After 6-4 Stephanie Holzer announced her retirement from basketball and 6-4 Kendall Shaw tore her ACL in the summer, Vanderbilt entered the 2013-2014 season as a height-challenged team with no currently healthy players taller than 6-1.
On the other hand, South Carolina's roster includes 6-4 freshman Alaina Coates, a McDonald's All-American and 6-4 junior Elem Ibiam. Unfortunately for Vanderbilt, the Gamecocks were able to take advantage of their height advantage on both ends of the court.
When the Gamecocks were on offense, they repeatedly went inside to score. . "The goal was to keep it out of the paint, and that's all they did, put it in the paint," said Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb after the game. "Coates is an All-American, and I know they have a height advantage, but you can't get beat on the same thing over and over all night."
On the other end of the court, the Gamecocks blocked eight Vanderbilt shots."When you put the ball into somebody's hands, whether you passed it or shot it, that's a turnover," Balcomb said. "That's what led to all their transition offense, getting our shot blocked.
"We said 'Pump fake, pump fake, pump fake!' and we didn't do it till the game was over, and you saw how successful it was," she continued. " If we'd done that all game, we would have been fine. Coates would have been out of the game with foul trouble."
Still, despite those issues, the Dores put up a fight. Midway through the first half, Vanderbilt led by two points at 17-15. After South Carolina took the lead, Vanderbilt stayed within single digits until the buzzer at the end of the first half when a jumper by Coates gave the Gamecocks at 41-30 halftime lead.
A few minutes into the second half, South Carolina threatened to blow the game wide open when they took a 17-point lead at 52-36, but Vanderbilt was able to stop the bleeding and in fact out-scored the Gamecocks in the second half 36-35. With 7:18 left in the game, the Dores cut the lead back to eight points at 63-55, but could come no closer.
"We need to learn from this game," said Balcomb."There are so many things that we'll learn from it and grow. It's very early. It's the second game in the SEC and we need to stay positive and just keep getting better."
With the loss, Vanderbilt falls to 12-3 overall and 1-1 in the SEC. The next game for the Dores is also on the road when they travel to Auburn, Alabama, to play the Tigers Thursday night. Tipoff is 6 p .m. CT.