As it turned out, Vanderbilt succeeded in that goal, not only in winning the game but also in looking like the team that had won nine straight games prior to the loss at South Carolina.
But at the beginning of the game, it wasn't obvious that would be the result. In the first two minutes, the Dores looked shaky, turning the ball over twice with the Razorbacks scoring on both of the lost possessions. That was enough to prompt Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb to call an early timeout.
She could tell that her players were jittery and nervous. "You don't want to come back to your home gym and play the way you just had played," she said. "I thought before things got a little crazy and they lost confidence that I would talk to them right away and try to settle them down."
The strategy paid off, and soon the Dores were looking more like the team that had won nine straight games than like the team that floundered in Columbia. A 3-pointer from Jasmine Lister gave Vanderbilt the lead at 11-8 with 14:12 left in the first half, and the Dores never relinquished the lead after that.
Throughout the rest of the first half, Vanderbilt gradually pulled away, reaching a double digit lead at 25-15 for the first time midway through the half, and by halftime, the Vanderbilt lead had grown to 14 points at 43-29.
During the second half, Vanderbilt continued to build on the lead. By the first media timeout, the Dores led by 22 points at 54-32. Although the Razorbacks made a bit of a run to cut the lead to 15 points midway through the second half, they couldn't come any closer.
As the game began to approach the end, the only suspense was whether the team would score the 75 points necessary to win free tacos for the fans in attendance. When the Dores got to 71 points, chants of "WE WANT TACOS" echoed through the gym, and when Clair Watkins scored on a fastbreak layup to push the score to 76, the Jam the Gym crowd erupted in cheers.
Coach Balcomb was obviously pleased with her team's performance. "We executed really well on offense, shared the basketball, had a lot of assists, played smart, took care of the ball in the second half, and defensively, we were able to contain them and make them shoot poorly at 37%," she said.
She also was pleased with the difference in how her team responded to the loss in South Carolina compared to the team's first loss of the season in Dayton. "Early on in the season, we lost one and then it became three quickly, and I think we showed that, no, we don't have to panic," she said. "[South Carolina] was a tough matchup, we learned from it, and we moved on."
Vanderbilt has a bye this week, so they won't play on Thursday night. The next game will be on the road in Baton Rouge next Sunday afternoon against the LSU Lady Tigers. Next home game will be Thursday, January 24, when the Tennessee Lady Vols visit Memorial Gym.
Pre-game Kids Zone
It's We Back Pat week in the SEC.
National anthem by Melodores
Christina Foggie and Heather Bowe
Arkansas Head Coach Tom Collen
Halftime entertainment: Quick Change
Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb
Conquered and prevailed!
Post-game autograph session
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Photos copyright 2013 by Whitney D. for VandyMania.com