Vanderbilt fell behind Missouri by ten at the end of the first quarter and never was able to be back into the game after that. The Commodores did an excellent job on Mizzou leading scorer Sophie Cunningham in holding her to just five points, but they still fell to an 81-70 defeat. Next up is a tilt with Kentucky.
Here are the three keys:
Don’t give Kentucky and confidence
It may sound a little strange given the Commodore women’s ongoing issues, but Kentucky is the one SEC team that has been on a par with Vanderbilt over the last month or so. The Wildcats beat the Gators – another squad that has done little of note thus far this season – last time out, giving them their first win since beating Evansville back on December 9.
After that clash with Purple Aces, Kentucky lost its next eight straight games, while being a mixture of competitive and blown out depending on the day. This is a very winnable game for a Vanderbilt team that might not find too many winnable clashes on their schedule this 2017-18 season. To grab the win the Commodores need to get on top of Kentucky early and make them think the win over Florida was a fluke and not the start of a winning run. Editor's Note: Kentucky recently beat Florida.
Do the little things right
This past week has been hard for the Vanderbilt women. Matchups against ranked teams Tennessee and Missouri looked like mismatches on paper and proved to be that way on the court. It is worth noting, however, that the Commodores were not blown out in either of those games and that they held their own for long stretches against a couple of schools expected to make deep postseason runs.
The problem when playing teams of that caliber are that mistakes are amplified. This won’t be the case against a Kentucky squad that shot a season-low 20.4 percent from the field against Georgia in the game before their win over Florida. It is a game where playing basic basketball will be the key for Vanderbilt, with fundamentally sound defense and offensive efficiency will be enough to give Vandy a shot to win the game late.
If Vanderbilt doesn’t force shots and can play its own game then the team can beat Kentucky.
Feed Cierra Walker
It is no big secret that Vanderbilt has lacked consistent scoring threats this season. That is why the emergence of sophomore guard Cierra Walker has been so refreshing over the past week. Walker scored a season-high 20 points in the loss against No. 7 Tennessee, before putting up 17 points (a team-high) in the 11 point loss against No. 12 Missouri. He 20 point outing was just two points shy of her career high set last year.
It is the three-point shot – along with relentless energy – that has fuelled Walker’s scoring outburst. Against Tennessee she started 5-of-5 from downtown – finishing 6-of-8 – and she then shot 4-of-5 from long range against Missouri. If Vanderbilt can keep finding open shots for Walker within the scope of the team’s offense then there is no reason to think that she will cool down anytime soon.