Prior to Vanderbilt’s WNIT opener Thursday, coach Shea Ralph told her team that without Brinae Alexander, everyone would have to a little bit more.
Alexander, the Commodores’ leading scorer this season, entered the transfer portal after the SEC Tournament, taking her out of the WNIT.
Although Vanderbilt (15-18) seemed hesitant in the first half without the scoring Alexander brings, by the end against Murray State (22-10), everyone had indeed done a little bit more.
Point guard Jordyn Cambridge, who is coming back for a fifth season, led the charge, with a career-high 24 points.
Freshman guard Iyana Moore and freshman forward Sacha Washington continued to show they are vital parts of this program’s future with 16 points apiece. Moore hit three triples and Washington grabbed six rebounds.
“Those two have gotten better all year, then playing in March is also going to be a big step forward for them,” Ralph said. “But you can obviously see their talent level, their gifts for the game of basketball, they are two great young women, they are two great teammates.”
By the end the game was a blowout, with an 18-2 run in the third quarter and a 16-0 run to finish the game putting the score in laugher territory, 73-47.
It was Vanderbilt’s first postseason appearance since 2014 and first win since a first-round victory in the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
“It really started with our defense, and we knew that and we hadn’t played our defense in the first half,” Washington said. “And so we just gathered and we talked about it and we made sure that we smothered people on defense so offensively we can create.”
CAMBRIDGE AND ALEXANDER:Vanderbilt basketball seniors Jordyn Cambridge and Brinae Alexander embrace last ride in SEC Tournament
Larger role for Cambridge
Without Alexander, Vanderbilt’s most consistent scorer, Jordyn Cambridge had more of a green light to shoot than she typically does. Normally a facilitator and defensive specialist, Cambridge took on a larger role in the offense.
According to Ralph, Cambridge made “like 15” threes in a row during shootaround earlier in the day.
And in the game, the career 18% 3-point shooter canned five triples, a career high.
“Jordyn works harder, or as hard as, any player I’ve ever coached,” Ralph said. “That kid comes out and does everything she needs to do every single day with a great attitude. She plays through so much and prepares so hard to get on the court. So for her to have the kind of success that she had tonight in the postseason was awesome.”
The defense was strong as usual for Vanderbilt, which forced 23 turnovers. The Racers, a strong 3-point shooting team, made six 3-pointers, but the Commodores were able to keep them quiet within the arc as they shot just 34% from the field overall.
Vanderbilt rebounded well, several times cleaning up its own messes on the offensive boards. Cambridge (nine rebounds), Washington and junior forward Yaubryon Chambers (five rebounds) all had strong performances on the boards.
The Commodores will advance to play Liberty in the second round on Monday at 7 p.m. in Memorial Gymnasium.
Aria Gerson covers Vanderbilt athletics for The Tennessean. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @aria_gerson.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism