Although the Islanders led early in the first half, it didn't take long for Vanderbilt to catch up and pull away. By the middle of the first half, the 'Dores held a double-digit lead at 24-11, and by the end of the half, the lead had ballooned to 23 points at 49-26.
In the first ten minutes of the second half, the Vanderbilt lead continued to grow with the team's three senior starters on the court. By the time, the last of the seniors left the court for good with 9:44 left in the game, the 'Dores held a 34-point lead at 78-44.
From that point on, the game was primarily in the hands of the team's younger players. For a few minutes, they held their ground, but five 3-pointers by the Islanders in the last five minutes of the game cut into the lead. When the final buzzer sounded, Vanderbilt claimed the 102-75 victory.
Despite the offensive explosion, which pushed the Commodores past the century mark for the first time since a double-OT game at Mississippi State in the 2004-05 season, Vanderbilt Coach Melanie Balcomb had a lot to say in the locker room after the game.
What was the subject? One word: "Defense."
"We talked about how disappointed I was in their defensive effort," she said after the game.
"We can't give up 49 points in the second half just because we have a lead," she continued. "Defensive effort has to be from the starting five to the twelfth player. The starting five got that big lead, and then we exchanged baskets.
"Those young kids have to play, and they have to be focused on defense. Defense wins championships, not exchanging baskets."
Fortunately for the team, Vanderbilt students, including student-athletes, are on fall break this week. Even with the two games in the Vanderbilt Thanksgiving Tournament coming up on Friday and Saturday, the break gives the team some time to relax and regroup.
"I think it's a time where we can take a game like this and talk about it after the game," said Williams after the game. "We have to take to heart this game tonight and realize that we just allowed 70-something points."
"We have no school, so we have plenty of time to get in the gym and work on some things that we need to work on to get ready for this Thanksgiving tournament," she said, "so there will time to relax, but it's also a good time to mentally prepare and physically prepare for a tough tournament coming up."
Freshman post Amber Norton agreed. "We're just using the break, like Caroline says, to kind of rejuvenate," she said. "We don't have class so we can rest our bodies a little bit more but still stay focused and try to improve on our games."
The upcoming Thanksgiving tournament means that the players will not be able to go home for Thanksgiving, so they're planning to enjoy the break in other ways.
"We have a little girls night planned for the team," said Williams. "We're calling it a glamour girls party."
Norton added, "As far as not getting to come home, our team is very close so we have each other for Thanksgiving so we're good."
The opening round of the Thanksgiving Tournament will be held on Friday, November 24. At noon, Vanderbilt plays Florida Atlantic, and Belmont meets #18 California in the second game.
On Friday, the consolation game will be played at noon, and the championship game will be held afterwards, around 2:00 p.m. As a special Thanksgiving treat, all fans will receive free admission to all tournament games.
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Photos copyright 2006 by Whitney D for VandyMania.com>