Vanderbilt jumped out to an early 8-0 lead and never trailed in the game after that. Vanderbilt took their first double-digit lead on a 3-pointer by Zuzi Klimesova with 11:00 left in the first half. A pair of free throws by Jillian Danker increased the lead to 19 points at 34-15 with a minute remaining in the half. Three pointers exchanged by Jenni Benningfield and Carter put the halftime score at 37-18.
As the second half began, Carter hit two quick 3-point baskets to cut the Vanderbilt lead to 13 at 37-24. For the next ten minutes, the teams essentially exchanged baskets, with the Commodores lead wavering between 12-14 points until a basket by Thomas and another 3-pointer by Carter cut the Vanderbilt lead to 10 at 52-42 with 9:31 left in the half. But MSU was unable to step up their defense, and the Commodores countered with 12 straight points until Carter's sixth 3-pointer of the half with 4:35 remaining broke the Commodores run. A basket by White cut the lead to 17, but the State would not come any closer as Vanderbilt cleared the bench in the final minutes and closed out the 72-53 victory.
Vanderbilt was led in scoring by Chantelle Anderson, Zuzi Klimesova, and Ashley McElhiney with 19 points each. Anderson and Klimesova each had 9 rebounds. McElhiney contributed 6 assists, while Anderson had 5. Mississippi State was led in scoring by Jessica Carter with 21, followed by LaToya Thomas with 14, and Tan White with 11. Thomas was leading rebounder with 6. White added 3 assists.
For the game, Vanderbilt shot 52.9% from the field, 40% from 3-point range, and 82.4% from the free throw line. MSU shot 42% from the field, 40% from 3-point range, 37.5% from the line. The Commodores out-rebounded the Lady Bulldogs 33-23 and had fewer turnovers with 11, compared to 14 for MSU.
With the win, Vanderbilt improves to 21-5 (7-3 SEC) while Mississippi State falls to 16-8 (7-4 SEC). Next Vanderbilt hosts LSU on Thursday night in Memorial Gym. Gametime is 7 p.m., and the game will be televised on SEC-TV on Fox Sports Net.
The Press: After a week off, was this what you were looking for?
Coach Foster: I thought our defense was very good, and I thought our offense was patient. We got a little careless with the ball a little bit in the second half, but I thought we reversed the ball and got good opportunities and got a lot of people involved in the offense.
The Press: Coach, are you feeling a little better with the offensive performance in the last three or four games?
Coach Foster: Well, when we get a lot of people a lot of touches and don't be one-dimensional, I think we're a pretty good offensive basketball team. I think we took another step in that direction today.
The Press: Have you encouraged Ashley McElhiney to look at the basket more often?
Coach Foster: Uh-hmm. Very much so, especially if she's going to make shots like that on the baseline. If Lori Alexander was testing her for her vertical jump, it would have improved by 5 inches today.
The Press: What was happening with all those 3-point baskets by #4?
Coach Foster: We were guarding their two All-Americans, and the big girl on our team -- the big GIRLS on our team -- or the big women on our team -- were not getting where they needed to get. And they know that. But I think those two kids are as good as any players in this league, and I thought our emphasis was on them, and to Mississippi State's credit, they got the ball into someone else's hands, and she made shots.
The Press: Coach, you mentioned vertical leap. If one of your players decided to [dunk] in a game, if one of your players wanted to do that, what would your feelings be?
Coach Foster: (after a pause) It's not important to us.
The Press; Sure, but there are fans who really would get a charge out of that, and there have been discussions and people always talk about it.
Coach Foster: I know. But I would hope that there are a lot of enlightened people looking at more of the fundamental skills that go with the game of basketball and recognize and realize that our post players are very sound and put the ball in the basket a lot the way they play, and we should appreciate that also.
The Press: But if the occasion came up, and one of your players went crazy and did it, would there be sanctions?
Coach Foster: SANCTIONS?!?! (laughter) What's your name -- Stern? No. There wouldn't be sanctions.
The Press: Coach, comment on the defensive effort against Thomas today, particularly by Jillian.
Coach Foster: I think Jillian did a great job. I think Tia did a great job. She's a terrific, terrific player. She's as gifted as any player in America. And she had to work for everything that she got tonight. And our players that guarded her had to have a lot of help. She's not a player one person can guard.
The Press: (inaudible) 3 pointers by Jessica Carter (inaudible)
Coach Foster: They scored 53 points. I won't focus in on who made what. I think we got a terrific defensive performance.
The Press: (inaudible)
Coach Foster: I don't think our basketball team thinks of that. I think that everybody else does that. I think we think of and respect team we play in this league and understand that this league has great players and terrific coaches and every win that you get is going to have to be hard fought and worth savoring for about an hour, and then you start getting ready for the next one.
