Melanie Balcomb got a lot of mileage out of the longest road trip – in terms of distance – Vanderbilt’s women’s basketball team took during the 2008-09 season, a two-game journey to the west coast. The second of those contests, a loss at California-Riverside, provided seemingly endless talking points in the months that followed.
“We used it as a motivational tool all year,” Balcomb said. “It always came back to the Riverside game. … They were really upset about how they played in that one.”
The current version of the Commodores finally quieted the memories of that disappointment Friday with a 75-60 victory over Riverside before 3,935 at Memorial Gymnasium.
It wasn’t perfect, but it was enough that they ought to be able to forget last season’s 50-47 loss.
“In spurts we had the tempo the way we wanted (on Friday) but not enough,” Balcomb said. “We played a half-court game with them last year and we didn’t want to do that again this time.”
Jence Rhoads had a game-high 14 points along with seven assists and five rebounds, and Jordan Coleman had a career-high eight rebounds for No. 22 Vanderbilt, which improved to 3-0.
Rhoads made seven of 10 field goals (70 percent) while the rest of the team was a combined 21-for-50 (42 percent). She also had a career-high three blocked shots.
“Right now, (Rhoads) is playing great position defense and she’s making good decisions on offense,” Balcomb said. “… We’re going as she’s going, and right now she’s going very well.”
The Commodores led by just one, 14-13, when Rhoads started an 18-2 run with a layup. She had six points and three assists in that stretch, and the Commodores’ lead never dropped below 12 the rest of the way.
“If things aren’t going our way, I feel like I have to step up and score more,” Rhoads said.
Riverside (1-3) finished with an 11-3 run against the Commodores’ reserves, but committed more turnovers (28) than it had field goals (21). Rhaya Neabors and Marissa Rivera each had a team-high 13 points for the Highlanders
“We are so happy to put that (2008-09) game behind us,” Rhoads said. “That was a dark spot on our season last year.”