Vanderbilt women crush St. Francis (Pa.), 102-47

The Vanderbilt Commodores opened the 2004-05 season with a blistering attack on both ends of the court, as they defeated the St. Francis Red Hawks 102-47 Friday night in Memorial Gym.

Four Commodores scored in double figures, led by sophomore post Carla Thomas with 23, followed by senior post Ashley Earley with 22, and sophomore point guard Dee Davis with 21, a new career high. Earley also pulled down 11 rebounds for her first double double of the season.

Vanderbilt came out of the gate running and never slowed down. The Commodores scored the first 12 points of the game, and the Red Flash didn't break double digits until less than four minutes remained in the half. Vanderbilt's aggressive defense fueled the offense, as they forced St. Francis into 18 first half turnovers, leading to 26 points of Vanderbilt. By the time the teams headed to the locker room at halftime, Vanderbilt had built a 23-point lead at 39-16.

If anything, the pace picked up in the second half. The Commodores reeled off 12 straight points to start the half, including seven from Davis, to take a 51-16 lead less than three minutes into the half.

A pair of free throws from Christin Black broke the Vanderbilt run, but only briefly. In the next three minutes, the Commodores continued the run with 13 more straight points until April Jackson's 3-pointer ended the drought for the Red Flash.

Vanderbilt never let up. The lead reached 50 points at 82-32 with 8:35 left in the game and just kept growing until it passed 60 points on a pair of free throws by sophomore guard Cherish Stringfield with three minutes left in the game.

A jumper by sophomore guard Caroline Williams with a little over a minute left in the game put the Commodores at the century mark for the first time in two years. A jumper by sophomore forward Jenn Hall with an assist from freshman forward Katie Eggers ended the scoring for the night, as the Commodores claimed the 102-47 victory.

Vanderbilt shot 51.4% from the field for the game, while holding the Red Flash to 29.8%. St. Francis fared better from 3-point range hitting 38.9% of their long range shots while the Commodores connected on only 25% of their 3-point attempts. Vanderbilt dominated the glass with 45 boards to only 28 for St. Francis. The Commodores also won the turnover battle decisively with only 13 while forcing the Red Flash into 32 turnovers, 17 of them coming from steals by the Commodores.

Individually, Thomas was leading scorer with 23, followed by Earley with 22, Davis with 21, sophomore guard Katie Antony with 10, and Hall with nine. Earley was leading rebounder with 11 followed by Hall with seven boards and Davis with six. Davis dished out six assists to the team, and Earley's four steals were a team-high.

Next the Commodores hit the road with a trip to Savannah, Georgia, for a game at Savannah State on Monday night. Next home action will be the Vanderbilt Tournament on Friday and Saturday.


The Press: It looked like their guards might have a height advantage coming in. What did you plan do do against that?

Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb: Our number one key was ball pressure, and as you see, Dee did an awesome job. We knew that their posts were really good, especially Swink, and we wanted to keep the ball out of her hands as much as possible and not get our post players in foul trouble. So the big thing we did was play matchup most of the game, fronted the posts, and had a lot of pressure on the ball handlers. So when she was open, they couldn't see her and couldn't get her the basketball. She took three shots all game, and that was really important for us. So the game plan was executed well defensively.

The Press: Can you talk about the balanced scoring?

Coach Balcomb: Any time you can get as many players as possible in double figures, that's a positive because a lot of people will get this tape and try to figure out who to stop and who to key on. It's always our goal to get four of our starters in double figures. Usually the one who's not is the point guard, but Dee is very confident right now with her shooting, and when she's open, she's shooting the ball really well. So she really stepped her her scoring tonight. And Abi got in early foul, so she didn't get her usual shots up.

The Press: In one exhibition game, you had a good start, then slowed down. Can you talk about maintaining the intensity in this game?

Coach Balcomb: Yeah, we talked a lot about our exhibition games and not losing intensity defensively. We scored a lot in transition tonight, and that was caused by our defense creating our offense, so we really just tried to stay intense and talk about defense, not so much offense, and then that defense created that offense.

The Press: Can you talk about playing a game as part of a doubleheader?

