Vanderbilt women look for production — any production — from reserves

Wednesday, January 25, 2012 at 11:41pm

Melanie Balcomb wants to see more numbers.

Lately, when the Vanderbilt women’s basketball coach receives a box score after a game, she stares at a lot of zeros. Not from her starters — but from her bench.

Balcomb says that must change in order to snap a three-game losing streak with No. 17 Georgia coming to Memorial Gymnasium on Thursday (8 p.m., CSS).

“I’m talking about some stats — anything,” Balcomb said. “I’m talking about rebounding, scoring, assists. They just need to give us some production, some numbers, getting to the free-throw line, all those things. There is just not a lot of numbers going on there from the bench. They have to be a lot more aggressive.”

In the Commodores’ 65-60 overtime loss to South Carolina on Sunday, the bench accounted for just two points and four rebounds while committing six fouls and four turnovers.

Vanderbilt (14-5, 2-4 SEC) was adjusting to Tiffany Clarke starting for just the fourth time this season. The junior forward had been the Commodores sparkplug off the bench, averaging 10.6 points and a team-high 7.1 rebounds.

With Clarke in the starting lineup, the starters account for nearly 80 percent of Vanderbilt’s 73.7 points a game.

The 6-foot Clarke could receive more starts as Balcomb veers away from a four-guard starting lineup in favor of two post players (6-foot-4 Stephanie Holzer has started 17 games). If that’s the case, players like senior Jordan Coleman (2.6 ppg) and juniors Elan Brown (5.6 ppg) and Gabby Smith (2.3 ppg) will be relied on to spell the starters and provide a boost.

“The bench play a lot of times is the difference in the game,” Coleman said. “We have to be ready when [Balcomb] calls our name.”

It has been seven seasons since the Commodores lost four in a row, and they would like to keep it that way. They have won seven of the last eight against Georgia (16-4, 5-2) and haven’t lost to the Bulldogs in Nashville since 2006.

“I think we have always had the makeup. I think it is more the mentality,” Coleman said of the current losing streak. “I think mentally we haven’t been there the past few games. I think we got a tad bit complacent there. But we have the perfect opportunity to play against a ranked team and prove we are a good team.”