Vanderbilt falls to No.4 UConn 64-51

Vanderbilt drops its first game of the year in a hard-fought loss to the Huskies at Memorial Gym

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Vanderbilt falls to No.4 UConn 64-51

Autumn Newby and the Commodores face Alabama on February 21, 2019.

Autumn Newby and the Commodores face Alabama on February 21, 2019.

Brandon Jacome-Mendez

Autumn Newby and the Commodores face Alabama on February 21, 2019.

Brandon Jacome-Mendez

Brandon Jacome-Mendez

Autumn Newby and the Commodores face Alabama on February 21, 2019.

Justin Hershey, Staff Writer

In the second half of a home-and-home series with Connecticut (2-0), the Vanderbilt women’s basketball team (2-1) fell to the fourth ranked UConn Huskies 64-51.

Early on, the Commodores had fantastic energy.  The offense was able to establish senior forward Mariella Fasoula right away as she scored the first bucket of the game.  She then followed it up by running the floor and receiving a beautiful bounce pass from guard Chelsie Hall, resulting in a transition layup.  

The Memorial crowd and Commodore bench were extremely energetic, and contributions from sophomore forward Brinae Alexander and sophomore guard Jordyn Cambridge helped keep the game close.

However, UConn sophomore guard Christyn Williams prevented the Commodores from gaining any real lead or momentum.  She scored seven early points including a second chance three-pointer that helped give the Huskies a five-point lead at the end of the first quarter.

Freshman standout forward Koi Love continued her impressive play in the second quarter with two quick buckets, but UConn’s swarming defense was a bit too much for the Commodores in the second quarter.  Head coach Stephanie White’s team turned the ball over 12 times in the first half, including seven times in the second quarter. In addition, the Commodores allowed UConn to grab six first-half offensive rebounds that led to seven second chance points.

After leading by just 10 points to end the first half, the Huskies came out hot early in the second half.  After two quick layups and a three-pointer from UConn forward Megan Walker, Coach White was forced to call a timeout after seeing the deficit climb to 15.

Walker continued to help UConn pull away by scoring nine points in the quarter and leading a 14-2 run for the Huskies.  Much of the run came amid a nearly six-minute scoring drought for the Commodores that featured six turnovers. However, after a 7-0 run led by Vanderbilt’s Koi Love to end the quarter, the Huskies entered the fourth only up by 19 points after being up by as much as 26.

Vanderbilt held steady early in the fourth quarter, eventually cutting the UConn lead to just 16 thanks to yet another 7-0 run.  But the Huskies proved to be just a bit too much for the young Commodores down the stretch. The teams traded baskets, and Megan Walker continued to be a force as she finished with 25 points on the night.

Despite the loss, Coach Stephanie White admired her team’s grit and took several positives from her teams performance.

“We went out and we battled.  We had certain points in the ballgame where they did what UConn does and they capitalized on every mistake we made– I am incredibly proud of the growth of our team,” White said.

Freshman forward Koi Love continued her strong start to the season as she scored a team-high 14 points and was praised afterwards by her coach.

“Koi is a special player,” White said.  “She’s got the broad shoulders to want the big moments. What I love most about Koi Love is that she is so coachable.  She wants to learn.”

Despite scoring two early baskets, star center Mariella Fasoula had a quiet night, totaling only 10 points in the loss.  Clearly, UConn head coach Geno Auriemma’s team schemed for the Preseason All-SEC center as she faced consistent double teams throughout the game.

After the game, the Hall of Famer Auriemma spoke highly of the young Vanderbilt squad, something that should not be taken lightly by Commodore fans.

“They’ve got some good pieces out there,” Auriemma said.  “They are tough to handle in the lane, and have the ability to put some pressure on you on defense.”

The Commodores are back in action on Sunday afternoon when they host the undefeated Saint Louis Billikens in Memorial Gymnasium.

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