Vanderbilt cruises to 74-45 victory over USC Upstate, improves to 6-3

The Commodores were able to take care of the Spartans with strong performances on both sides of the ball.


Vanderbilt Athletics

Marnelle Garraud shooting versus USC Upstate, as captured on Nov. 29, 2022. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

Anish Mago, Deputy Sports Editor

After falling in their last three contests, Vanderbilt women’s basketball was able to bounce back with a dominant 74-45 victory over the USC Upstate Spartans. The Commodores held onto a comfortable lead for most of the game despite missing leading scorer Ciaja Harbison, who missed the contest with a lower body injury. Vanderbilt forced the Spartans into 26 turnovers in the matchup and were led offensively by Marnelle Garraud (16 points, 6-12 FG) and Sacha Washington (13 points, 5 rebounds). 

“We’re constantly learning, and that’s the challenge of adversity,” head coach Shea Ralph said after the game. “We’re starting to figure some things out in terms of who we can depend on, and that was important tonight. I’m proud of the team for the final effort today.”

With Harbison sidelined, Vanderbilt struggled to find a rhythm out of the gates. Despite early success defensively, the Commodores missed five of their first seven shots and were stifled by the Spartans’ aggressive man defense. Seeing her team’s early frustrations, Ralph opted to run Vanderbilt’s offense through freshman Jada Brown, who responded with two catch-and-shoot three-point conversions. Brown’s play on those two possessions gave the Commodores a lead as the first quarter neared its end. In large part due to nine forced turnovers in the first period, Vanderbilt clutched on to a 16-11 lead heading into the second quarter. 

Vanderbilt opted for a different offensive strategy in the second frame, as they looked to establish themselves on the interior. Specifically, Vanderbilt looked to find Demi Washington and Sacha Washington with isolation opportunities in the mid-post. The pair did well to make the most of their opportunities, and stretched Vanderbilt’s lead to 13 as the second quarter reached its midway point. 

With an effective full-court press, the Commodores were also able to take advantage of the Spartans’ offensive mistakes, scoring 10 points off of turnovers in the period. The Commodores did well to share the ball in the first half, assisting on nine of their thirteen made baskets. After surrendering just nine points in the second quarter and dominating the interior, Vanderbilt extended their lead to 37-20 going into halftime. 

Despite starting the game shooting just 1-6, Garraud was able to carry much of the offensive load for the Commodores in the third quarter. The transfer guard was relentless in her off-ball movement and was rewarded with four baskets, including a trio of three-pointers, in the period. After shooting just 27% from the field in Vanderbilt’s last two matchups, Garraud was able to bounce back with a strong third quarter for the Commodores. Vanderbilt paired Garraud’s baskets with continued success on defense and in transition, including a Yaurbryon Chambers and-1 conversion with just two seconds remaining, to stretch its lead to 59-33 heading into the final frame. 

“[Without Ciaja], I think that the offense as a whole stepped up, but as a fifth-year guard, I knew I needed to hit open shots and be dependable on the court,” Garraud said. 

With a comfortable lead in hand, Ralph turned to the freshman trio of Brown, Ryanne Allen and Amauri Williams to see the game out for the Commodores in the fourth quarter. Williams was able to overwhelm the Spartans’ interior defenders consistently and help extend Vanderbilt’s lead with a combination of easy baskets and trips to the foul line. In the end, the Commodores were able to close the game with a 29-point victory.

Vanderbilt will look to build on the impressive win in their next matchup against Eastern Tennessee State on Dec. 1.