The ball slipped away from Jence Rhoads for a second.
With her back to the basket, behind the 3-point line more than 20 feet away and the shot clock winding down, she quickly picked it up and slung inside to Vanderbilt teammate Jasmine Lister for an easy, wide-open layup.
It was one of very few pretty plays in what was an otherwise ugly game as Vanderbilt blew out visiting Mississippi State 65-44 on Thursday night in front of 3,818 at Memorial Gymnasium.
The Commodores, however, will take results over painting a masterpiece after their last two games. They grabbed their first win after blowing 17- and 18-point leads, respectively, on the road to Virginia Tech last Thursday and at Mississippi on Sunday.
Against Mississippi State (8-5, 0-1 Southeastern Conference), the Commodores (10-5, 1-1 SEC) again built a big halftime advantage, heading into the break up 31-16. Though they just shot 34.5 percent from the field — their lowest shooting percentage of the season — they held onto the lead and pushed the margin to as many as 25 points.
“I’m glad to be winning again,” Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb said. “I’m glad to see us put two halves together. We won both halves so check, check.”
Mississippi State shot just 22 percent from the field in the first half and went nearly eight minutes without scoring. Vanderbilt took advantage during that stretch with a 16-0 run and took a 19-4 lead with 10:31 remaining in the first half. Post players Hannah Tuomi and Holzer combined for 11 points during the run.
Holzer’s 6-foot-4 frame came in handy against a smaller Mississippi State frontcourt. The redshirt-freshman center recorded her third career double-double with 14 points and a career-high 13 rebounds. At halftime, she had 10 points and seven rebounds.
“Steph is feeling a lot better and practicing more and you can see her confidence carry over into the game,” Balcomb said. “She had a really good week practicing. It is a process. She missed a lot of time and now she is starting to get back in it and playing strong in practice. I knew she was going to do well. I went with her quickly [Thursday] for that reason. I felt really confident in her and obviously I knew she was going to come in and play confident.”
Holzer, who missed last season due to a broken right ankle, has dealt with back spasms this season. Despite missing four games, she entered Thursday averaging 10 points and 5.6 rebounds.
“It is nothing that is going to stop me from playing this season,” she said of her back pain.
Along with Holzer, Rhoads scored 12 points and Lister added 11 points.
Danielle Rector was the only Mississippi State player who scored in double figures. She had 11.
The Bulldogs committed 21 turnovers and shot just 27.6 percent. Their 44 points were the fewest a Vanderbilt opponent has scored this season.
In its last two losses, Vanderbilt had allowed 55 and 48 points, respectively, after halftime. Against Mississippi State, the Commodores clamped down.
“We are definitely young but I think we have all played basketball enough to know what to do and how to handle situations,” Holzer said. “I think having the two losses, bouncing back the way we did tonight was a really good start for us to keep going forward.”
Asked if she brought up the last two games during halftime of Thursday’s game, Balcomb said, “it was like a big, pink elephant in the room and we didn’t talk about it.”
Not pretty, but a win nonetheless.
• Freshman guard Christina Foggie sat out Thursday’s game due to post concussion syndrome. She is expected to be sidelined for a week, which will make her unavailable for Sunday’s home game against Auburn.
Foggie, who has played in 10 games and started six this year, suffered a head injury on Dec. 1 against Bowling Green. She missed the next three games and returned to action on Dec. 19 against Duquesne. She played in the next five games and, though she scored 11 points in at least three games during that stretch, she was 8-for-36 from the field in the last four games. She is averaging 11.1 points in 10 games.
Prior to practice on Wednesday, Balcomb said the Foggie was still experiencing some of the same symptoms that come with a concussion and had “not been herself.”
• Vanderbilt defeated Mississippi State for the first time since Jan. 10, 2008. The Commodores had lost three straight against the Bulldogs.
• The Commodores used their eighth different starting lineup.