Coach Balcomb: I didn't know what to think originally. I didn't think it could hurt; it's always good to try new things and see what happens and expose our program to people who might not be coming to our games and might see that it's exciting, up-tempo basketball. With the crowd, there was no distraction. That was the biggest thing I was worried about. I've had doubleheaders in the past, where it's a distraction because people are coming and going and they're not really paying attention to the game. I didn't feel like that at all, especially the student section getting there and getting into it. I thought that was good. I didn't think it was a problem, I thought it was a positive tonight.

The Press: You had dominating inside play tonight, especially from Ashley Earley. Do you expect to see that the rest of the season?

Coach Balcomb: Absolutely. Ashley Earley, I'm really impressed with her confidence, her work ethic, and have believed that she's the real deal. We watch her like this every day in practice, and she's that good. It's good to see her take it to the games and be that confident against her opponents as she has been consistently every day in practice. She's just working so hard and her leadership and everything. She has just really stepped up and done everything we've asked her to do increase her role. I'm very pleased with her.

The Press: Are you disappointed that you couldn't get Abi off?

Coach Balcomb: No, I was just disappointed on the second foul. It was just a loose ball, so then you have to sit her so early in the game. I think it was nice to see her be able to play with fouls and defend and be able to pressure the basketball without fouling. That's good to see that, as a senior, I can play her-that's the biggest thing I learn is - when you put them back in in the first half, can they play with two fouls? So that was a positive, and then she hit a 3 late in the game, made a steal and a 3-point play. She's matured so that she kept her head in the game and gave us other things even though she missed a lot of time early and hadn't been lighting her usual 3's. So I think she's figured out that she can give us other things and is willing to do that. And that's a really big positive.

Coach Balcomb left, then sophomore point guard Dee Davis, sophomore post Carla Thomas, and senior post Ashley Earley took their places at the table for questions.

The Press: Dee, can you talk about the intensity you guys came out with in the second half?

Dee: Like you said, we've made it a point to come out with more intensity throughout the whole game, but in the second half in particular. We just felt like we were playing down to their level a little, and we felt like we can run this team, so we came out more aggressive.

The Press: Can you talk about that 3-point play where you fell down and made the shot?

Dee: It happened. I wasn't really-I just threw it up, hoping to put it in, and it went in.

The Press: Can you talk about starting off the season with an offensive game like this one?

Ashley: We tried to just come out aggressive tonight and attack. That was one of our goals before the game to attack and outwork them. I don't think this team will have a problem scoring. I think a lot of times that's the easy part. It's just outscoring the other team - defense, intensity, for 40 minutes. That's going to be more of a challenge than scoring.

The Press: Tonight was the first doubleheader that's been scheduled since you've been here. Were you aware of the crowd as the game went on, or are you all too focused on the game as it goes on to really notice?

Ashley: You are focused on the game, but throughout the game, not that you mention it, I didn't even look. I didn't notice that there were more people. But you can tell when it's louder and people get excited.

The Press: Carla or Dee, did either of you notice the crowd?

Carla: Maybe a little towards the end.

Dee: Yeah. Towards the end. We expected that considering it was a men's game after ours. We knew it was going to get more people. I think that helps because they saw us before the men's game and maybe they'll be interested now.

Ashley: I think a lot of people that don't come to our games think that our games aren't exciting, and they've never been there, so they really have no idea. But since the men came after us, and we were up 102 to whatever, they know we're scoring, so hopefully they'll come back at the start of our game next time.

The Press: Dee, were you particularly looking for your shot tonight?

Dee: I figured that they were going to try to play off of me because my last year, I wasn't really scoring. But I just knew that I had to come out and make a change today and be more aggressive. I knew that they were going to be on our posts because we have great post players, and they're going to double down and do everything they can to our post option away, so I felt like I had to step up as a point guard and score more.

The Press: Carla, are you looking to score in more different ways this year? Is that a focus of yours?

Carla: I try to be a complete player, and there are definitely things I worked on in the off-season that I had trouble with last year, but it's more just attacking overall. Coach stressed that a lot - we have to attack on both ends.

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Photo copyright 2004 by WhitneyD for


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