Usually a post-game press conference addresses key points in the game, adjustments, and significant factors that led to victory or defeat. But the press conference after Vanderbilt's win over the Mississippi State Lady Bulldogs took a wider view, as Head Coach Melanie Balcomb talked about the development of her team over the season, where it's been and where it could be going.
The Press: Can you tell me what you think it’s going to take for a good basketball team to become a very good or great basketball team in reference to your team?
I was thinking about that on the way down here to be honest with you. I think all year we’ve been plagued with – we have excuses, we have injuries, we don’t have numbers, we can’t practice with this person out, we’re too young at the guard spot, and, frankly, it’s a bunch of crap.
If we want to be good this year, right now, we can be, but we want to be great. And the whole way down here, I was going, how do we go from good to great with this team? I think we are good. Then I watched some teams on TV that are great, like Notre Dame, and I’m thinking, How can we get there? Because I think we have the pieces to the puzzle. I don’t think it’s how many pieces you have; you have to have the right pieces.
We’ve had four kids in the last four games score 20 or more. How many teams in the country have that? And a point guard that has given up her point production for the team and is right now an extension of me, a great leader. I talked to her at halftime, and we went from 14 turnovers to five.
So I think that’s my job to figure it out. That’s a long answer that isn’t the right answer, but I’m thinking what you were thinking. I think we -- and I hate to use the word “potential” because it’s February, you better not have potential, you better be good. And I think we’re good, but I do think if we want to be great by March, which is what we try to do, we could be.
We’re going to have to get better defensively. We haven’t lost a half since we lost three in a row. We lost the first half to South Carolina. We have not lost a half since. Even early on, when we were winning in pre-season, we were killing people for a half then letting them score 50 points in the second half,. We were struggling winning two halves. We were explosive in one.
So I like that we’re winning two halves. I like our balance on offense. I like our rebounding. I like our team chemistry. I like a lot about this team. I think we need to play better defense, be able to shut down a Diamber Johnson, their best player, and not let some of these kids get their career high. We have to be able to lock down better defensively.
The Press: Is that a mindset with your kids, about raising the level from good to great?
I don’t know what they think. For a while, you lose three In a row in the conference and you’re just grabbing for a win, and then we grabbed for the next win, and then we grabbed for the next --- so no, we haven’t talked about it yet, and I’m not sure where they’re at with that. I do know that they’ve earned a lot of confidence these past two weeks, and it’s confidence earned – they’re working their butts off – and it started when we lost at Arkansas and practiced at 5:30 in the morning right after that trip. There was a change.
The Press: You may have been asked this at some point about Christina Foggie, being a sophomore and leading the league in scoring. Was that a surprise to you?
No. I knew who Christina was when she came. Last year she struggled with two concussions and concussion syndrome. I wish there were a “most improved” award in this league because I thought about that today as well. I told my assistant Kim [Rosamond], people are probably like, ooh, that kid, she’s gone from nothing to your leading scorer. But she didn’t have a normal season for a normal freshman last year. She’s doing everything this year that I thought she would do as a freshman. It’s kind of like her freshman year for us. And now, she’s in conference and people are taking away her three, and she threw some incredible passes in the game against Auburn when they took away her three, and now she’s learning how to get to the rim, how to finish, how to get fouled and score from the free throw line. She’s becoming a more complete player.
The Press: When Tiffany Clarke and Stephanie Holzer play like they did tonight, how much can that contribute to raising the level?
That’s what’s really changed since Arkansas. We didn’t have a lot of production in the post. We were getting it all from our guards, and that’s what we talked about, our posts need to become more productive in the paint. They have to get open more, they have to work harder, and then we have to get our high-low.
That’s what we talked about. If we could get our high-low the way we used to play it with Ashley Earley and Carla Thomas, and Jenni Benningfield and Ashley -- that’s what we talk about in our program. If we could get that high-low from Tiff and Steph, then we could become a really explosive team on offense and a much more complete team. And you’re right. We could go from good to great. That’s what we’ve been working on, that high-low. And you can see us using it. Before the last two games, we were doing it a lot, but our timing was off, but we were starting to look for it, and we were throwing it out of bounds. Now you see it getting better every game, and that’s very important.