Question: Where’s the team coming off the loss at LSU; what did you take out of that?
Coach Balcomb: I think that the big thing we learned was handling an environment, and so it was good preparation for what should happen tomorrow night. We should have a good crowd; there should be a good environment, and we’re going to have to stay level-headed and keep our emotions in check when the game is in an environment that’s more difficult that what we’ve been playing in.
Question: Different teams than last year but how much confidence can you take from the win here at Memorial last year?
Coach Balcomb: Obviously when you beat a team it gives you the belief, and you have to believe you can beat Tennessee to beat Tennessee, and we have that belief because we have beat them. The history always helps. The tough part is the history doesn’t really matter in the scheme of things. It matters what you do that day.
Question: How strange will it be not to see Pat coaching against you tomorrow night?
Coach Balcomb: I assume she’ll be here. I don’t know; last year I think Holly was doing a lot of the coaching when they were here, and they had said that, so I don’t think it’s anything that’s going to change anything. You’re still seeing a lot of orange on the court, you’re seeing a lot of orange in the crowd, and their history and tradition of winning is still there. Their staff is still intact with Holly, so I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of big, noticeable changes. We’ll prepare like we always do for Tennessee.
Question: Will it still be a little strange, you guys have become real good friends over the years, certainly have had a lot of great battles against each other . . . so at some point, not physically seeing her. . . so at some point you’ll look over and think, hm, that’s weird . . .
Coach Balcomb: Like I said, I don’t know – I’m very used to being able to in our gym look down and see her, it’s very different than not seeing coaches that you coach against, so that will be different. And I hope that she’ll be here. I hope that she’s doing well, and I hope that she does travel with the team. That’s something that I haven’t thought of until now when you asked me the question, but I do hope that she can make the trip and will be here.
Question: It sounds like . . . the coach may be different but what they do and who they are is still what they’ve done and who’ve they’ve been.
Coach Balcomb: Yeah, you hire the assistant that was there for 28 years, so they’re still going to reflect the same kind of qualities that Pat instilled in Holly and in the program. She built a program, a tradition, so that just gets passed down, and there’s a lot of generational leadership, so it’s not like someone from the outside came in and is going to change a lot of things. I’m sure she has her own way of doing some things, but there’s also going to be lot of similarities to the way they’ve played in the past, absolutely. And one similarity right away is that they win, so she’s doing something right. They’re winning games, and that’s what they’ve always done. They come in here, usually undefeated and winning games. That hasn’t changed.
Question: Bashaara Graves is a freshman from around here I’m sure you saw a lot and recruited. She’s doing really well, did you expect her to be that kind of player when she got here?
Coach Balcomb: Yeah, Bashaara was one of the highest rated players in the country. I’ve seen her play since she was a young girl here, and I knew that she would be this type of player. Obviously we would have loved to get her at Vanderbilt, but she wanted to go to Tennessee and is playing very very well, and playing very well young and so early isn’t a surprise. I always thought she was a great player. She’s extremely skilled and right now they have her playing really hard. I like her effort.
Question: The combination of her and Harrison down low, what kind of problems does that present for you guys?
Coach Balcomb: Isabella is tall; she’s 6-3, 6-4, taller and thinner, so again that’s going to give us some height problems. We haven’t played a lot of teams that are bigger than us but we’ll have to deal with her height and her ability to get the basketball to people from the high post and able to score from the low. What makes them such a good combination is that they both can score from inside and out and face up, and they both can play with their back to the basket, and they both can put it on the floor and get to the basket. So you’re going to have to guard them one-on-one, but then you’ll also have to guard them as a tandem, two people that complement each other when they’re on the floor.
Question: . . . . Tiffany Clarke?
Coach Balcomb: Yeah, I think what’s going to be even more important is being able to come off the bench and get people like Heather Bowe and Rayte’a Long and maybe even go deeper into our post play so that we can keep fresh bodies out there, so we can keep Tiff and Elan fresh and out of foul trouble. I think that’s really important. I think we need some good minutes from our younger post players tomorrow night, and I think that’s going to be important.
Question: . . . [the Tennessee game last year] was one of her best games?
Coach Balcomb: I thought Tiff did a great job last year and was very focused the whole game, very aggressive and watching the tape, she definitely was a key factor in us winning, her and Steph Holzer played really well together last year.
Question: . . has Tiffany done better than you thought she would? . . .
Coach Balcomb: I think the big thing with Tiff is I think she’s scoring, I think she’s a strong force for us inside and more consistent than she’s ever been. We’re trying to get more defense and rebounding out of her because we miss that size Steph gave us, that presence defensively, and the rebounding, 8 boards a game, so we’re trying to find more of that productivity – from everybody, not just Tiff but the post players and being able to shut down somebody; we weren’t able to shut down Plaisance, and she hurt us in the second half, and we’re going to need to be able to do that with Harrison and Graves, so that poses a problem for us there, being able to defend and rebound with their inside game.