The Vanderbilt women’s basketball team will find out on Thursday if lessons learned the hard way will pay off.
When the Commodores play at Alabama (6 p.m.) it will be their first road game since they blew an 18-point lead and lost 72-67 at Mississippi on Jan. 2. The game before that, at Virginia Tech on Dec. 30, they let a 17-point advantage slip away and fell 74-68.
Since then, Vanderbilt (11-5, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) has won two in a row in Nashville. The Commodores led by at least 17 points against Mississippi State (Jan. 6) and Auburn (Sunday) and held the big leads for two key SEC wins.
The question is can they do it on the road, where they are 1-5 this season?
“I think we will be more focused this time,” Vanderbilt freshman guard Jasmine Lister said. “I felt like we were playing like we didn’t want to lose instead of winning on the road. Now, we are going to focus on winning.
"It is good to come back home and realize we can be good. If we play together, there is so much potential for us. If we play like that on the road, we’ll kill every team we play.”
Vanderbilt has won nine straight against Alabama, which went 11-2 in non-conference play but has dropped its first three conference contests.
Coach Melanie Balcomb warned, though, that the Crimson Tide like to push the tempo and force turnovers.
The Commodores had done a good job in that department prior to their game against Auburn. In three games before that, they had fewer than 15 turnovers in each. Against Auburn, they committed 20.
“This team will trap us, run at us and try to keep us off-balance all the time,” Balcomb said. “So we are going to have to have a lot of poise and composure.”
After Alabama, Vanderbilt will have a short turnaround and play at No. 2 Tennessee (13-2), 7 p.m., Saturday (ESPN2). The game will be part of a doubleheader in Knoxville. The Vanderbilt and Tennessee men’s basketball teams will play at 11 a.m.
ESPN’s College Gameday will also be at Thompson Boling Arena for the entire day, and it is rarity that a women’s basketball game is featured as the network’s nightcap on a Saturday.
“It is just exciting for the program to be on the national stage in an atmosphere that is one of the best environments in the country,” Balcomb said. “We look forward to making the most of that opportunity.”