PRINCETON, N.J. -- Sophomore Meredith Marsh scored 17 points and the Vanderbilt women's basketball team, unranked for the first time all year, pulled away in the second half Saturday and handily beat Princeton 81-48 in the team's final tune-up before beginning Southeastern Conference play next week.
Marsh, who entered the game shooting just 39 percent from the field for the year, connected on 6-of-8 shot attempts, including 4-of-6 from three-point range, a game after scoring a career high 19 points on 4-of-5 shooting from three-point-range against South Florida Wednesday.
After spending much of the non-conference season as the team's starting point guard, Head Coach Melanie Balcomb has started Marsh at the shooting guard spot the past two games, a move that so far has paid dividends.
"I haven't felt extremely confident shooting the ball at different times during the non-conference season," Marsh said. "But now I feel like Coach has asked me to step in and do some things and knowing that she has confidence in me and that my team does also completely helps me. If I'm out there and if I'm hitting shots it is going to open up other things for other people as well."
Balcomb said the switch was aimed at putting Marsh in a position where she would have a greater opportunity to succeed.
"She is very confident shooting the basketball right now and we needed a shooter that was very confident," Balcomb said. "She has accepted that role and she has done very well at it."
The Commodores, who improved to 11-4 on the year, struggled defensively early, as Princeton hit four of its first six shots out of the gate, allowing the Tigers to hang around early.
But a 14-2 run during the first 5:12 of the second half boosted a 13-point halftime lead to 25, and effectively ended any remaining suspense.
Vanderbilt's attacking, pressure defense ultimately wore Princeton down, forcing the Tigers into just 32 percent shooting from the field as a team for the game and limiting Princeton to just 19 second half points.
"It begins and ends with defense," Balcomb said. "We played very well defensively, especially in the second half, and I think the result tonight is a testament to that."
Princeton senior forward Meagan Cowher, the team's leading scorer and daughter of former Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Bill Cowher, was held to just 11 points - her second lowest output of the season - on just 2-for-13 shooting from the field.
Junior Christina Wirth scored 12 points and pulled down 6 rebounds for Vanderbilt, despite being limited by foul trouble to only 17 minutes, freshman Jence Rhoads scored 10 points, junior Jennifer Risper handed out seven assists and senior Liz Sherwood scored eight points off the bench on 4-of-5 shooting from the floor.
Both Cowher and Pete Carrill, the legendary former coach of Princeton's men's basketball team, were in attendance Saturday.