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November 9, 2013

Women roll past ASU in opener

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - On a day the Commodores honored Head Coach Melanie Balcomb before the game for becoming the school's all-time wins leader, it was only fitting that Vanderbilt would put together a textbook offensive game - something Commodore fans have become accustomed to under the 12th-year head coach.

With five players scoring in double figures, led by freshman Rebekah Dahlman's 23, Vanderbilt (1-0) routed Appalachian State (0-1) 96-53 Friday at Memorial Gymnasium as the Commodores opened the 2013-14 season in resounding fashion. Vanderbilt led by 25 points in the first half and did not let off the gas in the second half, leading by as many as 48 points and rolling to its 28th straight win in a home opener. The Commodores have now won eight straight season openers.

Balcomb became Vanderbilt's wins leader in last year's home finale against Auburn. The Commodores went on to finish 2012-13 with a 21-12 record after advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Like any new season, there were questions after losing two starters off last year's squad.

Although it was just one game, the answers to some of those questions seemed to become more apparent through the efforts of a balanced scoring attack that was not reliant on preseason All-SEC guards Christina Foggie and Jasmine Lister. The duo each scored 10 points, but played sparingly in the second half with the game out of reach.

With the senior leaders on the bench, Vanderbilt got 23 points from Dahlman and 19 points from sophomore guard Jasmine Jenkins. Freshman forward Marqu'es Webb added 13 points and joined Dahlman in Vanderbilt's starting lineup.

It was the first time Vanderbilt had five players in double figures since last January 3 against Mississippi State.

It was a balanced attack, but it was Dahlman who stood out the most. She went 8-of-10 from the floor and 6-of-7 from long range. She also collected four rebounds and dished out two assists.

"I was teasing (Rebekah) because I tell everyone what a great defender she is, about her engine and her energy, and I brought her here for her defense, but let's be real, she scored more points in Minnesota than any girl in their history," Balcomb said. "She just knows how to score, and she'll keep scoring if you let her, and they let her keep shooting. She has a lot of confidence on both ends of the floor and it was fun to watch."

As a team, the Commodores shot a blistering 57.1 percent from the floor, including 66.7 percent from the three-point line. Additionally, Vanderbilt was able to get to the free-throw line 34 times and outscored Appalachian State 37-11 in points off turnovers. The Commodores forced 26 miscues, while committing 19.

Vanderbilt not only got the job done on the offensive end, but also defensively. Appalachian State was held to just 29.7 percent shooting in the first half. Vanderbilt also held the Mountaineers without a field goal for nearly 11 minutes in a span that lasted from the 6:00 mark of the first half until 15:18 remained in the second half.

But not all was perfect on this night for the Commodores. Appalachian State outrebounded Vanderbilt 37-36 and collected 22 offensive rebounds.

"We have to check out, we have to know that we are going to rebound whether we're shooting the ball well or not," Balcomb added. "We gave up 14 offensive rebounds in that second half and we can't let that happen against a team that's obviously smaller than us and less athletic than us. We have to take more pride in our defense and taking care of the basketball."

Appalachian State kept the game close early and were within three with 13:41 remaining in the half before Vanderbilt went on an 11-2 run to take a 26-14 lead with 8:52 to go in the half. Vanderbilt would only widen the lead from there, outscoring the Mountaineers 17-4 heading into the locker room to hold a 51-26 advantage at the half. Vanderbilt led by as many as 27 points in the first half. Vanderbilt's advantage was aided by outscoring Appalachian State 18-0 off turnovers in the half.

The Commodores were paced by Dahlman's 14 first-half points. Foggie also scored 10 in the half.

Vanderbilt returns to the floor at 7 p.m. Monday when Western Kentucky visits Memorial Gym. In recognition of Veterans Day, Vanderbilt is offering all active and retired members of the armed forces free tickets to the game. Active and retired military personnel can secure their tickets to the game by emailing Allison Bradley at allison.bradley@vanderbilt.edu by noon on Monday.


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