'Dores pour in 60 points in half for 95-51win

Vanderbilt (5-0) has never lost a Thanksgiving Tournament game in the event they host, but in the first half of Friday's doubleheader with Austin Peay, they had all they could handle. Fortunately for the Black and Gold, it takes 40 minutes to declare a winner, and the home team notched a 95-51 victory with a 60-point effort in the second half.

Austin Peay (1-4) came to play with a win mentality that eluded No. 21/16 Vanderbilt until the second half. Lady Gov shooter Ashley Herring sank 21 points in 4-4 three-point attempts. Sophomore forward Jordan Coleman sparked Vandy with a career high 17 points, shooting perfect at the free throw line (7 of 7) and 5 of 8 from the field. Junior Jence Rhoads netted her first career double-double with 10 points and 11 assists and grabbed three steals.

"Their energy level was definitely higher than ours which was not a good thing," Jence noted. "They were up for this game. We weren't ready at the beginning but we were able to turn it around in the second half. We have to get better at bringing it the first half."

A half time pep talk from Vandy's coaching staff was the motivational kick the squad needed. "It was more like a reality check," Jordan said. "She (Head Coach Melanie Balcomb) got our attention. We weren't playing to our full potential and that's not Vandy basketball. After halftime, we came out and played Vandy basketball. We don't have big slow posts so everyone can run with everyone. We realized that's one of our strengths so we want to utilize that as much as possible."

Jordan's intensity nearly drew a whistle when she argued a non-call for a hold. "I realized after it happened I was screaming at the ref. I was going in for a rebound and a player was holding my jersey. I was saying, ‘How am I supposed to get around? Watch the hold!' Obviously it came out a lot louder than I expected."

Coach Balcomb, disappointed on all fronts with the first half, saw a different team the second. "I am happy with how they responded. We could have had a nice half time talk full of emotion and they go out and lay an egg. Instead, they responded with effort, pride and everything we asked them to do. That's a good sign."

A second half full court man-to-man pressured the Lady Govs into 31 turnovers. Along with her teammates, Jordan's full throttle play had a hand in pushing the tempo. "I tell myself, just get better everyday," she said. "That's my thing and I think it before every game. So I think the intensity and all the things everyone's seeing is a part of that. I'm doing everything I can do to get better."

Vandy knit a thin safety cushion at the break with 35-29 lead. Merideth Marsh opened the half with one of her three 3-pointers in the charge toward a 21-0 dash. The Lady Govs were held to 29 points until 15:08 remained.

Three other Dores scored in double figures: Hannah Tuomi hit 15 with 12 in the first half and snagged four steals. Merideth ended with 12 and freshman guard Gabby Smith had 11 (2-2 in 3-pointers, 4-5 from the field and two steals.)

Vanderbilt will face North Carolina State's Wolfpack in Saturday's championship game following Saturday's 2 p.m. CT consolation game between Austin Peay and the Northwestern State Lady Demons. NCSU, coached by former Lady Vol Kellie Jolly Harper, beat Northwestern State 76-67.

Harper, who replaced basketball legend Kay Yow as coach after the inspirational leader died of breast cancer in January, said of Vanderbilt: "They're very, very well coached and extremely smart on the floor. They take advantage of every mistake you make. Going into the game our kids have got to understand the importance of limiting mistakes on both ends of the floor. So that will be a huge challenge for our team."


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