Ninety points is an eye-catching statistic, but it was the Vanderbilt defense that provided the spark that started the fire. After the Lady Toppers took their only lead of the game at 4-2 on a basket by Brown, the Dores forced seven Western turnovers over the next five minutes, resulting in a 16-0 Vanderbilt run.
That big run put the Dores ahead for good, but it wasn't easy. Several times in the first half, the Lady Toppers threatened to cut the Vanderbilt lead back to single digits, but the Dores had an answer to every threat.
That answer was usually Vanderbilt's not-so-secret weapon, Tina Wirth. "We call her 'the reluctant superstar,'" said Vanderbilt Coach Melanie Balcomb after the game. "She doesn't care if she scores. She just wants to win games, she wants to be part of a team, and she wants to be part of a winning team."
Wirth took a total of 19 shots in the game, a new career high for her. Of those shots, nine were from 3-point range, and ten were inside the arc.
"She needs to take that many shots for us to do well, and she was willing to do that tonight," Balcomb said. "We got her great shots, and she knocked down very, very big baskets, not just outside, but I thought she had her biggest points in the interior."
Western's biggest threat came in the second half. With Vanderbilt leading by 20 points at 65-45, Brown all by herself went on a 10-0 run to cut the Dores' lead back to ten points at 65-55. Then a jumper by Amy McNear cut the defict to single digits for the first time since the early minutes of the game, and finally the partisan crowd at Diddle Arena had a reason to get loud.
But once again Wirth provided the answer for the Dores by hitting a 3-pointer. Brown Hope countered with a 3-pointer for Western, but Wirth again had an answer with a jumper in the paint to start a 13-0 Vanderbilt run. After that, the Lady Toppers weren't able to come closer than 14 points.
Balcomb was pleased with how her team handled themselves as the Lady Toppers were making their runs.
"At the timeout, the big thing we talked about was just having trust in each other because I know this is a very difficult place to play," she said. "This is why we play here. They're very similar to an SEC team athletically, and it prepares us because of the adversity that is created with the fans and everything here.
"So we talked about maintaining our control emotionally, mentally, and physically and just being right here, and as everything erupts, not to get caught up, because it can spiral here.We're well aware of that," she said.
"And they didn't let it spiral. I just tried to settle them down, to calm them down, and they all had all their eyes, and each other had all their eyes, and it was a really really good feeling of how calm they were and how much trust they had in each other," she concluded.
With the victory, Vanderbilt improves to 2-0 on the young season. Next, the Dores return home to host Eastern Kentucky on Wednesday at 7 p.m
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Photos copyright 2008 by Whitney D. for VandyMania.com