"Those three have been working very, very hard, especially in practice, and so we just wanted to give them a shot," said Coach Melanie Balcomb after the game.
"They had earned that opportunity, and now they're starting to get a better understanding so they're going to keep playing more and more," she continued. "The effort's there, and the effort is inspiring. They're fearless as well as being confident."
In the first half of the game, Vanderbilt looked impressive on the defensive end of the court, holding the Bulls to just 20 points and a field goal percentage of 22.2%. In addition, the Dores dominated the boards, out-rebounding USF 31-11 in the half and only allowing three offensiv rebounds.
But on the offensive end of the court, the Dores had their struggles, too, turning the ball over 18 times in the first half alone and shooting only 33.3% from the field.
"We played so hard on defense and rebounding, we couldn't relax on offense," Balcomb said. "We didn't know how to shut it down on the other end of the floor."
In the second half, that changed. Vanderbilt's defense continued to be effective, but the offense began to click. At halftime, the Dores held an 8-point lead at 28-20. But in the first six minutes of the half, a 16-2 Vanderbilt run gave the Dores a 22-point cushion at 44-22 After that, USF was unable to cut the lead below 19 points.
"In the second half we were tired, so it shut down on the other end of the floor and all of a sudden our offense and our shooting looked better and that's just because we had worn ourselves down and relaxed a little bit," Balcomb said. "We haven't been relaxed on offense because we haven't been getting the job done on defense."
Merideth Marsh, who finished the game with a perfect 5-for-5 from 3-point ranged echoed the coach's comments.
"Whenever we're getting stops on defense, and we're hustling and giving all our effort on the defensive sides, the shots on offense are going to come," she said. "If we're working the ball around, being unselfish it's all going to come."
Vanderbilt's next chance to show that they're on the right track will come on Saturday when they complete the non-conference portion of the schedule in Princeton, New Jersey.
Saturday's game takes on the appearance of a homecoming game, as Head Coach Melanie Balcomb was born in Princeton. Assistant Coach Vicky Picott attended the same high school as Balcomb and played her collegiate basketball at nearby Rutgers. In addition, Lisa Cermignano is also from New Jersey, and Chanel Chishom and Director of Video Operations Clare Droesch are from nearby New York.
"I think we're going to have a really big following," said Balcomb. "There will be a lot of black and gold there. I've heard from a lot of people from college days to high school days that I haven't heard from in a long time, just noticing that we're coming out there. It's always fun to play in front of your friends and family, and it's been a long time coming."
The next home game for the Dores will be on Thursday, January 10, when the SEC schedule begins with a visit from Mississippi State. Game time is 7 p.m.
* * * * *
Photos copyright 2008 by Whitney D for VandyMania.com