Women's Hoops: Vanderbilt 75 Wagner 40

Four Commodore starters scored in double figures as Vanderbilt cruised by the Wagner Seahawks 75-40 in the opening round of the First Tennessee Tournament Saturday afternoon in Memorial Gym.

Chantelle Anderson led the Commodores in scoring with 13 points, followed by Jenni Benningfield with 12, Zuzi Klimesova with 11, and Ashley McElhiney with 10.

For the first few minutes of the game, Commodores fans double-checked their programs to be sure which team was wearing the white uniforms. Vandy, known nationally for their matchup-zone, was playing aggressive man-to-man defense. The Commodores, who broke a school record by shooting 71.4% from the field Wednesday night, missed their four shots from the field, failing to score a basket for nearly four minutes.

While the Commodore offense was in disarray, the Seahawks took advantage. Connecting on their first three shots from the floor, they took an early 6-0 lead until a steal by Ashley McElhiney, followed by her 3-pointer, finally broke the ice for Vandy. A few minutes later, a 3-pointer by Jenni Benningfield gave the Commodores their first lead of the night at 10-9, and the Commodores rode a 23-6 run to a 33-15 halftime lead.

The second half continued where the first half left off. Vandy's defensive intensity led to six Wagner turnovers in the first five minutes of the second half, and the Seahawks managed only two field goals in the first eight minutes of the second half. In the meantime, Vandy's lead continued to grow, reaching the largest of the night at 67-27 with 4:55 remaining in the game. When the dust settled, the Commodores had claimed a 75-40 victory.

For the game, the Commodores shot 47% from the field, compared to 34% for the Seahawks. However, the smaller Seahawks out-rebounded the Commodores 33-27. Perhaps the most striking statistic, however, was the turnover margin with 30 for the Seahawks -- including 14 Vanderbilt steals -- and only 12 for the Commodores. All of the Commodore starters had at least one steal, and five different Commodores had two each.

Once again, Coach Jim Foster substituted liberally. No starter played more than 27 minutes. Ten Commodores played at least 10 minutes, and eight played 15 minutes or more. Freshman Tia Battle, who was sidelined for almost the entire preseason with a sprained MCL and a viral infection, saw her first action of the season.

In the earlier game, Dartmouth defeated Indiana State 80-68. On Sunday, Indiana State and Wagner will play in the consolation game at 2 p.m., and Vanderbilt and Dartmouth will meet in the championship game at 4 p.m.


The Press: Given the dramatic size advantage Vandy had, was it part of the game plan to go for 3s early in the game?

Coach Jim Foster: No, we probably lost our way a little bit offensively in the first half. We shot the ball so well the other night. We're an inside-outside team. In the first half we were an outside-inside team.

The Press: How was the defensive intensity tonight?

Coach Foster: It was better. A lot better.

The Press: More man to man tonight?

Coach Foster: We play a lot of different defenses. We had a defensive practice the other day, and we just decided that we would come out and play man. We need to get better at defense and have a mentality about it. We had a better mentality about defense tonight -- a lot better.

The Press: Jenni, was it a little tough getting up for Wagner after Colorado and Connecticut?

Jenni Benningfield: Well, I think we all try to come into every game having respect for every team. But again, we just have to come out every game ready to play, no matter who it is. We just have to focus, really focus. I think the first five or ten minutes of the first half we really weren't on the same page, and I think that's something we really need to focus on because against some other teams, we're not going to have that chance to get those five or ten minutes back. We really have to come in and focus on what we have to do to win the game, and not really worry about who we're playing because we just have to play our game. So that's something we need to focus on -- the whole 40 minutes of the game, not just a certain amount of time.

The Press: You [Vandy] missed your first four or five shots and Wagner made theirs. Was that just a mental thing, or shots not going down or . . ?

Jenni: Again, I would go back to the same comment I made. We just have to come out and really focus on the first few minutes. We can't just sludge off and think, oh they're going to miss their shots and hope to get the rebounds. We have to go at them. We have to be the attacker, not the one being attacked, and I think that happened to us the first five minutes, and we just have to work on that.

The Press: What would you attribute the difference in the assist to turnover ratio to?

Coach Foster: We spend a lot of time on not turning the ball over. We work hard at it. I think defensively today we got in the passing lanes, we deflected a lot of balls, we were very intense and did a much better job and caused them to have some problems with their offense. The flip side of that would be if the other team turns the ball over that much, you should probably get a few more fastbreak baskets. So we weren't making the transition, getting down the floor maybe as well as we should have.

The Press: (inaudible)

Coach Foster: I think we have a lot of people who can score the ball and we still have to remember that we're an inside outside team, and I think sometimes -- I'd say both in the Connecticut game and at the beginning of this game -- we lost sight of that. And then, conversely, Chantelle has to really step up at the beginning of games and be a very visible target. Other teams are going to do a variety of things to try to take her out of the game. That's obvious. It's not necessarily something that should work if we're still firing on all cylinders because we do have excellent other people who can score the ball.

The Press: Chantelle had 5 shots in 18 minutes. What's a better number for her?

Coach Foster: Chantelle should always be in double figures in shots. And sometimes go and get a couple herself off the offensive glass and sometimes just . . .'cause we've got to get the ball into her. In the first half, we were content to shoot three's. And that can't be. We can't play that way, no matter how well we shoot them. The other night we had a good three-point shooting night, but I think a lot of that came because we were in an inside mode and scoring inside. Tonight we didn't have that mentality.

The Press: Jenni, can you talk about how you feel physically this year compared to last year?

Jenni: It's a completely different level. Last year I was in a lot of pain and didn't really know what was going on. This year it's going a lot better. I have good and bad days, but it's so much better, not as much pain. I'm able to do so much more. I'm able to run a lot more, able to pound it a lot more, so it feels so much better, completely different from last year. I'm glad that everyone's helped me to get to this point, so hopefully it'll keep on going.

The Press: Tia Battle . . . (inaudible)

Coach Foster: Yeah, she's so far behind everybody. She's only had two weeks of practice, not even two, and we've been out here for six weeks or so now. So we're putting in offenses and defenses and working on timing, and she's sitting over on the sidelines. So it's going to take her a while to get that comfort zone on the court.

The Press: Can you talk about Katie Smith?

Coach Foster: She played hard. She played very hard. Did a good job defensively, played well at the off-guard position. She probably needs to look at the basket a little bit more. But she's athletic, as everyone saw when she jumped over the player from Wagner.

The Press: Will we ever see Candice and Chantelle on the floor at the same time?

Coach Foster: Well, maybe, in a zone concept, we certainly could. Man-to-man, we could also give that a look, make a couple of adjustments, do a couple of things. It's not out of the realm of possibility. Chantelle could probably help that happen by nailing that high post shot or that tree. It's hard to guard us when we can stretch the floor.

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