By Zac Ellis
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Vanderbilt senior Christa Reed had to be blunt following her team’s 71-60 loss to Memphis on Saturday.
“One of the biggest things we need to work on now is focus,” Reed said. “That’s something we can reiterate to each other over and over, and maybe it’ll go down the line and more people will begin to focus more on the things that are most important.”
The Commodores lacked focus in suffering their latest setback. Aiming for its third win in four games, Vanderbilt instead struggled to keep pace with a Memphis team that had won just two games this season.
Vanderbilt head coach Stephanie White said there was little way to sugarcoat the disappointing loss.
“You have an opportunity at the start of a four-game home stand to come in and make a statement,” White said, “and we missed an opportunity.”
White said the Commodores reverted back to old habits against Memphis. Despite holding a 15-9 lead after the first quarter, the Dores gave up 20 offensive rebounds and committed 19 turnovers as the Tigers clawed back into the game. Vanderbilt was without leading rebounder Autumn Newby, who missed the game due to a death in the family.
Those issues have become a theme of the Commodores’ start to 2017-18. Through its 3-8 start, Vanderbilt ranks last among SEC teams in rebounding (34.5 per game) and rebounding margin (-2.7). It also ranks 13th with a -3.18 turnover margin.
The numbers are evident, but White said her staff must also inject life in the Commodores.
“We have to find a way to get our players some confidence,” White said. “Right now, they don’t have confidence, and you can see it in their body language and everything that we do. Preparation breeds confidence, so we’ve got to get back to the drawing board and prepare.”
Vanderbilt has three more chances to find its confidence before SEC play begins at LSU on Dec. 31. It hosts NC State on Tuesday ahead of a noon tilt with Belmont on Thursday and a Dec. 28 home date with Lipscomb. By showing life in the friendly confines of Memorial Gym, the Commodores could reverse course in time for the gauntlet that is the SEC.
On Saturday night, White rattled off a laundry list of priorities for the Dores’ in the coming days: Taking care of the ball, boxing out, understanding rotations, maintaining defensive alignment, setting solid screens. The little things, White said, will ultimately determine Vanderbilt’s trajectory for the rest of the season.
“It doesn’t always come down to whether you put the ball in the hole or not,” White said. “There are so many little details that come into this game that you have to be really good at and take pride in those things. For whatever reason at this point in the year, we’re just not clean in those things. We just have to get better at that.”
Zac Ellis is the Writer and Digital Media Editor for Vanderbilt Athletics.