NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt women’s basketball was all out of whack Thursday for the first 20 minutes of its matchup against visiting Tennessee Tech inside Memorial Gymnasium.
Whether it was readjusting to being back stateside after a trip to the Bahamas, playing without starting forward Brinae Alexander and the thought of final exams right around the corner, the Commodores had a hard time figuring things out for one half of basketball.
“In the first half we kind of came out sluggish a little bit. We didn’t have our usual energy,” Vanderbilt junior guard Chelsie Hall said. “In the third quarter we kind of picked that up. We knew what we had to do to kind of set ourselves back up to win the game.
“I think we just came out and had more energy, had more fight and we played with pride.”
Vandy turned things around in a big way during the second 20 minutes by outscoring Tennessee Tech 28-8 in the third quarter en route to a 75-61 win. The Golden Eagles had led by 11 at one point during the first half, but were outscored 49-24 after building that advantage in the second quarter.
Hall had 15 points and eight rebounds in the triumph while senior forward Mariella Fasoula poured in 23 to go along with 11 rebounds. Those two helped Vandy shoot 61.1 percent in the second half.
The Commodores also forced 19 turnovers, recorded eight steals and blocked four shots.
“I told (Vanderbilt sophomore guard Jordyn Cambridge) when the third quarter started, ‘We need you. You are the one to turn us up.’ She did that,” Hall said. “It starts with her and then everyone picked it up. Everyone had a contribution on the defensive end and that really takes us to another level.”
Thursday’s contest was the second full game for Vanderbilt without Alexander who is out for the season with a foot injury. But it was the first game in which the Dores had some practice time leading up to game day to figure out the best way to win without her 13.4 points per game.
Vandy had seven players score against Tennessee Tech, six players grab at least one rebound and five players record at least one assist. Junior forward Autumn Newby had eight points, seven rebounds, six assists and three steals.
“We have an opportunity for other players to step up,” Vanderbilt coach Stephanie White said. “We have an opportunity for other players to get more minutes that might not have and opportunity for others to flourish. Not one person has to do that alone. We have to do that together.”
The Commodores had started the evening shooting 32.4 percent in the first half and turned the ball over 10 times during that span. Fasoula and Koi Love each were limited in the first two quarters because of foul trouble and Tech led for 18:35 of the opening half.
Vanderbilt started to come back just before the halftime break thanks to a three-point play from Kiara Pearl. That momentum bled into the second half as Vandy scored the first 10 points on the third quarter.
It never looked back from there.
“We did a much better job of keeping them out of their rhythm, keeping them out of their flow,” White said. “Our ball-pressure was better, our denials were better. We held them to one assist and forced 14 turnovers. That’s what we have to do. Teams are going to try to slow us down. For us to do what we want, our defensive intensity has to get to them.”
The Dores will now take some time off before hosting Eastern Kentucky on Dec. 15. If they’re able to win that they’ll match last season’s win total and surpass last season’s number of home victories (5).
That’s all possible because of Thursday’s big second half.
“I think it’s good to just get this one win and get us back on pace and get us to where we want to go,” Hall said. “I think this gives us confidence and now we know what we need to work on and what we have now.”