The Press: Chantelle, you had 5 assists tonight. Is that something in particular you've been focusing on?
Chantelle Anderson: No, but I think that their game plan was to not let me get shots off in the first half, and I know I had four of those assists in the first half because as soon as I got the ball they were collapsing on me. Zuzi did a great job of moving to the open area, and I found her a couple of times, and she did a great job of knocking down shots. I think that was our game plan.
The Press: Can you talk about that, in some games they go after you and then she has a great first half, and then they go after her and you have a great second half?
Chantelle: I think that's what makes our team so difficult to defend is that we have so many offensive weapons. It's true -- if they're going to collapse on me, then I'm not one of those people who would rather get huge numbers and us lose. I have no problem passing the ball to Zuzi until they stop doubling and tripling down on me, and she has no problems getting me the ball when they start going to her. So I think it speaks to the overall talent and unselfishness as well.
The Press: Zuzi, can you talk about what you think about when the shot goes up -- you had five offensive rebounds -- what do you look at and what do you look for when a shot goes up?
Zuzi Klimesova: I guess I have never really thought about it. I just go. I think that's something Coach Pete has been installing in us for three years now, and so we just go because he always says that "every shot is a pass to you". So we are just all go to underneath the basket.
The Press: Looking at the stat sheet, you have something in every category and many times we talk about you being one of the most complete players . . . what is it that you think you need to work on?
Zuzi: I think that one thing is keeping my head for 40 minutes. Sometimes I get a little too excited when things go well. Outside of that, our coaches always do a good job in analyzing things, and there is always something you can be better at. I think I could be better off the dribble. I don't think I'm as comfortable as shooting just standing still. The one three went in today, but it is still not something that I just do and feel like, "oh yeah, this is going in". It's a totally different feeling than when I stand on the free throw line and just shoot. I think there are so many things, and, as I said, the coaches are great about pointing them out, never letting us fall asleep and be too comfortable with who we are, as individuals and as a team.
The Press: Ashley, can you talk about your defensive role tonight?
Ashley McElhiney: I knew I had to stop her [Tan White]. She's a great player. I think she's a good stand still 3-point shooter and off the dribble of course. And it wasn't just my effort. It was the girls in the triangle and two. I think it was all five us that stopped Thomas and White tonight and unfortunately, another one went off, but we contained the two that we didn't want to beat us, and I think it was a team effort.
The Press: Ashley, can you talk about your shooting? Coach says he wants you to take more. How do you feel about that?
Ashley: I guess it's in my head. I know I can make shots. I've just got to take them. Tonight they were so conscious about guarding Chantelle and Zuzi that it left me open some. I had the ball in my hands a lot of times when the shot clock was going down, and I just created a shot and it fell tonight.
The Press: Does it help you when you make an early shot?
Ashley Mac: It always helps, but I don't want to be the person that takes the first shot and misses and don't shoot again.
The Press: (inaudible)
Ashley Mac: I think it was a great win. We took it that night and the next day in practice, that was out. We had to focus on our next game. We have more games to play. We don't want beating Tennessee to be our season, and that's behind us right now.
* * * * * * * * * The Press: Have you had any other games when Thomas and White were both held in check?
Mississippi State Coach Sharon Fanning: There have been a couple of games where people have been guarding them pretty hard, doubling quite a bit -- the triangle and two type concept. I felt like we got frustrated early on with it. As a team, though, we have not had but two games without Jennifer Fambrough in the ball game. And I think when she's the only senior on the team, you need penetration, you need someone else on the floor that's been there, and she's definitely a primary scorer for us. And I think her experience when we've had situations like that, it helps you to get out of them because she knows where to be on the floor and have a little more understanding and experience with things. And so when you look at there and you look at two or three new faces on the floor in that situation, and you look at the teams that come in here -- this is a very difficult place to play in terms of the successes they've had. So we just had to toughen up. But I'm really glad that we did that. We found a way to get . . . Jessica came in and did her job. The frustration created a hole. We got ourselves in a hole. The good part is we grew as a basketball team. We improved. We had three scenarios this year where we've had a starter go out of the lineup, and it's made a difference with our team in each of the following games. But yet, after a couple of games, we've managed to adjust and other people have stepped up, and we've become more comfortable with the roles. A lot of times with new faces and young players, that happens. So this was good pressure, got us a little frustrated, we became a little tentative with it. Some other people didn't step up the first half, but second half, I felt like we had the right focus, came back and got within 10, then of course defensively didn't make the stand we had to at that point. We let them have the offensive rebounds, come up with a couple of three's. Ashley 6 of 7 from the field, 6 assists and 1 turnover. Of course she does a good directing the team. We've got to guard harder as a team and not give them second looks.
The Press; What is Jennifer's condition?
