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.

Memorial Minutes: The Hits Keep Coming

With three more losses, Vanderbilt moves to 0-7 in conference play this season.
Vanderbilts+womens+basketball+team%2C+as+captured+on+Nov.+10%2C+2022.+%28Vanderbilt+Athletics%29
Vanderbilt Athletics
Vanderbilt’s women’s basketball team, as captured on Nov. 10, 2022. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

In last week’s Memorial Minutes, I pleaded for readers to be patient with Vanderbilt’s Women’s Basketball team. The Commodores, who started conference play with an 0-3 record, seemed to be a talented team — decimated by injuries, but nobly keeping pace with some of the best squads in the nation. Heading into their toughest stretch of games of the season, I had a sinking feeling that life in the SEC wasn’t going to get any easier. Unfortunately, my bleakest prediction about Vanderbilt basketball this season turned out to be my most accurate. With seven SEC games under their belt, the Commodores remain winless and have moved to the bottom of the conference standings. 

First came Arkansas, a tantalizing bout that highlighted the Commodore’s potential for brilliance against the top competition in the nation. Senior guard Marnelle Garraud was a revelation against the Razorbacks, flashing the 3-point sharpshooting that earned her a reputation of one of the top transfers targets in the nation. Garraud connected on 7 of her 10 3-point attempts, including a miraculous heave to tie the game with four seconds left. 

But in typical Vanderbilt fashion this season, bad luck was right around the corner: Arkansas’ Makayla Daniels sank an equally improbable shot at the buzzer to give the Razorbacks the win. 

It’s mind-boggling to think that Garraud most likely would have come off the bench if Vanderbilt was completely healthy this season. Her microwave scoring ability against 2nd unit players would have made Vanderbilt’s depth a strength for the team — which unfortunately has not been the case this season. 

Other top performers against Arkansas included Sacha Washington and Yaburyon Chambers. Washington was her usual self, dominating the glass with 11 points and 9 rebounds. Chambers is an emerging talent to watch in the frontcourt, and her 7 rebounds and 4 steals helped limit Arkansas’ offense. Bella LaChance was key coming off the bench, chipping in 7 points in 14 minutes on 100% shooting from the field. 

Vanderbilt was spared a heartbreaking finish in their next loss to No. 1 South Carolina. The Gamecocks annihilated Vanderbilt from the opening tip in their 96-48 victory. Vanderbilt simply had no answer for the undefeated Gamecocks, who led 45-17 at half. Besides doubling the Commodores in points, South Carolina doubled Vanderbilt in rebounds (49) and assists in the blowout win (shoutout to Deputy Editor Aiden Rutman for this stat).

Reigning national player of the year Aliyah Boston showed why she’s still the top post threat in the country, recording 16 points and 10 rebounds in just 22 minutes of playing time against South Carolina? Two-time All-SEC guard Zia Cooke put forth a similarly dominant performance, scoring 17 points and recording no turnovers in 21 minutes. However, Vanderbilt struggled to find a consistent source of offense throughout the contest. Even though Garraud led the Commodores with 15 points and was the only player to score in double figures, she couldn’t replicate her incendiary shooting from the previous game and sputtered out to a 1-7 3-point performance against the Gamecocks. 

Six games and six losses into their conference schedule, the Commodores faced a beatable opponent in their most recent game against Florida. The Gators were 1-5 in SEC games before hosting Vanderbilt, providing a potential turnaround opportunity for the Commodores’ season. Instead, the Gators handled Vanderbilt with ease in a 73-55 victory that was never particularly close. The Commodores shot just 27.9% from the field and had twice as many turnovers as assists (14:7) in one of their most underwhelming performances of the season. Center Rashaya Kyle bodied Vanderbilt on the block, recording 13 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks. The only positive takeaway from the contest was a return to form from Ciaja Harbison, who recorded 19 points on 42% shooting from the field. 

Looking Forward

This three game stretch of defeats has served as a microcosm of Vanderbilt’s conference schedule thus far. Whether being hampered by bad luck, poor execution or simply being overmatched, the Commodores just haven’t figured out a way to win games. 

Vanderbilt’s next game will likely be their best chance at grabbing an SEC win this season, though. 

On Sunday, the Commodores will host Texas A&M (overall record, 1-7), the only other team in the conference with seven losses. A&M won their most recent game against Georgia, but have otherwise have looked dismal in conference play. 

6’4 Aggie freshman Janiah Barker is one of the rising stars in the conference, contributing 24 points on 91% shooting in the win against the Bulldogs. Vanderbilt should have a huge advantage in the backcourt, however, as the Aggies starting guards Sahara Jones and Sydney Bowles are only combining for 16.7 points on 32% shooting. By comparison, Garraud and Harbison have combined for 32.3 points on 38% shooting on the season. If Vanderbilt is to pick up their first SEC win of the season, they’ll need their senior backcourt to be at its absolute best. 

In off-court news, WNBA star Katie Lou Samuelson was hired as Vanderbilt’s director of player development for women’s basketball. Samuelson won a national championship in 2016 at the University of Connecticut while Vanderbilt head coach Shea Ralph was an assistant there. Ralph, a former UConn star herself, worked closely with Samuelson during her college career, and the two are extremely close. Samuelson was drafted 4th overall in the 2019 WNBA draft and is currently the starting point guard for the Los Angeles Sparks.

“I have so much love and respect for Shea, who has been instrumental in my development as a player and a person,” Samuelson said. “She is so good at bringing out the best in people, and she did that for me in my career. When she offered me the opportunity to help do that for the young women at Vanderbilt, it was really a no brainer.”

The presence of a WNBA star on the coaching staff should do wonders for the morale of a team that is understandably disappointed with their season so far. Despite the bad injury luck and lackluster record, Samuelson’s desire to work alongside Ralph is a testament to the quality of the program that is being developed at Vanderbilt. Regardless of what happens in the rest of Vanderbilt’s conference schedule, the future remains bright for the Commodores. 

The Commodores will seek to pick up their first SEC win of the season on Sunday against Texas A&M at 12 p.m. CST in Memorial Gymnasium.

 

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About the Contributor
Brandon Karp
Brandon Karp, Senior Staff Writer
Brandon Karp ('25) is from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and is studying human and organizational development and political science in Peabody College. You can reach him at [email protected].
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