"In the first half we were just exchanging baskets," said Head Coach Melanie Balcomb after the game. "We weren't doing a good job defending, and when you don't do a good job defending, then you're tight on offense because you know you've got to make every shot."
Thomas agreed. "W didn't come out with the intensity that we needed to," she said. "Then we got tighter on offense because we weren't getting the stops we needed to, so we were depending on our offense too much."
"I think we just wanted to do really well and wanted to do everything perfectly and then things weren't going our way so we got a little frustrated," she continued.
At halftime, it was clear that some changes were needed.
"At halftime they had 35 points and two assists," said Balcomb. "That tells you that we're not guarding the basketball, so we went straight man-to-man, and told them to guard the ball and guard the posts."
Slowly but surely the strategy began to pay off. Five minutes into the second half, the score was tied at 42-42. Then a jumper by Williams gave the lead to Vanderbilt for the first time in the second half. As it turned out, the 'Dores would never trail again.
But at the time, it wasn't clear that the tide had finally shifted in Vanderbilt's direction. With 11:42 left in the game, a basket by Carmen Guzman brought cut the 'Dores' lead to just one point at 49-48.
Then Vanderbilt began to pull away. An old-fashioned 3-point play by Sherwood ignited a 17-4 run capped by consecutive 3-pointers from Wirth and Williams to give the 'Dores a 14-point lead at 66-52 with seven minutes left in the game.
A 3-pointer by Guzman cut the lead back to 11-points, but from that point on, Vanderbilt continued to slowly build the lead. With 11 seconds left, Williams' fourth 3-pointer of the night gave the 'Dores a 24-point lead, their biggest of the night. A layup by Guzman just before the final buzzer ended the scoring at 85-63.
With the victory, Vanderbilt improves to 7-0 on the season. Next action for the Commodores will be the "Pink Out" on Sunday afternoon when they host the Clemson Tigers at 4 p.m.
The nationally-televised game will serve to raise awareness and raise funds for the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. All fans are encouraged to wear pink, and a portion of all ticket proceeds will to toward breast cancer research.
Sophomore guard Jen Risper, who has been Vanderbilt's "sixth starter" this year, was on the sidelines for the game following knee surgery earlier in the week. She is not expected to play in Sunday's game, but may return to action soon after that.
"She'll see the doctor in a week, and then we'll go from there," said Balcomb. "It all depends on how quickly she rehabs. She's the quickest rehab person I've been around in all my years coaching. She came back really well after the last one, so we don't expect it to be long."
Vanderbilt's Caroline Williams (33) drives to the basket around UAB defender Diamond Rogers (12) in the second half of a women's college basketball game in Birmingham, Ala., on Thursday, November 30, 2006. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)