Familiar faces led the Dores to a 82-71 victory over the McNeese State Cowgirls in the season opener on Saturday afternoon. Tiffany Clarke led all scorers with 24 points, Christina Foggie scored 18, and Jasmine Lister contributed 10 assists. Clarke also led the team in rebounds with eight, followed by freshman post Kendall Shaw with seven.
The McNeese State Cowgirls won 26 games last year and are the preseason favorites to win the Southland League. Senior twins Ashlyn Baggett and Caitlyn Baggett were both selected to preseason conference teams. Their younger sister Allison Baggett is a freshman on the team, making the Cowgirls one of the rare teams with three sisters on the same team.
.Vanderbilt starters for Saturday's game were Jasmine Lister, Christina Foggie, Kady Schrann, Elan Brown, and Tiffany Clarke.
Elan Brown hit the first basket of the game for the Dores.
Freshman point guard Jasmine Jenkins played 15 minutes. Her first points in her Vanderbilt career came at the free throw line.
Junior point guard Jasmine Lister switched to shooting guard when Jenkins took over at point. Lister scored nine points, with five rebounds, two steals, and ten assists with only one turnover.
Freshman post Heather Bowe scored six points (2-2 from the field, 2-2 from the free throw line) in eight minutes of playing time in her Vanderbilt debut.
Senior guard Gabby Smith, who struggled last season with post-concussion effects and who sat out the exhibition game with a sprained wrist, scored eight points, including two 3-pointers, in 17 minutes of play.
"Gabby was an example today," said Head Coach Melanie Balcomb after the game. "She didn’t play at all last game and has been fighting injuries and adversity herself and as a senior, she went in and was steady Eddie. That’s what I told her she needs to be, steady Eddy, do the things that we teach on both ends of the floor, be consistent, and play smart, and that’s what she did. She fed the post well, and she gave us some really good minutes."
Christina Foggie, last year's leading scorer, scored 18 points including three 3-pointers on seven attempts along with two assists and two steals.
Senior guard/forward Elan Brown scored nine points with five rebounds and four steals.
Twin senior guards #10 Ashlyn Baggett and #11 Caitlyn Baggett posed a challenge for the Commodores. They each finished the game with 20 points including a combined 5-of-9 from 3-point range and 11-of-13 from the free throw line.
"The first thing I talked to my team after the game was what we learned from those two guards because they’re somewhat fast and quick and all that, but they’re so smart," Coach Balcomb said. "They use their speed, they change speeds, they know the minute there’s a post player on them, they attack that post and draw a foul, so I thought our players had a lot to learn from them."
Senior post TIffany Clarke led the team in scoring with 24 points on shooting 9-for-12 from the field and 6-for-7 from the free throw line. She also led the team in rebounds with eight and had two blocked shots.
"I think Tiff took it as a challenge," Coach Balcomb said. "I’ve been challenging Tiff to play a complete game, and I think she did tonight. I think on offense she wanted the ball every time down the floor, wanted to be that dominating low post player, and she came out ready to defend and rebound. So I was really proud of her effort on both ends of the floor.
Freshman post Kendall Shaw scored six points, icluding 1-for-2 from the field and 4-for-6 from the free throw line, with seven rebounds and four blocked shots in 19 minutes of play.
"With Steph going down Kendall was going to half to step up, and I think she was ready to go tonight, which was really good to see," said Coach Balcomb.
"We wanted to keep one big in during the game so that when somebody penetrated she was there to force them to change their shot and had that big size that was hurting their shots, and Kendall was the one," Coach Balcomb continued. "She was the one that stepped up and did it consistently so I tried to keep her in the game until she got tired and play her as much as I could, really for her defense more than her offense.
A 3-pointer from Caitlyn Baggett on the first play of the second half cut the Vanderbilt lead to just two points at 41-39. The Dores responded, building an 18-point lead midway through the second half.
But McNeese State chipped away. The Vanderbilt lead hovered around ten points for the rest of the half, but the Cowgirls were able to cut the lead back to single digits several times during the remainder of the half.
After the game, Clarke said, "We kind of let them get back into the game, so mostly we talked about finishing the game strong, not lightening up or getting complacent."
The Dores return to action on Monday night for their first road game, a three-mile trip to Lipscomb University. Gametime is 7:15 p.m., and the game will be shown on ESPN3.
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Photos copyright 2012 by Whitney D. for VandyMania.com