Five Commodores scored in double figures, led by Naismith finalist Chantelle Anderson with 23 points. Freshman Ashley Earley scored 14 points in her first collegiate game, Jillian Danker and Jenni Benningfield each hit 3 of 3 from 3-point range on their way to 13 points each, and All-American candidate Zuzi Klimesova added 12 points. Klimesova was leading rebounder with 8 followed by Anderson and Earley with 5 each. Ashley McElhiney had 9 assists, followed by Danker with 7.
Eastern Kentucky was led in scoring by Nikki Bond with 15 points, all on 3-pointers. Katie Kelly was the only other Lady Colonel in double figures with 12 points.
The scrappy Lady Colonels, who led the nation in scoring last year with an 88.4 ppg average, played hard from the opening tip, applying fullcourt pressure as Coach Larry Joe Inman rotated a steady stream of fresh players in and out of the game.
Eastern Kentucky's defensive pressure kept them within range well into the first half. A jumper by Ashley McElhiney with 8:22 left in the half gave the Commodores their first double-digit lead of the game at 25-15. From there, Vanderbilt gradually increased the lead to 46-32. A 3-pointer at the buzzer by freshman Abi Ramsey would have given the Commodores a 49-32 lead, but was subsequently disallowed.
Eastern Kentucky's Nikki Bond hit a 3-pointer to start off the second half, cutting the Commodore lead to 11. But Jenni Benningfield countered with a 3-pointer of her own, igniting a 14-0 Vanderbilt run over the next four minutes. Coach Jim Foster liberally substituted, but the Colonels never came closer than 14 points after that. Juli Colli's 3-pointer with 28 seconds left gave Vanderbilt their biggest lead of the night at 91-59 before an old-fashioned 3-point play by Katie Kelly ended the scoring for the night at 91-62.
Vanderbilt continued their red-hot shooting from last year, hitting 65.5% of their shots from the field for the game, including 8 of 12 from 3-point range. EKU shot 44.4% from the field, almost identical to their average last year. The Commodores won the battle of the boards 31-20. Despite the Colonels' pressure, Vandy also committed fewer turnovers, 20-16.
With the win, the Commodores advance to the second round of the tournament in a Sunday afternoon matchup with the Oregon State Beavers, who defeated Loyola Marymount tonight by a score of 65-58. Gametime in Memorial is 2 p.m. The winner of that game will advance to play either New Mexico or Colorado in the semifinals to be held later next week at a place and time to be determined later.
The Press: Coach, this was the first game of the season. Are you are sharp as you would hope to be?
Coach Foster: For the first game, there's no film to go on. There's no idea of who you're playing. So I think we did some things decently, and I think there are obviously some things we have to work on.
The Press: That little run in the second half kind of took the air out of them
Coach Foster: They have a good basketball team. They're going to win a lot of games. They led the country in scoring last year, so I'd have to say defensively we did a pretty good job. They scored 88 a game last year. I think they're going to score a lot of points again this year. They've got a lot of weapons. I think we were persistent enough to get the job done.
The Press: Did you expect Ashley Earley to play 22 minutes?
Coach Foster: If she was in better position, she would have probably played longer than that.
The Press: What about the ability to use your bench? You used it a lot tonight.
Coach Foster: Well, it'll take a while to get a rotation and for the whole thing to evolve. Tia Battle is back practicing with us, and she's a very good player. We've been figuring out where we're going to get her in the mix. Some good things happened. We have some good players, and we can go deep enough to get players their minutes resting. I like the fact that McElhiney barely broke 30 or 31. That bodes well. Juli Colli second time in, I think, did a very good job. Not so much the first, but after she got herself settled, she did a good job. We've got some players who can help us, and we'll figure out where and how.
The Press (to Ashley Earley): I noticed that Ashley McElhiney was out there, coaching you on the floor, what was she saying:
Ashley Earley: Like Coach Foster said, a lot of times I wasn't in position. Ashley was trying to tell me where to be.
Coach Foster: Imagine what she'll be like when she learns where to be.
The Press: Could you talk about what it's like having 11 players to play in the first half?
Coach Foster: It felt like I was coaching a USA Basketball team. I always had 12 good players when I coached those teams. It's nice to have options, and those players have got to tighten up and understand what their jobs are and what their roles are. And when they do, there are quite a few of them that can help us.
The Press: Chantelle, you're used to playing big minutes. What was it like to not:
Chantelle: I didn't play much? It's nice to have a sub for you now and then. I haven't had one, last year definitely. It's nice to see Candice back on the floor again.
The Press: What did you think about the way that Eastern Kentucky pressed?
Coach Foster: It was good to have to play against something. We did a couple of different things. These early games are invaluable. We would just be in practice trying to figure some stuff out. Especially with the young players, there's a frame of reference. You can show them some film. You can make some adjustments. You can start to develop a little philosophy relative to style of play. The young playres have no idea what this thing is. The more games they play, the smarter they're going to get, and the better off we'll be.
The Press: Jillian, what did you think about the game?
Jillian Danker: What did I think about the game? I thought it was pretty much your typical first game of the season. You've gotta work some things out and find out what you need more work on. Then you have time to work on it to get it back together. So as you continually face stronger and stronger opponents, you continually get challenged, and you learn. You just continue to learn. That's what the first game is -- get a lot of jitters out. Even the upper classmen, you still have a little bit of jitters even though you've done this before. You just need to work everything out.
Coach Foster: Somebody ask Jillian about 7 assists and 1 turnover. (laughter) Great floor game. Great floor game.
Jillian: I'd like to do that more often. I'd like to make that a habit.
Coach Larry Joe Inman: Coming in here, we knew we'd have a mountain to climb. I was very pleased with the effort. I thought we played hard. I thought we made some runs. I think if we had been more consistent we would have been a little bit better off. . . . I felt like we missed a lot of shots we normally knock down. I thought we got some good looks, and the ball just didn't fall like we thought that it could. We had the looks where we wanted them, but it just wouldn't fall down. I thought they did a good job. They're just so big inside. It's difficult for us to match up to them inside. I thought when we did try to get inside, then they hurt us outside. And we made some mistakes defensively. We have to play a better defensive game . . . but they have a very balanced team. They have a very good inside and a very good outside. But I was pleased the kids' effort.
Women's Hoops: Vanderbilt 91 EKU 62
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