Midway through the third quarter, the Commodores were coasting to what looked like their first win in conference play.
Things didn’t exactly turn out that way.
Vanderbilt watched their 17-point lead evaporate as Auburn roared back in the fourth quarter to overtake the lead, giving the Commodores their sixth straight loss. In a game full of ups and downs for Vanderbilt, here are five thoughts.
Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers
Coach Stephanie White warned her team before last night’s matchup that it was going to need to beat Auburn’s press in order to win the game, and it simply wasn’t able to execute. Vanderbilt looked overwhelmed by the press, often getting stuck in traps and throwing lob passes that were easily tipped and stolen. A large portion of the turnovers came on offensive fouls, however, as the Commodores seemed out of control at times, running at full speed to break the press.
Vanderbilt turned the ball over 24 times in 40 minutes, and every player that saw at least five minutes on the floor committed multiple turnovers. Auburn’s ball-hawking defense does rank third in the nation in forcing turnovers, but if Vanderbilt is going to win games going forward, it’s going to have to take better care of the basketball.
Questionable late-game substitutions
This team has a lot of very capable players at the guard position, so it’s easy to see why Coach White is getting each of them their minutes. But at the end of the game, you have to have your best players on the floor in a position to make shots.
Vanderbilt was down two points with under a minute to go, and Kaleigh Clemons-Green was sitting on the bench. Clemons-Green had been in foul trouble throughout the second half, but with a minute to go that had to be a non-factor. She was also two for two from downtown and the only player who was able to beat the press off the dribble. Yet the ball ended up in Cierra Walker’s hands, and her three missed the rim entirely. Clemons-Green and Christa Reed should have been the go-to guards down the stretch, as they were four-of-4 from beyond the arc combined, but it was Walker and Rebekah Dahlman who were leading the backcourt, despite combining for three-of-14 from the field. It was an interesting substitution from Coach White that didn’t pay off, as Vanderbilt failed to make a single field goal in the final 3:49.
Sharpshooting from deep
What allowed the Commodores to get out to such a big lead early was their three-point shooting. Reed opened the game with two consecutive threes, Clemons-Green came out of the half and hit two, and Rachel Bell hit two more. Vanderbilt shot 39 percent from three on shots that were well-contested throughout the game by this tough Auburn defense.
The offense had a tendency to stagnate and take possessions deep into the shot clock, but this team seems unfazed, as they were able to calmly knock down shots. The girl who set it up for them all was Marqu’es Webb, who would draw the defense into the paint and kick it out to get good looks for the group of shooters around her. If it can limit the turnovers, this will be a high scoring offense with the way it can shoot the basketball.
Kayla Overbeck is a force to be reckoned with
Remember the name Kayla Overbeck, and don’t be surprised when she’s the talk of women’s basketball in the SEC in the coming years. The 6’1″ freshman from Newbury Park, California, commanded attention in the post and continued to overpower the Auburn defense, finishing with a double-double that included and-ones on two straight possessions early in the second half. With Webb in her final season, Overbeck will assume her role and be a force in the paint for the next few years for Vanderbilt. She was the best player on the court last night and she had better get used to it.
Getting beat on the boards
What allowed Auburn to get back in the game was, in part, its dominance on the boards in the second half. The Tigers accumulated 16 offensive rebounds over the course of the game and outrebounded the Commodores 34-26. This isn’t a surprise for a team that starts four guards, and it’s something that will likely improve this season as Webb and Overbeck see the floor at the same time, but Jessica Jones and Katie Frerking lived under the basket for Auburn, dominating in second-chance points.