Vandy women decimate Alabama A&M, 80-29

NASHVILLE-- Thanks to a stingy defense, the Vanderbilt Commodores cruised to a 80-29 victory over the Alabama A&M Bulldogs Tuesday night at Memorial Gym. Junior guard Caroline Williams led the Vanderbilt attack with a career-high 21 points, and sophomore transfer Liz Sherwood added 17.

The game was never in doubt, as the Commodores started the game with an 18-0 run. Only midway through the first half did A&M get on the scoreboard, on a Kimberly Pratcher jumper. For the remainder of the half, the Vanderbilt defense held the Bulldogs to just two more field goals and a couple of free throws, giving the 'Dores a 36-8 halftime lead.

The second half began much the same way, as Vanderbilt opened the half with an 11-0 run. Soon the lead grew to 40 points and gradually continued to grow. With 1:47 left in the game, a couple of made free throws by senior guard Erica Grimaldi gave the Commodores their biggest lead of the night at 80-27, before a final basket by Chaymieyon Moss ended the scoring for the game.

After a disappointing defensive effort in the loss to Arizona State to open the season, the Commodores have been focused in practice on improving their defense. Head Coach Melanie Balcomb says that work is beginning to produce dividends.

"This is the first real game that we've been in where we've been able to break away from somebody and hold somebody down defensively," she said after the game. "I hope that we're getting some confidence in our defense because our defense is getting better and that's what we've been focusing so much on."

Playing in a zone defense for most of the game, the Commodores limited the Bulldogs to just 28.9% shooting from the field and forced 27 turnovers. Those turnovers led to 39 points for Vanderbilt.

"I think there've been major improvements, and we've still got a lot to work on," said Williams after the game, "but what they've been stressing to us and what we've tried to take from practice to the game is the defensive pressure and intensity and dictating where they go and not being scared and on our heels, but ball pressuring every pass and getting deflections and really dictating what they do instead of letting them come to us."

Balcomb gives a lot of credit to junior point guard Dee Davis for that increased aggressiveness. "A lot of it is feeding off Dee," she said. "Dee is the person who's been much more aggressive and playing much better defense this year and setting the tone for our team. I really like what she's doing on the front of our defenses, and I think she's getting everybody else involved."

With the victory, Vanderbilt improves to 3-1 for the season, while Alabama A&M falls to 0-1. Next action for the Commodores is the Thanksgiving Tournament, sponsored by the Nashville City Paper.

The first games are on Friday, Nov. 25. In the opening game, Vanderbilt meets Charleston Southern at 2 p.m The second game around 4 p.m. features Colgate and McNeese State. On Saturday the tournament's consolation game is scheduled for 2 p.m., to be followed by the tournament championship.

Admission to all four games this weekend is free. Fans will have the opportunity to make cash donations benefitting the Boys and Girls Clubs of Middle Tennessee at the door.

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