UK Women's Basketball

Vandy women stifle UK, extend dominance

NASHVILLE — Jence Rhoads remembered leaving Lexington feeling incredibly down.

After a 10-point loss to Kentucky, the Vanderbilt guard was down about her performance.

She was down about her team's performance.

But Rhoads left Memorial Gymnasium with quite a different feeling Sunday after her Commodores defeated No. 17 Kentucky 68-55, handing the Cats their biggest losing margin of the season.

"Everyone remembered that game where we got outhustled, got outphysicaled," Rhoads said. "In this game, we came ready to give it back to them."

The 5-foot-11 junior gave it back to UK with drive after drive, scoring a career-best 25 points and dishing out five assists.

Her Vanderbilt team gave it back to UK with its defense, holding the Southeastern Conference's top offense to its lowest output of the year.

It gave it back to UK by outrebounding the Cats 33-26.

Kentucky lost its 13th straight at Memorial Gymnasium and had its eight-game win streak snapped.

"It was a tough game for us," UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said. "It felt like they were much more aggressive today and it was disappointing for us to lose."

In a back-and-forth game where no team seemed to have an advantage, Vanderbilt broke it open with Rhoads, who scored 18 of her points in the second half.

She scored eight points as a part of a 16-6 run that helped Vandy surge ahead.

In that span, which went nearly seven minutes, the Cats (21-4, 9-3) were held without a field goal.

The Vanderbilt players and head coach could see that start to bother UK.

"You take a team that's used to scoring 77 points and you hold them to 55, they're frustrated," Commodores Coach Melanie Balcomb said. "It breaks their spirit on offense and then their defense wasn't as aggressive because they weren't scoring."

Merideth Marsh, a former Louisville Christian star who had 11 points, said she could see the Cats start to rush shots and get down.

"It's kind of a trend in SEC play that if you can get stops on the defensive end against some teams, that's just going to shut them down ... that if they don't score on offense, they just lay down on defense," Marsh said.

Mitchell said UK's offensive woes were a credit to Vanderbilt's strong zone defense. The Cats failed to penetrate it over and over again.

"Vanderbilt played great defensively," he said. "I don't want to take anything away from them today. They did a great job."

Victoria Dunlap led UK with 19 points and five rebounds. A'dia Mathies added 13 points and four boards. Both also had three steals.

Lauren Leuders, who had three pivotal three-pointers in the second half, finished with 10 points for the Commodores, who made eight three-pointers and hit 61.5 percent from long range.

As a team, Vanderbilt (18-7, 7-5) shot 48.9 percent from the field.

By contrast, the Cats struggled mightily to make an outside shot that might have opened up the Vanderbilt zone.

Rebecca Gray made one six minutes into the game and UK went 1-for-14, or 7.1 percent, its lowest percentage of the season, the rest of the way.

Mitchell was disappointed in the loss, UK's first in a month.

But unlike that loss at South Carolina, he didn't fault Kentucky's effort this time. After the loss to the Gamecocks, Mitchell questioned the Cats' toughness.

"I never got the feeling coaching (this) game that it was a complete letdown in effort," he said. "This team showed some fight at times today. That's not one thing I'm real concerned about. I think we'll come back and show some fight on Thursday."