"It's a great opportunity for more than one player to step up because we're going to need it from more than one player, especially people that have felt ready to play but haven't had the opportunity," she said before practice on Wednesday afternoon.
On Thursday night, four of the team's freshmen took advantage of that opportunity. Freshman post Heather Bowe, who has been in the starting lineup for the past several games, played 31 minutes, scored 11 points with six rebounds. Freshman guard Morgan Batey played a career-high 34 minutes with career highs in rebounds (10), assists (4) and steals (3). Freshman point guard Jasmine Jenkins had career highs in minutes (24) and points (10).
"[Our freshmen] just worked really hard, worked really hard at our game plan, executed our defensive game plan for 40 minutes and on offense, let the offense get them shots and were very unselfish," said Balcomb after the game. "They were patient on offense, didn't rush, didn't try to do too much, didn't try to go one-on-one. We took really good shots. I felt like 90% of the time, we took great shots."
Two upperclassmen also had notable performance. Junior guard Jasmine Lister, who played more minutes at the off-guard position than at the point, scored 18 points while shooting 8-for-13 from the field. Elan Brown's 13 points included three 3-pointers on four attempts.
"[Brown] has just been playing a lot of four, and so she's exhausted trying to guard a post, so that's one reason we brought her out to shoot the three, and with Christina down, obviously, she's going to try to take a few more," said Balcomb. "She was moving forward tonight and when she's not on her heels and moving forward and has that energy that she had tonight, she can make three's, absolutely."
Coming into the game, the coaching staff's #1 concern was limiting Missouri's prolific 3-point shooting. Against Auburn earlier in the SEC season, Missouri set the all-time SEC record for 3-pointers in a game with 18 baskets from long range. Sophomore sharp-shooter Morgan Eye, who leads the SEC in 3-pointers made per game, accounted for 11 of those.
On Thursday night, the Tigers were held to four 3-pointers, three of those by Eye, but it took them 27 attempts to get those for a 3-point shooting percentage of 14.8$ for the game.
"That was our number one key -- to defend the three. Obviously they shot a lot of threes but I thought we forced them to rush" Balcomb said. " We got out on them. We were there on the catch and made them put the ball down on the floor and I thought did a fairly good job of keeping their middle penetration so they couldn't drive and kick as well."
With the victory Vanderbilt improved to 16-8 overall, 6-5 in the SEC. Next action for the team is a road trip to Tennessee on Sunday. Game time is 4 p.m. CT, and the game will be televised on ESPN2.
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Photos copyright 2013 by Whitney D. for VandyMania.com