Commentary

Vanderbilt's Lister is player of week

Updated: January 14, 2014, 12:32 PM ET
By Graham Hays | espnW.com

Editor's note: Charlie Creme, Graham Hays, Michelle Smith and Mechelle Voepel each vote to determine espnW's national player of the week, which is awarded every Monday of the women's college basketball season.

The Harlem Globetrotters and Washington Generals. The Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote. Serena Williams and, well, any other woman who plays tennis for a living.

Tennessee and Vanderbilt.

Sometimes roles change. Just ask Jasmine Lister.

The truth of the matter is Tennessee holds lopsided all-time series leads on a lot of schools. Try 49-9 over Kentucky. Or 34-0 on Mississippi State. Heck, it took Skylar Diggins to cut Tennessee's lead over Notre Dame from 20-0 to 20-3. But because Vanderbilt was good enough to make an imprint on women's basketball and unlucky enough to share a state with the team from Knoxville, its particular struggles in the series -- in the form of an 8-62 record entering Sunday's game in Nashville -- seemed to cast the gloomiest shadow of all.

It seemed gloomier still when No. 8 Tennessee turned a one-point halftime lead into a 10-point advantage a few minutes into the second half Sunday. Which was about when espnW found its newest player of the week.

Darting into the lane and draining jumpers, Lister scored 17 of her 24 points in the second half, specifically after Tennessee took a 39-29 lead with 16:27 remaining, to lead the comeback in Vanderbilt's 74-63 upset win.

It marked Lister's second career win and second big performance in those wins against Tennessee.

Meep meep, indeed.

"I think she's the best second-half player I have ever had," Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb said. "I don't want to jinx it because she's been so consistent. It's almost like she just lets the game come to her in the first half and keep us in the game and does what she needs to do. She doesn't take a lot of shots and take over. And when everybody else is tired in the second half, she knows that she can put it in another gear that other people don't have anymore. She uses that to her advantage, so her size is no longer a disadvantage. She's got a really big heart."

The size Balcomb mentioned is the easiest, if not always the most useful, way to identify Lister on the court. At 5-foot-4, she was the smallest player out there Sunday by three inches, at least five inches smaller than anyone but Lady Vols point guard Ariel Massengale. But when Tennessee took its 10-point lead, there was Lister driving right at 6-6 Mercedes Russell, gliding under the basket and flipping in a reverse layup. Minutes later, holding the ball at the top of the key with 6-2 Bashaara Garves reaching a long arm toward her, Lister head-faked and went right to the basket, laying the ball in before Graves could even get an arm out to try and block the shot.

And that was Lister who got the defensive rebound a few seconds before Morgan Batey gave the Commodores a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

Because of her height, Lister is almost by definition a point guard. She leads the team with 86 assists and has a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. The Tennessee game was the clincher for player of the week, but it came on the heels of a win against Auburn earlier in the week in which she had 23 points and 10 assists. She distributes the ball.

But at heart, she remains a scorer, one always willing and often able to score the biggest of baskets.

Which team rules Tennessee at the moment? Well, if you look at the standings, Vanderbilt is a game ahead of its neighbor. And if you need help with the tiebreaker, just ask Lister.

Also nominated: Odyssey Sims, Baylor; Diamond DeShields, North Carolina.

Graham Hays covers college sports for espnW, including softball and soccer. Hays began with ESPN in 1999.

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