Highlights | Balcomb Postgame | Batey & Bowe
NASHVILLE -- Throughout the first six weeks of the season, the Vanderbilt women's team has routinely out-rebounded its opponents.
Now, though, the question is: How quickly can the Vanderbilt players rebound in the figurative sense?
The Commodores, who have endured a rash of injuries in recent days, are heading into the Christmas break on a two-game losing skid after suffering a 71-67 loss to Dayton on Sunday at Memorial Gym.
Vanderbilt trailed by as much as nine points early in the second half, but battled back to tie the game at 51-51 on a jumper by Rachel Bell with 7:32 to go. Dayton, however, made a series of big plays down the stretch, including a pivotal three-point play by Austria Kelley with 1:08 remaining that gave the Flyers (7-3) a four-point cushion. Dayton held on from there to hand the Commodores (7-4) their first home loss of the season.
Heather Bowe -- who was one of four players on Vanderbilt's injury-thinned roster to see at least 32 minutes of action in the game -- finished with a team-high 15 points. Dayton's Andrea Hoover, the reigning Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, scored a game-high 20 for the Flyers (7-3).
Kristen Gaffney and Morgan Batey added 13 points apiece, and Rachel Bell had 11 for the Commodores, who were once again without the services of injured post players Marqu'es Webb and Audrey-Ann Caron-Goudreau. The team is also playing without freshman Khaléann Caron-Goudreau, who has yet to see her first action of the season while battling an ankle injury.
The Commodores are hoping they will be closer to full strength before their next game on Dec. 29 against James Madison.
"I'm super excited (about the potential of having) everyone back and getting our chemistry going," said Bowe. "But injuries are a part of the season. We just have to play through those."
Bowe finished with a team-high nine rebounds, and three of her teammates -- Jasmine Jenkins, Bell and Batey -- added six rebounds each as the Commodores easily won the battle on the glass, 40-29.
Vanderbilt has now out-rebounded its opponents in 10 of the first 11 games this season, including posting a double-digit advantage in that category in six games. Last Thursday's road loss to Marquette was the only game in which Vanderbilt has lost the rebounding battle.
Half of Vanderbilt's 40 rebounds on Sunday came on the offensive end.
"The biggest positive (of today's game) to me was the rebounding," said head coach Melanie Balcomb. "To get 20 offensive rebounds -- that's a lot for a Vanderbilt team, and (especially) the teams that I have coached."
Vanderbilt's aggressiveness on the boards allowed the Commodores stay within striking distance most the afternoon and helped to off-set a cold shooting performance. Vanderbilt shot just 35 percent from the floor in the first half and 39 percent for the game.
Vanderbilt opened the game with an 8-0 run, but Dayton reeled off a 20-9 surge that was capped by Ally Malott's 3-pointer to move ahead, 20-17, with 7:33 left in the first half. Dayton put together a 9-2 surge late in the half to build a nine-point advantage, and the Flyers eventually carried a 31-27 lead into the locker room.
The Flyers owned a nine-point lead, 44-35, after a layup by Amber Deane with 12:32 to go, but the Commodores charged back with a 16-7 run over the next five minutes to tie the game at 51-51. Gaffney scored six straight points for Vanderbilt to ignite the surge, and Bell eventually capped it with her game-tying jumper at the 7:32 mark.
But Hoover hit a pair of free throws to put Dayton back in front, and followed that with a contested jumper to push the advantage to 55-51 with 4:41 to go. Vanderbilt trimmed the deficit to one point on two occasions down the stretch, but were unable to ever move back in front.
"I think we were more patient on offense (in the second half), but I think we struggled and lapsed on defense," said Batey.
NOTES: Sunday's game featured the annual Teddy Bear Toss at halftime, and all the stuffed animals from the contest will be donated to Vanderbilt Children's Hospital. ... Vanderbilt beat Dayton, 82-52, last year in Nashville. ... With 10:00 to play in Sunday's game, the teams had combined for just six free throws (Vanderbilt had attempted four; Dayton two).