By David Dawson
COLUMBIA, Mo. - The Vanderbilt women ended their February Frustrations just in time for March Madness.
Playing their regular-season finale on Sunday, the Commodores snapped an eight-game losing streak by stunning No. 24 Missouri, 56-52, in front of a lively crowd of 5,998 on Senior Day at Mizzou Arena.
Christa Reed scored a game-high 20 points and point guard Minta Spears added 19, including converting two pivotal layups down the stretch that helped the Commodores (16-13, 5-11) earn their first win in February and catch a gust of momentum as they head into this week's SEC Tournament. Vanderbilt will play Ole Miss on Wednesday in the first round.
"The girls have continued to be resilient and continued to work hard," said head coach Melanie Balcomb about the Commodores. "They have stayed steady and trusted the process."
With the game tied at 49-49, Spears fought her way through traffic and made a contested layup with 2:18 remaining to put Vanderbilt on top for good. Spears converted another layup at the 1:40 mark that pushed the lead to 53-50, and then hit a pair of game-clinching free throws with five seconds to play to cap her late-game heroics.
"There was a timeout late in the game when we all got together and just 'hey, we are going to finish this game," said Spears. "And we went out and got it done."
Cierra Porter and Sophie Cunningham scored 11 points each to pace Missouri (21-8, 8-8), which suffered only its third home loss of the season.
For Vanderbilt, Reed finished 8-of-13 from the floor, including 4-of-8 from 3-point range. Rebekah Dahlman added nine points for the Commodores, who went 9-of-19 from 3-point range.
Vanderbilt, which has been plagued by slow starts in recent game, fell behind 15-4 before the midway mark of the first quarter. But Vanderbilt responded with an 11-0 run to tie the game on a 3-pointer by Reed with 1:37 to play in the quarter.
Missouri rebuilt a six-point lead in the second quarter, but Commodores closed strong, using another 11-0 run to take a 33-28 halftime lead. The surge featured two more 3-pointers by Reed and one from Spears.
Vanderbilt maintained a narrow lead throughout the third quarter and owned a 44-39 edge at the end of the period. Missouri opened the fourth quarter with eight straight points, capped by a layup by Jordan Frericks, to take a 47-44 lead with 4:17 remaining, but Vanderbilt pulled back ahead on a 3-pointer by Spears with 3:03 to go. Spears then scored the go-ahead layup with 2:02 to go, and the Commodores never trailed again.
Vanderbilt finished just 5-of-7 from the fou line, but Missouri didn't do much damage at the line, either, going 8-of-10. Missouri won the rebounding battle, 29-23.