The Dores returned all five starters from last season's Sweet 16 team, so it wasn't surprising that Vanderbilt opened with the same five: sophomore Jence Rhoads at the point, junior Merideth Marsh and senior Jen Risper on the wings, and senior Tina Wirth and sophomore Hannah Tuomi in the post. Junior Jessica Mooney was the first guard to come off the bench while senior Amy Malo was the first post off the bench.
Tusculum was scored the first points of the game on a pair of free throws, but after that Vanderbilt scored 25 straight points before the Pioneers scored their first basket from the field. By halftime, the Vanderbilt lead had grown to 35 points at 49-14, and at the final buzzer, the Dores won by 58 points at 98-40.
During the game all of Vanderbilt's available players played at least ten minutes, and everybody who played scored. Four Commodores scored in double figures. Wirth scored 20, freshman Tia Gibbs scored 14 points in 14 minutes in her first appearance in black and gold, Tuomi scored 13, and Mooney scored 10. Risper led the team in rebounds with 8, assists with 7, and steals with 6.
"We talked to the team about focusing on what they wanted to focus on," said Head Coach Melanie Balcomb after the game. "This is a returning team, and I want to get them to talk more and own it more right away.
"And they really wanted to focus on not playing to the level of the competition, playing our game," she continued. "They wanted to focus being the kind of team that we want to be. We want to be more pressure defense, so we really wanted to execute our defenses really well. We focused a lot more on defense than we did on offense."
The defensive effort paid off with 21 steals and 49 points off Tusculum turnovers, while holding the Pioneers to 20% shooting from the field.
The news wasn't all good, however. Junior post Amber Norton, freshman post Jordan Coleman, and junior guard Lauren Lueders were all on the sidelines with injuries. Lueders was hit in the jaw during practice on Friday and will be out for "a little bit", but is expected back soon. Both Norton and Coleman have had problems with their shins and are out indefinitely.
Vanderbilt's second and final exhibition game of the season will be on Friday night when they host Love and Basketball. Game time is 7 p.m. The first regular season game will be on Friday, November 14, when Texas A&M-Corpur Christi visits Memorial Gym.
Lauren Lueders, Amber Norton, Jessica Mooney, Jordan Coleman
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Photos copyright 2008 by Whitney D for VandyMania.com