Feb. 23, 2014
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Traditionally, the Vanderbilt women's basketball team has dominated the two SEC teams from the state of Alabama.
This season, the routine has been altered.
Just 10 days after being upset by Auburn on their home floor, the Commodores suffered another stinging loss Sunday, when Alabama posted its first-ever win in Nashville with a 66-62 victory.
Vanderbilt came into the day having won 12 straight against Alabama and 17 of the past 18 matchups between the teams. But this time, the Tide came up with the big plays.
Alabama's Daisha Simmons, who finished a game-high 21 points, scored the game-clinching basket with 14 seconds left, giving the Tide (13-14, 6-8) a four-point lead and essentially sealing another last-minute loss for Vanderbilt (18-9, 7-7).
It was the sixth defeat in the past eight games for the Commodores -- and five of those losses have been decided in the final 60 seconds.
Now, with two games remaining in the regular season, the Vanderbilt players know they need to finish strong.
"We really don't want to end the season on a down note," said senior Christina Foggie, who finished with a game-high 22 points. "We have two choices and we want to choose to fight back and end the season in the (most) positive way we can. It's just about bouncing back from this loss."
Vanderbilt had history on its side Sunday, with the Commodores owning a 17-0 record against Alabama in Nashville. But the success of the past hasn't been a propelling factor in recent days for the Commodores, who saw their 21-game winning streak against Auburn come to end last week.
Head coach Melanie Balcomb said her team is relying too heavily on its seniors to carry the offensive load after watching her team lose to Alabama for the first time since the 2003-2004 season.
"Offensively, we were living and dying off of Christina Foggie's 3's instead of executing our offense," said Balcomb, who is now 13-2 against the Tide in her career at Vanderbilt. "There were too many outside shots that we expected to go in."
Foggie, the SEC's leading scorer, finished 7-of-19 from the floor, including 3-of-12 from 3-point range. Jasmine Lister had seven points and eight assists.
Freshman Kylee Smith had one of her best games of the season, finishing with nine points and nine rebounds while helping fuel a Vanderbilt comeback bid in the second half.
"Kylee Smith -- she did everything we asked," said Balcomb. "She was fearless and relentless, didn't hang her head at mistakes, and was aggressive. I think Heather (Bowe) did a good job. ... They were both bright spots."
Trailing 59-50 with 5:56 to play, the Commodores roared back with a 10-3 run -- which featured two baskets by Foggie and one each by Smith and Bowe -- to pull within 62-60 on Foggie's layup with 1:14 to go.
Alabama's Ashley Williams, who scored 18 points, then pushed the Tide's lead back to four points with a basket in the paint with 50 seconds remaining before Vanderbilt cut the lead back to two on Bowe's layup with 44 seconds left.
Alabama, however, had one last answer, as Simmons scored in the lane with 14 seconds left to essentially secure the win.
"Defensive awareness was one of our keys to the game, and I don't think we as a whole team we were determined to get a stop," said Lister. "I think just being more consistent on defense was something we really needed to do."
The first half was ugly for the Commodores, who trailed 29-23 after shooting just 30 percent (8-of-26) from the floor. Vanderbilt was especially cold from long range, making only 2-of-11 attempts (18 percent).
Still, the Commodores essentially traded baskets with the Tide throughout the opening half, which featured five ties and five lead changes.
Vanderbilt made its first six field goal attempts of the second half, and shot 53 percent from the floor in the final 20 minutes. But the improved offensive numbers weren't enough for the Commodores, who allowed Alabama to shoot 51 percent from the floor in the second half.
Vanderbilt will host Auburn on Thursday night on Senior Night at Memorial Gym. The Vanderbilt program will salute seniors Foggie and Lister, two of most decorated players in team history.