Coach Fanning: She's going to have surgery tomorrow. She has a bulging disk, and they're going to go in with a scope and hopefully trim it and probably in 3 weeks there's a good chance she can get back in. We're hoping and praying that she can get back maybe by SEC tournament time, but I really don't know. Hopefully we can find a way to get into post-season play. But that's something where Lyndi, Courtney, and Rebecca are the ones right now who are going to have to give the minutes there. And they're definitely not the experience, but some ways we've got to come up with fighters and find a way to work together and make something happen in a very positive way.
The Press: (inaudible)
Coach Fanning: The first half we did a couple of things that actually got LaToya the basketball. And then Chantelle really started going hard at her on either side of the floor, and she probably needed to pull out a little bit, receive a couple more screens from her other post buddy there. Then at halftime I tried to look at something based on what they were continuing to do, so we got Jessica to the corner and tried to screen for Toya and then screen for Tan, and basically Jessica did her job, which is she nailed the shot. . . . We did our job as a team in the second half, put ourselves in position coming back from 20, and Jessica was a huge part of that.
The Press: Could you talk about your game plan?
Coach Fanning: We went back and looked at the Iowa State game. They play a lot of triangle and two, box and one type thing. That was very early in the season for us. We spent some time talking about it, and they ended up playing a two-three match. Vanderbilt played a two-three sort of a matchup a lot of time last year, we beat them at our place then they went to a man some the second half. . . . one-two-two, they're going to adjust their defense to the teams that they're playing. So we expected that this could be a possibility, and we thought we had a couple of options, that if they went to that, that were good because we had seen that against other teams. And again our frustration with it, that's the first time that our team has seen it and been against it. You can't simulate sometimes things too much in a practice situation exactly like they're going to be with the same concept. So it's almost like they have to go through it. I think when you have junk defenses and people are face guarding you, you have to be more patient and you have to learn how to use each other. You have to be smart during that situation. You can't just panic and bull your way through or say, "No I don't want the basketball", 'cause you saw Tennessese standing somewhat and just looking and finally Kara starts coming off screens and things. It's just something you have to work through as a team, so you have to be mature and you have to communicate and you have to see each other -- you can't just look at the ball, so those are the things that we're trying to learn together. . . . Okay, what are our decisions together? How are you guys going to react How many time outs can we use to say, "okay, now this is happening," then they sub, and it's another kid guarding, Danker may be guarding one way on Toya and Battle might come in and look a little bit different. It's game decisions they have to make out there on the floor, but what we did at halftime was different. We hadn't practiced it at all, but it was something I thought that we might could do that might at least give us that 3-point look, and then we just couldn't guard hard enough.and couldn't defend them after that. But I felt like that adjustment was okay.
Vanderbilt's Zuzi Klimesova (13) and Mississippi State's Seneca Anderson (20) chase down a loose ball in the second half on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2002 in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
HOME TEAM: Vanderbilt 72 VISITORS: Mississippi State 53 NR -NAME- FG-FA 3M-3A FT-FA RB AS F TP NR -NAME- FG-FA 3M-3A FT-FA RB AS F TP 12 BATTLE, 1-4 0-0 0-0 3 0 2 2 04 CARTER, 7-12 7-10 0-0 1 1 1 21 13 KLIMESO 7-14 1-2 4-5 9 1 1 19 12 JONES,R 1-2 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 2 20 RAMSEY, 0-0 0-0 0-0 2 1 0 0 14 WHITE,T 4-15 1-7 2-3 2 3 4 11 21 ANDERSO 8-15 0-0 3-3 9 5 3 19 20 ANDERSO 0-2 0-0 1-2 4 2 2 1 22 MCELHIN 6-7 2-3 5-5 3 6 1 19 21 STRINGF 1-2 0-0 0-0 0 0 1 2 23 COLLI,J 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 32 THOMAS, 7-10 0-0 0-3 6 2 2 14 24 HAGER,H 0-1 0-0 0-1 0 0 0 0 33 KATES,R 0-1 0-0 0-0 1 1 1 0 32 EARLEY, 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 44 SIPPEL, 0-3 0-2 0-0 3 0 3 0 33 DANKER, 1-2 0-1 2-3 0 0 3 4 50 GRAHAM, 1-3 0-0 0-0 5 1 2 2 42 BENNING 3-7 1-4 0-0 2 3 0 7 43 CORBETT 1-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 1 2 50 STOREY, 0-0 0-0 0-0 2 0 1 0 TOTALS.... 27-51 4-10 14-17 33 16 12 TOTALS.... 21-50 8-20 3-8 23 10 16 TEAM--> FG:52.9% 3FG:40.0% FT:82.4% TEAM--> FG:42.0% 3FG:40.0% FT:37.5% TEAM--> TURNOVERS:10 BLOCKS:1 STEALS:4 TEAM--> TURNOVERS:14 BLOCKS:0 STEALS:3