Vanderbilt dominant in home opener versus Samford, win 81-51

The Commodores took down Samford in their home opener on the back of a great defensive performance.

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Vanderbilt Athletics

Vanderbilt’s women’s basketball team, as captured on Nov. 10, 2022. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

Anish Mago, Deputy Sports Editor

In their first home game of the season, head coach Shea Ralph and the Vanderbilt Commodores earned their second win of the season, taking down the Samford Bulldogs 81-51. The Commodores showed their depth in the victory, with three different players scoring in double digits. They were led by freshman Ryanne Allen, who scored 17 points in an efficient shooting performance. The story of the night for the Commodores, however, was their defense. With a stifling press and interior presence, Vanderbilt’s defense was able to force the Bulldogs into 21 turnovers and held Samford to 38% shooting from the field in the victory. 

“It was nice to see a lot of people on our team contribute tonight. This team hasn’t played together for very long, so one of the things we talked about today is trying to create our identity,” Ralph said after the game. “We need to focus on continuing to build resiliency and discipline, and I think today was a step forward.”

The Commodores struggled coming out of the gates, missing their first seven shots and failing to score for the game’s opening four minutes. Seeing her team’s early struggles, Ralph implemented a full-court press that helped the Commodores find their footing in the matchup, with Vanderbilt scoring on each of their ensuing four possessions to jump out to an early 9-2 lead. 

Following a strong rebound from Marnelle Garraud (15 points, 3 rebounds) nearing the end of the first quarter, the Commodores were able to find Jada Brown, who knocked down a 3-point shot at the buzzer to hand Vanderbilt an 18-7 lead heading into the second quarter. The Commodores were able to find holes in Samford’s 2-3 zone consistently in the first period, leading to four made 3-pointers in the quarter. 

The Commodores began the second quarter remaining aggressive on defense, forcing the Bulldogs into turnovers and converting in transition to extend their lead to 25-10 in the opening minutes. Though she was relatively quiet following her 28-point outburst in the season opener, Ciaja Harbison (seven points, seven assists) showed off her craftiness with a smooth crossover and assist to freshman Ryanne Allen, who converted on the other end. Allen was a dominant force for Vanderbilt in the first half, scoring 12 points with a combination of shot-making from outside and crafty finishes at the rim. Despite shooting 50% from 3 as a team in the first half, Vanderbilt was not able to pull away from the Bulldogs due to a combination of turnovers and careless fouls. Following a miss from Brown at the buzzer, the Commodores took a 36-25 lead into halftime. 

Garraud led a re-energized Commodores unit coming out of half time, with the graduate transfer scoring seven points in the opening three minutes of the third quarter and leading the line of Vanderbilt’s relentless press. Despite constant substitutions, Vanderbilt was able to give Samford issues advancing the ball through the press on nearly every possession in the second half. The athleticism from the Commodores began to wear down Samford as the game went on, with three consecutive steals resulting in made 3-pointers for Vanderbilt as the third period winded down. After a well-executed inbounds play that found Yaubryon Chambers for a wide-open layup, the Commodores took a 65-40 lead into the final frame. 

“We’ve really created our identity here about how hard we play defensively,” Ralph said of her team’s effort. “It’s very much early in the season, but I feel like our team is built and geared towards an aggressive style of defense.”

Nursing a huge lead in the game’s final minutes, Vanderbilt continued to knife through the Bulldogs’ zone with precise ball movement. Ralph’s squad also began to run their offense through Sacha Washington (9 points, 10 rebounds), who rewarded that faith with conversions on three post-up chances. With the game’s result secure, the Commodores continued to play hard and extended their lead out to a final score of 81-51. 

Following another convincing victory, the Commodores will hope to claim their third straight victory on Sunday, Nov. 13, when they take on Columbia at 1:00 p.m. CST.