March 22, 2009


Vanderbilt Head Coach: Melanie Balcomb

Opening Statement:

I thought yesterday Western Carolina was very prepared and did a great job against us defensively in the first half. We were a little flat from not playing in 14 days, so I think it took us awhile to get our timing back. I think we did a great job adjusting and taking away the three. I think we are going to have to do the same thing. Kansas State is a great shooting team, and I think they have two very good post players inside, and a tremendous All-American point guard. We are really going to have to step up our defense, and we are really going to have to take their personnel out of their strengths.

Can you elaborate on the challenges you face with Lehning?

I think the biggest challenge is penetration. She can just find people and she attacks off the dribble. You don't want her to penetrate too deep and then kick out to shoot, and they have so many shooters. The other thing is she is really heady on defense. I think everybody talks about her offense, but she plays off-the-ball defense and rebounds as well. On both ends of the floor, she is going to do a lot of things for them. Everything goes through her, and she is big in everything they do. She will take advantage of you defensively; she will leave somebody and go get a steal. Offensively for a point, she's going to crash the boards and not many other teams check out a point guard. She is just a really hard working player and very smart, but she is also a great leader. She plays with a lot of enthusiasm and energy, and I think her team feeds off that.

You talk about how good Kansas State is at shooting, have you seen anybody in the SEC that reminds you of a hot team like that?

Not in the SEC. We play a lot of different teams in the SEC that are not like Kansas State. We played Iowa State this year, which is a lot like Kansas State. They use a lot of ball screens and shooters, and post players who can step out and hit the three. We have been preparing more for playing like an Iowa State. I think Kansas State and them have pretty good match-ups.

We talked about how Kansas State goes through Lehning offensively. Even though they play different positions, is that kind of true for Christina Wirth for you?

No, not really. Christina is a small forward so not everything goes through Tina. We saw a great second half for Tina, and yes we want her to touch the ball as much as possible. But somebody has to get her the ball and that's different than Lehning. Lehning has the ball in her hands all the time, she controls everything. She tries to create it for other people and then can also create for herself. When they do run similar things to what we run, read and react stuff and reading the defense, if that breaks down then they get the ball into Lehning's hands and she is going to create. Tina won't touch the ball as much as Lehning will because of her position. That's tough. You want to keep the ball out of Lehning's hands as much as possible because she is going to create so much for everybody else. People are going to get assist through Tina. Tina doesn't create that much for other people. She gets assists because she can attract so many people, but she is more on the finishing end from the distributing.

Where are you philosophically with the team and the kids getting to do other stuff than basketball on a trip like this?

"I feel that at Vanderbilt it's all about balance. That is one of the things I love about Vanderbilt is that they are student Athletes. They are students first, and then athletes, and then thirdly they have a social life. It is very important for me to have players who want to have a great college experience. This is a business trip and they know that, and when we are here practicing, it is all business. When we are off the court, we want to bond as a team and we want to be a better team by making memories. I think that is one of the reasons this team is always ok with going on the road and spending time with each other. I look at my team and say if they are singing together on a bus or dancing together, that's the team that wins together. I felt really good when I heard about what they were doing last night, because I know they were doing something together and enjoying it. Then they will want to keep winning and keep traveling; they won't want it to end.

From the fact that you were here last year, did that alter what you did this time around?

The only thing that was altered was that we were at a different hotel last year, the Hyatt. They kind of walked around together to see a lot more of Albuquerque and the people here. We're now at the Mariott and we have to get on the bus all the time to do stuff together. It's just a different look and a different feel from the last time we were here. I don't want our players just to see the gym. My philosophy is always to get a great college experience, and it should also be a great NCAA experience for them that they should build memories from.

So I take it you weren't dancing?

No I was watching film. I have a ritual that I do where I stay in my room and isolate myself pretty good and watch a lot of film. My staff will socialize a lot more than me. I don't want them to lock themselves up. They were really prepared ahead of time. They each had one of the teams in the tournament. Each one of them knew and was prepared and had already seen 12 game films on the teams we might be playing next. We got up very early this morning and meet as a staff to present it to the team. I am in charge of us, so I have to watch our game film wait on the latest game film. I'm not looking past Western Carolina so I try to take it one game at a time. When we are on the road, I have to spend more time watching film and catching up. My staff is already planning ahead.

Sunday Practice Quotes Vanderbilt Players: Jennifer Risper Christina Wirth

Can you tell us about the roll you've been on offensively over the last 12 or so games? I imagine it is just a matter of exploiting what the defense is giving you. Do you step it up later in the year? Do you feel a little better at this point?

