The intensity generated 11 Vanderbilt steals and 19 assists as Ole Miss was held to 27% shooting for the game. The Lady Rebels (8-10, 2-3) recorded Mississippi's worst output ever in the first 20 minutes for a 40-12 deficit. Ole Miss did not hit double figures until 1:45 left in the first half.
With the loss of three seniors, including WNBA Rookie of the Year Armintie Price, the Ole Miss team that beat Vanderbilt 76-66 in Oxford last January and made it to the Elite Eight in 2007 no longer exists.
"We really had a good week of preparation," Coach Balcomb said. "We generally spend a lot of time on offense, especially because I feel we're behind offensively this year, don't have the weapons we've had in the past or the confidence. Not playing Thursday and having extra time, we really worked on our match-up and our man. I think we were so aggressive. They executed the defense just how they did in practice all week. My assistants had them ready defensively and that was really fun to watch."
Vanderbilt (14-6, 3-2 SEC) sprinted to a 30-3 run to break open the game in front of 7,100 fans at Memorial Gym. Defensive pressure poured in from all sides, with 3 steals by Jessica Mooney, who also sank 12 points and handed off a career-high 6 assists.
Junior Jen Risper led all scorers with 20 points and 10 rebounds for her second career double-double. She was 9-of-11 in field goal attempts and 2-of-3 free-throw shooting.
Moved to an inside role in the high post, Jen used the paint to seize more rebounds and attack on defense. "Tina is a really good shooter and she can bring the defense out to guard her a lot more," Jen explained. "Also playing at the high post I can attack more, and drive on that. We've been working really hard in practice and we came out the with the mentality that we're going to dictate, we're going to be the ones setting the tempo of this game, and we're the ones attacking."
The Commodore bench added 37 points, replicating in the game what they had been learning in practice, Coach Balcomb said.
"I think a lot of our bench players were ready to play. To bring a Jen or Liz Sherwood off the bench is a great luxury. They should make us better and that's what they did today." Jen commended her teammates for their efforts: "We're really starting to come together. I'm really confident that the more we keep practicing the way we've been practicing and doing what we're doing, we're getting stronger as a team on defense and offense."
Freshman point guard Jence Rhodes continued to play confidently, dishing out 5 assists, snatching 2 steals and hauling down 3 rebounds with just 1 turnover for the game.
"She's making it look easy and that's what a good point guard does," Coach Balcomb said. "She's really starting to understand what we want. At each game she builds more confidence. She is being more aggressive, which is getting us more shots. She's steady eddy. She's attacking a lot more, taking the pressure off her."
While Ole Miss was 0-11 in 3-point range, Vanderbilt hit 5 of 12 from behind the arc, with Lauren Leaders and Meredith Marsh hitting two each, and Jessica Mooney one.
Jen Risper defends. (VM/Sharon Harper)