With loss to UK, time for VU to ‘wake up'

Transition, hustle, intensity – this is the style of game that No. 17/16 Vanderbilt is known to play, but Kentucky's up and coming Lady Wildcats turned the tables 53-63 on the 'Dores in the second upset in as many games. Vandy lost its first SEC road game by 14 in a similarly aggressive bout Thursday with Mississippi State.

On Thursday, the Wildcats stunned Georgia in a near upset on the road with a 1 point overtime loss to scare the unbeaten No. 8 Lady Bulldogs.

"They out worked us, out hustled us, and got to all the loose balls," said Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb of the Wildcats.

This was the first time in 13 tries that Kentucky (13-2, 1-1) has beaten Vanderbilt (12-4, 1-2) with the last win coming more than a decade ago in 1999. UK held Vanderbilt to a season-low 53 points and forced a season-high 26 turnovers for the game. Kentucky rallied from behind twice to overcome 10 point deficits and recorded 14 steals.

Coach Balcomb threw down the challenge to her squad: "We just have to get tougher and be more aggressive. I had three freshmen on the floor a great deal and right now it's ‘welcome to the Southeastern Conference.' I still think they're in a shock in the locker room that we have played two games and this is the level of physical play and they're going to have to wake up."

That alarm is ringing loud and clear as conference play will only get tougher in the next two outings. Vanderbilt faces two Top 10 opponents next week: Georgia in Memorial Gym in Thursday's "Pink Out" game and Sunday against No. 4 Tennessee in Knoxville. Both games will be televised.

With senior guard Lauren Lueders benched and in pain for much of the game following an early first half ankle injury, Vandy missed an extra body who would have delivered extra intensity and rest for game leaders Jence Rhoads and Merideth Marsh, who both ran plays the entire 40 minutes.

Jence was the only Commodore in double figures with 17 as Merideth hit nine points and hustled defensively, along with Jessica Mooney, who fouled out with 2:38 remaining to try to disrupt the Wildcats.

There were bright spots to note with freshman Elan Brown trying to pick up the slack. The guard snatched four steals and hit two key 3-pointers in the first 20 minutes to keep Vandy close as the team played catch up. She had a career high eight points and eight rebounds to tie freshman Tiffany Clarke's board effort.

A Merideth 3-pointer followed closely with a layup seven seconds before the half put Vanderbilt on top for the first time to head into the locker room with a 26-25 lead. The 'Dores went on a 9-0 run to open the second half as Kentucky went scoreless in their first 9 shots. The persistent Wildcats then scrambled to recapture the lead and never relented. Vanderbilt came within two on a Jence jumper at 48-50 with 5:47 left, but never any closer.

Kentucky edged Vandy 41-40 on the boards. The Commodores had nine second chance points on 16 offensive rebounds compared to eight for the Wildcats.

"I thought once we got used to their defense we would be able to handle it better and we did for a while and built a lead," Coach Balcomb said. "Then they made a run and picked it up again and picked up their intensity and we weren't able to pick it up again."

Commodores Daily Top Stories