The Vanderbilt women picked up their first win in what feels like months as they took down Kentucky in Nashville on Monday night. The 70-55 victory was as dominant as it sounds and the Commodores looked like they had been defeating teams like this all season, such was the confidence they showed. Next up is a home date with No. 10 South Carolina on Thursday night.
Here are the three keys:
A’ja Wilson’s status is key
At this point, we really don’t know much about the status of South Carolina star A’ja Wilson when it comes to the Commodores’ game against the Gamecocks. What we do know is that the potential future No. 1 overall pick in the WBNA draft is one of the best players in the nation and that her impact on the South Carolina team cannot be overstated.
This became clear last weekend when Wilson missed the Gamecocks clash against Tennessee. The No. 6 Vols had lost their first game of the season earlier in the week, but with No. 9 South Carolina missing their star attraction, the Vols dominated the Gamecocks. It was an ankle injury that sidelines Wilson, but given the 86-70 defeat it will be interesting to see if they try to rush her back into the lineup for the Vanderbilt game.
Either way, the ‘Dores need to attack this aspect of the USC defense. If Wilson is in, then Vanderbilt needs to attack her (potentially) limited mobility. If she is out, then they need to attack the big hole she leaves.
Play with heart
Vanderbilt looked like a different team against Kentucky than they had in the other SEC games this season.
It is understandable why the Commodores’ women would have been playing tentatively given their losing streak, but the team that hadn’t won since December played like every possession of the basketball mattered on Monday night. Perhaps it was because this was a game the players thought they could win – especially with Kentucky star Maci Morris out of the lineup – but the energy and enthusiasm levels were completely different from where Vanderbilt had been so far this season.
If they are to beat a very good South Carolina team then Vanderbilt has to play with the same level of hustle and intensity. They also have to believe they can win against a high-level opponent. It is not easy to coach that level of passion for two games in a row, but a win is there for the taking if Stephanie White can get the players to buy in.
Keep the scoring balanced
One of the issues for Vanderbilt this season has been a reliance on one or two players to carry the scoring load. This changed on Monday as Vanderbilt had four players hit double-digits in the game.
Kayla Overbeck led the Commodores with an encouraging 19 points, Cierra Walker had 15 in what is becoming a customary level of performance, Christa Reed had 12 points, and Autumn Newby added another 11 (to go along with seven rebounds.) This was a game where the progress among some of the ‘Dores players was really obvious and it is clear they are buying into White’s overall message.
If the scoring is coming from different areas then it is going to be much harder for South Carolina to shut the Commodores down.