Vanderbilt-Texas A&M postgame quotes

Feb. 21, 2016

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Vanderbilt Coach Melanie Balcomb
On what went wrong in the fourth quarter:
“They pressed. They turned up the pressure and then we were on our heels, and that’s pretty much who we’ve been. We’ve been fine as long as we’re in control and we get to do what we do. I think the biggest problem is we should have broke it open when they allowed us to do what we were doing. Kinda like, it just reminded me of the South Carolina game to a T, and that’s pretty much who we’ve been. When they changed the game and turned it up, pressed us, trapped us, made us play full court, we became tentative and turned the ball over.”

On Coach Blair being one of the classiest coaches in college basketball:
“Absolutely. Gary is a good man. He does like to talk. I’m honored that he’s impressed with me. I know that I was in the hall that’s why I was late, I was in the hall talking to him and his assistant who has also been in it a long time. I have a great deal of respect for him and his staff, and how they coach the game and what they do and I think it’s just a mutual love fest really.”

Vanderbilt Player Morgan Batey
Vanderbilt had a lead on Texas A&M for majority of the game. What do you think happened that allowed them to catch up and win?
“Our focus this whole season has been defense and defensively we made stops and took what they want. But, we do a lot better on offense. I think we gave up some easy buckets to them and let them gain some confidence. We had some turnovers, which didn’t really help. Then suddenly I looked up and they were ten ahead. We just go to get better on defense.”

Seemed like they missed a lot of baskets early on but then there at the end they hardly missed any. Why do you think that happened?
“I think we just gave them better looks. In the first half I thought we did a great job of taking away the shots they wanted to have. In the second half, they got a lot more open looks. If you have an open look and the time to shoot it, a college basketball player is going to knock the shot down. Hats off to them, they made shots, they made good plays off of it, but we got to do better defensively.”

It seems like you guys have been fighting hard, but still you have lost six games in a row. As a senior, how do you keep the younger players focused and their fighting spirit up?
“We take it one game at a time. Yeah, we haven’t gotten the results and wins that we wanted, but each game we are trying to improve. Each practice, we are trying to improve and hopefully, we will eventually get it right. Right now, the only thing we are focusing on is improving from one day to the next. Negativity doesn’t really help anybody, especially in this situation where it’s obvious we are in this slide. Talking about that and getting mad at each other doesn’t help, it just makes it worse. I think we have done a good job of still believing in each other and still holding each other accountable.”

Texas A&M Coach Gary Blair
On their strategy coming into the game:
“Our game plan was to go inside early. We managed to turn it over five times with our two post players, and they were ineffective. We have trouble going against smaller post players, like LSU’s post players and Marqu’es Webb here. They’re smaller, they have more leverage, they get inside of us, and they are hard to guard. We’re better off when we go against Tennessee and South Carolina because those kids might be more skilled and have more size, but at least we can look them eyeball to eyeball. That was the game plan. We had to get away from the game plan. The game plan also was not letting Vanderbilt run their offense as well as they did in the first half. It was textbook. It was old Vanderbilt. But I figured we could put some pressure on them in the second half. I thought we dominated the third quarter, shooting 60% but we were still down four. I just kept on believing in us. I started playing full guard lineup, I put Anriel Howard at the five spot when Khaaila Hillsman got into foul trouble, and we could matchup and run and our press was very effective. They couldn’t run that offense as well because we were chasing them so much that by the time they got down the court they weren’t even flowing like they were flowing in the first half. I had to do my game plan all over just to restart the game. When you’re on the road you don’t like to do that. You hope that your offense can get you through. But hey, give our kids some credit, they shot 75% in the fourth quarter, and 60% in the third. I bet that nobody in the SEC has done that in the second half of a ballgame. Give them credit, my kids understand where the midrange game is, and they can get to the free throw line.”

On the unpredictability of the SEC:
“It’s why the SEC is the best league in the country. I had seven games in a row, except for the last three games, where we went down to the last possession in the last 30 seconds of the game. Seven. We went four-and-three in that time. South Carolina twice, Missouri, Alabama, taking charges like we do, like Jordan Jones does. That’s how balanced the league is. There is no bottom. Melanie Balcomb doesn’t have the impact players that she has had in years past. They’re coming. She’s got a great recruiting class coming in. She runs her stuff as well as anybody in the league. They are hard to defend because of how disciplined they are. We did a better job in the first half because we didn’t put them at the free throw line. We had some deflections and some steals away from the post player because sometimes when we went smaller we were able to deflect the ball and keep it out of their hand. Give her credit for what she does. Now, she is 15-12. Obviously, for her to make the tournament she will have to win the SEC tournament. She has done it before. If not, go to the WNIT and win that one. I’ve played that game too. Just think, she is getting everything that she can out of her team. Sometimes, there are some of us right now that have better players, and I’ve got seniors. Seniors win championships.”

Senior Guard Courtney Walker
On what changed in the second half:
“Our defense was a lot better in the second half. Even though we went small we were still good at rebounding. We were fouling for a while there, so if you look at the quarters they actually scored more in the second half. Once we stopped fouling in the fourth we were really able to break it away. The key thing was rebounding. We played good defense and were able to score. We had several possessions where we were scoring back to back to back.”

On their strategy coming into the game:
“We went back and forth between man on man and zone. Our matchup in zone had trouble dropping down and stealing from their post players. In the second half we started tracking the post, especially because they were smaller. They were killing us there in the first half.”

On the set up of Memorial Gym:
“I would say it helped, being able to hear them. Our bench talks to us a lot, not even necessarily Coach Blair, but other people behind him as well are giving us reads. We were able to hear them several times, the issue was that when we were playing on the other side we had some trouble hearing. I think we just started executing better, and we could hear the plays, and we just did a much better job in the second half with execution.”

Senior Guard Chelsea Jennings
On what changed in the second half:
“I think coming into half time we just needed to pick up our energy. They were beating us to every loose ball, and we came out in the third quarter and we won that third quarter. After that, Coach Blair said we won it and that we had to play even harder in the fourth quarter. That’s what made us pick it up.”