Vandy nails down victory over Saluskis 81-68

Vanderbilt (5-3) is not a team that peaks in the pre-SEC season. With youth and multiple injuries adding to their worst start since 1998, the ‘Dores pumped the brakes to stop an 0-2 skid with a career performance from senior forward Hannah Tuomi to beat a confident Southern Illinois squad 81-68.

The post player's 29 points helped stop the momentum of the Saluskis (1-6), whose sole win was against Austin Peay (76-64). Southern Illinois never led, but cut an 18-point margin at the 18:15 mark in the second half to two points at 53-51 with 8:47 minutes to go.

Vandy dug deeper on defense and responded with a 14-2 run with 5:53 remaining and expanded the lead to 15 points with just under 2 minutes to play. The Colorado native was determined after an emotional week to not let this one get away.

"After the Denver loss in front of my family and friends, we really had to win this game," Hannah said. "It is definitely important to bounce back from a loss. It was a little bit of a stab to the heart after the Denver loss (65-70) so I definitely just wanted to go out and win this game."

Hannah, whose 6-1 undersized post presence often draws whistles for physical play, was tagged for just one foul and hit 9 of 13 from the field and was 11 of 15 from the charity stripe. Taking the lost shot of the game, she missed the back end of a pair of free throws, drawing a vocal ‘Aw, Hannah" from teammate Jence Rhoads who realized she just missed a 30-point game.

Head Coach Melanie Balcomb, who earned her 200th program win at Vanderbilt, said Hannah played "angry" enough to seal the win after the Denver defeat. "You saw her make changes; she didn't turn the ball over and she didn't foul. She scored almost every time. She played one of the best games I've ever seen her play."

Sunday's loss was partly due to poor shooting in which Vandy hit just 45.1% compared to 56.3% for the Denver Pioneers. The Commodores improved their range with 53.8% shooting Tuesday night. Fellow senior Jence Rhoads added 11 points and had 7 assists, a new season high, and freshman Jasmine Lister sank 14 points off 5 for 8 from the field, 2 of 3 from 3-point range and 2 for 2 free throws.

Senior forward Rebecca Silinski, 6-3, made her first career start to replace injured center Stephanie Holzer, whose return to action is not "expected in the near future," according to Head Coach Melanie Balcomb. Former Freshman of the Week Christina Foggie, who was sidelined with a strained tendon, continues to be day-to-day with a concussion suffered against Bowling Green. Tiffany Clarke, has seen limited minutes the past two games due to severe migraines.

Balcomb remarked that although VU let Southern Illinois get close and confident, "I really like how we responded. They cut it down to two, and I called a timeout and from that point on, we looked like a different team. We looked like we were very angry and played hard and all those things that I wanted them to do for 40 minutes. They did it when they needed to do it, and that's a good sign. They responded."

As a team, the ‘Dores seemed more in sync as well. Other significant contributions came from Angela Puleo, who was 2 of 4 from the field, including one 3-pointer and 4 of 4 in free throws, and a team-high six rebounds from Jordan Coleman in 15 minutes of play. Gabby Smith, who made her second start of the season, hit 8 points with 5 rebounds.

Next up for the ‘Dores is UT Martin on Thursday at 7 p.m. before a 10-day break and a return to the road for senior games for Jence and Rebecca, whose families live in the Pittsburgh, Pa., area. The December 19 game at Duquesne is scheduled for 1 p.m.

Jence Rhoads presses toward the goal.

Rebecca Silinski attempts a free throw.

Melanie Balcomb calls a timeout to stop momentum.

Tiffany Clarke goes high for a layup. Top Stories