Five Commodores scored in double figures. Junior guard Abi Ramsey led the charge with 20 points, including six 3-pointers, followed by freshman forward Jenn Hall with 13, junior forward Ashley Earley with 12, freshman center Carla Thomas with 11, and freshman guard Cherish Stringfield with 10.
Vanderbilt played without leading scorer Jenni Benningfield and freshman point guard Dee Davis, who were in North Carolina being fitted with orthotic shoes to reduce the pain in their injured right feet. Benningfield will undergo further diagnostic tests on Wednesday after returning to Nashville.
The Commodores wasted no time in launching their attack. In the first five minutes of the game, Vanderbilt dropped in four 3-pointers, including three by Ramsey, on the way to a 16-0 lead.
The onslaught continued throughout the first half. Midway through the half, Vanderbilt led 25-5. With five minutes left, the score was 36-6. With three minutes left in the half, Coach Melanie Balcomb went to an all-freshmen lineup, and the frosh finished the half with a 13-0 run to give Vanderbilt a 52-6 lead at intermission.
The six points scored by Savannah State in the first half are believed to be the lowest point total for a half ever by a Vanderbilt opponent. The Lady Tigers had made only two field goals at the half, shot 8.7% from the field, and turned the ball over 17 times while forcing only two Vanderbilt turnovers.
The second half was a somewhat different story. While Vanderbilt's offensive and defensive intensity continued unchecked throughout the first half, the Commodores were unable to sustain it. With twelve minutes left in the game, the Commodores reached their biggest lead of the night at 73-14. But then a 9-0 Savannah State run cut into the Vanderbilt lead, and from that point on, the lead hovered around the 50-point mark until the final buzzer sounded.
The lopsided score gave all available Vanderbilt players a chance to play. Nine Commodores played at least ten minutes each. All five available freshmen played at least 14 minutes, and the frosh scored 44 of Vanderbilt's 91 points and gathered 24 of the Commodores' 41 rebounds.
Vanderbilt (12-1) now heads into SEC play Thursday, as the Kentucky Wildcats visit for a 7 p.m. matchup. Tickets are still available from the Vanderbilt ticket office.
POST GAME COMMENTS:
Coach Balcomb: Well, I was really pleased with the first half. We held them to 8% shooting and had two turnovers, and I think as a team we continued to try to have the same effort, but I don't think that overall, we did that. I think we gave up 12 turnovers in the second half, and they shot at 46%. What's startling to me is that we couldn't continue the effort and focused too much on what the score was. It's not startling when you think about it; that's the sign of a young team, and something I think that we learned about. It's a great teaching game today.
The Press:Can you talk about how Savannah State ended up on the schedule for you guys?
Coach Balcomb: I don't know. I don't do the scheduling. I have no idea, to be honest with you.
The Press: You're making a return trip?
Coach Balcomb: I couldn't tell you that, either.
The Press: Going into SEC play, what are you most pleased with and what are you most concerned about?
Coach Balcomb: I'm pleased with our level of improvement as a team. I think we've gotten better each game. I think we've come a long way since the beginning of the season. I'm concerned about our depth in the post. I think we need our post players to get better and be able to go inside more. I'm real pleased with our guard shooting right now. I think they're getting more confident and shooting the ball, but we need to be as tough inside and out. Defensively, I think we're a lot better than we were. I think the other thing that can really improve is our rebounding. We need to get better as a rebounding team in the SEC. So there's good and bad.
The Press: Coach, I know you can't quantify, but how much of what happened tonight was you all playing particularly well and how much was Savannah State being out-manned and out-classed?
Coach Balcomb: It's hard to say. I thought in the first half we played well, and I thought in the second half we didn't play well, and really I'm just concerned about us and focusing on us, so I didn't really focus on Savannah State.
The Press: Coach, do you draw a lot of useful information about your bench players from the time they got in the second half?
Coach Balcomb: I really just wanted to get them as many minutes as possible. I really just wnated to get them out there and have them gain confidence. I wanted to get more minutes for Jenn Hall, more minutes for Caroline Williams, and get more minutes for the players that haven't been in the top seven or eight rotation and see how they'd do and get them some confidence because we're probably going to need them on Thursday.
The Press: Coach, should you get Jenni and Dee back before Thursday, how effective do you expect them to be and what do you hope to get out of them?
Coach Balcomb: To be honest, I wish I knew. I don't know when they get back here what kind of pain they're going to feel with the orthotics. I have no idea how they're going to feel. I know Jenni played a ton of minutes the other night, and-- I don't know. As a senior that's played a lot and knows what we're doing, practice isn't going to be that important. With Dee practice is a lot more important.
Coach Balcomb left, then junior guard Abi Ramsey and junior forward Ashley Earley entered the room for questions.
The Press: To either of you all, what can you get out of a game like this, getting as out of control as it did as early as it did?
Abi: I think going into this game it was really big that we had contributions from the freshmen. That's pretty much the focus. This was a pretty good game to get everybody playing time and get their confidence built up for the SEC. Not having Jenni and Dee here, we knew that was going to hurt because the other night against Syracuse we had to play her, so it was pretty much like do or die. We had to have our freshmen step up, and they did, so it was a good game to build our confidence going into the SEC.
The Press: Ashley, did you ever feel sorry for the other team in the first half?
Ashley: Did I feel sorry for them? No. If you're any kind of a competitor you have to have that killer instinct. I think a lot of times that's one thing we've struggled with this year. We get up by 20 and then we get content with that lead, and you can't do that. Good teams will come back on you.
The Press: In saying that and knowing that your minutes were limited in the second half, are you a little bit discouraged that it was 39-34 in the second half?
Ashley: I think that was because we got content with our lead. That's one thing we still need to work on. We didn't get better in the second half. I think the first half we did get better. But that's one thing we need to work on is having that killer instinct the entire game.
The Press: Abi, you guys hit like 3 or your first four shots, was that any lapse on their part, or were you just that dialed in early on offensively?
Abi: Well, they left me wide open. I was hardly contested on any of my shots. We did execute our offenses pretty well, kept the floor balanced and spread. But I don't know if they didn't see-- maybe they got an old tape--
Ashley: I think they might have gotten an early tape, like they really didn't know--
Abi: (Laughter.) I really don't think they knew who I was--
Ashley: I don't think they did. They looked pretty surprised after you hit the first four. (Laughter.)