Rust from the two week layoff since the SEC tournament and an opponent whose defense ranks fifth in the nation produced a game that was much tighter than might be expected in a matchup between a #2-seed and a #15-seed.
As it turned out, the Hornets only held the lead once in the entire game, and that came in the very beginning when a jumper by Collier opened the scoring for the game. The lead was short-lived as Jen Risper quickly countered for Vanderbilt, but the Dores were unable to spurt ahead by leaps and bounds as they had done so many times late in the SEC season. Instead, Vanderbilt's biggest lead in the first half was only five points, and the halftime score of 28-24 didn't allow any breathing room.
"Our kids mentally and physically were prepared and ready to play, but they didn't have that confidence and that swagger," said Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb after the game. "The reason is that they hadn't played in a long time; you just lose that from not playing games."
"They weren't nervous, but they were anxious to get started and play, a little unsure of how they were going to play because of all that time," she said.
That uncertainty played right into the Hornets' hands, and Delaware State was able to dictate the tempo of the game through the entire first half.
"We tried to control possession," said Delaware State Head Coach Ed Davis. "We didn't want to rush, using as much of the shot clock as we could and get the ball in the hands of our best kids in the last eight or nine seconds on the shot clock."
"They were very physical, so it took us out of our timing and our offense," Balcomb said. "They were bumping cutters, being physical with them. They took us out of a lot of things and pressured us and made us turn the ball over too much in the first half."
In the locker room at halftime, the team talked about changes that needed to be made.
"We talked about rebounding," Balcomb said. "We'd given up six offensive boards and even when we did get a rebound, it was not cleared and out-letted and pushed."
"On defense, the other adjustment is we switched and face guarded their two shooters that were hurting us and tried to deny them the basketball," she said. "I thought we did a much better job. Collier scored 11 of 12 from the FT line, but keying on them got them out of the flow offensively and really helped us defensively to get more stops and separate ourselves.
"The offensive adjustment was getting Liz Sherwood off in the post," she continued. "I wanted to put more height in there; we were able to get it to Carla so I knew that we would be able to get it to Liz, and I thought Liz did a nice job posting up and getting good looks inside."
In the second half, the adjustments paid off. Midway through the second half, Sherwood began to dominate in the low post. Then three Vanderbilt 3-pointers -- two by Wirth and one by Dee Davis -- gave the Dores their first double-digit lead of the night at 57-44 with 4:12 remaining in the game.
"I thought those shots were the turning point in the ball game," said Coach Davis. "My hat's off to Vandy; they made adjustments and their kids knocked down big shots."
The Hornets were unable to come any closer after that, and when the final buzzer sounded, Vanderbilt survived and advanced with the 62-47 victory.
Next Vanderbilt will play the Bowling Green State University Falcons, who defeated the Oklahoma State Cowgirls 70-66 Sunday afternoon. The game will be held at the Breslin Student Events Center on the Michigan State on Tuesday night. Game time is 8:00 p.m. CT.
Vanderbilt guard Christina Wirth (34) plays against Delaware State during the second half of their NCAA women's first round college basketball game in East Lansing, Mich., Sunday, March 18 2007. Wirth scored 17 points to lead a balanced Vanderbilt attack, pushing past No. 15 seed Delaware State 62-47 in the opening round of the Greensboro Regional. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)