NASHVILLE — A lull with the lead turned into a landslide for the Western Kentucky women’s basketball team Monday night, as the Lady Toppers fell 85-60 to Vanderbilt at Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville.
WKU (1-1) led by as much as nine in the first half but ultimately couldn’t contain Vanderbilt and senior guard Christina Foggie, who scored a game-high 26 points, including 21 in the first half.
The Lady Tops opened a 28-19 advantage with 5:25 left in the first half on a shot in the lane by senior guard Bianca McGee, but the Commodores (2-0) finished the frame with an 18-3 burst for a 37-31 halftime lead.
Vanderbilt pushed the run to 37-8 with 13:02 to play on a 3-pointer by guard Rebekah Dahlman, and it eventually led by as many as 26 points.
Junior guard Alexis Govan paced WKU with 18 points, while McGee added 15. Junior forward Chastity Gooch picked up her second foul at the 18:12 mark of the first half and was limited to six points and five rebounds.
The loss was the Lady Tops’ eighth straight in the series. They haven’t defeated Vanderbilt since 2004 overall or in Nashville since 1998. WKU returns home to host Murray State at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Here are postgame comments from Govan and WKU coach Michelle Clark-Heard, as well as Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb and Foggie:
MICHELLE CLARK-HEARD, WKU coach
What happened during big run? “We stopped making shots and didn’t make free throws. Took care of the ball at first, but then we started making some careless turnovers. I think that’s what happened. They went on a run. All good teams go on runs.”
Trying to slow their momentum at halftime: “We just tried to go back and look at the people who was hurting us and adjust. I felt like our game plan was great. We came out, but there were some situations where we lost people defensively, and we’ve got to keep getting better. I think we competed, but they started shooting the basketball. They were making shots in the second half, and we struggled.”
Foul trouble: “As players, they’re trying to get adjusted to the whole foul situation – what’s going to be called and what’s not. That’s not an excuse. As a coach and as a team, you have to adjust to any situation. I feel like this was a great learning situation for us today.”
Players trying to avoid foul trouble: “They’re learning. We’re talking every day about that. We’re putting them in a situation where they can continue to keep growing. As a player, it’s tough when there’s a lot of pressure on you, and coach is telling you every day you can’t get in foul trouble.”
“I think the thing that really hurt us tonight was free throws. I think it was a struggle. If we made a couple of front ends of bonuses, who knows what the score and situation would have been. But that wasn’t the only thing.”
ALEXIS GOVAN, WKU junior guard
Vandy’s big run: “I think we got a little scrambled and mixed up on defense. She found open holes and took advantage of the opportunities she had, and in the second half, we tried to cover it up a little more and be more concerned or more aware of where she was.”
Starting strong: “Early on, we had a lot of energy. We came out there ready to fight, and I think we just sort of had a few mix-ups and a few mistakes, and we got down on ourselves. We dug a little hole and tried to come out of it, but it was a little too big.”
What did you all learn tonight? “Definitely not to get down on ourselves. Coach says all the time that great teams make runs. We have to be able to roll with the punches and keep playing.”
MELANIE BALCOMB, Vanderbilt coach
Opening thoughts: “We were on our heels to start the game, and they really came out ready and aggressive, excited to play and very loose, with nothing to lose and everything to gain. I thought we were flat and a little shellshocked at the beginning. The positive is I think we made a good change and started to slow down. They controlled the tempo and made us go fast, but we slowed it down … and we were able to wear them down.”
Second-half play of freshman Rebekah Dahlman: “Bekah knows one speed. Your speed on offense can’t be your same speed on defense … The positive is it’s a good problem. I’d rather have to pull somebody back than have to light a fire under them.”
Foul calls this season: “I get the whole adjustment, and I was one of the one’s for it. What I don’t get is that the rules are supposed to be for the offense, but they keep calling a lot of offensive screening, and players are playing into that. I still don’t get how as a referee you can’t see when a kid runs into a screen and flips back the other way. There’s so much faking, and the faker never gets penalized.”
CHRISTINA FOGGIE, Vanderbilt senior guard
The big run: “It was definitely a change in defensive mentality. We didn’t get in transition at all in the first half, and that’s a big part of our game. Just picking up our energy on the defensive end allowed us to get some points in transition and settle down a little bit.”
Scoring 21 in first half: “They were giving me open shots, and I’m trained to shoot it and knock it down. Just having confidence from the start.”
Improving against WKU: “Tonight was a great test for us to show that we have to come out ready to play, because teams are coming after us. The great thing is that we responded so well and kept the momentum in the second half. But we definitely improved tonight. Playing a good team like Western Kentucky, we learn a lot.”