We didn’t want to write off the Vanderbilt women’s midweek game against a white-hot Mississippi State team, but it did look like a nasty mismatch on paper. That is exactly how it played out as the Commodores dropped the contest 95-50. The Bulldogs are one of the two best teams in the country for a reason, so it is a time to immediately move on to a much more winnable game at Florida.
Here are the three keys:
Be better in transition
This was a brutal game in so many different ways, but one aspect that needs to be tidied up is the Commodores ability to transition from offense to defense and vice-versa. It was specifically the offense to defense transition that was a problem in this game as the Bulldogs were able to turnover Vanderbilt possession and quickly get points from the resulting fast break.
You could see the Vanderbilt players trying to get back into position, but the speed and directness of the Mississippi State team was a huge issue that Stephanie White’s side never really solved. One was to change this would be by working harder to slow down the initial move after a turnover, but this is a concept that will work much better against a team like Florida than against the No. 2 team in the nation.
Make Christa Reed the focus
For much of the season, it has been Chelsie Hall leading the Vanderbilt team in scoring and setting the tempo for the offense. Against the Bulldogs in the ‘Dores toughest game of the season, however, it was her backcourt partner Christa Reed that stood up to be counted and tried to lead the team.
Reed scored 14 points in 34 minutes of action, going 6-of-8 from the field and 2-of-3 from three-point range. She also led the Commodores in rebounds with four, and though it is obviously not an ideal situation when a guard is leading the team in this category it does show the hustle and passion that Reed played with. Florida presents a much different take to Mississippi State, but if Reed can score on the Bulldogs then she should be able to do the same on the Gators.
Stop the three-point shot
The Commodores may only have won six games all season, but this Florida squad is one that Vanderbilt can compete with and beat, even on the road. The Gators have dropped six in a row, though they did give No. 17 Texas A&M a scare on Thursday night, going down 85-80 on the road in College Station.
The key to the Florida performance as their ability to hit the three-point shot early and often. Against the Aggies they went 13-of-29 from behind the arc, keeping themselves in the game every time they hit two or three triples on consecutive possessions. This has been the Florida strategy all season – they set a record for three-point makes in a season with their 222nd bucket from downtown in the third quarter of this game – so it would break every trend if they didn’t attempt a long ball barrage against the Commodores.
Staying tight on the perimeter and challenging every shot will go a long way towards making this game fall in the Commodores favor.