Christina: "Yeah. I think that is just something I've been trying to do more the second half of the season. Coach talked to me about needing to be more versatile and not settling for things. Even if you're open and not hitting your shots you can get it to the rim you need to mix it up and keep defenses on you. I've just been trying to be more aggressive. It's hard to defend when you have to play someone who is a shooter and a driver and has a midrange game. I try to use my versatility. We have a lot of reads in our offensives. At this point in the season a lot of teams scout you and know your plays and so you start making different plays and getting different reads than you did earlier in the year."

By tomorrow night you guys will have been here five days. I'm interested in what kind of things you do away from basketball when you're on such a long road trip? Do you have mandatory study hall? Do you get to do anything touristy? I'd particularly like to hear about crashing the wedding at the hotel last night.

Jennifer: "I have a question for you. How did you know about that?

I have my sources, I'm sorry

Jennifer: "Well I can't answer that. I'm kidding. We just try to bond. Some girls do have homework. I don't. I'm blessed that way I guess this semester. A lot of girls do their homework when we have free time. We try to go bowling, go to the movies, eat dinner together. Basically just spend time together. It's definitely a fun trip. It's something we look forward to.

Christina: "Tournaments are always unique because when you're in conference games your trips are usually less than 24 hours. So when you're in a place for a couple of days get the opportunity to do things away from the gym. Our families are here so during our free time we spend time with our family in the hotel. Since we were here last year they took us down to Old Town. We just walked around there. Since we've been here before we're not doing as much touristy stuff, but we went to the movies and get something to eat and some girls want to go to the mall."

Jennifer: "As far as the wedding, I just heard that the bride wanted some people who could dance and liven up the party. So of course some of our teammates went in there and had a good time and turned it all around. The bride and the groom were just so excited that they went and did that and we just excited for our team to go do that."

Christina: "They said they were Vanderbilt fans now."

Jennifer: "So now we have more fans which is awesome."

Seems like you and Kansas State play at somewhat different speeds. When you play a team that wants to play slower than you normally do how important is it to establish tempo? Do you want to force that or take it as it comes?

Jennifer: "It's really important to play our game and our tempo. Just like any team that is their game plan. They want to take advantage of the other team and by doing that it's making it their game. They want to slow it down, for us we want to pick it up on defense and try to speed it up a little bit. That's definitely something that is a key to make it our game and our tempo and that is something we are going to try and do."

Your one of the 32 teams left. Talk about the mindset and the Sweet 16.

Christina: "We fought last night and got the win. It's a good first step. It was an important game. Now today we're preparing for Kansas State. You know you don't look past that. We know they're a tough team and they're very disciplined. Like coach said they have great post players, a really good point guard, good shooters. It's not going to be an easy match up, but we're going to play very disciplined and like Jen (Jennifer) said, we're going to have to play our game. I think that it will be a tough match up, but they're going to struggle defending us as well. We obviously going to try and play to our strengths and play to our game plan."

May I just ask you about Shalee Lehning. Are you going to draw the defensive assignment on her?

Jennifer: "You'll have to see I guess, wait till Monday. She'll definitely be tough to guard for whoever's guarding her."

Just asking for your thoughts on her and her playing.

Jennifer: "I think she is an excellent point guard. I think she sees the floor really well and she's surrounded by good players. Just like with any great player you have teammates that are there for you. She doesn't get all those assists by herself. Someone else has to hit those shots for her. I think she's a good point guard.



Sunday Practice Quotes
Kansas State Head Coach: Deb Patterson

Opening Statement

“We were extremely pleased about the victory last night against a high quality Drexel team. As we head into this Vanderbilt contest we know we’re playing a very balanced, well experienced, hardnosed quality team that makes great basketball decisions. They have the ability of extending the floor and playing defense in a lot of different ways. I think it is going to be a great match up between two basketball teams that are relying on great senior leadership so it should be a great match up.”

Obviously Vanderbilt wants to play at a faster pace that you prefer. How important is tempo in this game and how do you go about controlling that?

“Every game takes on its own unique personality. For us when the ball is tossed up and we take a look at what Vanderbilt is trying to bring to the table it will dictate some of the decisions that we make. I do believe that generally speaking we tend to be more responsive than thinking we have to play a certain way. I know in having watched the last game and in other Vanderbilt games that it is terrific for all of us if we can provide ways to make easy and quick baskets.”

“Vanderbilt is very good at that so it’s something that we are going to have to have to bring a great awareness to. As far as our mindset, I feel like we are capable of adapting. I’m not sure we have to play any certain way in this match up ahead of time to succeed. Those will be decision we make as the game goes on because when you have a great point guard you always have the ability to push the pace. If you rebound you have that opportunity. It will be interest in that respect to see just how each of us ultimately determines we need to play to be competitive tomorrow.”

Could you talk about your time that you spend at Vanderbilt, your coaching, and how important that was in coaching career from 1992-1996?

