NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt faces its toughest challenge of the season – by far – Wednesday inside Memorial Gymnasium.
The Commodores (2-0) welcome mighty No. 4 Connecticut to Nashville for a game that will test Vandy’s skill, patience, toughness, confidence and level of play.
They’re looking forward to that test.
“It’s really exciting to play UConn. We’re really excited about this game,” Vanderbilt redshirt senior Mariella Fasoula said. “We’re hyped-up, we’re excited to play together against a team that we know is going to be a challenge. Obviously we know that they’re one of the best team’s in the country, but we’re going to go out there and give ourselves an opportunity to win and play with them and play tough and play aggressive.
“We’re a completely different group this year so we’re just excited to go out there and play and do what we do.”
No. 4 UConn is synonymous with greatness in college basketball. The Huskies have 11 national championships since 1995 – including four straight from 2013-16 – and have made the Final Four 12 years in a row (and 20 times total).
The Huskies (1-0) opened their season with a 72-61 win over California on Sunday.
“I think for us it’s about our growth. It’s about using it as a measuring stick, but it’s also about learning,” Vanderbilt head coach Stephanie White said. “What do the best do possession by possession to put themselves in position to really dominate the NCAA for two decades? There’s a way that they do things and nothing can show you that other than being on the floor – how hard they cut, how poised they are, how patient they are, how they execute. So for us it’s a learning experience and it’s a great opportunity.
“At the end of the day when you want to be the best, you got to play the best and you have to learn how the best operate.”
Vanderbilt (2-0) has been in impressive in its own right through two games. White’s team has won those contests by an average margin of 28 points, is holding opponents to a 33.3 percent shooting mark from the field and forcing 21.5 turnovers per game.
And while the sample size is small early in the season, the Commodores have four players scoring in double figures per contest.
They will undoubtedly need to continue those trends at 6 p.m. Wednesday against one of college basketball’s finest programs.
“Definitely the energy that we bring. It’s contagious – in the practice gym or in the game or anywhere outside the court,” Fasoula said on what she has liked from her teammates thus far. “That, as well as the competitiveness and aggressiveness as well as athleticism that has come in this year has really helped developed the game so we’ve really created a bond together that we’ve built since the summer. That’s really exciting.”
A VANDERBILT CONN-ECTION
One of the Commodores’ best will make her return to the Memorial Gymnasium sidelines Wednesday.
Jasmine Lister, now an assistant coach for UConn, started 129 games for Vanderbilt in earlier part of the decade and holds Vandy’s program record for minutes player (4,626). She was an all-conference selection every season she played.
Lister left professional basketball in 2014 to join the staff at Connecticut as a graduate assistant. In 2017 she joined the staff at DePaul after one year with Washington.
She returned to Stores, Connecticut, in 2018 and is her second season working with legendary UConn coach Geno Auriemma.