Jasmine Lister got the message.
The Vanderbilt guard has struggled from 3-point range lately, shooting just 21 percent (11-of-51) in her last seven games. Still, Commodores coach Melanie Balcomb reassured the freshman that she still had confidence in her perimeter shooting and didn’t want her to back down.
She heard her coach loud and clear.
Lister sank a career-high five 3-pointers (on seven attempts) and finished with a team-high 17 points as the Commodores knocked off No. 23 Arkansas 65-54 on Thursday night at Memorial Gym.
“I wanted her to know that we still wanted her to shoot the ball and that she just needed to make some adjustments and calm down a little bit,” Balcomb said. “She has been real excited playing some early games in the SEC. I liked her composure (Thursday) and I liked her shot selection.
Lister was able to get free thanks to good perimeter passing by Vanderbilt (13-6, 4-2) and defensive breakdowns from the Razorbacks.
“We needed Lister to miss a few more shots for us,” Arkansas coach Tom Collen said. “We probably should have done a better job of tracking her. I think our goal was to track her. But to her credit, she hit a high percentage and that hurt us.”
Her last 3-pointer with 4:49 to go proved to be the dagger as it put Vanderbilt up 59-47. It ended a 7-2 run by Arkansas (15-3, 3-3), which trailed by 16 just a couple minutes earlier.
The five 3-pointers were the most by a Commodore since fellow freshman Christina Foggie made five against Florida State in November.
“I just felt more relaxed and comfortable,” Lister, who also dished out five assists, said. “I didn’t rush my shot this time. When we have good ball movement it is easier for me to get more open shots. I got plenty of time to shoot.”
The Commodores led by as many as 12 in the first half after they went on a 12-3 run and Arkansas went scoreless for five minutes. Redshirt-freshman forward Stephanie Holzer scored eight points during the stretch, capping it off with a jumper with 5:47 left in the first half for a 25-13 lead.
Arkansas slowly countered with a 17-5 run that carried over into the second half. C’eira Ricketts accounted for 10 points in the spurt and finished with a career-high 29 points on 11-of-21 shooting, including four 3-pointers.
“We keyed in on the big three, [Lyndsay] Harris, [Sarah] Watkins and Ricketts. Ricketts, we didn’t feel was the best shooter of the 3,” Balcomb said. “We got to do a better job. She just got real comfortable with the ball screen and attacking and pulling up and hit some big shots down the stretch for them.”
Vanderbilt didn’t relinquish the lead but Arkansas hung around for a little bit longer, trailing just 39-35 with 15:01 left. Then the Razorbacks suffered another drought, going 5:36 without a bucket. Vanderbilt took advantage, scoring 12 straight points for a 51-35 lead with 10:09 remaining.
Relying on Ricketts to carry the load, the Razorbacks wouldn’t get closer than nine after that. Arkansas’ leading scorer Harris (13.8 points a game) was just 0-for-8 from the field and scored only two points.
“We aren’t going to win many games with Lyndsay Harris not making a field goal,” Collen said. “That really hurts us.”
For Vanderbilt, Holzer scored 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting, making her first six shots. Senior guard Jence Rhoads added 13 points and a career-high nine rebounds. Foggie finished with 10 points. The Commodores did a good job of passing the ball around, recording 18 assists on 22 made baskets.
It was a big win for Vanderbilt, which was playing in the second of three straight games against ranked opponents. The Commodores faltered last Saturday to then-No. 5 Tennessee and will play at No. 19 Kentucky at 3 p.m. Sunday on ESPNU.
“I think we have some momentum,” Balcomb said. “It probably doesn’t look it but nobody beats Tennessee at Tennessee. Once you get over that and you learn from it. ... I think the fact that we did some really good things defensively in that game [against Tennessee]. We held them 20 points under their average. We rebounded probably better than any [Vanderbilt] team [during Balcomb’s nine trips to Knoxville]. We just focused on the positives… We saw some really good things and we focused on that. Other than that [game] we have progressively gotten better each game. And we need to get better by Sunday.”
• The paid attendance was 3,882 but that number wasn’t anywhere close to the actual attendance. Due to the snow and slick roads many Commodore fans stayed in but Balcomb was grateful to those who did make it out.
“I want to thank the fans that where here tonight because it was tough to get here, even for myself,” Balcomb said. “I know that there were real fans in the stands tonight if they were here. I thought the cheerleaders and the band being here was huge. They created an environment for our players.”
• Rhoads now ranks 31st in Vanderbilt scoring history with 1,016 points. The senior guard passed Shelley Jarrard (1,003) and Caroline Williams (1,005) on Thursday.
• Vanderbilt has won eight straight against Arkansas and 13 of the last 14 in the series, with its last lost coming in Fayetteville, Ark. in 2006. The Razorbacks have dropped six straight at Memorial Gym, with their last victory here coming in 2001.
• Hannah Tuomi went scoreless for the first time since Feb. 22, 2009 against Mississippi. The senior forward played just 14 minutes against Arkansas, missing her three shot attempts and committing four turnovers.
“They played zone [defense] and she is really good in the man and in the zone, almost every time she caught it she didn’t have an advantage,” Balcomb said. “Then Watkins I thought did a really good job of changing her shot in there.”
• Vanderbilt announced Thursday that the school will retire the jersey of the Commodores all-time leading scorer, Chantelle Anderson, in a halftime ceremony during the Tennessee game on Feb. 13.
Anderson, a former two-time Kodak All-American, will be just the fourth player in school history – male or female – to have her jersey retired and the first since Wendy Scholtens in 2004. On the men’s side, Clyde Lee and Perry Wallace also have their jerseys on banners in the rafters at Memorial Gym.
The 6-foot-6 Anderson, a native of Vancouver, Wash., scored 2,604 points during her four-year career from 2000-03. She has the most points of any men’s or women’s player to ever play at Vanderbilt.
Her actual jersey number (21) is currently being worn by redshirt Holzer. Vanderbilt does not retire the actual number but its policy is it will retire a jersey/uniform “to honor a former student-athlete’s exceptional athletics career.