SECT Preview: VU pair at home in tourney

VandyMania spoke with former Georgia Metros AAU teammates and best friends Elan Brown and Tiffany Clarke. The duo will head home in Vanderbilt's first round SEC Tournament matchup in Duluth, Ga., to represent the ‘Dores on the SEC's All-Freshman Team. They join upperclassmen Jence Rhoads (First Team, All-SEC) and Merideth Marsh (Second Team, All-SEC) as honorees named to special teams.

Tiffany grabbed a team-high 156 boards in her debut year while averaging 8.1 points per game. Elan averaged 6.6 points and 4.1 rebounds during conference play, and became known for the outside three, a pretty jumper that drew defenders away from the paint.

But even more than these honors, the teammates would like to see a ‘W' alongside Vanderbilt's name four days in a row. The defending SEC Tournament champions will face perhaps the most parity in teams the SEC has seen in years. Head Coach Melanie Balcomb in an SEC media conference Monday, referenced the log jam in the center and with the Tennessee sitting at its' familiar number one regular season spot, agreed with other coaches to add simply, "anybody can beat anybody."

If fifth-seeded Vanderbilt (20-9, 9-7) needed any extra motivation other than defending the title to do well in Duluth, South Carolina provided it – and proved the coach's point in the 73-70 upset. Elan, supercharged and in fighting spirit after the loss, said she can't wait to pick up the tempo in practice and take that energy out on opponents.

"We have to be the aggressor and show that we're dictating the other team and not reacting to their movement. It's a point that our coaches stress, that we're taking what they give us, but we need to take them out of their game."

Tiffany echoed her friend's assessment: "We can't let that happen again. Like our coach said in the locker room, now is the time if we lose, we're done so we can't mess around anymore."

Elan is a shooting guard who stepped up to play more of an in-and-out post position when sophomore Jordan Coleman suffered a season-ending ALC tear. Following in Jordan's footsteps, the freshman learned to crash the boards and rip down rebounds. "It's been a huge transition, but my teammates are helping me through it. You can't take a break on offense or defense. My coaches really helped me figure out how to help the team best."

Hometown girl Tiffany drove for baskets in Gwinnett Arena before in a regular season high school game. The freshman who lettered in three high school sports is muscular in frame, but at 6-0 is considered an undersized post. Facing centers at times 6-5 and 6-6, she found matching pre-conference success in the SEC plenty more difficult.

"I just have to keep working hard and get back into the groove. I started out well and kind of drifted. I have to regain my confidence and come back out strong for the SEC tournament."

Having teammate and post player Hannah Tuomi (SEC All-Freshman 2008 along with Jence) to push her in practice, Tiffany acknowledges that footwork is just as important as her mindset, and she has a lot to learn. "It's going to take time. Hannah is a lot tougher than me. We might be the same in strength but she knows how to use her body really well and I'm still learning how to do it."

Both players are wiser than when they began, and relying on their coaches and teammates to see them through this experience and on to the Big Dance. But Vandy takes it one game at a time and 12th-seeded Arkansas is the next obstacle to overcome. Catch the contest live at 5:30 p.m. CST on FSN on March 4. The bracket has the winner of that game facing No. 4 seed LSU on Friday, March 5 at 5:30 p.m. CST. The semifinals are Saturday at 2:30 and 5 p.m. CST with Sunday's conference title game at 5:30 p.m., both carried on ESPN2.

Tiffany prepares to move in for a layup.

Elan Brown guards a Western Kentucky playmaker.

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