The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

MUIR: Vanderbilt’s upset over No. 15 Kentucky proves program is headed in right direction

With the win, the Commodores broke a 29 game losing streak against ranked opponents.
Koi+Love+%2823%29+was+named+to+the+freshman+all-SEC+team+on+Tuesday%2C+Mar.+3.+
Emery Little
Koi Love (23) was named to the freshman all-SEC team on Tuesday, Mar. 3.

When the scoreboard showed double zeroes as time ran out on Vanderbilt’s 70-64 victory over No. 15 Kentucky, the Commodore players rushed to greet each in celebration at half court. The upset win was a fitting culmination for a season full of trials and tribulations that ultimately resulted in a much-improved team under the direction of head coach Stephanie White. 

All game long, the Commodores battled with the much more talented Wildcats and eventually pushed them past their breaking point. Vanderbilt shot 50 percent from the floor while holding Kentucky to just 33.3 percent shooting. The Wildcats only dished out nine assists compared to their season average of 14, which was largely a result of a smothering, engaged Commodore defense. That defense came to full force in the final 10 minutes of action when Vanderbilt outscored Kentucky 24-9 to secure the narrow victory. 

The Senior Day victory ends the season on a high note and also provides renewed hope for the future of the program. 

The Epitome of Resilience 

The Commodores have certainly faced their fair share of adversity this season. 

In November, two players suffered season-ending injuries, including forward Brinae Alexander, the team’s leading scorer and three-point shooter at the time. During a loss to Missouri on Feb. 20, freshman guard Kiara Pearl, the team’s second leading long distance shooter, went down with a serious knee injury. 

Although the Commodores got off to a fast start in non-conference play, the SEC portion of the schedule proved to be a completely different beast. There were blowout losses to some of the conference’s top dogs, like South Carolina and Arkansas, and there were heartbreakers such as the near upset of No. 9 Mississippi State. 

Multiple times throughout the season, the Vanderbilt players could have thrown in the towel and started to look ahead to next year. Instead, the team kept working hard and learned to overcome the adversity they faced. 

This resilience was on full display against Kentucky. Trailing by nine heading into the fourth quarter, the Commodores had their work cut out for them. They quickly shrunk the lead to four, but Kentucky pushed it right back to eight. Again, Vanderbilt responded. The team went on a 10-0 run, aided by Jordyn Cambridge knocking down the Commodore’s only three of the night, to take a two-point lead with 2:52 remaining. From that point on, the Commodores never trailed again en route to securing their first victory over a ranked opponent in the past 29 attempts. 

Senior Send-off in Style

The upset win on Senior Day would not have been possible without the stellar play of the two scholarship seniors, Mariella Fasoula and LeaLea Carter. 

Fasoula, a transfer from Boston College, has been a star since her first game as a Commodore in 2018, but she took her game to another level on Sunday. The forward scored 24 points on efficient 10-13 shooting and also grabbed nine boards, one of which gave her 750 career rebounds. Fasoula shined brightest in the fourth where she scored 10 of Vanderbilt’s 24 points in the quarter, including a go-ahead layup with 1:55 remaining. 

Carter’s production has been up-and-down throughout her four years as a Commodore, but she certainly came to play against the Wildcats. The 5’11” guard from Dickson, Tennessee, played 28 minutes off the bench and recorded 10 points and six rebounds. Her biggest basket came with 19 seconds left in the game when she converted on a huge layup under the basket that pushed the Commodore lead to three. 

It hasn’t always been easy for these two seniors during their time at Vanderbilt, but they both gave a lot to the program and, in their last game at Memorial Gym, were able to walk away with a victory that they’ll probably remember for the rest of their lives. 

Hope for the Future 

With the win Sunday, the Commodores finished the regular season with a 14-15 overall record and 4-12 conference record. While those numbers aren’t initially notable, they are much more impressive when you consider that Vanderbilt won just 14 games combined during the past two seasons and only two SEC games last year. 

Without a doubt, improvements still need to be made to get Vanderbilt out of the bottom third of the SEC and back into contention, but there is definitely reason to be hopeful about the future of the program. 

Although the Commodores will lose the two seniors, and losing Fasoula in particular will especially hurt, the team returns plenty of talent. Freshman forward Koi Love has more than lived up to her five-star rating this season. Until Sunday, Love was the team’s leading scorer at 13.2 points per game, and she also ranks second on the team in rebounds, averaging 6.2 a game. She will be a staple on the team for the next few years and has a real chance to be a star in the SEC. 

Guards Jordyn Cambridge and Chelsie Hall each improved tremendously this season after both battled numerous nagging injuries last year. Having a starting backcourt of upperclassmen with lots of high-level experience will be pivotal for Vanderbilt going forward in the always competitive SEC. 

If all goes well in rehab, Alexander and Pearl will both hopefully return to the court next year at some point, giving a Commodore team that shot just over 29 percent from three some desperately needed long-distance shooting. 

Missouri transfer Akira Levy will be eligible, and incoming recruits Bella Lachance and Emily Bowman will both have a chance to make a major splash in the fall of 2020. 

The culture has changed within the walls of Memorial Gym. It is obvious just by watching both how hard the team plays and how much they celebrate each other’s successes. 

The winning will come with time, but Stephanie White definitely has this program headed in the right direction. 

 

 

Leave a comment
About the Contributors
Alyssa Muir
Alyssa Muir, Former Deputy Sports Editor
Alyssa Muir ('21) was Deputy Sports Editor for The Vanderbilt Hustler. She majored in economics with minors in business and sociology. When she has free time, she can usually be found binge-watching Grey's Anatomy or rooting on her hometown teams, the Tampa Bay Rays and Tampa Bay Lightning. For tips and comments, feel free to reach out to: [email protected].    
Emery Little
Emery Little, Former Social Media Director
Emery Little (‘22) is from Birmingham, AL. She majored in communication of science and technology and Spanish. In her free time, she loves to design graphics, follow tech news and run her photography business. She can be reached at [email protected].
More to Discover

Comments (0)

The Vanderbilt Hustler welcomes and encourages readers to engage with content and express opinions through the comment sections on our website and social media platforms. The Hustler reserves the right to remove comments that contain vulgarity, hate speech, personal attacks or that appear to be spam, commercial promotion or impersonation. The comment sections are moderated by our Editor-in-Chief, Rachael Perrotta, and our Social Media Director, Chloe Postlewaite. You can reach them at [email protected] and [email protected].
All The Vanderbilt Hustler picks Reader picks Sort: Newest
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments