Vanderbilt’s best sharpshooter sat on the bench with an orthopedic boot on her right foot.
Without Christina Foggie, the team’s leading scorer, the Commodores’ perimeter hopes clearly took a hit. It didn’t matter.
All but 10 points came from inside the paint or at the free-throw line as Vanderbilt overwhelmed visiting Austin Peay in the second half for a 67-36 win on Wednesday night at Memorial Gymnasium.
Tiffany Clarke led the way with a game-high 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting, most of it from near the basket.
Vanderbilt (4-3) snapped a three-game losing streak behind 36 points in the paint and 23 free throws on 27 attempts. The Commodores, who dropped out of the national rankings earlier this week, went nearly the entire game without a 3-pointer until freshman Morgan Batey hit consecutive ones with less than four minutes left.
“I think we can win without shooting well from the outside because we do have a big post presence and our guards can attack off the drive,” guard Jasmine Lister said. “That’s not our only strength even though Foggie is a great 3-point shooter. I think we do have other strengths as well.”
Vanderbilt flexed its muscle on defense in the second half. The Govs shot just 23.2 percent, including 3-of-28 (10.7 percent) after halftime. The nine points after the break marked the fewest points by an opponent in a half since Alabama A&M scored eight in the first half of a 80-29 Vanderbilt rout on Nov. 22, 2005.
“We kind of let down our guard on both ends in the second half and kind of fell flat on our face,” Austin Peay coach Carrie Daniels said. “We have yet to put a 40-minute game together. Those first 20 minutes I felt really good about the effort of the team and what we are able to do. And then halftime came, unfortunately.”
Midway through the first half, Clarke scored eight straight points, with two baskets coming off assists from Lister. Gabby Smith, making her first start since the 2010-11 season, plucked a steal and scored on the other end for a 25-16 lead with 5:11 remaining in the half.
But a slew of turnovers — 15 of a season-high 24 came in the first half, including several off offensive fouls — allowed Austin Peay to stick around. Tiasha Gray nailed two 3-pointers and Kaitlyn Hill sunk a turnaround hook shot to tie the game at 27. But Clair Watkins’ layup with 16 seconds left gave Vanderbilt a 29-27 lead heading into halftime.
After tying the game 14 seconds into the second half, the Govs (1-5) went nearly 10 minutes without a basket. Clarke and company took advantage for the Commodores. Clarke scored on consecutive possessions to spark a 14-0 run as Austin Peay (1-5) suffered its 14th straight loss to Vanderbilt.
“Tiff is kind of a spurt player and we’re trying to get her more consistent,” Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb said. “She gives us spurts that our phenomenal. We just need that consistent effort. [Wednesday] I thought it was a consistent effort and I thought she played through having some early fouls and not letting it take her out of the game.”
Clarke added seven rebounds as Vanderbilt dominated the boards 56-24. Lister scored 12 points and Batey scored the first 11 points of her career. Gray led Austin Peay with 12 points on four 3-pointers.
Balcomb said Foggie, the leading scorer last year in the Southeastern Conference, will be out a while. She sprained tendons in her foot against Virginia in the San Juan Shootout last week and aggravated it the next day against Florida State. While she sat on the bench, center Stephanie Holzer propped her left knee up against the raised court as she sat in the front row with crutches next to her. The 6-foot-4 junior is expected to undergo surgery soon to repair her left knee.
Meanwhile, the Commodores make due even if that means playing four freshmen at a time like Balcomb did during the first half.
“Early, your defense has to win games. Your offense has to improve,” Balcomb said. “I’m struggling with ... I looked at the stats and saw 39 percent [shooting] again but, you know, it is better than the last two games. We’ll figure out how to execute better but in the end we have to learn to defend and rebound. We have to make some adjustments.”