It's Christmas break on the Vanderbilt campus, and most of the students have gone home for the holidays. In the absence of the Vanderbilt pep band, students from the Centennial High School band filled in for them.
The other part of the spirit team for the evening were members of the cheer squad from Harris Middle School.
Before Stephanie Holzer scored the first basket of the game, the two teams combined to miss six shots and commit six turnovers.
"I think we were just anxious," said Head Coach Melanie Balcomb after the game. "We went a little too fast on offense and we were fast on defense, thank goodness."
Lots of missed shots means lots of opportunities for rebounds. Vanderbilt won the battle of the boards 40-35, including 19 offensive rebounds.
"They just weren't falling for a bunch of us," said Holzer. "I think there was one possession where me and Tiffany had two rebounds a piece; we just kept putting the ball up and I think it's because I was going too fast."
A first half steal by Clair Watkins resulted in a fast break opportunity for Christina Foggie. The Dores have been working on trying to get more offense from their defense, and that proved to be another decisive factor in the game as Vanderbilt scored 19 points off Florida State turnovers.
With freshman guard Maggie Morrison out for the season with a torn ACL, all five starters played at least 30 minutes. Fellow freshman Kady Schrann played 31 minutes and scored eight points.
At halftime, Vanderbilt led by five points at 27-22. While the teams were in their locker rooms, fans were invited onto the court to participate in the 2nd Annual Teddy Bear Toss. After the prize was awarded, the bears were collected for donation to Toys for Tots.
On Sunday at North Carolina State Holzer played a career high 30 minutes. Against Florida State she set another career high by playing for 31 minutes.
"I think conditioning with our strength coordinator Tasha Weddle has just been huge," she said. "Coming into the season, knowing the college game a little bit better, having been there as a freshman and having my body have a chance to really heal, I was able to get a lot stronger and a lot better shape, and with Maggie being hurt, I need to step up and play more minutes, and that's a role that I'm willing to fill and that I want to fill for this team."
Because of Morrison's injury, some of the roles on the teams have changed to pick up the slack caused by her absence.
"Elan Brown has been playing in the post because we asked her to and now playing at the guard because we asked her to," said Coach Balcomb. "She's just filling a lot of holes for us now and playing really well. She doesn't get a lot of credit, but she's kind of the glue right now and you have to have those glue players. She does a lot that isn't in the stat sheet -- like taking charges, rebounding, executing offense and defense very well. She sees the game really well, a very smart player. Very steady, very consistent."
Through the first ten minutes of the second half, the Vanderbilt lead stayed between 7-10 points.
Over the next few minutes the Dores were able to build on that lead pushing it out to 15 points at 54-39 with 5:54 remaining. But then Florida State made a late run and cut the lead down to three points at 62-59 with 22 seconds left in the game.
Florida State needed to foul to regain possession and sent Holzer to the free throw line, where she knocked down both free throws to seal the victory.
"I just knew that I needed to make them," she said. "I wasn't making them for me, I was making them for the team. I was making them to win."
With the victory, Vanderbilt improves to 11-1 for the season. Next for the team is a well-deserved break for the Christmas holidays. They'll return next week in time to prepare for their December 29 game against Western Carolina in Memorial Gym. Game time is 7 p.m.
Photos copyright 2011 by Whitney D for VandyMania.com