Every basketball team can expect to handle some adversity over the course of a season. That rule has already been proven for Vanderbilt when adversity struck even before the first game when junior point guard Gabby Smith suffered a concussion in practice. After sitting out the first game, Smith played 19 minutes in the second game of the season, scoring nine points with five assists and no turnovers.
But afterwards, her post-concussion symptoms recurred, and Smith remains sidelined indefinitely. For a team that entered the season already short-handed with just 10 scholarship players and only four upperclassmen, losing the most experienced guard on the team was a significant loss.
Through the course of the non-conference season, however, Vanderbilt's two freshman guards stepped up to establish themselves as fixtures in the the rotation. Kady Schrann has started every game in the 2-guard position, and Maggie Morrison quickly assumed the role of backing up sophomore point guard Jasmine Lister. Her ability to take over the point also gave Lister the flexibility to slide to the 2-guard position to give a different look offensively or to give one of the other guards a break.
On Saturday, however, adversity threw another monkey wrench into the Dores' season when Morrison tore her ACL and MCL in practice, ending her season and leaving the team without a backup point guard.
"This is another part of adversity that we have to go through," said Lister after practice on Wednesday. "it’s a big opportunity for people to step up and help play backup point guard or just to play their role the whole entire game."
Since Morrison's injury, both Schrann and sophomore guard Christina Foggie have been working on the point guard position to provide some backup, but the vast bulk of the point guard duties will likely fall to Lister. "I’m not worried, but I’m aware of how much responsibility that every person has," she said.
The next challenge for the team will be hosting the Florida State Seminoles on Thursday night. The Seminoles began the season ranked #14/#13 in the preseason polls, but a tough non-conference schedule has led to a 6-5 record and a drop from the Top 25.
Last year the Noles defeated the Dores 72-66 in Tallahassee, led by Courtney Ward's 31 points, including seven 3-pointers. Ward has moved on, and this year the focus is on the inside game, led by 6-4 senior forward Cierra Brevard.
Brevard, a first-team All-ACC preseason selection leads the team in scoring with an average of 17.5 points per game. She's complemented by 6-3 sophomore forward Natasha Howard, who is the team's leading rebounder with 9.2 rebounds per game.
"We’ve prepared for them," said Lister. "We know they have a good inside game, so we’re going to focus on that. "
At the same time, Vanderbilt's focus is also on simply playing better as a team. "Right now, we’re just trying to worry about us, working on our game and improving our defense, and transferring that over to offense, which we struggled with last game," said Lister, "but we’re aware of where Florida State has their strengths."
As a special promotion for the Christmas season, the team is sponsoring their second annual "Teddy Bear Toss" to benefit the Toys for Tots program. Fans are asked to bring a new teddy bear to the game. At halftime, fans will be invited to the court to toss their teddy bears into a marked circle at center court. Those who succeed in hitting the circle will receive a Vanderbilt prize pack. (If you plan to bring a teddy bear, remember that the Toys for Tots program requires that it must be a NEW toy.) Game time is 7 p.m.