Women's Hoops: Vandy 78, Xavier 56.

The Vanderbilt Commodores fought off a second half Xavier rally, then staged a rally of their own to beat the Musketeers 78-56 Wednesday night in Memorial Gym.

For a while in the first half, it looked as if the Commodores were going to put the game away early. A baseline drive by Zuzi Klimesova gave Vandy their first double-digit lead of the night at 22-12 with 11:53 remaining. Vandy's defense then forced Xavier into their second consecutive shot clock violation, and then a jumper by Ashley McElhiney gave Vandy a 12-point lead.

But Xavier wouldn't go away. The Commodores briefly stretched the lead out to 14, but Xavier quickly countered and by halftime had reduced the lead back to ten points at 35-25.

As the second half began, the teams traded baskets for the first few minutes. With 17:22 remaining, Vandy held a 12-point lead at 41-29. Over the next six minutes, Xavier went on a 20-10 run, fueled by three open 3-pointers, to cut the Commodore lead to only two points at 51-49 with 11 minutes remaining.

But then Vandy regrouped, reeling off eight straight points by four different Commodores. Klimesova hit the first, then Ashley McElhiney, then Jillian Danker, and then Chantelle Anderson to stretch the lead back out to 10 points at 59-49 with 8:14 remaining. A 3-pointer by Reetta Piipaari briefly cut the lead back to 7 with 7:22 left, but thanks to intense defense and 11 points from Anderson in the final four minutes of the game, Vanderbilt put the game away with a comfortable 78-56 margin.

Chantelle Anderson led all scorers with 27 points. She also was leading rebounder with six and blocked three shots. Zuzi Klimesova added 18 points and 5 rebounds, and Ashley McElhiney followed by with 15 points to go along with six assists and no turnovers. For Xavier, Amy Waugh and Reetta Piipari both had 12 points, followed by Kate Kreager with 11.

Vanderbilt shot 55% from the floor, compared to 46% for Xavier, and also held a 30-21 rebounding edge. The Commodores had only 10 turnovers, while Xavier had 20.

Next Vanderbilt (7-1) travels to Wisconsin-Milwaukee Friday night for a "homecoming" game for Zuzi Klimesova, who played for two years at legendary high school power Pope Piux XI before coming to Vandy.


The Press: What was the key to the 27-7 run at the end of the game?

Coach Foster: I think our defensive intensity was good. We did execute . . . we lost focus there for a little. When we're cognizant of the fact that we're an inside outside team, we're a hard team to guard.

The Press: What earned Abi all the minutes?

Coach Foster: Four assists, no turnovers, a lot of loose balls, good defense -- a lot of reasons.

The Press: You said earlier that she's not afraid to take a big shot.

Coach Foster: She doesn't play like a freshman. I think Abi probably got a bum rap in high school, that she was shooter. She's a heckuva lot more than that. She's very smart with the ball. SHe's got subtle little ball fakes. She's quick on defense. She's got a chance to be a real good player. There's a couple of things she knows she needs to work on to get to where she wants to get. But she's got the right stuff between the ears.

The Press: You only had 7 fouls. How does that change your defense?

Coach Foster: Well, they don't run an offense that's going to get a lot of fouls. They're spread, they want to shoot the three. They're content to play that way. They're not the kind of team you're going to foul a lot. So I think we're disciplined, we contested a fair amount of shots, made the posts work real hard. I think Chantelle played maybe her best defensive game of her career. Hopefully it's a start of another dimension to her.

The Press: While Xavier was making their second half run, there were several wide open three's. What happened?

Coach Foster: We had some young players not quite understanding what we were doing on defense.

The Press: Were you happy to see the two shot clock violations in the first half?

