The Florida Lady Gators handed the Vanderbilt Commodores their first home loss of the season in a 62-51 upset Thursday night in Memorial Gym.
The game was close through the first half as both teams struggled offensively. In the first seven minutes of the game, Florida only made 3 of their 13 shots from the field, and Vanderbilt didn't fare much better, hitting only 2 of their first 7 shots. With thirteen minutes remaining, the teams had struggled only to a 7-7 tie.
With Vanessa Hayden, Florida's leading scorer and rebounder, on the bench with foul trouble, Vanderbilt slowly began to build a lead. Baskets by Chantelle Anderson and Zuzi Klimesova gave the Commodores a 4-point lead at 17-13 with 6:53 remaining. A 3-pointer by Jenni Benningfield increased the lead to 5 points at 20-15 with 5:16 remaining, and a steal and a fast break bucket by Juli Colli with 1:30 remaining gave the Commodores an 8-point lead 16 29-21 with 1:30 left in the half.
But then the momentum shifted abruptly. After a timeout, two consecutive 3-pointers in less than a minute by Brandi McCain cut the lead back to 2 points at 29-27, and an old-fashioned 3-point play by Sherisha Hill cut the lead down to 1 at 31-30 going into halftime.
Early in the second half, Vanderbilt held on their slim lead, until a 3-point play by Tamia Williams gave the Lady Gators their first lead of the second half at 39-37 with 12:09 remaining. Vanderbilt's offense, which had spluttered sporadically throughout the game, then stalled completely. The Commodores' score stayed stuck on 37 for over seven minutes, as the Commodores missed 11 straight field goal attempts. When a basket by Zuzi Klimesova finally broke the long drought, Florida had built a double digit lead. Vanderbilt cut it back to 9 with 6:35 remaining but could get no closer, and the final score was 62-51.
Vanderbilt was led in scoring by Chantelle Anderson with 21 points, followed by Zuzi Klimesova with 11. Klimesova was leading rebounder with 11, for her sixth double double of the season, and also led the Commodores in assists with 7.
Brandi McCain led the Lady Gators with 17 points, followed by Monique Cardenas with 16 and Vanessa Hayden with 14. Hayden and Courtney Cooper were leading rebounders for Florida with 9 each.
Vanderbilt's usual sharp shooting was nowhere to be found in the second half, as the Commodores shot only 25% from the field for the half, resulting in a 39.2% rate for the game, compared to 36.5% for Florida. From 3 point range, Vanderbilt shot an 1 for 14 (7.1%), while Florida was 4 of 9. Florida out-rebounded Vanderbilt 38-35 and had only 11 turnovers compared to 17 for the Commodores.
Vanderbilt goes back on the road for a Sunday afternoon matchup with the LSU Tigers, followed by a Thursday night game in Arkansas. Florida continues their road trip with a Sunday afternoon game in Athens against the Georgia Lady Bulldogs.
Post Game Comments
The Press: Florida had been averaging 70 points a game, and you held them to 62. Did you feel like you did what you wanted defensively?
Vanderbilt Head Coach Jim Foster: They just totally outplayed us in every facet of the game. We didn't play hard enough. We didn't play smart enough, just no emotion, no intensity.
The Press: Was your team being too selective?
Coach Foster: We had people who didn't want to shoot the ball might be a better way to phrase it. Didn't want the responsibility.
The Press: Was this a surprise for a January type game, rather than a November game?
Coach Foster: We've talked about some issues with this group, and they just have to decide how much they want it and how serious they are about this thing.
The Press: You talked about issues .. . are these the same old issues that you mentioned in this room a few weeks ago?
Coach Foster: We didn't play hard enough. We didn't walk out with any -- ANY -- semblance of a team tonight. We didn't even have good huddles tonight. There was no interaction out there, just five individuals.
The Press: Coach, do you see a problem that you wever only getting scoring out of Zuzi and Chantelle?
