Jasmine Lister bent over with a grimace of obvious pain on her face.
Moments after she banked a reverse layup off the backboard, the Vanderbilt guard hobbled off the court.
“My legs were just cramping up. But I got some Gatorade and water, and I was all right,” Lister said. “I had to get back in. I bounced back.”
That was good news for the Commodores. Lister returned to the floor two minutes later and scored eight of her career-high 24 points in the final 10 minutes as Vanderbilt pulled away from No. 12 Oklahoma for a 78-66 victory in the championship game of the Thanksgiving Tournament on Saturday at Memorial Gymnasium.
On Monday, Lister’s gritty and determined play paid dividends on two levels. She was named the Southeastern Conference’s player of the week and Vanderbilt (6-0) was ranked 25th in the Associated Press poll — cracking the Top 25 rankings for the first time this season.
The sophomore from Corona, Calif., leads the team in scoring (14.5 ppg) and is second in the SEC with six assists per game.
Against Oklahoma (3-1), which dropped six spots to 18th, she scored 17 points after halftime. Her layup at the 12:16 mark gave Vanderbilt a nine-point lead. She re-entered the game and scored five straight points for Vanderbilt, stretching the lead to 63-54 with 6:35 remaining. She also added six assists, one shy of her career-high, which she set in the season opener against Alabama A&M.
In the two games of the tournament, she averaged 15.5 points and was named the tournament MVP.
The 5-foot-4 Lister has picked up right where she left off after being named to the league’s All-Freshman Team. She averaged a team-high 11.7 points and 3.2 assists.
Already this season, Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb said she has seen huge improvement in Lister, especially in her physical toughness.
“As freshmen they play in spurts. She is now playing hard all the time,” Balcomb said. “She practices like a pro, at a level that you usually see seniors do. You are not constantly saying, ‘Go game speed. Go hard. Don’t slow up.’ She just has learned how to push through and be more mentally tough when she is tired. That has helped her in the games defensively to play all the time and not take breaks. Offensively, I think her decision making has gotten a lot better.”
The ranking is Vanderbilt's first since it was No. 23 in the fourth week of last season. Tennessee (6-0) dropped two spots to eighth after losing to top-ranked Baylor on Sunday.
The Commodores return to action on Wednesday when they play their first road game of the season at Austin Peay.