Jumpers rattled in and out, point-blank – and wide-open – layups glanced off the rim.
The shots just weren’t falling – for both teams. But the shooting woes for Vanderbilt center Stephanie Holzer appeared to be more pronounced on Thursday night in a mactchup against Florida State on Thursday night at Memorial Gymnasium.
A career 55.4 percent shooter, the 6-foot-4 sophomore couldn’t buy a bucket for most of the game, missing nine of her first 12 shots. Holzer kept shooting, though, and the baskets dropped at crucial times for No. 25 Vanderbilt in a 64-59 victory in front of 2,991.
“I think I was going too fast,” Holzer said. “I needed to slow down and be patient and actually look up at the basket and stop getting so anxious. I know I’m there. I know I’m wide-open. I’m just rushing too much.”
She didn’t hurry two game-sealing free throws with 18 seconds left. The foul shots gave Vanderbilt (11-1) a five-point cushion and clinched the win.
“It was a big-time moment,” Holzer said. “I knew that I needed to make them. I wasn’t making them for me. I was making them for the team and I was making them to win. That was my thought process.”
Despite the rough night, Holzer finished with 17 points and grabbed a career-tying 13 rebounds. She made her final three shots, the last giving Vanderbilt a 54-39 lead with 5:53 left.
“Steph talked herself out of it,” Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb said. “I thought she handled herself really well [Thursday] emotionally. This is a physical team. ... This was a heated game last year. The game Steph played last year compared to this year was just so much more solid, mature and emotionally intelligent. She handled herself extremely well.”
The Seminoles (6-6), who defeated Vanderbilt in Tallahassee, Fla., last year, got within six with less than two minutes left and missed Vanderbilt free throws allowed them to hang around. Chasity Clayton’s 3-pointer in the corner with 22 seconds left cut the deficit to 62-59, setting up Holzer’s free throws.
Neither team looked crisp out of the gate, combining for eight turnovers and making just one of the first 13 shots. The Commodores made only one of their first 14.
Vanderbilt’s sophomore tandem of Christina Foggie and Jasmine Lister failed to get shots off early. They combined for only two through the first 11 minutes. Foggie, the team’s leading scorer, finally got involved when she sunk a 3-pointer to push Vanderbilt ahead for good for an 11-10 lead at the 9:10 mark.
The Commodores pushed it to five three times before halftime and began to put together runs.
Entering the game ranked third in the country in field-goal shooting percentage (49.5 percent), they shot a season-low 38.1 percent. They made up for it with defense, forcing Florida State to commit a season-high 24 turnovers. The Commodores also battled on the glass outrebounding a tall Seminole squad 40-35.
“We’ve been making a lot of shots and winning games on offense,” Balcomb said. “We were going to have to decide we could win different ways. [Thursday] we won on defense and rebounding and that is really encouraging for this season.”
• Foggie led all scorers with 18 points and Lister added 10 points and six assists, along with seven turnovers. Chelsea Davis had 16 points and Clayton chipped in 15 and 11 rebounds for Florida State. Cierra Bravard, the ACC’s second leading scorer, had just four points. That snapped the 6-foot-4 senior’s streak of 32 games with at least 10 points.
• Freshman Maggie Morrison will miss the remainder of the season after injuring her knee during practice last week. The guard from Millersville, Md., averaged 4.3 points and 21.6 minutes. She ranked eighth in the SEC with 3.8 assists per game.
The Commodores have just nine players available as junior guard Gabby Smith has missed 11 games with recurring concussion symptoms.
• A large contingency of young women from a nearby Mercy Ministries of America home were on hand to cheer on the Seminoles. Florida State coach Sue Semrau is friends with one of the founders of the organization, which, according to its website, helps young females who struggle with “life-controlling” issues.
The team visited the home on Wednesday night and on Thursday more than 30 girls were on hand, many waving signs for the Seminoles. Immediately after the game, the entire team took a group picture with the girls on the court.