Vanderbilt overwhelms Alabama A&M 76-46, wins three in a row

The Commodore defense forced 27 Alabama A&M turnovers, and Sacha Washington added a season-high 23 points to propel Vanderbilt to a 30-point victory.


Vanderbilt Athletics

Sacha Washington goes up for a shot against Alabama A&M on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022 (Vanderbilt Athletics).

Matthew Shipley, Staff Writer

Vanderbilt (9-5) ended nonconference play on Wednesday with a 76-46 win over Alabama A&M (1-8). The Commodore defense stifled the Lady Bulldogs, forcing 27 turnovers, and the ‘Dores were led in scoring by sophomore Sacha Washington (23 points, 6 rebounds) and 5th-year Ciaja Harbison (18 points, 8 assists).

Only eight players were active for Vanderbilt in Wednesday’s game, and all played significant minutes and scored at least five points in the game.

“I don’t really focus on what we don’t have, and I don’t let them do that either. We need five to play, but I’d love to be able to play eight,” head coach Shea Ralph said. “We have exactly what we need. We just need people to be great at what they do.”

Vanderbilt’s defensive effort propelled them to an early 11-2 lead which they never looked back from. Playing mostly a 2-3 zone, the Commodores forced six turnovers from the Lady Bulldogs in the first five minutes.

Vanderbilt also moved the ball well on the offensive end, frequently running set plays leading to seven different Commodores scoring in the first quarter.

However, Alabama A&M 5th-year Amani Free kept the Lady Bulldogs close early, making all three of her three-point shots, limiting the Commodore lead to 20-14 at the end of the first quarter.

Ralph elected to continue pressuring the Lady Bulldogs, bringing a full-court press and frequent traps that led to 16 Alabama A&M turnovers and 15 Vanderbilt points in the first half.

One weakness in the game for the Commodores was outside shooting. Vanderbilt was able to get open looks from three but only converted 3-19 (16%) from behind the arc in the game. However, three-point shooting was unnecessary for the Commodores as they successfully fed Washington the ball inside (8-11 FG, 7-9 FT) and outscored the Lady Bulldogs in the paint 34-16.

Vanderbilt ended the first half on a 9-0 run led by a couple baskets and a free throw from Harbison which put the Commodores up 38-22 at the break.

Washington started the second half where she left off, putting in more buckets inside, including converting an and-one layup to extend the Commodore lead to 21 points early in the third quarter.

Vanderbilt then blew the game wide open, going up 52-24 after a 12-0 run. Harbison continued to drive to the basket, adding a layup, and was perfect from the free throw line on six attempts for the game. The Commodores were 23-25 (92%) on free throws, which Ralph highlighted as a strength she was proud of.

The game was in wraps by the end of the third quarter where the Commodores led 64-34. The Lady Bulldogs tied the Commodores 12-12 in the fourth quarter, but their effort was too little, too late, and the final buzzer went off with Vanderbilt winning 76-46.

Vanderbilt finishes nonconference play 9-5 with the win and opens SEC play on Dec. 29 against Mississippi State at 5:00 p.m. CST in Memorial Gymnasium.

“It’s always nice to come out learning from games and still getting wins. I think that instills confidence and it builds it, especially when you can get contributions from different players every time you step out on the court,” Ralph said. “I want our players to walk into our first SEC game next week with confidence, knowing that if we do what we’re supposed to do we can be competitive with anyone.”