Coach Foster: Yes, I think our defensive energy has been picking up since Western Kentucky. We're more aware of the necessity of us being a good defensive team and what we need to do. We're still growing in that dimension. The first third of the season is about going over a lot of things and getting good at some and getting a basis for how you're going to play. That's what this is about. And you just had kids out there in their eighth college game -- Abi, Ashley -- they're rookies. I also think McElhiney for the amount of pressure they put on her, they put six or seven people on her, well, it seemed like six or seven, it was probably three or four -- for her to go six assists and no turnovers and just handle the whole thing . . she's a good one.

The Press: (inaudible)

Coach Foster: Well, we're a better offensive rebounding team than we've been in the years that I've been here. We've got players that are very active going for the ball. It's a dimension we really relish having. It's a dimension that when we shoot as well as we do sometimes, it's very disheartening to the other team when you finally do miss that you get the ball back. That's tough to play against psychologically. I think in the run where we went from two to stretch the lead, I think the psychological impact of getting those second shots and getting those rebounds and starting to get the ball inside pays dividends. Don't misunderstand -- those guards have played in some bigtime games for Xavier.

The Press: (inaudible)

Chantelle: I just know that when a team is shooting well and every shot is going in, and then they finally miss and they get the offensive rebound against us, you think dang, we finally got them to miss and now they get another chance, and so I just agree with him. We were shooting very well, and Zuzi and Jillian at the end, they were going to the boards hard, so it seemed like every time we missed, someone was there to get the rebound. Jenni picked it up at the end and started getting some tough rebounds. I think that really helped us push the lead because it really wears on your mind a little bit.

The Press: Abi, can you talk about being effective and not having to score all the while?

Abi Ramsey: Well, it comes down to having her inside. That's what our whole system is run around. I knew my role tonight was to play defensive pressure their guards and just hit her whenever I could. And that makes it a lot easier on me, that opens up shots for me.

The Press: Chantelle, do you ever tell the players to get the ball back inside where it belongs?

Chantelle Anderson: I've done it a couple of times. I can't think of a time this year where I have. In the past I have. I almost said something tonight, but Ashley Mac said it for me. A lot of times she's pretty good at "okay, let's get the ball inside," but if someone doesn't say something when we go a few plays without the ball getting inside, we say, hey, we need to be getting it inside. In a couple of games I went as far as saying, "Get me the ball, they can't guard me," but not this year. I don't think I've said that yet.

The Press: Can you talk a little more about how you were playing tonight?

Chantelle: I think I've been getting slaughtered because my defense has been horrible. I've never been a dominant defensive player, but as of late, it's been even worse. So I think -- this game I approached it -- I didn't even think about my offense. This game was all about defense coming into it because I knew I had to pick it up. Hopefully, I'll be able to do that on a more consistent basis.

Coach Foster: You see what it's like coaching at an academic university. She leads the country in field goal percentage, and she goes into the game with this whole mind thing about defense. Unbelievable. But she's going to be better at it -- believe me.

Chantelle: I think because I did that . . .

Coach Foster (interrupting): .Another dissertation

Chantelle (ignoring him): . . . it gave me energy. That's about it.

Coach Foster: You mean playing defense made you play better on offense?

Chantelle: No comment.

The Press: Zuzi, talk about how tough it was to get out on their perimeter shooters.

Zuzi Klimesova: Well, from time to time we got a little bit lost, but I think overall when we talk and we pointed to people, I think we did a better job, especially at the beginning. We only gave up three 3's, in comparison to them averaging 21 three-point shots a game. Our scouting reports are pretty good.

The Press: Zuzi, what were you thinking when they closed within 2 points?

Zuzi: To be honest with you, it did not even make me nervous. I just thought that we were going to turn things around. And we did. The next thing you knew, we were up by ten again. People started scoring. The great part about it was that I think Jill started it and then Chantelle scored and then somebody else made a basket. Then we started going to Chantelle, to Chantelle, to Chantelle and then we were up by 20. (laughter) But I think we picked it up on defense. That was the important part. There was a period where we were just running like headless chickens, and they scored a couple of easy baskets and that's what made them come back.

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