The record breaking heat wave continued in Nashville on Tuesday. Although the heat had subsided before the late tipoff, temperatures still felt like a mild summer evening rather than an early spring day in March.
Inside the gym, an informal women's basketball reunion was taking place with former Vanderbilt stars Ashley McElhiney and Chantelle Anderson sitting on the front row behind the Vanderbilt bench.
Whether the heat of the day had any effect on the basketball is difficult to say, but in the first six minutes of the game, there was some heated action as both teams scored early and often. Stephanie Holzer's basket tied the score at 9-9.
A 3-pointer by Christina Foggie gave Vanderbilt a very short-lived lead at 14-13. But that was as good as it got for the Dores. The score was tied once more at 16-16, but after that Duke began to pull away.
Early in the game the Dores hadn't been able to get defensive stops, but had been scoring. But then the Blue Devils stepped up their defense, and the scoring blitz became one-sided. A basket by Clair Watkins, who had originally planned to attend Duke, broke a scoring drought, cutting the lead to 25-18.
A jumper by Jasmine Lister made the score 29-20 midway through the first half, but unfortunately for Vanderbilt, that was the last time that the Duke lead would be in single digits.
By the time Holzer sank a couple of free throws five minutes later, Duke held a 20-point lead.
Late in the half, the Duke lead grew up to 26 points. Two 3-pointers by Elan Brown late in the first half helped, but the Dores went into the locker room at halftime trailing by 24 points at 56-32.
After the game, Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb said that she didn't see this coming. The defense that had served the Dores so well this season simply wasn't in evidence in the first half.
"We were just frozen at times," she said. "We were supposed to trap the ball screen, but if we trapped it, we were late and then we didn’t rotate. A lot of times we were just frozen. We weren't anticipating like we usually do were being flat-footed defensively. and I think that’s caused by fear."
Finally, well into the second half, the Dores belatedly woke up on defense to stop the runaway Blue Devil train. The first half had created a huge hole, one that proved to be too big to overcome, especially against a team that continued to shoot so well.
Jordan Coleman, the team's lone senior, scored the last points of her Vanderbilt career with a couple of minutes left in the game to cut the lead down to 16 points at 90-74.
A 3-pointer by Jasmine Lister brought the Dores within 15, the closest they'd been in a long time. "I thought we played the last six minutes or so with the heart and hustle that we needed to have for 40 minutes to beat a #2 seed," Balcomb said.
But in basketball, you can't get those first 20 minutes back for a do-over, so the 2011-2012 basketball season came to end. The Dores finish the season 23-10, and the Blue Devils move on to face St. John's in the Sweet 16 next weekend.
* * * * *
Photos copyright 2012 by Whitney D. for VandyMania.com.