Vanderbilt women’s basketball wins season opener 88-66

Vanderbilt women's basketball defeated Jacksonville State at home to kick off the 2019-20 season.

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Vanderbilt women’s basketball wins season opener 88-66

Vanderbilt faces Ole Miss on January 24, 2019.

Vanderbilt faces Ole Miss on January 24, 2019.

Jake Brannon

Vanderbilt faces Ole Miss on January 24, 2019.

Jake Brannon

Jake Brannon

Vanderbilt faces Ole Miss on January 24, 2019.

Betsy Goodfriend, Deputy Sports Editor

The Commodores took on the Gamecocks in the season opener on Tuesday, Nov. 5, faring much better than the football team did against a completely different animal this past weekend. While Vanderbilt football fell to the South Carolina Gamecocks 24-7 on Nov. 2, the women’s basketball team beat the Jacksonville State Gamecocks 88-66.

Vanderbilt never trailed in the game, and the team impressed with its sharp shooting and size advantage. The Commodores shot 52 percent from the field and used its forwards’ size to overpower Jacksonville State on the boards.

Vanderbilt found success with both a smaller lineup and a bigger one in the first quarter. 

The starters were junior guard Chelsie Hall, sophomore guard Jordyn Cambridge, sophomore forward Brinae Alexander, junior forward Autumn Newby and senior forward Mariella Fasoula. The starting lineup got the Commodores off to a 14-6 lead and was effective in forcing turnovers by Jacksonville State.

Freshman guard Demi Washington and freshman forward Koi Love were the first two players off the bench about six minutes into the game. With the duo in the game, Vanderbilt played a three-guard small ball lineup that went on an 8-2 run in the first quarter.

A hot start by Vanderbilt fizzled out in the second quarter, and the Commodores went into halftime up by just three points over the Gamecocks.

Jacksonville State went seven-for-12 from the three-point range in the second quarter, and Vanderbilt had no answer for Jacksonville State forward Destiney Elliot, a graduate transfer from Alabama. Elliot made all three of her shots behind the arc in the second quarter.

“We didn’t let that [run] get to us because teams are going to get on runs, but we jut have to adjust and work harder,” Cambridge said.

The Gamecocks outscored Vanderbilt 29-19 in second quarter, but Vanderbilt still went to the locker room with a 44-41 lead.

Vanderbilt came roaring back in the third quarter, allowing Jacksonville State to score just 13 points. 

Vanderbilt was in foul trouble for most of the second half. By the end of the third quarter, all five starters and Love had at least three fouls. Cambridge led the starters with four fouls, and Washington had four fouls off the bench.

Fasoula was the only player to foul out of the game, which she did with under 90 second left in the game.

“We need to be a little bit more disciplined with our hands,” head coach Stephanie White said. “I like how aggressive we are. I’m not concerned enough [about fouls] to pull them back yet. We were never able to play this sort of defense in the first three years that I’ve been here.”

Luckily for Vanderbilt, the Gamecocks shot just 54 percent from the free-throw line in the third quarter and 67 percent overall in the game.

Vanderbilt out-rebounded Jacksonville State 49 -31, led by Newby’s 12 rebounds. Vanderbilt’s size advantage also helped the team score 46 points in the paint.

Don’t forget about Vanderbilt’s speedy guards. The Commodores scored 21 fast-break points.

Vanderbilt shot 42 percent from beyond the arc, after shooting 34 percent from the three-point range last season.

“We want to try to get a lot of early open shots,” White said.

Alexander led the team with 20 points, and Cambridge was right behind her with 18 points. Cambridge led multiple lineups that included four freshmen, and she looked comfortable running a young offense.

“I have a lot of confidence in our freshmen, and I know they have the ability to run our offense and our defense,” Cambridge said. “We actually started going on a bit of a run with that lineup, so it was really good us. It wasn’t really that big of a difference versus having upperclassmen on the court. That’s really good for us because that means we can play with any lineup, and if people get in foul trouble, it doesn’t matter because we’re just going to play through it.”

After the Commodores dealt with depth issues that left them with just six healthy players at times last year, a seven-player freshman class has alleviated those concerns.

Five freshmen made their collegiate debuts on Tuesday night. Koi Love had a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds, the third-most on the team. Demi Washington scored 8 points in 20 minutes on the floor. Forward Kyndall Golden had two of Vanderbilt’s three blocks. Guard Kiara Pearl and forward Kaylon Smith each scored two points.

“I’m just the type of player that whatever they need me to do, I’ll do it,” Love said.

Vanderbilt hosts Radford University this Friday, Nov. 8 at 7 p.m.

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