NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Vanderbilt’s women’s basketball team is getting a break this week. Perhaps a much-needed break.
After 17 games and a tough loss at home Sunday to South Carolina, now ranked No. 1 in the country by the way, Vandy doesn’t play again until 5 p.m. Sunday against No. 23 Arkansas (14-3, 2-2 SEC). It’s time to recharge the batteries.
“First and foremost it’s getting healthy,” Vanderbilt head coach Stephanie White said about the off week. “At this point in the year everyone is a little banged-up. So rest and recovery will be key.”
The Commodores (12-5, 2-2 SEC) had won 7 of 8 before South Carolina came to town – and the one previous setback was an eight-point loss to Florida on the road. The Gamecocks proved to be a much tougher matchup in a 93-57 victory at Memorial Gymnasium.
White said this week her team will try to rediscover its defensive principles while emphasizing physical play. Those characteristics were missing during South Carolina’s 11-0 run to end the second quarter and a 36-14 dominant third quarter.
“Every team we play from here on out in the SEC is going to defend our first, second and third action. We’ve got to get to the fourth, fifth and sixth,” White said. “That’s patience, that’s poise and we’re going to have to get through that in practice.
“We (also) didn’t shoot the ball particularly well (Sunday) – and that’s a credit to South Carolina’s defense. They lead the country in blocked shots for a reason. But decision making when we get in there is key. We got to make sure that we’re reading correctly. We got to make sure that we’re driving to draw and to find the open teammate and making the extra pass.”
Despite a season-ending injury to starting guard Brinae Alexander, Vandy has continued its competitive level of play thanks, in part, to senior forward Mariella Fasoula, guards Chelsie Hall and Jordyn Cambridge and freshman Koi Love. The Commodores are also still among the top teams nationally in defensive rebounds per game, field goal percentage, rebound margin, rebounds, steals and 3-point defense.
White’s team has certainly turned a corner during her fourth season at the helm regardless of Sunday’s tough defeat.
“(White) does have her team playing at the speed that they want to play. It’s very pro-like. The ball-screen stuff is very pro-like,” South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said Sunday. “She finally got a team that is playing the way she loves to play. It’s good to see. I want all of our coaches who coach in this league to make an impact. I know she probably thought it would occur a lot sooner.
“You’re seeing in year four she has them playing the way she likes to play and you can see a difference.”
Vanderbilt has already nearly doubled its win total (7) from a year ago and has already matched its number of conference victories from 2018-19.
That certainly doesn’t mean the Dores are satisfied.
“Glad for us that we have a bye week. We can come back and get to work,” White said. “We can get to work on some slippage. We can get some rest and recovery. And we can move on. The SEC is a gauntlet. That’s why we love this league. It’s time for us to bounce back.”