Coach Foster: It's an issue, sure. You've gotta have more scoring than that. You've got to have people who want to look at the basket, make some plays. We play in a league that's not for the faint-hearted. It's a great league with terrific teams, and you have to come to play every night -- EVERY night. And the challenges are different.
The Press: Was Ashley Earley's performance a freshman thing?
Coach Foster: Ashley was not aggressive. She was very tentative.
The Press: Do you have any idea why that would be at his point in the sesason>?
Coach Foster: Every experience that;s new a freshman has gotta figure out what's going on. I can understand freshman. Their frame of reference is a narrow one. But upperclassmen have been through this league over and over and over again. They need to understand.
The Press: Do you hope that maybe at the end of the season you'll back and say this was a positive?
Coach Foster: We have to prepare ourselves for our next game. Any talk about what's later . . we've lost focus for the next game. And every game, just that game, is what's important. And we did not treat this that way tonight. They played a terrific game. They did very good things defensively. They survived the first half without the big kid. We didn't respond to the challenge of her in the second half. We can't have an "exchange basket" mentality. There was no rhyme or reason to our perimeter game tonight. There was no flow to our perimeter game.
The Press: Coach, are confidence and aggression issues right now?
Coach Foster: Confidence? We just won two very tough games on the road. If you can't build off of the way we've been playing defensively and if you can't still continue to grow in the dimensions that we need to, you need to sit down and have a little serious talk with yourself.
The Press: Chantelle, was there some frustration on your part about your teammates not taking the shots that were open to them in the second half?
Chantelle Anderson: I think that was part of the frustration. I think that the frustration was just that we weren't running our offense, and we were not executing our offense. I know that earlier in the season our defense was the issue and our offense was flowing and running well for that part of the season, and now it seems like our defense has improved and now our offense is the problem. We weren't executing. We didn't run offense at all tonight -- maybe one or two possessions. You're not going to beat a good team like Florida with that execution. I'd say that was more the frustration in that people weren't taking shots that they normally would.
The Press: Does that surprise you, the performance that you guys came out tonight with?
Chantelle Anderson: Yeah, you never expect your team to come out . . . we, all of us, I mean, we didn't come out well, and we didn't pick it up towards the end, either. That's frustrating. Yes, it was surprising. You never expect your team -- or hope that your team -- comes out like that.
The Press: Zuzi, last time you were down at home, you sparked a rally and picked it back up. Was there something different this time that you couldn't pull yourselves back together?
Zuzi Klimesova: I think coach has made a good comment. I feel very responsible for this game because as an upperclassman, if you lose your head and if you are not capable of putting yourself back together in the amount of 40 minutes, then how are you supposed to expect your freshmen to?
The Press: Coach, you talked about the 2 performances out on the road . . . does that make coming home having a game like this any more disappointing?
Coach Foster: Yes, you're supposed to build on those things. They're supposed to be building blocks.
The Press: Was this like the Arkansas game last year, after which you said we walked in thinking that we were a pretty good team? Is there any resemblance to that game last year?
Coach Foster: I think last year that they did some things that took us out of what we were good at. I think today we had more than enough opportunities, more than enough situations that we could have capitalized on. But there was a tentativeness and a reluctance to want the responsibility. There's a mental edge to this game that we don't have yet.
Florida Head Coach Carol Ross: I saw June Stewart after the game, and I said, "I haven't smiled too many times in this gym." This is a very tough place to play. A lot of people talk about the gym, but it's usually been the players on the floor that have caused our misery. I thought we beat a very good team tonight. I'm very proud of our team's effort. We played great defense. We really did things on the defensive end that really made Vanderbilt have to do some things they weren't as comfortable with. It was a very good win against a very good team.
The Press: Itwas really even during the first half, then something happened in that16-2 run. Did you see something that you exploited?
