By David Dawson
NASHVILLE - The Vanderbilt women needed a late rally on Wednesday night – not in order to win the game, but to feel better about their performance.
Rebekah Dahlman made sure the Commodores got the finish they wanted.
Scoring seven points in 58 seconds, Dahlman ignited a late-game run that capped off Vanderbilt's 63-37 victory over winless Mississippi Valley State.
Morgan Batey recorded her third career double-double, and second of the season, with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Rachel Bell added 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting for Vanderbilt (6-2), and Kristen Gaffney finished with 10 rebounds.
Although the Commodores were in charge throughout the contest, they struggled to find a rhythm on the offensive end against the Devilettes (0-6).
That is, until the final six minutes.
With the Commodores owning a solid -- but somewhat underwhelming -- 14-point lead, Dahlman got loose for a layup at the 5:53 mark, and then buried a 3-pointer just 15 seconds later. She then capped her personal 7-0 run with another layup to give Vanderbilt a 55-34 lead with 4:55 to go.
The surge by Dahlman, who finished with nine points, sparked a 15-3 game-ending run for the Commodores.
"The last ten minutes, we really wore them down," said head coach Melanie Balcomb. "That’s when we started beating them down the floor."
The victory came in Vanderbilt's final game before final exams. The Commodores don't play again until Dec. 14, when they visit Elon.
The Commodores used their decisive height advantage to dominate the low post in Wednesday's win, outscoring the Devilettes 34-8 in the paint and winning the rebounding battle, 40-26.
The victory was a nice pick-me-up for Vanderbilt after the Commodores endured a tough trip to Florida, where they lost their final two games of the Gulf Coast Showcase. Vanderbilt opened the tournament with a win over Minnesota, but then suffered a lopsided loss to No. 3 UConn in the semifinals, followed by a tough defeat to Arizona State in the third-place game.
“I think we were just trying to get back into a flow (tonight)," said Batey, who also generated her own 7-0 scoring run early in the second half. "After losing two straight in Naples, we just wanted to come out aggressive, and just play together. Those are some of the things we struggled with down there (Naples)."
Vanderbilt played the game without sophomore star Marqu'es Webb, who was sidelined by knee injury. But Gaffney and Batey stepped up in her absence, by combining for 20 of Vanderbilt's 40 rebounds.
Batey also had her shooting touch, going 7-of-11 from the floor.
“I just came out and tried to fuel my tank defensively -- getting rebounds and getting out," said Batey. "As a team we weren’t able to get much, but when we all collectively started rebounding and getting some steals we were able to get out on offense. We were able to get some transition going, and that’s hard to guard when we are all getting out there running. That’s just what we are trying to do."
Vanderbilt took the lead for good less than four minutes into the game, but the Commodores couldn't pull away from the Devilettes in the first half, and carried a shaky 29-20 lead into the locker room. Vanderbilt then opened the second half with 7-0 run to extend the lead to 16 points with 15:39 to go -- and the advantage hovered around that margin for the next eight minutes before Vanderbilt put together the late push that was fueled by Dahlman.
“In the first half they shut me down, but I have teammates in Morgan (Batey) and a lot of other people stepped up," said Dahlman. "That’s one thing about this team it’s not just about one person. On any night any person could step up.”