In the first 3 minutes of the game, the Dores jumped out to a 9-0 lead, but then suddenly cooled off, missing 9 of their next 10 shots and allowing the visitors to close the gap to just two points at 13-11 midway throught the first half.
But then a 3-pointer by Tina Wirth got the Dores back on track, and soon afterward, Merideth Marsh hit three 3-pointers in a span of less than two minutes to give Vandrerbilt a 16-point lead at 31-15 with 4:37 left in the first half.
A 3-pointer by Jade Davis cut the lead back to 13 points, but yet another 3-pointer by Marsh pushed the lead back to 16. Going into the locker room the Dores held a 15-point lead at 36-21.
Davis hit another 3-pointer to begin the second half, but after that, a 12-0 Vanderbilt run over the next five minutes gave the Dores a 24-point cushion. From then on, the Islanders would come no closer, and the Vanderbilt slowly continued to grow. The comfortable lead allowed Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb to go deep into her bench, and every available player played at least seven minutes.
After the game, Balcomb and her players saw both positives and negatives in the team's performance in their first game of the season.
"One of the things that we definitely need to do a better job of is the rebound game," Balcomb said. "We didn't out-rebound these guys. We gave up 11 offensive boards, and second chance points were tied. We can't continue that, and I think that's something we definitely need to look at improving."
Marsh echoed that opinion. "We were even with them on rebounds, and that can't happen, especially when we get down the stretch and teams are strong, especially in the SEC," she said. "That's something that we struggled with last year. We got better, but that's something we need to key in on."
On the positive side, Balcomb was pleased with the team's effort. "I thought our energy was really good," she said. "I felt like our attitude and our energy was very good. It was very good the last two days of practice, and it carried over. Our defensive intensity, we had like one little lull, but other than that, I thought that was solid."
"I think we played hard, and I think we played together for the most part," said Wirth. "There are times where you make a substitution and it's kind of a different rotation than you're used to, but I think we did a good job of talking to each other and helping everyone out.
"We talked about being excited on the bench and how that makes the people coming off the bench ready to go in because you're into the game, just being excited and having fun out there, that had a lot to do with our hustle and intensity."
Next up for the Dores is a road trip to Bowling Green to play Western Kentucky University in Diddle Arena on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. This will be the third visit to Western during Balcomb's tenure at Vanderbilt. The previous two trips ended with a loss in 2004, and a victory in 2006.
"I continue to play up there because it is such a hard place to play, and if you don't play those games early on in that envrionment, then you're not ready to play at Georgia or at Tennessee or at LSU," Balcomb said. "You have to play in those kinds of environments, so it will be a really good test for us."
After the trip to Bowling Green, the Dores will return home to host Eastern Kentucky on Wednesday, November 19 at 7 p.m.
Hannah Tuomi and Jence Rhoads
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Photos copyright 2008 by Whitney D. for VandyMania.com