Coach Ross: In the second half? The main thing was that Vanessa sat out 15 minutes, so we felt like going into halftime if we were within striking distance that we would be able to do some things a little bit better and differently in the second half. So we were able to again start that second half I felt very fortunate when we went in at halftime only down by 1. Brandi hit some huge shots right before the half, and we got an old-fashioned 3-point play out of Sherisha Hills that put us into pretty good position going into the locker room. Then when we came out, we felt like we'd seen enough in the first half to be able to do some things in the second half a little more frequently. The press was not something I thought we would do after every made basket, but we ended up doing that because it looked to be effective and it looked to be disruptive. And then the big battle down inside kind of shifted. I thought Chantelle kind of had her way in the first half, and then I thought we were able to do a little bit better job in the second half. I thought our role players, the people that we don't ask a whole lot of offensively, I thought they did a lot of nice things. So we didn't have any huge adjustments, but I thought our personnel was a little different in the second half.
The Press: You played a lot of man to man and in the second half you played a zone. Did you feel like you could dare Vanderbilt to beat you from the outside?
Coach Ross: We're always going to try to defend from the inside out whether we're in man to man or whether we're in zone. We were not going to dare them to shoot it because I've seen too many 3-point shots go in the hoop here. But we felt like we could cover them with just a different look. We needed to get out and contest shots, but we just wanted to try to keep Vanessa from picking up an early third foul, and I felt like we were moving pretty good in the zone, and I knew that we were going to be playing defense on the other end of the floor, and I felt like we had pretty good leadership on the court. Brandi and Monique are seniors and I thought that they would be able to talk our way through the defense being at the opposite end, and they did a great job of that.
The Press: Coach, having played 6 SEC games and 19 games overall, are they as physical as they need to be if they want to contend?
Coach Ross: I don't know if being physical is really a requirement to be successful in our league. Our league can be a bruising black and blue type league, but at the same time Vanderbilt has proven to be extremely successful. They're skillful. They don't have to beat you up to win a ball game. And I think they have to stay true to the type of players they've recruiting. They've got some awful nice players, and I don't know that they needed to go away from their personality to be successful in this league. They've been awful good. I think it depends on . . . I don't think we out-physicalled them -- we might have I watch it on tape -- but they do some things pretty well. I think tonight we just really imposed our style of play on them. If we play them tomorrow night, they might give it right back to us with a dose of execution and skillfulness. Tonight, we were the better team, but they don't need to blow up their system to accommodate our bruising league. They'll be all right.
The Press: Vanessa, it looks like you have improved your conditioning since last year. Can you talk about your development as a player from last year to this year.
Vanessa Hayden: I just want to play and I have to be in shape in order to play. That was something my coach told me in the off-season. So I've been working with my strength coach and my teammates in playing pickup so I can be out there.
The Press: Brandi, did you see fear in their eyes about shooting the ball, about handling the ball?
Brandi McCain: Later on, in the second half, I got a sense like they didn't know what to do. The people that normally take shots didn't take shots. I just kept telling our team to keep putting our foot down and don't let up, because I sensed it in them, kind of like a dog sees fear he attacks. So that's kind of like the mentality that I had tonight.
The Press: Was that true offensively, too?
Brandi McCain: I think tonight my biggest point was at the end of the first half. I think this was probably the first game I've actually shown leadership in my career so hopefully it will continue.
The Press: Brandi, can you talk about your 3's in the first half?
Brandi McCain: I think it gave us a big boost. I wasn't doing to much in the beginning. My teammates were telling me to shoot, but I was trying to be patient, and it finally came at the right time. It think it gave us the momentum coming into the second half. Also in the back of our minds we knew we had Vanessa Hayden coming in also.
The Press: Can you talk about winning here on the SEC road?
Brandi McCain: I think it is a big win for us. Also, it's a big win because we play Georgia next, and we need a lot of momentum going into that game. But I just remember my sophomore year I didn't play here and we kind of got killed in the gym. So I think it was a big win for us.