In what was a fitting end to a dreadful weekend of Commodore basketball, the Vanderbilt women’s team (12-6, 2-3) was dismantled 100-66 by the No. 23 Arkansas Razorbacks (15-3, 3-2) at Memorial Gymnasium Sunday afternoon.
The Commodores were without forward Autumn Newby for the first time this season and freshman Koi Love started in her place. Love scored 20 points and played aggressively from start to finish, but it was not nearly enough for Vanderbilt to land a victory.
The Razorbacks entered Sunday’s tilt fresh off of a solid win over conference rival Missouri and they did not not let up against the hometown Commodores. The Hogs used a balanced scoring attack to spread out the Vanderbilt defense and shot an incredible 53% in the blowout win.
Both teams came out of the gates aggressively. From the opening tip, it was evident that the Commodores possessed a significant size advantage over the Razorbacks. But Arkansas was able to turn that advantage into a weakness early through attacking Vanderbilt’s guards Chelsie Hall and Jordyn Cambridge off the dribble.
Razorback guards Makayla Daniels and Alexis Tolefree accounted for nine quick points mostly off of straight line drives. And on the offensive end, Vanderbilt forward Mariella Fasoula was double teamed every time she touched the ball in the post, which forced a plethora of difficult, outside shots for Vanderbilt early on.
The first quarter came to a close with Arkansas beating the Commodores entire team back on defense multiple times for layups thanks to two Vanderbilt turnovers and they carried a 19-12 lead into the second quarter.
Alexis Tolefree continued to be a problem for the Commodores as she rattled home a floater and a deep three to breakup three straight Koi Love buckets in the second quarter. The Razorbacks continued to use their quickness and athleticism to beat Vanderbilt down the floor and generate quick offense.
Koi Love did her best to stunt an Arkansas stretch of 5 for 5 shooting with two offensive rebound put backs and a mid range jump shot, but Arkansas kept running the floor and toying with slower Commodore defenders.
The Razorback backcourt continued their dominance in the lane as Commodore help defense was often slow and late. And once Vanderbilt adjusted and packed their defense in the paint, the Razorbacks caught fire from deep.
Alexis Tolefree and Amber Ramirez each hit two of the Razorbacks five second quarter three pointers to help grow the Arkansas lead to as many as 23 points. But thanks to a 6-0 run to end the half, Vanderbilt was able to cut its deficit to 18 points.
The Commodores came out sloppy to begin the second half and things began to spiral out of control for Stephanie White’s team. They turned the ball over four times in the first three minutes of the half and thanks to missed shots and a lack of defensive consistency, the Hogs put together a 17-2 run to lead 71-36.
Vanderbilt continued to have no answer for Arkansas’ blend of efficient three point shooting and creative paint slashing. In the third quarter alone, the Hogs shot 14-23 from the field, including 5-for-7 three pointers.
High points were few and far between in the third quarter for Vanderbilt as they were outscored 33-11 and saw their deficit grow to 83-43 heading into the fourth.
For the second game in a row, the Commodores were competitive early but were destroyed in the third quarter. Vanderbilt only scored 33 total second half points, and that will almost never be enough to compete with a highly talented SEC. Coach White was disappointed by her team’s effort coming out of the locker room and said her team played right into what Arkansas was trying to do.
“That’s what great teams do. There’s a reason South Carolina is a National Championship team and there’s a reason that Arkansas is a team that is going to make a deep run in the tournament and a top 25 team because they make you pay and they made us pay,” White said.
While the Arkansas lead was far too much to overtake in the fourth quarter, Vanderbilt freshmen fowards Yaubryon Chambers and Kiara Pearl were able to log quality minutes late in the game to help grow the depth of this team. The two scored 17 points combined in the unfortunate loss.
Fasoula and Love provided solid scoring, combining for 34 points. But outside of them, the Commodores only generated 32 points. And after a string of impressive games, Commodores guard Chelsie Hall struggled immensely as she failed to convert a single field goal and was unable to contain Arkansas’ quicker guards.
“We were very sluggish, we had four of our guards that were 4-29 from the floor and we aren’t going to position ourselves to win any games like that,” White said.
The Hogs have been impressive shooting the three this season, and that was the tale of their win on Sunday as well. They shot an impressive 15-26 from beyond the arc, and Alexis Tolefree was responsible for five of those by herself. Arkansas’ best scorer, Chelsea Dungee, struggled from the field, but she still was able to chip in 12 points in the winning effort.
“When they get hot, they get hot. I felt like our transition defense was poor. It is very difficult to simulate how fast they are in transition and we didn’t quite recover from that,” White said.
Without Autumn Newby, the Commodores will need to find ways to generate energy and find leadership on the floor. Throughout the season, Newby has been the most vocal player on the team, and she has provided a strong defensive presence that this team lacked on Sunday.
“Autumn is our energy player, she is our rebounder, she is our defensive anchor. Certainly it hurts not having her on the floor, but when someone goes down it’s an opportunity for someone else to step up. I thought Kaylon [Smith] did a great job, but we need to be able to get more and be consistent at all five spots on the floor,” White said.
After two straight losses, the Commodores will need to regroup quickly. They are back in action this Thursday as they host No. 10 Mississippi State.