“That was just an unbelievably valuable time for me. I worked for Tim Foster. He is one of the great coaches in the women’s game and very much of what I took forward to Kansas State and how we would play and build a program came from those days at Vanderbilt. My days at Northern Illinois and Southern Illinois were also unbelievable contributors, but in terms of style of play Vanderbilt and Coach Foster had the greatest impact on how I learned the game from an x and o point of view and determined we’d love to play. It was a great city, a great university, and great people. The transition to Kansas State was on that was very easy to make from a people perspective, but from a metropolitan perspective it was night and day.”

You guys faced them in 2005 in the second round of the tournament in a 4-5 match up. Do they do a lot of things similar- same coach and everything- is it still a similar style of play for them?

“To some extent yes. I think all coaches sort of have a signature style they prefer to play. Coach Balcomb is just a tremendous x and o coach and just a fabulous teacher of the game. (She) always has a mix of great athleticism with great basketball IQ on the floor and they do a phenomenal job there. It’s the style of basketball and it is one that in many respect you could find some similarities. The team that they brought to Washington was overall bigger, stronger, and more physical particularly in the post at that point and time in their programs history. They’re still unbelievably physical, quick, extremely hard and very versatile offensively and defensively. They were back on ‘05 as well, but they’re smaller now overall in the post. Obviously Christina gives them the greatest vertical dimension right now. It is a similar style, but probably just smaller in the post.”

How important is it to keep the ball out of Christina Wirth hands and how hard is that considering how mobile and versatile she is?

“She’s just a very versatile, moves around the floor well, she doesn’t need time to get her shot off, she’s got a great high release- you’re going to have to constantly bring attention to where she’s at on the floor, what others are doing to create scoring opportunities for her. If you give her any space early in a possession or in transition or lose sight of her you’re going to be in big trouble. She’s playing like the great senior she is. I think she’s one of the premiere players in the country. We’re going to have to have radar on her and not lose sight of her. From that  point on it’s just do what you do defensively, but certainly if you fail at all or bring in a preoccupation to knowing where she is and where she’s going she’s going to beat you.”

How important is the bench on Monday? Getting that same production to get 14 points off the bench like last night.

“If we could get 14 points off the bench Monday that would be a great boost for our basketball team. It would be a great stepping stone from what we brought to the floor last night and something that would show a great deal of growth and maturity from our bench because it’s not something we’ve necessarily seen prior to this time. This is the time of year when players have to step up and make a difference off the bench and bring a higher level of responsibility to making an impact. I think our bench is mentally and emotionally committed to doing that. We’ll hope that on Monday night if and when their number is called that physically they’ll get the job done as well”

Sunday Practice Quotes
Kansas State Players:
Shalee Lehning
Marlies Gipson

I don’t know who is going to be guarding Wirth and I’m not asking, but how important is it going to be to keep the ball out of her hands and tough is that considering the way she moves in and out?

Marlies: “Wirth is definitely an extremely emotional leader for her team. I think it will be a team role to try and contain her. She’s a great player.”

Can you talk about the difference in defense between Vanderbilt and Drexel, and your ability to distribute the ball?

Shalee: “Last night it was what the defense provided to be able to distribute. My team did a great job knocking down shots. It will be a different match up and who knows what they’ll throw at us tomorrow night. It’s going to be about adapting and adjusting, and being able to change whatever we need to do offensively to adjust to their defenses.”

Will you talk about the bench players last night and how key that was to get that from multiple players, and then for Danielle to go off the way she did?

Shalee: “It was tremendous. At this time in the year you have to rely on your bench. In order for some people to even get some blows and to come in and not lose the productivity is great. That is definitely something we need to happen next game. All good teams go to their bench and rely that. Our bench did a great job last night and Danielle stepped up and knocked down shots. As long as everybody plays to their strengths, we’re a good basketball team. When we try to do too much is when we get in trouble.”

There has been a lot of talk about your versatility. Is there anything about your game where you look at each opponent and say this is going to be a great game for my scoring or rebounding and for any other part?

Shalee: “I don’t look before the game. It’s more about making the adjustments during the game and obviously talking to our coaches throughout the game trying to see what they want me to do differently. Before the games there are no thoughts on what I am going to get, it’s about making adjustments during the game. In this game the same thing. We have no idea how they will do anything so we are just going to be prepared for anything and just play our game.”

After tomorrow night you will have been here for five nights. I am interested in the kind of things you have down away from basketball in your trip to Albuquerque. Have you done anything, do you do anything fun? When you are away this long, do you try and get away from the basketball and do other things?

Marlies: “We have got out and gone downtown. The scenery here is so beautiful. Our coaches spoil us so anytime we’re together, playing basketball or away, we’re definitely always having a good time.”

Shaylee: “We got to go down to the shopping areas and the scenery was beautiful. We go to go to a movie one night and that was a lot of fun. Just being able to get out and relax, and laugh at each other. Basically, we know what our purpose is here and we are here to play, so that’s basically what we have been doing.”