The 2013 edition of the Hornets proved just as pesky. They took the lead on the opening tip-off and held it until a basket by Morgan Batey put Vanderbilt in front 11-10. Another basket by Batey increased the Vanderbilt lead to three points. However, fans who were thinking, "Okay, the Dores are getting it together, they're about to make their move" were soon to be disappointed.
Delaware State not only regained the lead but built it to eight points at 21-13 with nine minutes left in the half. The Dores stopped the bleeding and cut Hornets' lead down to just two points at 23-21. Then, once again, Delaware State answered the Vanderbilt run with a run of their own, and by the end of the first half, the Hornets held a double digit lead at 34-23.
Statistically, it was an epic fail for the Commodores. Besides trailing by double digits on their home court, the Dores committed 18 turnovers in the first half alone and shot only 25% from the field. If there ever was a time for a coach to challenge her team at half time, this was it -- and that's exactly what Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb did.
"I challenged them at halftime," she said. "I got on them, obviously, about their effort and playing as a team. Those were the two things I was focused on changing, getting them to play harder and to play together. "
And the team responded. It didn't happen all at once, but eventually the coach found five people that could play together successfully. Down 10 points at 48-38 with 13:43 left in the game, the Dores began their climb back into the game.
Christina Foggie scored on a fastbreak layup, then Jasmine Jenkins gave the Hornets a dose of their own medicine, stealing the ball and scoring on the break. A pair of free throws by Foggie cut the lead down to four. Raine Bankston countered for Delaware State, but then Marqu'es Webb kicked out to Kylee Smith, who knocked down the first 3-pointer of her Vanderbilt career.
A jumper by Smith, assisted by Jenkins, a steal by Heather Bowe, and a pair of free throws by Jenkins gave the Dores their first lead in the second half at 53-52 with 8:37 remaining.
From that point onward, Balcomb stayed with the same lineup, starting with her two seniors. "I was trying to find five people that could play together, and that's why I stuck with Foggie and [Jasmine Lister] at the end because I trust them, and I know that they're mature, and if we were going to lose this game, they were going to be on the floor. "
The other three in the lineup that finally clicked were Jasmine Jenkins, the sophomore point guard, freshman forward Kylee Smith and sophomore forward Heather Bowe.
"I think Heather Bowe and Kylee Smith have shown a really good effort every day consistently in practice, and that's where it starts, in the preparation," Balcomb said.
"Kylee and Heather have been doing little things that you don't necessarily see as a fan but you see as a coach that's watching film, the effort and doing things for other people, like screening and sealing, playing defense and rebounding," she continued. "So then, when the game was close, that's actually who was confident to rebound the basketball and play defense, and that's what I needed the two forwards to do, and those two did it the best, so I kept them out there. "
Delaware State briefly regained the lead with 6:53 left in the game, but six straight points from Lister and Foggie put the Dores back on top. With two minutes left, the Vanderbilt lead grew to 71-60, but even then, the Hornets weren't done. With 36 seconds left, they cut the lead to four points. But that's as close as they'd get, as a layup by Foggie with 10 seconds left sealed the victory for Vanderbilt.
With the win, Vanderbilt improves to 3-0 on the season. Next, the Dores host Marquette on Sunday afternoon. Game time is 2 p.m.