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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.

Vanderbilt loses first SEC game of season, falls to Missouri 65-63

A strong effort from first-year Khamil Pierre was not enough to propel the Commodores to victory, as they lost a nail-biter late down the stretch.
Miguel Beristain
Aga Makurat defends at the perimeter, as photographed on Jan. 14, 2024. (Hustler Multimedia/Miguel Beristain)

After a successful road trip to Rupp Arena earlier this week, the Commodores returned to West End to a hero’s greeting for their annual Pride Game. The team unfortunately lost a close contest 65-63 to SEC foe Missouri. Jordyn Cambridge, Khamil Pierre and Sacha Washington combined for 37 points on 44% shooting, 23 rebounds and another 4 steals in the defeat.

“I would love to go undefeated, but I don’t know if that’s realistic, especially in our conference,” head coach Shea Ralph said. “Today, it’s important that we look at what we didn’t do correctly.”

The matchup started off with a bang as Missouri’s Hayley Frank knocked down a 3-pointer on the team’s first possession. Quickly, Vanderbilt responded with three baskets of its own to take a 6-3 lead. The two sides proceeded to trade buckets and ended the half separated by just one point at 14-13. Vanderbilt led thanks to six points from Cambridge, four from Jordyn Oliver and another four from Pierre off the bench. 

The second period saw the Commodores come alive from deep. After not hitting a 3-pointer for the first 12 minutes of the contest, Cambridge knocked down a triple, and just minutes after checking in, Ryanne Allen followed suit with another long ball (and then another). These three 3s pushed Vanderbilt’s lead out to 25-16, and it looked like the Black and Gold might run away with the game early, but Frank had something to say about it. The graduate student forward knocked down a pair of 3s of her own and brought the Tigers within shouting distance. Justine Pissott’s jumper and Iyana Moore’s free throws would ultimately extend the Commodores’ lead again and the team went into the half up 29-24. 

Vanderbilt controlled the first half of play, outrebounding Missouri 25-15 and holding the Tigers to just 31% shooting. However, thanks to a strong showing by Frank from deep and six turnovers from the home side, Missouri hung around. Vanderbilt was especially productive from the paint in the first half — it scored 12 of its points in the paint and also went a perfect 6-of-6 from the charity stripe. 

After a relatively quiet start to the game, Washington started the second half off with an and-1 layup and another easy put-back to give Vanderbilt a 10-point lead at 34-24. The two sides traded layups, but then Frank went back to the well and hit yet another shot from deep. When all was said and done, 15 of her 17 points came from beyond the arc. 

The Commodores responded immediately: Pierre hit a jumper and Pissott followed that up with her first 3-pointer of the matchup. The shots ballooned Vanderbilt’s advantage to 12 at 49-37. This was the largest gap of the night for either team. Mizzouri would close the difference with a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws, but on the other side, Pierre hit a free throw and a layup off her own missed free throw to match the Tigers. One more final layup from the away side left the game at 52-44 going into the final frame. 

Missouri imprinted its name on the fourth quarter. From the start, it dominated the Commodores, going on an 11-1 run that boosted the Tigers to their first lead since the first few minutes of the contest. This outburst included another 3-pointer from Frank and easy layups off more Vanderbilt turnovers. The Commodores came back from this run with a layup but were quickly answered with another Missouri 3-pointer. As the period wore on, the two sides traded scores back and forth, and despite valiant defensive effort from the Black and Gold, the Tigers continued to hit improbable shots at the end of the shot clock and kept their small lead of five points.

With just a couple ticks left on the clock, Moore hit a clutch 3-pointer to bring Vanderbilt within two at 65-63. The Commodores followed this score up with a stop on defense thanks to a travel call. With a chance to tie or go ahead, the Commodores gave the rock to Moore who drove but was unable to get her shot off and landed out of bounds. Missouri needed to successfully inbound to close out the game, but a steal from Pierre gave Ralph’s group one last chance. Unfortunately, the promising freshman missed the layup drive and the contest ended soon after.

“There was a lot of miscommunication [in the defense]. We tried a couple of different things to make sure that Hayley Frank didn’t get as many open looks as she did in the first half,” Ralph said. “It was somebody that didn’t switch; it was somebody that did switch but the other person didn’t — I think, at the end of the day, when we go back and look at the film, we’ll find that it wasn’t what we were doing, it was how we were doing it.”

The difference between the two sides is mainly found in 3-pointer conversion rates and points off turnovers. Missouri shot the lights out from beyond the arc, going 9-of-22, while Vanderbilt shot a less impressive 6-of-23. Though there are bright spots for Ralph like rebounding (Vanderbilt outrebounded the Tigers 44-28), there were clear issues as well. Defensive closeouts clearly presented a problem for the Commodores, and 14 turnovers gave Missouri 14 easy points, especially down the stretch. The squad will need to clean up these mistakes if they hope to continue their winning ways in a difficult conference.

“We’re going to be in this position again. We’re going to be in this position where things just aren’t going right,” Ralph said. “I think how we respond to today and how we learn from today is going to either make us better or it’s not. If we [respond] the right way, when we’re in this position again, then we’ll win the game.”

To add insult to injury, it has been over 10 years since Vanderbilt has beaten Missouri in Memorial Gymnasium (the last was in February of 2013), and the defeat marks the Commodores’ first home loss, as well as their first SEC loss, of the year. Ralph & Co.’s win streak will end at nine.

“I love my team,” Ralph said. “I know they’re just as pissed as I am, and I believe that this will make us much much better.”

Vanderbilt will look to bounce back when they host Auburn this Thursday, Jan. 18 at 6:30 p.m. CST.

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About the Contributors
Sam Curtis
Sam Curtis, Former Deputy Sports Editor
Sam Curtis (’24) is from Wallingford, Conn., majoring in human and organizational development and French and minoring in data science in Peabody College. He was previously Assistant Sports Editor and Sports Copy Editor. When not writing for The Hustler, he cheers on the Philadelphia Eagles, the 76ers and Leeds United. Outside of sports, he enjoys traveling and learning about history and philosophy. He can be reached at [email protected].    
Miguel Beristain
Miguel Beristain, Senior Staff Photographer
Miguel Beristain (’24) is a philosophy and cellular and molecular biology double major in the College of Arts and Science from Murfreesboro, Tennessee. When not shooting for The Hustler, he can usually be found playing Magic the Gathering, exploring new restaurants or practicing guitar. He can be reached at .
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