NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Vanderbilt guard Christina Foggie, from New Jersey, and post player Stephanie Holzer, from Philadelphia, are on the same early-morning flight home Friday but they had one thing to check off their list first.
Foggie scored 18 points and Holzer had 17 to help the No. 25-ranked Commodores (11-1) outlast a challenge from visiting Florida State (6-6) on Thursday night, 65-59. Foggie, who hit two 3-pointers, and Holzer, with 13 rebounds, each sank a pair of throws in the final 46 seconds to seal the victory.
Both teams got out to a slow start and while Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb admitted her team was anxious, Foggie and Holzer both said it wasn't because of their trip home for Christmas.
"We knew we had to take care of business first," Foggie said.
Holzer, a 6-foot-4 redshirt sophomore averaging 52 percent on field goals, hit only 6 of 15 from the field in the game. As a team Vanderbilt, which had been third in the nation in field goal percentage, shot only 38.1 percent.
After taking an opening 2-0 lead, Vanderbilt went on a five-minute scoreless drought that included a 1-for-14 stretch from the field.
"I think we were just anxious," Balcomb said. "We went a little too fast on offense, and we were fast on defense, thank goodness. . We've been making a lot of shots and winning a lot of games on offense. We were going to have to decide that we could win different ways and tonight we won on defense and rebounding."
Holzer made five of her seven free throws though, hitting both her foul shots with 18.3 seconds remaining after Chasity Clayton's 3-pointer pulled Florida State to within 62-59.
"I just knew I needed to make them," Holzer said. "I knew I wasn't making them for me, I knew I was making them for the team and I was making them to win."
Clayton had a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds for the Seminoles, while Chelsea Davis scored 16 points and Alexa Deluzio added 15.
"Give the kids credit," Florida State coach Sue Semrau said of her team's rally from a 15-point deficit. "We were playing a little bit of small ball."
Balcomb said Foggie was able to get the ball inside to Holzer in the second half and get her to the line to help her shake an off-night shooting. But most of it was Holzer's doing, the coach said.
"I think Stephanie played a great game. I felt like even when it mattered, even with the shot clock ticking down, she made big shots," Semrau said.
Said Balcomb, whose team lost 72-66 at Tallahassee last year in a physical game: "The game Steph played this year compared to last year was much more solid, mature and emotionally intelligent."
It wasn't just Holzer missing early in the game either. At the first timeout after 4 ½ minutes played, Vanderbilt was 1 of 9 from the field with eight turnovers and Florida State was 0 of 4 with four turnovers.
"They just weren't falling and they weren't falling for a bunch of us," Holzer said. "I think one possession Tiffany (Clarke) and I had two rebounds apiece. . I tried to slow down and be patient."
Elan Brown hit a jumper at 12:18 to end FSU's 7-0 run that was capped by Clayton's 3-point play. Clair Watkins then had a turn-around jumper to pull Vanderbilt to within 7-6.
And after Clayton nailed a 3-pointer for the Seminoles, the Commodores went on their own 7-0 scoring spree to lead 13-10 on Foggie's 3-pointer and her fast-break layup after a steal. Vanderbilt never trailed again, although Florida State tied it 15-15 on Deluzio's 3-pointer.
Florida State senior post player Cierra Brevard, the second-leading scorer in the Atlantic Coast Conference, scored only four points to break a string of 32 straight games scoring in double figures.
"I give credit to Vanderbilt; they took away Cierra in the beginning," Semrau said. "I thought rather than them finding another way to be valuable, she took herself out of the game."
Vanderbilt took its biggest lead of 15 points with 5:54 left, 54-39, on an in-bounds pass to Jasmine Lister, who added 10 points. The big bucket followed Foggie's second 3-pointer of the night.
But the Commodores scored only one more field goal the rest of the way, on Clark Watkins' put-back to make it 58-49. Davis had scored six straight points for Florida State to cut it to 56-49, and Deluzio had a steal and a layup to close within 58-52.
Lister hit only two of her four free throws in the final 1:12. But Foggie made both her free throws with 46.3 seconds to go for a 61-54 advantage.
In the first half, Vanderbilt pushed out to a 23-18 lead on Foggie's drive to the basket just before the shot clock expired. Foggie didn't score until 9:11 to go in the first half, and Lister only got her first bucket on a drive with 1:06 remaining as the Seminoles defended the perimeter well.
"I told our team the team that played in spurts was going to lose the game and the team that played 40 minutes was going to win the game," Semrau said.
Vanderbilt was coming off its first loss of the season, at North Carolina State, while Florida State saw a three-game streak ended. The Seminoles are 0-3 against the Southeastern Conference this season and has lost to four top 25 teams.