By David Dawson
BRONX, N.Y. - At some point this season, Marqu'es Webb and Rebekah Dahlman might become part of Vanderbilt's starting lineup. For now, though, the two players are doing just fine coming off the bench.
Webb and Dahlman were the driving forces for the Commodores during their ninth straight win on Tuesday -- a 71-45 victory over New Mexico State in the opening round of the Fordham Holiday Classic.
Webb went 8-of-11 from the floor while scoring a game-high 17 points and Dahlman added 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting for the Commodores (10-2), who will face Fordham in the tournament's championship game on Wednesday. Sasha Weber led New Mexico State (9-3) with 11 points.
Webb and Dahlman spearheaded an outstanding showing by the Vanderbilt reserves, who combined for 47 points in the win.
Morgan Batey came off the bench to score eight points and pull down a team-high 10 rebounds, and Kristen Gaffney, another reserve, set new career highs in two categories, finishing with seven assists and six steals.
"The reason our bench keeps outscoring the other team's bench is because we have some really, really good players who aren't in our starting lineup," head coach Melanie Balcomb said with a laugh in her postgame interview. "Today, the ones that played really well were the same ones who practiced really well this week. So it was no surprise to us."
Vanderbilt was clinging to a 34-32 lead midway through the third quarter before putting together a 13-5 run to grab a 47-37 lead at the end of the period. The fourth quarter was all Vanderbilt, as the advantage continuously swelled during the final 10 minutes.
"We played very unselfishly tonight, especially in the second half," said Balcomb. "And that's when it's really fun to watch -- when the girls are having fun and feeding off each other."
Vanderbilt owned a 29-21 lead at the half -- but based on the stat sheet, the Commodores probably felt like it should have been bigger. VU shot 65 percent from the floor, making 13-of-20 attempts, while the Aggies shot just 30 percent (8-of-26). VU also out-rebounded New Mexico State, 18-9.
The Commodores got off to sluggish start, committing seven early turnovers while falling behind 8-2 at the 5:02 mark of the first quarter. But Vanderbilt dominated the remainder of the half.
The Commodores put together a 19-2 run -- closing the first quarter on a 10-2 surge and then opening the second quarter with nine unanswered points -- to build a 21-10 lead. Webb scored three straight buckets to help fuel the big run.
Dahlman knocked down a pair of 3s on back-to-back possessions late in the second quarter to give VU a 27-15 lead, and the Commodores led 29-21 at the half.