NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Enthusiasts of the game of basketball enjoy seeing teamwork on the court and ball security in the game. The women's basketball team has achieved and excelled in both these areas through their first seven games.
In particular, two players stand out - guards Jence Rhoads, sophomore, and Jennifer Risper, senior. Both, returning starters from last year's squad, have contributed to Vanderbilt's success in forcing turnovers, while protecting the basketball and dishing assists.
The Commodores have committed 78 fewer turnovers than their opponents (105 to 183), picked more pockets - 86 steals for VU compared to the oppositions' 40 - and compiled drastically more assists (125 to 69).
Rhoads and Risper comprise the driving force behind these statistics for Vanderbilt. The sophomore guard owns an impressive 34-8 assists-to-turnovers ratio with 11 steals, while the senior guard has stripped the ball from 23 opponents and amassed 21 assists with nine turnovers.
Rhoads has set up another player in 6-of-7 games this season, while committing no turnovers in 4-of-7 contests. The second-year starter from Slippery Rock, Pa., totaled a 9-2 assist/turnover margin in VU's Thanksgiving Tournament last Friday and Saturday.
Risper, who's averaging 3.3 steals per game, has snagged at least two steals in five games. The Moreno Valley, Calif., native reached a career high with seven steals against Michigan on Nov. 23, and managed four swipes in the Thanksgiving tourney.
As a team, the Commodores have assisted each other at least 15 times in six contests, with 36 combined against Davidson and Virginia Tech last weekend. Coach Melanie Balcomb's team has also totaled at least eight steals in every game, with 24 in the VU tournament.
In addition to their dominance in assists and steals, the `Dores have seen their opponents turn the ball over a minimum of 21 times in each of the first seven matchups, with 54 total in the Thanksgiving games, including a season-high 33 from an opponent against Davidson.
"I think that we know that we're a smaller, quicker team this year, and for us to be successful we need to create the tempo that we want," Christina Wirth, senior guard/forward, noted about the amount of Davidson turnovers. "One way that we do that is creating offense out of our defense, so I think that that number shows that we did our job."
The `Dores (6-1) will look to continue this strategy when they return to the hardwood against Radford (0-5) tonight at 7 p.m. in Memorial Gym.