Press Conference | SCTop10: Spears' 3 | SEC Tournament Central
By David Dawson
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - It hasn't taken long for the Vanderbilt women to put some madness into their March.
The No. 11-seeded Commodores, who just last week were ensnared in an eight-game losing streak, are headed to the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament after putting together a stunning comeback in the final minute of the fourth quarter and defeating No. 6-seeded Georgia in overtime, 54-49, on Thursday night in Jacksonville, Fla.
Vanderbilt point guard Minta Spears sent the game to overtime by making three consecutive free throws with one second remaining after she was fouled on a 3-point shot. The Commodores (18-13) then outscored Georgia 8-3 in the extra session to post the memorable victory and advance to Friday's third-round matchup against Mississippi State.
Georgia (21-9), which lost star Shacobia Barbee to an ankle injury last week, finished 0-of-12 from 3-point range and shot just 32 percent from the floor.
Vanderbilt's Christa Reed scored a game-high 18 points before fouling out in overtime. Spears added 17 points for the Commodores, who trailed 43-37 with 1:33 remaining in regulation before staging the wild comeback to force overtime.
Reed put the Commodores ahead 50-48 in OT with a jumper at the 1:43 mark, and Vanderbilt was able to hold on from there by making 4-of-6 free throws, including two by Rayte'a Long with three seconds remaining that clinched the win.
"Everybody is taking on their role and accepting it for the team," said head coach Melanie Balcomb. "That's what a team is. ... I told them it's never too late. We're still in control of our destiny. Nobody else is."
In addition to her fourth-quarter heroics, Spears also hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from about 30 feet to end the third quarter, one of many pivotal plays she made during the night. Marqu'es Webb also came up big, pulling down a game-high nine rebounds before fouling out in OT.
Caliya Robinson led Georgia with 14 points, and was the lone Bulldog in double figures.
Vanderbilt trailed 46-43 with 15 seconds remaining in regulation after Georgia's Marjorie Butler hit a pair of free throws. On the Commodores ensuing possession, Spears missed a 3-pointer with seven seconds remaining, but Rachel Bell grabbed the offensive rebound. Spears then attempted another 3-pointer and was fouled by Georgia's Robinson with one second to play.
Spears calmly made the first two free throws and then -- following a Georgia timeout -- knocked down the third one. Georgia had one final possession but came up empty, sending the game to OT.
"I just went up there and shot them with confidence," Spears said about the clutch free throws. "I just trusted the work that I've put in."
Vanderbilt, which sailed past Ole Miss 74-59 in Wednesday's first round, roared out to a 16-3 lead in the first six minutes against the Bulldogs, as Spears hit a pair of 3s to help the early surge.
But the Commodores soon went cold. They scored just two points in the second quarter, which came on a jumper by Bell with 1:37 left in the period, and Georgia outscored Vanderbilt 12-2 to tie the game at 20-20 at the half.
Both teams struggled offensively in the second half -- combining for just 15 field goals -- and for the game, Vanderbilt shot only 35 percent from the floor, and Georgia shot 32 percent.