Three other Commodores scored in double figures. Sophomore guard
Cherish Stringfield scored 12 points off the bench, sophomore point guard Dee
Davis had 11 points to go along with a team-high eight assists, and
sophomore guard Caroline Williams scored a career-high 10 points including
Before the game, on paper, this game looked like it would be the lopsided game that it ultimately turned out to be. Coming into the game, the Lady Privateers were winless in ten games, and the Commodores had lost only one, while outscoring opponents by an average of 36 points per game.
However, for most of the first half, both teams apparently forgot the roles that they were expected to play. Instead of racing out of the gate to dominate the game from tipoff onward, the Commodores got off to a somewhat ragged and disjointed start. With just over seven minutes left in the first half, Vanderbilt held only a slim 4-point lead at 20-16.
After a media timeout, the game began to turn into a blowout. In the remainder of the half, all of the Commodores starters scored, but it was a strong defensive effort that made the difference, as Vanderbilt held UNO scoreless for the rest of the half to take a 34-16 halftime lead.
The Lady Privateers' scoring drought was finally broken with 17:03 remaining in the second half when Joevone Markey sank a couple of foul shots. A minute later she also scored UNO's first field goal of the second half, the first field goal that the Vanderbilt defense had allowed in over ten minutes of playing time.
By that time, the Vanderbilt lead had grown to 24 points at 44-20. After a jumper by Stringfield and a layup by Le'Della English for UNO, the score stood at 48-22. Vanderbilt went on a 14-0 all-Earley run, followed by a 3-pointer from Williams to give Vandy a 63-22 lead with 9:48 left in the half.
Vanderbilt head coach Melanie Balcomb continued pulling the starters from the game, and with 7:39 left and the score at 67-26, the last of the starters left the game. Only Katie Antony returned, replacing Nicole Jules, who played only limited minutes due to chronic knee problems.
The reserve players were able to continue to build the lead, led by ten points from Stringfield. Two free throws from Williams with 20 seconds left completed the scoring for the game at 91-37 and gave the Commodores a 54-point lead, their biggest of the night.
Vanderbilt shot 45.2% from the field in the first half, but improved to a blistering 71% in the second half. Overall the Commodores shot 58.1% for the game while holding UNO to 23.9%. From long-range Vanderbilt shot 42.1%, compared to 18.8 % for UNO. The teams were nearly equal from the line, with Vanderbilt shooting 61.1% (11/18) while UNO shot 60% (12/20).
In the first half, UNO out-rebounded Vanderbilt 24-17, but in the second half, the Commodores out-rebounded UNO 23-8, giving them the edge for the game at 40-32. Vanderbilt forced 21 UNO turnovers, while committing only nine.
With the victory, Vanderbilt improved to 10-1, while New Orleans fell to 0-11. The Commodores return to Memorial Gym for a Sunday afternoon game against Troy State. Game time is 12:00 noon, and the game will be televised on Comcast Sports Southeast by tape delay.
VandyMania: Coach, coming into the game, what were you looking for from your team?
Coach Balcomb: We wanted to pressure the ball, limit fouls, and out-rebound a team whose strength was rebounding. They'd out-rebounded everybody so far. Those were our keys.
VandyMania: Did you have any concerns about the focus your team might have, coming in from Christmas break, a team with a losing record, not many people in the stands, that kind of thing?
Coach Balcomb: Actually, no. It has everything to do with us. In the past I've worried about that with other teams, and I can honestly say that I have a lot of confidence in this team and the way they've handled themselves so far in their leadership and how much they care right now.
I think it's tough when there's nobody in the stands and you know this team's record and you've had a break. I think it's tough for any team to be motivated, but if there is any team I would think would want to do well and be ready, I think it's this team. I think they're very very serious about what they want to do, and they're not focusing on who we're playing.
VandyMania: Eight minutes left in the first half, you're leading by six at 20-14. From there on, the rest off the game, it's 71 to 23. What was the difference?
Coach Balcomb: I thought we played a very very poor first half altogether. I think all those keys I just gave you, we didn't do one of them. We had three players with two fouls apiece and had to sit, so we didn't do that. We were being out-rebounded on the boards; we were being crushed. We had I think four offensive rebounds and they had almost 14. We were losing all the keys. Deflections? We had eight. We average forcing 30 turnovers, and this team turns it over, and we weren't forcing turnovers.
So I got on 'em hard on them at halftime about what our game plan way. I was just disappointed. I think our effort was good -- and that's what I'm not concerned about, I think our effort was very good - but we weren't focused on the things we were trying to execute in our game plan against this team. Then in the second half, as you saw, we crashed the boards, we had put-backs. We had talked about bounce passing into the post instead of that lob where they kept coming over and doubling on. They adjusted on that. We cut down on our fouling. I know some of subs came in and fouled at the end, so we ended up having the same amount of fouls, but the starters did not continue to foul. And then we ended up winning the rebound game. So we made the adjustments at halftime that we needed to make, and I was really pleased with that.
VandyMania: In the second half, there was a 14-0 Ashley Earley run. Did that just come in the flow of the game?
Coach Balcomb: Yes, absolutely. People are really starting to key on her. They're scouting us, and we've played enough games now where she's been consistent, her stats have been consistent, every single game. She's been the most consistent player on the floor. Everybody knows that, so they're trying to key on her and take things away from her. They tried to do that early and did a good job with it. And then in the second half, we run people in and wear them down, and they're tired, and she can just break free and they can't sit on her and do the doubles and the things they executed in the first half.
VandyMania: Has your team had a chance to see any of the city while they've been here?
Coach Balcomb: We went down to Bourbon Street last night and had dinner at an Italian restaurant, and we're going to dinner tonight then give them some time to walk around. The weather's been beautiful, so that's always nice. Then we fly back in the morning.