VU takes SEC opener in 86-72 Ole Miss win

What a way to open SEC play. Vanderbilt (12-2) shot a blistering 70.4 percent in the first half to stifle Ole Miss 86-72 in a Southeastern Conference preview that put the ‘Dores crystallizing offensive confidence on display.

The Commodores hit nine from beyond the arc as Lauren Lueders scored a career high 18 points on 4 of 6 shooting from 3-point range. Tiffany Clarke matched her point total and grabbed 5 rebounds in 23 minutes of play after being tagged with her third and fourth foul in a 3-second flurry. She sat out 12 minutes before returning with four minutes on the clock.

"Welcome to the SEC," Head Coach Melanie Balcomb said of the 43 fouls committed in the game. "It's very physical and it's a dog fight every night. They were fighting in the paint and being very physical. It's real important to start off strong in SEC play and we didn't let them back in. We didn't let them make that big run and that's so important because of the mental part of this conference."

Merideth Marsh, who hit 11 points against Notre Dame to become the newest member of the 1,000 point club (1,018), finished with 16 points and went 3 of 4 for three-pointers.

Jence Rhoads earmed her second career double double of the season, handing out 10 assists and scoring 11 in a very different game than the last time Vandy and Ole Miss met. Jence's potential game tying bucket at the buzzer in Oxford was not counted and the ‘Dores fell 71-69 to the Rebels.

Vanderbilt needed the 14 point cushion at the half as the Rebels matched the ‘Dores' 39 points in the second half. The Rebs cut the deficit to 9 points at 59-50 at the 13:57 mark, but would never get closer.

Ole Miss Head Coach Renee Ladner, remarking on the multiple defensive looks her guards encountered and their difficulty in adjusting, said, "Vanderbilt gets all the credit today. They disrupted everything we were trying to do offensively. Coach Balcomb always has her team prepared. We weren't prepared in the first half and we failed to follow through."

With 24 assists, unselfish play was everybody's business. Hannah Tuomi matched her career high by dishing out four, as did Lauren, and Jessica Mooney.

Merideth, speaking about the team's growth following close wins and a 6 point loss to Bowling Green, said, "People are starting to get it. It's starting to click in each person's head, me included. We're learning new things in practice every day. Certain people are starting to step up. It's just exciting to see. We're the same team; we just have a different mentality now."

Lauren also remarked that teamwork is clicking. "Tiffany is a force and she and Hannah (Tuomi) are playing well together, so it's good that we're being so unselfish because it's giving everyone an open shot. We are doing so well offensively because we have those two inside and they can either shoot it or kick it back out on the perimeter."

Hannah's minutes were also praised by Coach Balcomb, who said it's the little things she does that sets up plays for others. "She doesn't get those huge stats, but because of her, we were able to score and she is so important to our offense. She doesn't get a lot of credit for it, but she is so crucial to our team. We were able to have two different looks on offense with Hannah and Tiffany and it was nice to have them both on the floor."

Welcome to the SEC indeed.

Ole Miss (9-5, 0-1) is now 3-13 all-time against Vanderbilt in Memorial Gym and has not won in Nashville since Jan. 8, 1987.

Vandy plays Mississippi State in Starkville Thursday night to start a four game road stretch interrupted only by Georgia's "Pink Out" home game on January 14.





Coach Melanie Balcomb welcomes Merideth Marsh into the 1,000 point club with an honorary ball.

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