By Zac Ellis
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Cierra Walker has a battery like the Energizer Bunny.
It never seems to run out.
“You can’t ever tell if she’s tired or not,” said Vanderbilt head coach Stephanie White.
Walker, a sophomore guard for the Commodores, has been a major spark for Vanderbilt during its last two games. The second-year Dore scored a team-high 17 points on 6-11 shooting in Thursday’s 81-70 loss to No. 12/13 Missouri. Last Sunday, Walker notched a season-high 20 points – two shy of her career-high – in an 86-73 setback at No. 7 Tennessee.
Walker’s hot streak has been a bright spot for a Vanderbilt team searching for consistency SEC play.
“The thing about Cierra is she’s not only shooting really well, but she just gives us a different pace,” White said. “She has poise and composure.”
Teaming with electric freshman guard Chelsie Hall -- who scored in double-figures on Thursday for the sixth straight game -- Walker has caught fire from 3-point land. She started 5-5 from downtown in the loss to Tennessee and finished 6-8 from long range. Walker then went 4-5 on 3-pointers in the loss to Missouri.
The Commodores have made it a point to seek out Walker’s hot hand in recent games.
“It’s my teammates being aggressive to the basket, especially Chelsie being crafty and quick, which draws my defender in,” Walker said. “It’s been my teammates who have done a really good job of driving and kicking.”
Walker showed flashes of her talent as a true freshman last season. She played in 22 games in 2016-17, earning 12 starts before stress fractures sidelined her for the bulk of the season’s second half. Walker scored in double-figures six times, including a career-high 21 against SIUE on Dec. 3.
This season, Walker has found the same groove in SEC play. But the sophomore’s decision-making has complemented her shooting: she has committed just three turnovers against nine assists in Vanderbilt’s last two games. White said Walker has also displayed remarkable growth on defense.
“She just doesn’t make a lot of mistakes,” White said. “When she is confident in her defensive execution, which she has been the past couple of games, it really permeates.”
Vanderbilt hopes Walker’s emergence lights a fire within its roster. The Commodores have begun SEC play 0-4, but they’ve displayed a different fight in their last two games. They stood toe-to-toe with No. 7 Tennessee for 35 minutes before a 10-0 Lady Vols’ run cemented a loss in the final five minutes. Against Missouri, Vanderbilt trailed by as many as 28 points but refused to fold, ending the game on a 12-2 run to slice the final margin to 11.
Walker said that determination represents the true Vanderbilt. Now it’s only a matter of time before the Commodores turn the corner in the SEC.
“I think that we’ve shown that we’re capable of doing that each and every day,” Walker said. “On any given day, we can do it. When we played Tennessee, that was a really good game for us.
“I just think we’re just so close. It’s coming. It’s going to happen soon.”
Zac Ellis is the Writer and Digital Media Editor for Vanderbilt Athletics.