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Former Pace star plays in NCAA tourney for Vanderbilt
by Greg Oshust
April 02, 2013 03:01 PM | 2711 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Special  /  Bob Stowell<br>Former Pace star and current Vanderbilt player Morgan Batey makes a move during the Commodores’ second-round NCAA tournament game with Connecticut last Monday.
Special / Bob Stowell
Former Pace star and current Vanderbilt player Morgan Batey makes a move during the Commodores’ second-round NCAA tournament game with Connecticut last Monday.
Former Pace standout Morgan Batey and her Vanderbilt team didn’t make it to the NCAA Women’s Final Four, which will be held Sunday and Tuesday in New Orleans.

The 5-foot-10 freshman guard did get a taste of March Madness, however, as the Commodores advanced to the second round of the Bridgeport Regional.

After beating St. Joseph’s 60-54 in a first-round game March 23, Vandy was eliminated in its next contest with a 77-44 loss to host Connecticut March 25.

While Vanderbilt’s NCAA tournament stay came to a disappointing end, it was still a memorable experience for Batey.

“It was amazing,” she said. “It was definitely something. It was a fun environment. It was a lot of different things that you don’t normally see during the season. We got a chance to play some different teams. Obviously, playing UConn was — even though we lost — pretty exciting, to play one of the best teams in college basketball. It was fun and exciting and, hopefully, we can continue to get back there every year.”

Batey, who was inserted into the Vanderbilt starting lineup during the SEC Tournament, scored four points and grabbed four rebounds in the Commodores’ first-round win over St. Joseph’s and was held scoreless and had two boards in their loss to Connecticut.

She got an opportunity to experience college basketball at its highest level when Vandy faced a legendary UConn program that has won seven national championships — the last coming in 2010.

“It was different than we were used to all season,” Batey said. “We played Tennessee twice during the regular season, but I don’t think they were anything like [the Connecticut] game. They are really an elite team and they were a lot bigger and stronger. It was good for us, I guess, as a team. If we want to be at that level, we have a lot of work to do. They are a really good team. It was fun to get to play against them. Even though we lost, it was such an exciting moment.”

The 2012-13 season was a learning experience for Batey, who averaged 2.4 points and three rebounds per contest in 31 games — starting the last four — while playing 15.3 minutes a game for Vanderbilt (21-12).

She scored a season-high 11 points in the Commodores’ 67-36 victory over Austin Peay Nov. 28 as well as grabbing 11 rebounds in a 61-51 win over Texas A&M Feb. 24 and 10 rebounds in a 62-46 defeat of Missouri Feb. 14.

“I was definitely very blessed to get the opportunity to play as much as I did,” Batey said. “I just came in working hard to hopefully get some playing time, because there’s a lot of veterans on the team. So, I think, throughout the year, I was just trying to learn as much as I could from the upperclassmen — because they were great leaders and they really showed me how to play on the college level.

“Overall, I developed as a player. Not just talent- and skill-wise, but understanding the game more and becoming more knowledgeable about the game — just to become a more complete player.”

Adjusting to the higher level of play in college basketball was the biggest challenge in her freshman season, according to Batey.

“It was definitely like a slap in the face,” Batey said. “It just jumps out at you. It’s the first thing you notice — everybody is bigger, everybody is stronger. It’s not like high school ball, where you can get away with more things as far as talent and experience. Here, it’s everybody on the same level. You really have to put in the work to separate yourself from everybody else and, I think, one of the things I learned was I know I have to get stronger physically and mentally to compete on this level. I know I have some things to work on to get better for next season.”

She also learned how to balance the demanding academics of Vanderbilt with her athletic commitments.

“You have to learn how to manage your time, especially if you’re playing a sport,” said Batey, who is still undecided on a major. “You have to learn how to say no to doing something, because I have to go study or do something else. But, it’s a lot of fun. It’s a really fun atmosphere, just like Pace, and I think that’s why I chose [Vanderbilt] — not just for the athletics, but the school itself.”

Batey entered Vanderbilt after a storied career at Pace, where she scored 2,274 points, set the Georgia high school girls’ basketball rebounding record with 1,307 and led the Knights to the Class A state finals in 2011.

As a senior, she averaged 22 points and 12 rebounds a game and was named the Georgia Sports Writers Association Class A Player of the Year.

Pace coach Regina Tate followed her former player’s progress on the college level with great interest and was impressed with how Batey handled her freshman season.

“Morgan has done what she made a living doing in high school,” Tate said. “She earned time through working hard on the defensive end of the floor and working hard for rebounds. She earned a starting spot by the end of the season. When opportunity presents itself, you have to be ready. I feel like she was ready and had a great first season. Now, she knows what to work on to improve.”

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