By David Dawson
ELON, N.C. -- The Vanderbilt women were missing a couple of key players on Sunday, but the bigger story was the player who returned for the Commodores.
Junior post player Heather Bowe, seeing her first action of the season, scored a team-high 15 points and pulled down four rebounds to help the Commodores register a 66-50 road victory over Elon.
Bowe, who became eligible this week after completing a suspension for violating academic policy, finished 6-of-10 from the floor, and also added one steal, one assist and one blocked shot for the Commodores (7-2).
"I was very grateful for the chance to be back out there again," said Bowe. "The past few months have been tough. But I had such great support around me -- from my family, the coaches, my teammates and the fans -- and today, I just wanted to go out there and kind of pay back all the support I got."
Morgan Batey had a huge game for Vanderbilt, finishing with 14 points and a career-high 16 rebounds. Zora Stephenson paced Elon (4-3) with 14 points.
The big performance by Bowe helped fill a large void for the Commodores, who were without the services of freshman Audrey-Ann Caron-Goudreau and Marqu'es Webb during the win. Caron-Goudreau suffered a concussion this week in practice, and Webb is nursing a nagging knee injury.
"We can't control the injuries," said Vanderbilt head coach Melanie Balcomb. "That's just a part of basketball. You have to be able to overcome that."
Vanderbilt became the first SEC team to ever visit Alumni Gym for a game against the Phoenix -- and Batey played a big role in making sure the Commodores made a good first impression. Seven of her rebounds came on the offensive end as she helped Vanderbilt dominate the battle on the glass, 52-29.
"Morgan is our glue," said Balcomb. "She plays every position for us, and she has really bought into to doing anything we ask her to do."
Vanderbilt's Rebekah Dahlman had 13 points and seven rebounds, and Kristen Gaffney continued her strong play with 10 points and four rebounds.
The contest ended an 11-day break between games for the Commodores, who hadn't played since a 63-37 win over Mississippi Valley State on Dec. 3. The long layoff encompassed final exams on the Vanderbilt campus.
Vanderbilt got an early emotional boost Sunday when Bowe was inserted into the game less than three minutes into the first half. She immediately helped spark a 12-0 run for the Commodores.
"I was concerned Heather might try to start too fast, and maybe the first two minutes, she did," said Balcomb. "But once she got in the flow of the game, she played really well. It was great having her back."
Vanderbilt was in control of the contest essentially from start to finish. The Commodores opened the game with a 14-2 spurt, owned a 38-18 lead at the half, and extended the lead to as many as 31 points in the second half. Elon, however, closed the game on a 17-2 run.
"That's what we will be discussing in the locker room," said Balcomb. "You can't relax. You have to finish the game. And we didn't do a very good job of that."
The stat sheet favored Vanderbilt in virtually every department. Vanderbilt outscored Elon, 22-2, on second-chance points, and the Commodores' bench outscored Elon's reserves, 27-13.
The Commodores' defense didn't allow the Phoenix many shots in the paint, and Elon hoisted 28 shots from 3-point range (finishing 7-of-28). Vanderbilt visits Marquette on Thursday.
NOTE: Vanderbilt freshman Paris Kea, a former star at Page High in Greensboro, finished with two assists while playing in front of large collection of friends and family.