NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt didn’t record its seventh win of the 2018-19 season until the last day of February. On Sunday, head coach Stephanie White’s team pulled out a come-from-behind victory to beat Eastern Kentucky 75-69 – the team’s seventh triumph of the 2019-20 campaign.
“I’ll just be honest – it feels amazing,” Vanderbilt senior LeaLea Carter said. “I feel like we’re a better team, we’re more athletic, we’ve got the belief to go beyond. Unless you played with the team last year or have been here the past four years watching Coach White work and see what we started from my freshman year to now, this is probably the best team I’ve ever played with.”
Carter was one of four Commodores in double figures in a game that saw Vandy blow a 49-33 lead, then come back from down four with four minutes to play. Back-to-back layups from freshman Koi Love put the Dores ahead and helped White’s squad end the day on a 13-3 run.
Big play by Koi Love to give Vanderbilt a 71-69 lead, 48 seconds left pic.twitter.com/6wDPp1ulxS
— Chad Bishop (@MrChadBishop) December 15, 2019
Vanderbilt also won its sixth home game of the season Sunday, surpassing last season’s total of five.
“To win games like this, games that a year ago we probably wouldn’t have been able to pull out, it shows how far we’ve come and shows there’s such a great upside for this group,” White said.
One season after going 7-23, Vanderbilt now sits at 7-3 with three nonconference games remaining before the calendar turns to January. And it has reached that mark despite two season-ending injuries occurring on the roster.
Sunday’s victory was also a testament to the team’s fight and perseverance when things went south in a hurry.
Eastern Kentucky ended the third quarter on a 16-5 run after getting down by as much as 16 in the second half. The Colonels (6-4) kept coming in the fourth quarter, too, and took a 63-62 lead with 5:48 to play – their first lead since 2-0.
Even after Samari Mowbray banged home a 3 with 2:21 left making it 69-67 in favor of EKU, Vanderbilt scored the game’s final eight points for the win.
“When we’re up by 15 or 20 points we got to put our foot on the other team and keep it going,” Carter said. “Tonight’s game was a lesson. We won the game by a couple points, but we got to keep that 16-point lead. When we get to that point – and we will get to that point – we’ll be such an incredible team.”
Vandy’s schedule, of course, will get tougher into the winter months – that includes next week’s slate that feature a game against Washington in Seattle. But Sunday’s win maybe further proved the Commodores are equipped to handle the tough stretches and the all the adversity sure to come their way.
After all, it’s a new year and a new squad.
“We’re a different team. We got a different group, our culture is different. Our energy level is different. Our depth is different,” White said. “No matter what we were fighting through last year in terms of adversity and lack of depth, now we have it.
“Getting a few wins and winning some close games gives you confidence. There’s no substitute for that confidence. I just think the quality of players that we’ve added – you look at Autumn (Newby) and Chelsie (Hall) from that first recruiting class, Jordyn (Cambridge) and Brinae (Alexander) from that second recruiting class and then our freshmen – everyone is so different then the kids who were here when we got here that it takes a lot time. Then you’re young and then it takes experience. I think we’re finally at that point.”