Preview: Vanderbilt vs. Texas A&M

Dec. 31, 2016

Teams: Vanderbilt (10-3, 0-0) vs. Texas A&M (10-3, 0-0)
Day, Date: Monday, Jan. 2
Tip-off time: 6 p.m. (CT)
Site: College Station, Texas
Radio: WNSR 560 AM / 95.9 FM
TV: SEC Network
Game Notes: Vanderbilt Game Notes (TAMU) Get Acrobat Reader

After completing a strong non-conference slate — which included a nine-game winning streak but ended with a two-game skid — the Vanderbilt women jump into SEC play on Monday night, visiting Texas A&M for the conference opener for both teams. The Commodores and Aggies enter the game with identical 10-3 overall records, and the teams have produced very similar numbers on the offensive end: Texas A&M is averaging 74.5 points per game and Vanderbilt is averaging 74.4. The game will be the SEC debut for first-year Vanderbilt head coach Stephanie White and the five freshmen on the Commodores’ roster. Here’s a closer look at Monday’s game.

l Update on the Commodores: The Commodores come into Monday’s contest looking to get back on track after dropping their past two games — a road loss to Memphis on Dec. 28 and a home loss to No. 8-ranked Louisville on Dec. 21. It is the first time this season that Vanderbilt has lost back-to-back games . … Vanderbilt has two players averaging in double figures, with Rachel Bell scoring a team-high 12.5 points per game and Christa Reed averaging 11.4. … Marqu’es Webb is Vanderbilt’s top rebounder, and ranks among the SEC’s best, with 8.8 boards per game. … The Commodores are 10-0 this season when scoring 70 points or more.

l What’s trending: Here’s a look at what’s trending for Vanderbilt through the first 13 games of the season. (National and conference rankings are as of Saturday): The Commodores lead the SEC and rank eighth in the nation in 3-point accuracy at 40.7 percent. … Vanderbilt is second in the SEC and 24th in the nation in free throw percentage at 74.4. … VU ranks 8th in the country (but tellingly, fourth in the SEC) in free throws made (217). … The Commodores rank seventh in the conference and 56th in the nation in scoring, averaging 75.7 points per game. … Vanderbilt leads the SEC in 3-pointers made per game (7.5) and total 3-pointers made (98). … For the season, Vanderbilt has converted 217 free throws, which is almost as many free throws as their opponents have attempted (236).

l Impactful Improvements: Having adopted quickly to head coach Stephanie White’s up-tempo style, Vanderbilt is averaging 74.4 points per game this season — compared to 62.5 ppg last season. The Commodores are also making an SEC-best 7.5 three-pointers per game, compared to just 5.4 last season. Vanderbilt is also converting 16.7 free throws per game this season after making only 11.4 last season.

l In elite company: The Commodores have a host of players who rank among the best in the SEC and in the nation in several categories: Redshirt junior guard Rebekah Dahlman ranks second in the SEC and 21st in the country in free throw percentage at 90.0 percent. … Senior post player Marqu’es Webb ranks sixth in the conference in rebounding at 8.8 per game and seventh in total rebounds (81). … Freshman Cierra Walker ranks 12th in the conference in assists at 3.5 per game. … Walker and Dahlman rank eighth and ninth, respectively, in the SEC in assist-to-turnover ratio at 2.3 and 2.1.

l Scouting Texas A&M: The Aggies (10-3) roll into SEC play on a hot streak that has featured four wins in their past five games. … TAMU’s Curtyce Knox leads the nation in assists, averaging 9.8 per game. She had a career-high 14 assists in the Aggies’ win over Prairie View A&M on Dec. 28. … Anriel Howard leads the SEC and ranks sixth in the nation in rebounding (11.8 per game). She has posted eight double-doubles of the season, the sixth most in the nation. … This year marked the fifth consecutive season in which TAMU has won 10 non-conference games. … The Aggies are 6-1 at home this season and are 48-8 at home since the start of the 2013-14 season. Texas A&M is 140-5 against unranked foes at home since February 2005. … TAMU ranks 11th in the nation in free throws attempted (298) and seventh in the nation in free throws made (219).

l Series History: Monday’s game will be the eighth all-time meeting between the teams, with Vanderbilt owning a 4-3 edge in the series. … The teams’ most recent match-up came last season in Nashville, when the Aggies posted a 75-63 victory in Nashville on Feb. 21, 2016. … Vanderbilt has visited College Station three times, posting a 1-2 record. The Commodores’ most recent trip to TAMU was during the 2014-15 season, when the Aggies notched a 75-61 victory. … Vanderbilt’s lone win on TAMU’s home floor came on Nov. 18, 1997, when the Commodores earned a 78-59 victory.

