Back in November, Vanderbilt’s first loss snowballed into three straight.
Two months later, just three days after their first defeat in six weeks, Commodores coach Melanie Balcomb aimed to prevent a similar domino effect.
Less than two minutes into Sunday’s game against Arkansas, Balcomb reminded her players to slow down and settle into the gameplan. They obliged, shook off early nerves and rolled to a 78-58 victory at Memorial Gymnasium.
“Coming off that loss we just wanted to focus on the next game and not let that set us back,” guard Jasmine Lister said. “It was just one loss. We wanted to move on from it and get tougher.”
Vanderbilt (13-4, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) rebounded after a 64-48 road loss to No. 18 South Carolina on Thursday that snapped a nine-game win streak. The Commodores almost matched their point total against the Gamecocks by halftime and had a 43-29 lead on Arkansas after 20 minutes. Four Commodores scored in double figures, with a game-high 19 from Lister.
Vanderbilt came out sluggish and gave up four quick points off two turnovers, which prompted a timeout from Balcomb 1:52 after the tip. The Commodores woke up a few minutes later with two 3-pointers by Lister that sparked a 12-0 run. Christina Foggie’s first 3-pointer capped off the spurt for a 16-8 lead with 13:08 before halftime.
“I didn’t want to have that slump-after-South-Carolina feeling,” Balcomb said. “I knew they were nervous. They were feeling uncertain. You don’t want to come back in your home gym and play the way you just had played. So I tried to calm them down right away.”
With timely offensive boards, Arkansas stuck around for a little while and pulled within five with 5:48 left before halftime. But Vanderbilt responded once again, this time with consecutive 3-point plays from Tiffany Clarke and Elan Brown. It was the start of a 14-2 run that buried the Razorbacks going into halftime.
Foggie scored 17 points, bouncing back from a nine-point, 4-of-15 shooting performance against South Carolina. Clarke scored 10 of her 15 points after halftime and Brown just missed her third career double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds. Quistelle Williams led Arkansas (13-4, 1-3) with 16 points.
The only drama in the second half came in the final minutes. Up 74-58 with more than two minutes remaining, chants of “We want tacos!” began. With 75 points, the Commodores would guarantee the very kid-friendly Memorial Gymnasium crowd — taking advantage of the annual $1 ticket, Jam the Gym promotion — a free taco from Taco Bell.
A Clair Watkins layup with 42 seconds left received perhaps the loudest roar of the season.
“It was good to see such a great crowd and see them still into the game at that point, with a 20-point lead,” Balcomb said. “So if we have to throw a bone, throw some tacos, whatever, then let’s keep doing that.”