It’s been a way-up, way-down season so far for the Commodores, but we’re heading into a 10-day break with momentum. At the end of last season, coming off a questionably called game against MTSU with plenty of drama on the court as well as the sidelines (the story of why everyone here should hate MTSU and their mascot forever coming soon) it seemed like Vanderbilt had what we needed to put together a really good season this year. Jordyn Cambridge was the senior leader we needed with a triple double in the SEC Tournament, more steals than Enrique Bradfield, and a spot on the All-SEC Defensive Team. Iyana Moore and Sacha Washington both made the All-SEC Freshman Team and were a ton of fun to watch in the second half of the season as they developed. We didn’t lose much talent from the team at all, and then in May we got two grad transfers in Marnelle Garraud and Ciaja Harbison who were both poised to contribute the moment they booked their flights to Nashville. This summer you could have said we had a shot at the tournament with the talent we had, that the darkest days of Vanderbilt women’s basketball were behind us, and you would have been one hundred percent correct over the summer.
But then we got to August and we lost Jordyn to a torn achilles and a month later Iyana Moore to a torn ACL and suddenly expectations were very different. The team was missing a lot, including Kaylon Smith who had started every game the year before. What was the solution? It became pretty clear pretty quickly that it was Ciaja Harbison: she put up 28 in the season opener against WKU going 7-8 from the field. Over the first 8 games, she averaged 18.5 points which places her in the top 50 in women’s college basketball so far this season. That included a 34-point performance against top-25 NC State. While she’s missed a few games, she’s otherwise been the heart of the Vanderbilt offense leading the team in points, assists, and steals per game. Not to take anything away from the rest of the team, who have all played well this season, but our success the rest of the year may just be determined by how many minutes she can handle.
The next two matchups are at home against Lipscomb and Alabama A&M on the 18th and 21st, respectively. Both games should end in wins for the Commodores as we turn towards SEC play starting on December 29th against Mississippi State. I plan on diving more into that matchup and others regular game previews/game threads starting with the Lipscomb game. For now I’ll just say what once promised to be a standout season for women’s basketball has fallen apart mostly due to injury, but the team that we do have is playing good, energetic basketball. We’ll probably end up in the bottom of the SEC, but it won’t be for lack of trying on either the team or Shea Ralph’s part. I’m looking forward to how the season plays out and hope y’all are, too.