Going into the game, Head Coach Melanie Balcomb knew that the Dayton Flyers would pose a stiff challenge for the Dores on their first road trip outside the Nashville city limits.
In their first game of the season, the Flyers had defeated then ranked #25 DePaul on DePaul's home court 92-80. Coming into the Vanderbilt game, the Dayton roster included nine players who had connected on at least one 3-pointer this season and who had shot a cumulative 86% at the free throw line. Defending those three pointers would be a major concern.
Tiffany Clarke, who led all scorers with 23 points, helped Vanderbilt get off to a good start, scoring the first basket of the game. In the first four minutes of the game she scored five points, and at the first media timeout, Vanderbilt led 9-7.
But soon after, a basket by Jodie Cornelie gave Dayton the lead at 12-11, and the Flyers held the upper hand for the rest of the half. At times Dayton threatened to pull away, leading by as much as eight points. At other times Vanderbilt threatened to reclaim the lead, but the stalemate continued, and at halftime, the Flyers held a 33-30 lead.
In the first few minutes of the second half, a couple of baskets by Clarke and a 3-pointer by Elan Brown put the Dores back on top at 41-37.
But a couple of turnovers on consecutive possessions by the Dores led to points on the other end of the court, and that slim 4-point lead evaporated as Dayton tied the game. Then a missed Vanderbilt 3-point led to defensive rebound and a 3-pointer in transition for Dayton, giving the Flyers the lead.
After that, Vanderbilt never managed to regain the upper hand, although the Dores stayed within striking distance. A pair of free throws by Christina Foggie brought the Dores within two points at 52-50 with 8:17 left, but Vanderbilt couldn't close the gap. A 10-2 run over the next four minutes by the Flyers gave the home team at 10-point lead at 62-52 when four minutes left in the game.
But just when it began to look like the game was irretrievably out of reach for Vanderbilt, the Dores chipped away until a 3-pointer by Foggie with 20 seconds left in the game cut the Dayton lead to three points at 69-66. Vanderbilt quickly fouled to regain possession, but Kelley Austria hit both of the resulting free throws to end the scoring for the game at 71-66.
Several statistics stand out as keys to Vanderbilt's loss. On the boards, the Flyers out-rebounded the Dores 48-40, and Vanderbilt shot only 20% from 3-point range for the game. In addition, 17 Vanderbilt turnovers led to 20 points for the Flyers. On the positive side, Vanderbilt held Dayton to just five 3-pointers on 24 attempts.
"The problem is we adjusted and we were defending, but we didn’t rebound out of it," Coach Balcomb said after the game.
"The tough thing is, these are the things we’ve been working on, same thing with offense," she said. "You can’t have 17 turnovers against a team that doesn’t take anything away from you. You can’t have moving screens and travels in the post. At key times, I don’t care how you shoot the ball, you’re not even getting shots at key times, and that’s deflating too to all your hard work on defense."
Still, the game wasn't without some positives. "I think had more energy at Lipscomb. It’s our second game on the road, and I think defensively we played for longer periods of time," said Coach Balcomb. "We played in spurts at Lipscomb, but I think we buckled down longer periods of time tonight."
"It’s great that we didn’t quit and that we had fight [in the last couple of minutes of the game], but that’s when we looked like all of a sudden we were attacking and playing free," Coach Balcomb said. "You have to play like that all game, so I can tell that we’re still not loose enough on offense, especially on the road so far."
Next, Vanderbilt leaves for San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Tuesday for the 2012 San Juan Shootout. On Friday, the Dores will face Virginia at 4 p.m., followed by a game against Florida State on Saturday also at 4 p.m. The games will not be televised, but the games will be carried on the radio on WNSR 560 AM.