Stuck in a self-described funk, Stephanie Holzer didn’t pull from within for motivation.
Instead the Vanderbilt center pulled down. Rebounds. Lots of them.
Lately, Holzer has used her 6-foot-4 frame to her advantage. With two 15-rebound performances over the last three games, she has begun to snap out of a sophomore slump.
“I started focusing solely on rebounding the last three or four games and I think that has helped me a lot,” she said. “That is kind of pulling me out of it. I think all players when they are in a funk focus on one thing to pull them out.”
Vanderbilt (16-5, 4-4 SEC) enters Thursday’s game at Auburn (11-11, 3-6) on a two-game winning streak. That comes on the heels of a three-game skid and Holzer’s presence on the glass is noteworthy.
Holzer averages 10.6 points and a team-high 7.1 rebounds. But in her first five SEC games, Holzer had more fouls (17) than rebounds (15). During that span, she averaged just 6.8 points.
On Jan. 22 against South Carolina, she hauled down a career-high 15 rebounds. After eight boards against Georgia, she matched her personal best with another 15, including seven offensive rebounds, in a win over LSU on Sunday.
The scoring came too as she had 18 points against the Tigers, her most in a SEC game this season.
“She changes the game on offense, just being in, whether she scores or not. Two people have to guard her. One can’t. That helps everybody else. It opens up so many other things,” Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb said. “If she can focus on the defense and rebounding she has given us the last couple games ... 15 rebounds a game is awesome and that has really made a difference in our play.”
Holzer’s funk is partially attributed to foul trouble.
Prone to silly fouls as a freshman, Holzer isn’t satisfied in this season’s progress. She is averaging 3.2 fouls per game and has played more than 20 minutes just nine times.
“I think I definitely need to build more patience and be more aware of my body,” Holzer said. “I am a big target out there because I am 6-4. Being more aware of that and sometimes letting things go.”
She has also begun to rack up more than just personal fouls too. Against LSU, she was called for a flagrant foul after a shot in the first half. At least three times this season, she has been whistled for a flagrant foul involving an elbow to an opponent.
Holzer said she has worked with the coaches on keeping her cool, and Balcomb has seen substantial improvement in that department.
“You can’t control things. You can only control how you handle things that happen to you,” Balcomb said. “It is a life lesson and I think Steph has really done a good job. She is not going to be perfect but she just wants to get better each game and it is a process. These are young 18- to 22-year-old kids that we are working with and it is a process.”