Tiffany Clarke celebrated her entrance into Vanderbilt's 1000-point club with a spectacular stat line in the box score: 22 points on shooting 7-for-10 from the field and 8-for-10 from the free throw line, 12 rebounds, four blocked shots, and two assists with only one turnover.
But the statistic that she liked the best was the 0 in the personal fouls column. "Zero fouls is always the best stat," she said.
Over the course of the season, Clarke's playing time has been limited by fouls trouble, and Head Coach Melanie Balcomb has been looking for improvement in that aspect of Clarke's game.
"The biggest stat, as Charlie [Mattos] would say, is her no fouls. I knew if things were going well, it would be because Elan [Brown] and Tiff had made an adjustment and didn’t get in foul trouble, which they had been the last couple of games," she said after the game.
The Hawks, who have been a frequent NCAA team under former UConn star Jen Rizzotti, came to Memorial Gym with a 6-1 record. The Hawks took an early lead, but midway through the first half, Vanderbilt took over the lead for good.
Six straight points from Brown gave Vanderbilt a seven-point lead at 15-8 and from there, the Dores continued to pull slowly away leading by 11 points at halftime, 30-19.
A layup by Ruthanne Doherty on the opening play of the second half cut the Vanderbilt lead to nine points at 30-21, but Kady Schrann answered with a 3-pointer to restore Vanderbilt's double-digit lead.
After that, Hartford came no closer, and Vanderbilt continued to pull away. With a couple of minutes left in the game, a basket by Rayte'a Long gave the Dores a 24-point lead, their biggest lead of the game. A layup by Cherelle Moore ended the scoring for the game at 67-45.
Coach Balcomb was clearly pleased with her team's defensive performance in the game. "[The Hawks] are very smart; Jen Rizzotti was a great basketball player, so she’s a great coach," she said. "She was a very smart point guard at Connecticut and she has these kids reading things, not just running good things, but reading things.
"So they read and made adjustments and then we made counter-adjustments by switching and talking and communicating," she continued. "We hadn’t done that all year defensively, and I was really proud of what we did, not just our effort, the effort was there all night as well, but I felt we made smart plays on defense."
Next for Dores is a 10-day break for final exams before they return to the road with a trip to Oklahoma to play the #13-ranked Sooners.
Coach Balcomb welcomes the 10-day break. "I’m coach that likes kids to individually develop, and I like the team to develop," she said. "I feel like this will give us some time to do that as well as some time off. We have quite a few nit-picking injuries right now that in 12 days could be a lot better if we’re smart."
The game is the second half of a home-home series for the two teams. Last year, Vanderbilt won the game in Memorial Gym 78-66, led by 24 points from Jasmine Lister and 21 points from Christina Foggie. Aaryn Ellenberg, currently Oklahoma's leading scorer, led the Sooners with 22 points.
Tip-off for the game in Norman is set for 2 p.m. Central Time on Sunday December 16.
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Starting lineup for the game: Jasmine Lister, Christina Foggie, Kady Schrann, Elan Brown and Tiffany Clarke. According to Coach Balcomb, Foggie is still bothered by the injury to her foot that kept her out of a couple of games.
Freshman guard Morgan Batey caused some anxious moments in the first half when she slipped and fell. She left the court in obvious pain, but returned to action later on in the game.
"[Elan] got aggressive off the dribble," said Coach Balcomb. "Elan has played guard and post here for us, and like I told her after the game, she brought her guard skills to the post, which is what she needs to do -- not play like a post when she’s on the perimeter.
"When she has a post guarding her, now use her guard skills and take people off the dribble, shoot the jump shot, not hesitating out there and be a great high-low passer, and that’s exactly what she’s doing."
Gabby Smith, Jasmine Jenkins, and Coach Balcomb
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Photos copyright 2012 by Whitney D. for VandyMania.com