VU Women top Northern Arizona, 57-41

NASHVILLE, TN - Despite shooting that was a cold as the air outside, Vanderbilt defeated the Northern Arizona Lumberbacks 57-41 Thursday night in Memorial Gym. Sophomore post Liz Sherwood was the only Commodore to score in double figures with 13 points. Freshman guard/forward Tina Wirth and senior post Nicole Jules scored nine points each.

The game got off to a slow start, as both teams struggled offensively. With three minutes left in the half, Vanderbilt led 16-15. By halftime the Commodores had managed to eke out a 23-19 lead. Statistically, there was little difference between the two teams in the first half. Both teams shot 33% from the field for the half and neither team had a 3-pointer. Vanderbilt committed nine turnovers; Northern Arizona had 10.

Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb tried to shake things up to begin the second half. Ordinarily, the starters for the game also begin the second half. But the lineup that began the second half was the same lineup that was on the floor at the end of the first half.

"I just wanted to shake things up because it was one of the worst halves we've had effort-wise," Balcomb said after the game. "The five people that were out there I thought were giving the most effort at the time so I just left them out there and had the five that finished the first half start the second half."

But nevertheless, the Lumberjacks continued to hang around for the first few minutes of the second half. With 14:18 left in the game, Vanderbilt held a narrow 29-27 lead. Then finally, the Commodores pulled away with a 14-2 run, highlighted by nine points from Sherwood, to take a 43-29 lead at the 7:26 mark.

After that, the Lumberjacks briefly cut the lead back to 10 points at 47-37 with four minutes left in the game, but junior guard Caroline Williams answered with a 3-pointer to put a stop to the NAU comeback, and Vanderbilt held on for the 57-41 victory.

After the game, Balcomb and her staff had plenty to talk about in the locker room.

"On offense, we just made poor decisions," she said. "On offense, you need to be relaxed and ready. We weren't ready to shoot. We took shots that at halftime I could ask every kid - and did - 'Was that a good shot? Were you ready to shoot that shot?' They just sat there and said, 'No,' 'No', 'No.'

"I said, 'Why did you shoot that shot then? Was that a good shot?' We didn't take good shots. Some of them were bad decisions. Other ones we were not ready to shoot, which could be effort.

"But our shot selection was poor. They weren't shots we've been working on, and that's why you shoot 33%. But the effort part that was bad was the offensive rebounding. When you shoot 33%, and you only have five offensive rebounds-- I guess we're used to making more shots and standing and watching, and that's what I was upset about was the rebounding effort. Not missing shots, but the rebounding effort. "

Balcomb did find one positive in the game, however, in the play of freshman guard Holly Rogers, who finished the game with seven points, six rebounds, and three assists with no turnovers.

"Holly has not been confident enough and has not been playing as of late because of it," said Balcomb. "She's put in extra time and worked harder in practice and was more confident today, and it was really nice to see because we need her minutes. We need her to play, and she was ready today."

Next action for Vanderbilt is on Saturday, when the Commodores host Miami (OH) at 1 p.m. for Dad and Daughter Day. Adult tickets are $5, and every adult ticket gets one youth ticket for free.

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