Women's Hoops: Vanderbilt-Xavier Preview
Vanderbilt fans will remember the X's from last year for two reasons. First, the Musketeers handed the Commodores a 64-60 loss in their brand-new Cintas Center to kick off the 2000-2001 season. And second, Xavier knocked the Tennessee Lady Vols out of the NCAA tournament with a 80-65 thumping in the Mideast Regional in Birmingham.
For the Commodores, the loss at Xavier marked an inauspicious beginning to the season. Chantelle Anderson scored only 2 points before fouling out in only 13 minutes of play. Vandy's 3-point shooters hit only 4 shots out of 21 attempts. The only bright spot for Vandy was Candice Storey's 12 point, 6 rebound performance off the bench in the only full game she played in before tearing her ACL in the home opener.
A different Xavier team will show up in Memorial Gym on Wednesday. The Musketeers lost four key starters from that team to graduation -- center Taru Tuukkanen, forwards Jennifer Parr and Jennifer Phillips, and guard Nicole Levandusky who was a member of the WNBA champion Sparks this season. Tuukukkan, Phillips and Levandusky were the three leading scorers and rebounders from last year's team.
The only returning starter is 5'7 junior guard Reeta Piipari, who finished among the national leaders in assists and 3-point percentage. She's joined in the starting lineup by 5'7 junior guard Amy Waugh, 5'7 senior guard Shavon Bell, and 6'3 sophomore center Kate Kreager. The fifth starting position has been shared by 6'1 forward Aida Sarajlija and 6'0 forward Alexis Henderson.
The Musketeers have had the ups and down expected for a team recovering from the loss of so much senior leadership. After winning their first two games against Indiana State and Akron, the X's dropped two straight games in the Dead River Tournament in Maine this weekend, a 64-51 loss to Wisconsin-Green Bay and a 79-67 loss in the consolation game to the Maine Black Bears. In the loss to Maine, the Musketeers had built a 17-point halftime lead, but gave it up, thanks to a 41-9 UMaine run in the second half.
So far this year, Xavier has consistently used a 3-guard lineup. The trio has a combined assist to turnover ratio of 1.93 and an average of 6.7 steals per game. The Musketeers like to pressure the ball, rebound, and run. Leading scorers so far this year have been Kreager (17.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg), Bell (14 ppg, 5 rpg), Piipari (13 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 5.7 apg), and Waugh (11.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 8.0 apg). Piipari is the leading 3-point threat, hitting .455 of her shots from behind the arc. Bell (.357 3pt%) and Waugh (.321 3pt%) are also long-range threats.
Given Xavier's graduation losses and the fact that the game is being played on Vanderbilt's homecourt, Vanderbilt should be considered the favorite in this game. However, Head Coach Melanie Balcomb is considered to be one of the premier young coaches in the country, and it's a safe bet that she'll be bringing a well-prepared, if somewhat inexperienced, team to Memorial Gym.
Gametime is 7 p.m., and tickets are still available.
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