Box Score | Quotes | Jarrett's Photos | Highlights | Balcomb | Bell and Batey
By David Dawson
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Vanderbilt women's basketball team is hoping for -- or actually, counting on -- big contributions from their talented cast of freshmen this season.
During Saturday's exhibition game, the newcomers delivered.
The freshman foursome of Rachel Bell, Paris Kea, Christa Reed and Audrey-Ann Caron-Goudreau combined for 43 points, 16 rebounds, 12 assists and nine steals while helping the Commodores roll to a 93-31 victory over Coker College in front of 3,585 fans at Memorial Gym.
Bell finished with a game-high 19 points and three assists, and Reed added 14 points while going 6-of-8 from the floor. Caron-Goudreau finished with a game-high 10 rebounds, and Kea produced a team-high six assists.
The balanced performance was just what head coach Melanie Balcomb was expecting to see from the Commodore rookies.
"I think there's a little bit of everything (among the freshmen)," said Balcomb, "and that's what I love about the class."
The Commodores -- who open the regular-season next Friday at home against Belmont -- dominated the game from start to finish. Vanderbilt built a 21-4 lead in the first 11 minutes, stretched the margin to 42-13 at the half and then opened the second half with a 30-4 surge to push the lead to 72-17. Vanderbilt shot 61 percent from the floor (21-of-34) in the second half, and shot 52.9 percent for the game.
Bell, a former standout from nearby Creek Wood High, was in the starting lineup and played a team-high 30 minutes. Caron-Goudreau, a 6-foot-3 post player from Canada, finished with two blocked shots and three steals while logging 27 minutes.
Several of Vanderbilt's non-newcomers put up solid numbers, too.
Rebekah Dahlman, who missed most of last season with a blood clot in her shoulder, returned to action in strong style, finishing with 11 points and three rebounds. Morgan Batey added 12 points and six rebounds.
Batey said the first-year Commodores provided a big spark during the route.
"It's very refreshing," Batey said. "All of them came out aggressive, and just bringing energy on both ends of the floor."
Batey, a junior, said that the enthusiasm of the freshman was contagious, and helped boost the Vanderbilt veterans.
"This was my third (preseason) exhibition ... but having new faces and a new young energy out there really ignites us older people. Younger people usually bring a lot more energy and a fresh mindset, and I think that's what they did."
Bell, who finished 8-of-17 from the floor, said the Commodores have an ample supply of offensive weapons, and that Saturday just happened to be her turn to lead the way in the scoring column.
"I think different games, it will be different things," she said. "I guess just whoever is on fire, whoever is hot, our teammates will get us the ball and that will be who our scorer is for the day."
Aside from the strong play of the true freshmen, the other big storyline of the afternoon was the successful return for Dahlman, the redshirt freshman from Minnesota.
Dahlman, who scored more than 5,000 points in high school, was sidelined last December by the blood clot and missed the remainder of the season. She was leading the SEC in 3-point percentage at the time of her injury.
"What happened last year was tough for all of us, especially her," said Balcomb, "and you see she's the happiest kid in the game, she's the happiest kid on the bench. She just can't wait to get out there. I thought about it in warmups when she got to go out on the floor and she was just beaming."
All 11 Commodores who saw action in the game reached the scoring column. Marqu'es Webb finished with eight points, and Kristen Gaffney, who hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the first half, finished with seven. Jasmine Jenkins also had seven, Kendall Shaw had four and Rayte'a Long had one.