Six minutes in, Vanderbilt forward Tiffany Clarke took a seat on the bench. Point guard Jasmine Lister joined her two minutes later.
With two starters in foul trouble, coach Melanie Balcomb shuffled through inexperienced lineups and used 11 players, including three freshmen, before halftime.
The patchwork paid off as No. 13 Vanderbilt maintained a first-half lead before Christina Foggie heated up. Foggie scored 17 of her season-high 19 points after halftime and led the Commodores to a 69-54 victory over Alabama--Birmingham on Thursday night at Memorial Gymnasium.
They also received 34 valuable minutes from sophomore guard Kady Schrann, who scored a season-high 11 points and feasted off shot and ball fakes.
“You go into halftime and you’re up five and you’re happy at that point,” Balcomb said. “You’ve got your best point guard and best post player on the bench for an extended period of time. Believe it or not, one of our keys to winning [Thursday] was playing defense without fouling. So we’re going to have to say it a different way apparently. Because you put in fouling and that’s what they did.
“So we had to play smarter and I also thought we had to play harder.”
The Commodores (3-0) rattled off nine straight points for a 15-7 lead on Elan Brown’s layup with 10:19 left. UAB (2-1) slowly drew closer. Despite shooting 20.6 percent in the first half, the Blazers put together an 11-4 run fueled by 12 Vanderbilt first-half turnovers and the absence of Clarke and Lister, who Balcomb said provide leadership and effort that was obviously missing during the stretch.
The Blazers pulled within one, 19-18, on a driving layup by Ashley Grimes with 2:46 before the break. They wouldn’t get any closer.
The Commodores scored the last four points of the half and opened the second with six straight. Foggie, who missed four of her first five shots, finally warmed up. She capped off the spurt with five straight points and she drove the baseline for a commanding 30-18 lead with 17:18 to go.
“I kind of woke up in the second half,” Foggie, last year’s SEC scoring champ, said. “I got stuck in my role of being a shooter in the first half. A lot of times I want to be a complete player so coach reminded me at halftime, ‘You need to get to the basket. Stop trying to shoot over them. They’re athletic. They’re going to block my shot.’ I think they did block my shot a few times. So in the second half I wanted to be aggressive and attack like Kady was doing the first half. Good things came from that.”
Clarke, who scored Vanderbilt’s first six points, finished with 14. Amber Jones led UAB with 15 points.
The Commodores won their 22nd straight non-conference home game, dating back to the 2009-10 season. They now hit the road, playing at Dayton on Sunday before heading to the San Juan Shootout in Puerto Rico over Thanksgiving break.
“This will be a good test for us,” Foggie said. “We’re building up and I think Dayton will be a good test and we’re excited to get out of the state and play someone else, a tough competition.”