The Vanderbilt Commodores got back on the winning track Saturday with a 77-62 win over the Penn State Nittany Lions in Memorial Gym.
The Commodores got off to a red-hot start, hitting their first 8 shots from the field. During that flurry, Zuzi Klimesova scored 8 from the field and added 2 free throws to give Vanderbilt a 10-point lead at 20-10 with with 12:16 left in the half.
Penn State was never able to cut the lead below single digits after that point. Vanderbilt continue to stretch the lead, which reached 20 points at 39-19 on a basket from Klimesova with 4:20 left in the half. When the teams headed for the lockerroom, Vanderbilt led 47-28.
After the intermission, Penn State used defensive pressure to cut the lead back to 12 points five minutes into the second half at 52-40. Vanderbilt quickly countered with 8 straight points to push the lead back out to 20 points on a jumper by Ashley Earley with 12:39 remaining. Penn State continued to press and once again cut the lead back to 14 points at 62-48 with 8:43.
But Hilary Hager's 3-pointer from the corner with 8:19 remaining gave the Commodores the boost they needed, and over the next few minutes, the Commodores built their biggest lead of the night at 74-31 with 4:36 remaining. In the final minutes of the game, a couple of PSU free throws cut the Vanderbilt lead to 13 until Zuzi Klimesova scored the final basket of the game to give the Commodores the 77-62 victory.
Four Commodores scored in double figures, led by Chantelle Anderson with 22 points. Zuzi Klimesova added 20, and Ashley Earley and Jillian Danker had 10 points each. Klimesova and Earley were leading rebounders with 7 rebounds each. Ashley McElhiney added 4 assists.
Penn State was led in scoring by sophomore sensation Kelly Mazzante with 21 points. Throughout the game, the Vanderbilt defense used a chaser on her, with several Commodore defenders taking turns sticking to her like glue. For most players in the country, 21 points would be a night to remember, but the Commodore defense kept her below her 26 ppg average. Mazzante was joined in double figures by Rashana Barnes with 14 points, and Jess Strom with 11. Barnes was leading rebounders with 11.
The Commodores, who shot a blistering 65.4% from the field in the first half, cooled off in the second half to end with a 56.9% from the field compared to 41.5% for Penn State. Both teams shot well from 3-point range, with Vandy hitting 5 of 11 (45.5%) compared to 6 of 14 (42.9%) for Penn State. Vanderbilt held a 34-27 rebounding edge, while Penn State forced more turnovers (17 to 14) and scored 25 points off turnovers, compared to only 7 for Vanderbilt.
The "Fan Appreciation Day" promotion proved to be a great success, with 9,712 fans in attendance. The crowd was the 10th largest crowd in Memorial Gym for a women's basketball game.
Next game for Vanderbilt is Monday night in Memorial Gym, when the Commodores host the Louisville Cardinals (9-5), who upset previously undefeated Cincinnati today in their conference openers. Game time is 7 p.m. Central Time. No television is available, but the game will be carried on 560 WNSR.
POST GAME COMMENTS
The Press: Coach, how can this team play the way they did Thursday night then come back and play the way they did today?
Coach Foster: Ask them.
The Press: Chantelle, how can this team play the way . . . [laughter breaks out]
Chantelle Anderson: Well, we had some issues that needed to be addressed. Hopefully, they've all been addressed and that's the last we'll see of 'em. If not, we'll find out next time. But I think that the coaching staff did a pretty good job of addressing some issues. We allowed them to [inaudible]
The Press: Can you talk about those issues?
The Press: Coach, can you talk about those issues?
Coach Foster: These kids don't have agents, and we're a family, and families settle their own problems.
Vanderbilt's Zuzana Klimesova, left, chases down a loose ball with Penn State's Jessica Brungo, right, during the second half.(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
The Press: Was the effort in today's game an improvement over Thursday night's game?
Coach Foster: Yes, the effort without a doubt.We made Mazzante work really hard. She's a talented kid, and we made her work very hard. We were more aggressive, took care of the ball better. We did a lot of good things. A lot of good things. That's a good basketball team [PSU], and they've played a very tough road schedule, and they're road strong. They have a better road record than they do a home record, which is hard to believe, having played in State College a lot of years, it's a good home court.
The Press: Jillian, what did you want to do with Mazzante?
Jillian Danker: Not let her score. We just wanted to try to make her work for everything she was going to get. She's a good player, so there's a good chance she's going to get some numbers, but we just gotta to make sure that the numbers that she got were the hardest that she's ever . . .
The Press: Coach, how important was it to establish tempo?
Coach Foster: I think it was probably more important defensively and the offense take care of itself because I think this team is still trying to find itself defensively. We tried a couple of different things today, and we're on our way to doing some things a little bit differently. And it was a good sign to see us understand that. I think the offense of this team is generally going to take care of itself. The defense has got to be where we really focus. We have a lot people that can score. We have a lot of unselfish players, so that's a good mix.
The Press: Coach, you rotated a lot of different defenders on Mazzante?
Coach Foster: Yeah, that was one thing -- we wanted fresh bodies on her. I think Jillian started out well, then picked up a couple of quick fouls. I knew Hillary had played against her in high school and was familiar with the western Pennsylvania kids on that basketball team, and I knew she would have a comfort zone out there. And Tia, she's going to be a defensive stopper for us before she leaves here.
The Press: Anything you guys would like to talk about?
Chantelle: Ask questions -- no general comments.
The Press: You kind of piqued our interest in saying there were things worked out, could you comment on that?
Coach Foster: Keep coming back all year. I hope we piqued your interest enough for that to happen.
The Press: Did the crowd have any effect on you guys today? There were a lot of people out there making a lot of noise.
Chantelle: It's always nice on your home court. I didn't really pay attention during the game, but just in the time when I was sitting on the bench, I thought, "Oh we've got a crowd."
The Press: Did the fact that it was nationally televised game affect the way you think about the game?
Chantelle: It's always nice to play on national TV. I think it's great for us, great for women's basketball, good exposure. But, no, you don't come into the game any differently. I was motivated for this game because I remember last year when we played them, and I didn't do anything that game and they beat us on a last second shot. They came back from a big deficit late. That was motivation. It's always important when you have a bad game to overcome it.
The Press: Zuzi, was it a bonus to turn around 36 hours after the South Carolina game to play right away?