Three takeaways from Vanderbilt’s loss to UConn

There might not be any moral victories in sports, but if there were, this would be it

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Three takeaways from Vanderbilt’s loss to UConn

Lealea Carter (30) sizes up her defender in Vanderbilt's 64-51 loss to UConn Wednesday night.

Lealea Carter (30) sizes up her defender in Vanderbilt's 64-51 loss to UConn Wednesday night.

Emery

Lealea Carter (30) sizes up her defender in Vanderbilt's 64-51 loss to UConn Wednesday night.

Emery

Emery

Lealea Carter (30) sizes up her defender in Vanderbilt's 64-51 loss to UConn Wednesday night.

Betsy Goodfriend, Deputy Sports Editor

There wasn’t a Vegas spread set on Vanderbilt’s game against UConn, but if there was, the Commodores surely would have beaten it. Vanderbilt lost to the No. 4 team in the country by just 13 points, which is a sign that this team is better than anyone expected.

Here are my three takeaways after the third game of the season:

Four-Quarter Energy

In my going-on-three years of regularly covering this team, I have never seen them play with as much energy and fiery passion as they did on Wednesday night. From tip off to the end of the game, the Commodores were going after every loose ball, fighting for rebounds and pushing the pace on offense. Whenever a Vanderbilt player made a basket, the entire Commodore bench jumped up and cheered for their teammate.

Head coach Stephanie White pushed her team to never let a scoring opportunity go to waste. Throughout the game, she encouraged the team to quicken its pace on offense to try to catch the Huskies off guard, and when the Commodores missed a shot, she was on the sideline telling them to sprint back to play defense.

The energy this team plays with will help it pull off a shocking upset one day. Unfortunately, Wednesday was not that day. UConn women’s basketball is a dynasty coached by one of the sport’s greatest coaches, and no amount of energy and passion was going to topple the Huskies. But, if the Commodores can keep up the energy and pace the rest of the year, this team will surprise the folks in the SEC who picked the Commodores to finish dead last in the league.

The Koi Love Fan Club

Love came off the bench, but she led the team with 14 points in just her third collegiate game. She added two assists and four rebounds in an impressive performance.

Love certainly has the talent to start and the production to show for it as well. In the post-game press conference, White said she was open to starting Love, but that she also liked how she provides a spark off the bench.

“Koi is a special player,” White said. “She’s got the broad shoulders to be able to want the big moments.”

And boy, did she play well in the biggest game of her young career. She had one of the plays of the game late in the third quarter, picking up a loose ball and scoring in transition.

“What I love most about Koi Love is that she is so coachable. She wants to learn and wants to get better,” White said.

With that kind of work ethic and her natural talent on the court, the sky’s the limit for Love, so hop on the bandwagon now.

Need for Threes

Vanderbilt went just one-of-10 from beyond the arc on Wednesday night. The Commodores averaged 35.3 percent shooting from three-point range in their first two games, but against one of the country’s best defenses, their shots were not falling.

“They don’t make enough threes to complement their inside game,” UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said of Vanderbilt. “If they find that, then, I think they’re a difficult team to play against.”

Auriemma is on the money with his take on Vanderbilt’s offense. Vanderbilt starts three forwards, and the tall, physical lineup is tough for opponents to match up against. But, the Commodores need to make more of their three-point shots in order to spread out the defense. If Vanderbilt continues to only have a strong inside game without an outside threat, opponents can pack the lane and prevent the guards from getting the ball to their forwards. As Vanderbilt’s young guards get more comfortable in White’s offense, the three-pointers may come; however, without a legitimate threat beyond the arc, opponents will have a much easier time defending the Commodores.

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