Sophomore Morgan Batey helped her coach feel much better by mid-afternoon.
Batey scored a career-high 17 points, including knocking down the game-winning free throws with 2.2 seconds remaining that lifted No. 16/18 Vanderbilt to a 71-69 victory over No. 17/15 Texas A&M at Memorial Gym.
The win enabled the Commodores (17-5, 6-3 SEC) to snap a two-game losing skid and improve to 12-2 at home. Texas A&M (17-6, 7-2), which came into the game tied with South Carolina for first place in the conference, suffered its first road SEC loss of the season.
Batey finished 5-of-7 from the floor and 7-of-7 from the foul line while easily surpassing her previous career high of 11 points. She also pulled down a team-high six rebounds.
"I've talked to Morgan for the last two weeks about just getting back to doing her job," said Balcomb. "She knows what her job and her role is, and ... when she does that, she all of a sudden becomes a star, doing the little things."
Texas A&M's Karla Gilbert, who finished with a game-high 26 points, tied the score at 69-all when she converted a three-point play with 10 seconds left.
Batey was fouled on the Commodores' next possession, and hit both free throws. The Aggies then had one final chance, but Jordan Jones' desperation shot from long range bounced off the rim at the buzzer.
"My heart skipped a beat," said Batey about the near-miss.
Vanderbilt, which now has a week off before visiting rival Tennessee next Monday, has knocked off four ranked opponents at home this season.
Batey provided a series of pivotal plays in the final three minutes Sunday, scoring nine of Vanderbilt's final 11 points, including going 5-of-5 at the foul line in that stretch.
"I just tried to take what the defense gave me," she said.
She had to sit out long stretches during the game due to foul trouble, but she contributed when it mattered most.
"I'm just really proud of how she was in foul trouble, but she didn't let that take her out of her job," said Balcomb. "She was very intentional on what she was doing. In the first half, she was in foul trouble and that can really take kids out of it. For her to be able to finish the game and not foul out was a big growth for her."
Balcomb did not attend Sunday morning's shoot-around, but was on the sideline by gametime. She said the victory was a nice boost, although she couldn't officially relax until Jones' last-second shot bounced off the rim.
"That last shot? Absolutely, I thought that shot was in," she said. "I was like, 'No this is not happening.'"
Christina Foggie, the SEC's leading scorer, added 14 points and Jasmine Lister had 11 for the Commodores, who rebounded nicely from their worst shooting performance of the season during Thursday's loss to Missouri.
Vanderbilt, which ranks 10th in the nation in field-goal percentage, shot a season-low 22 percent against Missouri, but the Commodores regained their form against the Aggies by shooting 55 percent in the second half. Vanderbilt was also solid at the foul line, finishing 16-of-17 (94 percent).
The Commodores were plagued by foul trouble much of the way, but were buoyed by the efforts of Raytea Long, Kylee Smith and Jasmine Jenkins off the bench. They combined for 15 points while going 6-of-11 from the floor, and they each contributed big plays down the stretch.
"We definitely needed this after (losing to) Missouri," said Balcomb.
Vanderbilt opened the game with a 9-1 run, and the Commodores never trailed in the first half. They carried a 30-23 lead into the locker room after Foggie hit a fade-away jumper right before the horn. But Texas A&M put together an 11-0 spurt early in the second half to surge in front, 42-39, with 12:01 to go.
From there, it was one big shot after the next, with Batey and Gilbert doing much of the work. Overall, there were six lead changes and four ties in the second half.
The Aggies shot just 29 percent from the floor during the first 20 minutes. They missed their first 10 shots of game while going the opening 6:48 without a field goal before Tavarsha Scott scored in the paint to end the drought.
Photos copyright 2014 by Whitney D for VandyMania.com