Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb liked the aggressive stance her squad had during the rematch. "We definitely played tougher against them today than we did the first time. We were a lot more aggressive. The first 20 minutes weren't great, but we responded. We were able to execute a lot better. I just liked how we handled our body language."
With screens and plays set by her teammates, Vandy point guard Jence Rhoads drove to the basket time and time again for a career high 25 points with 5 assists. She was 6 of 7 from the charity stripe and sank her solo 3-point try. The determined junior whose left hand was broken in Kentucky the last time the teams played, owned a mindset matched by her teammates – this was a game they were not going to lose.
""We just had the emotion on our side this time. We were all together this whole game. We were into it and fired up and we got the win. We worked hard in practice against our practice players and each other. Everyone remembered the loss to Kentucky where they outplayed us and we were ready to give it back to them."
Senior guard Merideth Marsh, who hit two 3-pointers in an 11-point effort, agreed defense was the key.
"At halftime, Coach made a few adjustments to our plays, so we put some new things in and it worked. Defensively, we trapped a lot more. We tried to unsettle them on offense. One thing that got us going is getting the ball out of (Amber Smith's) hands. They had eight offensive rebounds the first half and we shut them down on that in the second half. They killed us on the boards in Lexington. We went into this game wanting to get stops on defense and rebounds."
Slowing down Kentucky's up-tempo play also unsettled the visitors. "Transition was big," said Balcomb. "Most of their transition is based on turnovers and we were able to execute our offense the second half. They played tremendous defense in the first half and completely took us out in the first half. They're tough and that's why their record is what it is."
Lauren Lueders had 10 points including a trio of 3-pointers. Elan Brown, who scored Vandy's first two buckets, hit a pair of threes to help the ‘Dores toward 61.5% shooting from beyond the arc with 8 of 13 attempts. For the game, Vandy shot 48.9% and continues to lead the SEC in the category.
Tiffany Clark and Jessica Mooney pulled down seven rebounds each to help Vandy out-grab Kentucky 33-26.
The very physical fast-paced game saw Vanderbilt using stops and transitions to disrupt Kentucky and shake their confidence down the stretch. Vandy was behind 24-25 at the break, and chipped in 44 points in the second half, holding the Wildcats scoreless for seven minutes.
With 43 fouls (23 VU and 21 Kentucky) the game was definitely physical. Jessica Mooney crashed heavily to the court on her back although no foul was called. The senior lay on the court for some minutes but stood with assistance, and later re-entered the game.
SEC Player of the Year candidate Victoria Dunlap led Kentucky scorers with 19 points and 5 rebounds.
Up next for Vanderbilt is two-game road stand with LSU on Thursday and Mississippi next Sunday. No. 23 LSU smothered Auburn 75-51 in Alabama and Mississippi, which lost to Mississippi State 54-73 on Sunday, plays Arkansas Thursday.