In their first and only exhibition game of the 2011-12 season, Vanderbilt defeated the Clayton State Lakers, last year's NCAA Division II champion, by a score of 75-59 on Saturday afternoon in Memorial Gym. Jasmine Lister led all scorers with 18 points.
By game time on Saturday, the heavy fog that blanketed Nashville earlier in the day had burned away, leaving behind a perfect fall afternoon.
Inside the gym, one of the noticeable changes from last season was the new paint design on Ingram Court.
One of those changes was necessitated by changes in the NCAA rules for women's basketball. In the past few seasons, there were two different 3-point lines on virtually every college court, one for men's games, and the other for women's games. Beginning this season, the women and men use the same line, giving the court a cleaner look.
Starters for the game were freshman guard Kady Schrann, sophomore guards Christina Foggie and Jasmine Lister, sophomore post Stephanie Holzer, and junior guard/forward Elan Brown. For the coaches, this lineup was Plan B. Two would-be starters, junior guard Gabby Smith and junior post Tiffany Clarke, were both sidelined with concussions. Their status is day-to-day
Clayton State won the NCAA Division II championship last year and proved to be a tougher than average opponent for an exhibition game. That wasn't a coincidence. Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie says that she hand-picked them herself for an exhibition game.
"I’ve never done that before," she said. "I was tired of playing easy exhibition games that we went into too nonchalant, not getting a lot out of because even if we beat them, it was never by enough."
"So I sat down and looked at every program who played around in the SEC, who they were playing, who gave them a good game. Then I went down the Division II list and said, of these teams, who has the most players returning?
"They only lost their leading scorer, then they had their next four scorers back. He’s a great coach, I had heard really good things about them. I asked them, and they were more than happy to come play us. It’s one of those situations, it was a great experience for us. I knew they’d be good but the best part was our kids would not know. They found out quickly."
The game lived up to the coach's expecations. The entire first half was tightly contested, with neither team leading by more than four points.
Freshman guard Kady Schrann.
Sophomore guard Christina Foggie
Freshman guard Maggie Morrison
Sophomore post Stephanie Holzer
Just before the halftime buzzer, Vanderbilt trailed 32-31. Then senior Jordan Coleman beat the buzzer with a layup to give Vanderbilt a one-point halftime lead.
Sophomore guard Jasmine Lister led Vanderbilt in scoring while shooting 6-of-10 from the field and a perfect 6-for-6 from the free throw line.
Five minutes into the second half, Clayton State led by one point at 42-41. But then, suddenly, Vanderbilt reeled off a 24-0 run. What changed? Defensive intensity. Not strategy,
"Jordan Coleman had a lot to do with that," said Coach Balcomb. "She’s our best defensive player right now, and they trust her. As a senior, she’s playing defense and rebounding and giving the energy we need on that end of the floor and the confidence with the vocal leadership that we’ve asked her to do.
"She’s playing her role really well and it kind of ignited the freshmen and they felt comfortable. I thought Foggie did the same thing; Schrann and Foggie had a bunch of steals and got more aggressive and really did a good job creating easy offensive baskets instead of trying to play against a very aggressive team that kept trapping and making us play full court really fast and turning the ball over.
Clair Watkins was the third of the three freshman who were on the court during Vanderbilt's big second-half run. She finished the game with 10 points, 8 rebounds, two blocks, and three steals.
Elan Brown tied for the team leads in steals with six and rebounds with eight to go along with eight points.
With the exhibition game game behind them, the Dores now look forward to the opening regular season game against Alabama A&M next Friday night at 6 p.m.
Photos copyright 2011 by Whitney D. for VandyMania.com