was so awesome about Tina is she was so relaxed and not just tonight, but the entire tournament.

I felt good about her being relaxed and it helped her teammates be relaxed and she had a lot of trust in her teammates. Like Jen said, we had a lot of teammates step up and work hard, and it built her trust in her teammates. When she needed to step up, she wanted the ball at all the big times, but she defended the post player on the other team every single game.

If that doesn’t wear you out, Tina is undersized to begin with, with no help on the side and helping on the defensive end was the amazing part of it.

Christina Wirth: It was a nice comment. If you look at the stats, I didn’t shoot well at all, to be honest. I did hit some shots and my teammates found me a few threes at clutch times in the game, but it was a complete team effort.

A lot of times I take a lot of the shots, and I remember one time early on in the season Coach talking to me and saying, you’re being selfish if you don’t take those shots. A lot of people say you’re selfish if you shoot 20 times a game, but she told me for the team to be successful, that’s what I needed to do.

And when my shots aren’t falling, I’m going to keep taking them, and it was a great team effort. I couldn’t be more proud of our team.

Q. Christina could you talk about the steal there at the end and how you saw that play unfold?

Christina Wirth: I turned it over so I was the last one down the floor, and I saw Smalley about to make a skip pass, and I tried to get it to Meredith Marsh, she is an amazing free throw shooter, but I saw it and I took it.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, ladies.


THE MODERATOR: Nell Fortner from Auburn, DeWanna Bonner and Whitney Boddie, comments, Coach?

COACH FORTNER: Well, I thought Vanderbilt played outstanding defense and kept us from getting into any kind of rhythm offensively.

And it was a long day for us offensively and they shot the three ball so well today. Hard to beat a team when they’re shooting threes that well. I thought Vanderbilt was very good today.

Q. Nell, in addition to their 3 point shooting, you didn’t make any, was there something they were doing?

COACH FORTNER: They smothered Allie all day, she was our best 3 point shooter, and DeWanna, she shoots the three, and they didn’t get any nice looks anyway.

I thought they did a good job taking that away, even though we’re not a huge 3 point shooting team, we normally get to the free throw line a little more than we did today and we just didn’t seem to get the calls in that regard.

Normally when we’re penetrating and getting to the hole, we’re usually picking up some fouls, but I thought that hurt us, too, no three’s and then not getting to the free throw line as much as we normally do.

Q. DeWanna, building on what Coach Fortner said, what were the things you saw them doing to you tonight that made it difficult for you to get into a rhythm?

DeWANNA BONNER: They just smothered you while you were on the court and they played good team defense.

Q. Whitney, usually you’re the one penetrating and getting things going, were they playing a funky zone stopping you from getting in there?

WHITNEY BODDIE: They were playing a triangle and two on some and the zone on the others, and I’m not taking a lot of 3 point shots and they were trying to stop DeWanna. My man was sagging on her.

And usually I’m trying to penetrate and create things, but the way they were playing defense, it’s more sagging, so they kind of dare you to take the shot because if you penetrate, they’re sagging on you.

Q. Nell, seems like you guys were within three points and Vandy went wide up on 3 pointers.

COACH FORTNER: It was just a defensive breakdown. We were trying to switch on screens, and we just got a little messed up there, so, yeah, that was very it was like a dagger.

Because when we got it to three, if we could have made a nice stop, that would have been nice and come back down and try to tie it or cut it to 1, but we weren’t switching on the screens and it just didn’t happen.

Q. How hard is it not to be disappointed? You’ve still got obviously more season.

COACH FORTNER: Well, it hurts right now, nobody likes to lose. We haven’t lost very much this year, obviously, but it is disappointing, and when the prize is as big as the one was today, it’s even more disappointing.

Or it hurts a little more, but you know what? We understand what lies ahead and we have to take it and learn from it and use it as we move forward. We’ll get over it, move on just like we do with the wins. You deal with it, you either enjoy it or you deal with it, and then you move on and then it’s on to what lies ahead.

Q. DeWanna, like Coach said, you’re disappointed right now, but how important is the next two weeks for you guys?

DeWANNA BONNER: Once we figure out what’s next, we can’t worry about this loss, can’t let anything dictate us. We have to just go back, find out who we play and prepare.

Q. Nell, Christine Wirth kept getting open for those threes, and she hit a lot. Were you trying to do something on her that wasn’t working or how did that go down?

COACH FORTNER: There wasn’t anything we weren’t trying to run any kind of special defense for her. They were just I think that was more miscommunication. It was maybe a long offensive rebound that we didn’t get out and recover to her a couple of times, and that hurt us with the threes.

The rebounds were long and we were all sucked into the paint trying to go to the boards, and then they kicked it out and knocked down another three.

Q. I’m sorry if you addressed this, Nell, but can you talk about Wirth in terms of she just seemed to make all kinds of plays you might not see on the scoreboard, like tipping the rebounds out, she made the steal in the end.

COACH FORTNER: I thought she played very desirable basketball today. She seems to be one of those maybe she’s a senior and this is her last run through, I thought she was better today than I’ve seen her on film and when we played ’em in Nashville.

Maybe she stepped up a little more because Tuomi is hurt and she knows she has to do a little more. To me, it seemed like that’s how she played today.

Q. You tried to up your offense in the second half, but how tough is Vanderbilt to come back on?

WHITNEY BODDIE: They’re really tough. They’re efficient with their offense, they pound you, pound you and you think you’ve got them stopped, and then at the end of the shot clock they make a three.

It’s hard to come back on a team like this. They’re mechanical and the way they do things. We tried to step up and make place, I guess, but…

Q. Nell, obviously every game is different, but what is it about Vanderbilt over the last couple of years that has made it hard for you guys to get over the hill?

COACH FORTNER: I wish I knew. I think it’s the defense they play. It’s always a low scoring game when we play them, and it’s hard to get your points, whether it’s a triangle and two, box and one, they do a lot of things that keep you out of a good offensive rhythm.

I think Melanie does a good job with shutting down certain players on a team, you know, whatever the defense that they play is, they focus on taking players out of their game. You know, we just haven’t been able to break through that defense.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, ladies.