l Ringing the Bell: Vanderbilt guard Rachel Bell is thriving in the up-tempo system that has been implemented this season by first-year head coach Stephanie White this season. Bell, a junior, has reached double figures in scoring in nine of the Vanderbilt’s first 13 games. She scored 10 or more points in seven straight games from Nov. 20 through Dec. 8, and averaged15.3 points per game during that stretch. Bell leads the team in scoring at 12.5 points per game.

l Carter coming on strong: Vanderbilt freshman LeaLea Carter has scored a total of 66 points this season — and 34 of those have come in the past three games. She has averaged 11.3 points and six rebounds per game during that three-game stretch after averaging only 3.6 points and 1.1 rebounds per game in her first nine contests of the season. Her surge started with the Tennessee Tech game, when she had 18 points, seven rebounds and went 8-of-12 from the floor.

l Memphis Blues: Vanderbilt endured a tough night on offense in the loss to Memphis. The Commodores were held to their lowest totals of the season for points scored (59) and field goals (19) while shooting just 35 percent from the floor, their second-lowest mark of the season. Vanderbilt finished had just one offensive rebound through the first three quarters of the game.

l Stronger as they go: Through the first two months of the season, the Commodores have shown that they get stronger and sharper as the game progresses. The fourth quarter, in fact, is statistically Vanderbilt’s best quarter in terms of scoring (20.3), field-goal percentage (45.3) and rebounding margin (+1.7). Most impressive, the ‘Dores are shooting 51.0 percent from 3-point range in the fourth quarter this season.

l Super substitutions: The Commodores are getting plenty of production off the bench thus far this season. That was especially true during a three-game stretch from Dec. 5-18, when the Vanderbilt reserves outscored the opponents’ bench by a combined total of 103-43 (including 30-4 against ETSU, 23-4 against Tulane and 50-35 against Tennessee Tech). For the season, VU’s bench has outscored the opponents’ bench in 10 of the first 13 games, including a 27-10 bulge in the loss to Memphis.

l On the radar: The Commodores have been among the teams receiving votes in the Associated Press Top-25 poll in each of the past four weeks. It is the first time since the preseason poll of the 2015-16 season that Vanderbilt has been in the “receiving votes” category. Vanderbilt was last ranked in the AP poll in Week 15 of the 2013-14 season, when the Commodores were No. 16.

l December dominance: Vanderbilt has been thriving in December for the past several seasons, and has posted a 30-5 record in December since 2011. … Prior to the loss to Louisville, the Commodores had won 13 straight December games, which dated back to a loss to Dayton on Dec. 21, 2014.

l Fresh and Re-Fresh: Vanderbilt captured SEC Freshman of the Week honors twice in December, with Erin Whalen and Kayla Overbeck each winning the honor. Overbeck was given the award on Dec. 13 after scoring 18 points and pulling down 13 rebounds — establishing new career highs in both categories — during Vanderbilt’s 80-72 road win over ETSU. Whalen was named the SEC Freshman of the Week on Dec. 6 after averaging 17 points per game and shooting 59 percent from the floor — making 16-of-27 shots — during Vanderbilt’s wins over Air Force, SIUE and Tulane.

l Milestone for Marqu’es Senior post player Marqu’es Webb notched her 500th career rebound in the first quarter of Vanderbilt’s win against Air Force on Dec. 2. … Webb ranks seventh among active SEC players in career rebounds with 545.

l Last time out: Hampered by foul trouble and uncharacteristic cold shooting, Vanderbilt suffered a 75-59 road loss to Memphis on Wednesday. The Commodores (10-3) shot just 35 percent from the floor, including going 4-of-13 (30 percent) from 3-point range. Kayla Overbeck, Cierra Walker, Erin Whalen and Kaleigh Clemons-Green all fouled out for the Commodores, who trailed 43-27 at the half and were unable to cut the deficit under 10 points in the second half. Cheyenne Creighton had 26 points and 13 rebounds for Memphis (7-6). Whalen finished with a team-high 14 points for Vanderbilt. Three Memphis players combined to score 55 of the Tigers’ 75 points. In addition to Creighton’s 26 points, Brea Elmore added 18 and Breigha Wilder-Cochran added 11. The Commodores collected just six offensive rebounds, and five of those came in the fourth quarter.

l This and that: Vanderbilt has three players who rank among the SEC’s Top-10 in career 3-pointers among active players: Rebekah Dahlman ranks seventh with 116, Christa Reed ranks ninth with 90, and Rachel Bell is 10th with 88.

l Looking ahead: After Monday’s game, the Commodores come home to host rival Tennessee on Jan. 5.