Vanderbilt guard Jessica Mooney didn’t start in Wednesday’s game against Duke.
But she certainly helped finish it.
With Mooney providing disruptive defense and clutch points down the stretch, the 23rd-ranked Commodores upset No. 11 Duke 68-55 before 6,022 fans at Memorial Gym. It marked one of VU’s most significant wins in recent seasons.
Mooney, a Hillsboro High product, came off the bench to score a career-high 16 points. Twelve came in the second half, when she also grabbed five rebounds and three steals.
“My mindset coming into a game is to do whatever I have to do to give my team an edge,” Mooney said.
The speedy Mooney helped spark a Vanderbilt defense that held Duke (5-2) to only seven points in the final 9:07. That helped the Commodores (6-1) finish the game on an 18-3 run.
Mooney started in the first three games of the season but has since played in a reserve role. Her mission now is to “create havoc” off the bench, VU coach Melanie Balcomb said.
“Defense, defense, defense,” Balcomb said. “Jess has the ability to defend at a very high level and she picked it up. It really made it tough for Duke to score down the stretch.”
The Commodores needed all the defense they could muster on a night when they shot only 38.6 percent from the field.
Midway through the first half, the Blue Devils raced to a 21-14 lead by making 11 of the first 18 shots. Meanwhile, Vanderbilt committed eight early turnovers.
Vanderbilt tied the score at 33 when Lauren Lueders opened the second half with a three-pointer. At the 12:44 mark, Jenn Risper put VU ahead for the first time at 45-44 on a pair of free throws.
The score was tied twice more before the Commodores went ahead for good, and began their clinching 18-3 run, when Mooney’s trey with 6:00 remaining made it 52-52.
In the final 6:00, Mooney scored 10 points, handing mighty Duke its first two-game losing streak since 2000.
Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie cited turnovers and free throws as deciding factors. The Blue Devils had 24 miscues, while Vanderbilt was 22 of 30 from the foul line. Duke was seven of 11.
“Vanderbilt did a good job of going to the basket,” McCallie said. “They attacked more.”
Wednesday’s victory marked Vanderbilt’s fourth in its past five games against opponents ranked No. 11 or higher.
“It’s a great confidence-builder,” Balcomb said. “To beat a team that highly ranked feels really good.”