VU Women Fall to Notre Dame 59-57

In their first home loss of the season, the Vanderbilt women's team fell to #6/#12 Notre Dame 59-57 Tuesday night in Memorial Gym. Hannah Tuomi led all scorers with 20 points. Tina Wirth added 12 points for the Dores, and Becca Bruszewski and Lindsay Schrader each scored 12 for Notre Dame.

In the beginning, the game looked just the way Vanderbilt wanted it to look.

"We thought transition was one of their weaknesses, and it's one of our strengths," said Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb.

And indeed it was transition that helped Vanderbilt get off and running, with Jessica Mooney scoring Vanderbilt's first four points of the game on fastbreak baskets, tying the game at 4-4.

After that, the Dores took the lead on a basket by Hannah Tuomi and were able to keep building on that lead for the rest of the first half. A steal and a layup by Tia Gibbs gave the Dores a double-digit lead at 25-14 with 5:51 left in the first half. At halftime Vanderbilt held a 12-point lead at 36-24.

Coming out of the locker room, Vanderbilt cotinued to extend the lead, as consecutive fast break baskets by Jen Risper, Merideth Marsh and Jessica Mooney gave the Dores an 18-point lead less than three minutes into the second half.

Then, just a couple of minutes later, with the score 46-28 in Vanderbilt's favor, the momentum took an abupt turn in favor of the Irish. After Notre Dame scored five quick points to cut the lead to 13, Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb called timeout. But afterwards the Notre Dame run continued.

"We changed defenses about 45 times," said Balcomb. "We went zone, switching man, straight man. We tried everything. I don't think we've changed defense that much in my entire life because none of them were working."

The offense that had seemed to come easily in the first half of the game suddenly disappeared, too.

"What hurt us was where we were beating them on offense was in transition. We were killing them in transition," she said. "To get into transition, you have to stop them from scoring, and then check out and rebound and run."

In the first half, the Dores followed that prescription, out-rebounding the Irish 21-18. But in the second half, Notre Dame started crashing the boards and hitting shots, and the easy baskets in transition were nowhere to be found.

"I think, we were playing not to lose, even when we still had the lead and it was getting cut, closer and closer," said Wirth. "The things that we were getting so easily weren't there or we weren't seeing them, so it felt like we were having to work a lot harder to get those things to happen again.

"I think we just needed to go back to what was getting us those things in the first place, which was just running and attacking, and for whatever reason, that wasn't happening," she said.

The result was 12 straight missed shots by the Dores, and a 22-0 run by the Irish to take a 50-46 lead before a basket by Tuomi with 6:32 left in the game finally broke the scoring drought.

Another basket by Tuomi tied the game at 50-50. Just when it looked like the momentum was finally switching back to the Vanderbilt side, Bryan Enterline stunned the crowd, not to mention the Vanderbilt players and coaches, by belatedly whistling Jen Risper for a double dribble. Notre Dame scored on the resulting possession.

As it turned out, the Irish were able to hold that lead for the remainder of the game, but the Dores nonetheless made it interesting. A basket by Risper cut the Notre Dame lead to two points at 58-57 with ten seconds left in the game. Vanderbilt was able to force a turnover and had possession of the ball with four seconds left. Vanderbilt called timeout to set up a play, but the final shot didn't fall, and the Irish claimed the 59-57 victory.

Next Vanderbilt travels to Ames, Iowa, for a Saturday afternoon game against the Iowa State Hawkeyes. Saturday's game is the final game of the non-conference schedule.

After that, the Dores will open SEC play at Alabama next week on Thursday night before returning home to play Tennessee in Memorial Gym on January 11.


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