Vandy's Tiffany Clarke led all scorers with 14 while fellow freshmen Gabby Smith tied Merideth Marsh with 12. Frosh forward Elan Brown hit 11 and Jessica Mooney popped in 10. Elan and Gabby set career highs in the rout and both knocked in threes as Vandy went 5 for 19 from beyond the arc.
Gabby's 22 minutes were her longest on court, after playing 20 in the loss to Kentucky. The additional time for the Cincinnati native was driven by need - the guard shares floor time with Vandy's large bevy of guards, but point guard and second leading scorer (12.8 ppg) Jence Rhoads is sidelined week to week with a broken hand. The win without Jence's guidance was remarkable for that fact alone, but her teammates wanted her to know, they had her back.
"We've had a lot of adversity this year with a lot of players going down," Jessica Mooney said, adding "we won that game partly for Jence. We wanted Jence to know that all the weight wasn't on her shoulders. We stepped it up as a team, it wasn't just one person."
Just as impressive as the 22 point margin of victory were the 15 additional rebounds Vanderbilt grabbed to win the battle of the boards 39-24. Georgia's Angel Robinson, 6-5, in foul trouble with three calls, nabbed only five rebounds. This was the highest rebounding total of the season for the 'Dores and the first time to out rebound an SEC foe in four games.
Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb said she used positive imagery to get her squad to rebound and shoot more effectively.
"Our offensive rebounding tonight was great. We didn't get those against Mississippi State or Kentucky. Now, with an offensive rebound, we can kick out and hit a three, and that just ignites what we do. It psychologically gets the other team down. We have always been able to execute well at home and against Georgia, so it was a lot of positive imagery and visual reinforcement this week."
Coach Balcomb said she also took her frosh to shooting school, bringing Elan and Gabby in separately to watch game film of Vanderbilt's finest shooters. "Tiffany already knew what to do, but these two needed to know that they have a coach who wants them to shoot. It's amazing how well the freshmen responded. They have to shoot the ball and not be hesitant and that was what was different about Gabby and Elan's game tonight."
No. 22 Vanderbilt. which led 31-27 at the half, moves to 13-4, 2-2 for the season as Georgia slips to 16-1, 3-1.
Jessica's defensive play against Georgia's Ashley Houts was described as "a nightmare" for the visiting point guard. "She really went lights out tonight and the teamwork was as good as it has ever been," Coach Balcomb said.
Momentum and confidence heading into Sunday's game with No. 4 Tennessee is a good thing for a team that has struggled with spurts and lapses of intensity. Jessica adds that they don't take UT lightly, but "we're gonna celebrate this win and then let it go and re-focus for Sunday."
As the 'Dores take time to enjoy the home win, the road beckons with UT next and Auburn on Thursday. The UT game, 5 p.m. CST, will be televised on ESPNU. Vandy players can visualize a lot of orange and 40 minutes in an atmosphere certain to create more SEC excitement.
Merideth Marsh high fives freshmen Elan Brown and Gabby Smith following the win.