Vanderbilt advances to SEC Semifinals

March 5, 2010

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Vanderbilt's Postgame Press Conference

J. Coleman's Interview with Carolyn Peck

DULUTH, Ga. (AP) -- Vanderbilt found a way to make up for the lowest scoring game in the program's history.

Merideth Marsh and Hannah Tuomi each scored 17 points and Vanderbilt atoned for an embarrassing regular-season loss by beating No. 21 LSU 63-61 in the Southeastern Conference tournament on Friday night.

Marsh, who made 87 percent of her free-throw attempts in the regular season, made only 1 of 5 in the final 2:12, including two misses with 3.3 seconds remaining.

Allison Hightower's last-second attempt from near midcourt wasn't close, ending LSU's hopes of playing in its ninth straight semifinal.

Vanderbilt (22-9) will face No. 4 Tennessee, the top seed, in Saturday's first semifinal on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. CT on ESPNU.

Hightower led LSU (20-9) with 24 points. Katherine Graham added 10.

The Tigers became the first Top 25 team to be eliminated from the SEC tournament.

LSU held Vanderbilt to its lowest points total in school history on Feb. 18 when it beat the Commodores 55-39 in Baton Rouge, La.

Vanderbilt made up for the loss with its fourth straight SEC tournament win over LSU. The streak includes a win in the 2007 SEC championship game at the Gwinnett Arena and a win in last year's semifinals in North Little Rock, Ark.

Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb said "any kind of mental edge at this time of the year" is important.

"I do I think it's mental going into the game," Balcomb said. "They know that they've been beaten last year when we beat 'em in the final, and recently we've beaten 'em, so I think they know we've won a lot of games in these tournaments.

"We're confident. Maybe they're a little more hesitant. It can never hurt you, put it that way."

Vanderbilt's players were motivated by their poor showing in last month's loss at LSU.

"Definitely. We talked about that before the game on the bus ride here," said Jence Rhoads, who had 8 points. "We didn't want to come out like we did in Baton Rouge. We weren't proud of that game at all. It was one of our worst games all year. We wanted to get a little bit of revenge and show them what we were really made of."

LSU coach Van Chancellor said the Commodores showed "all the heart and character in the world.

"They come out and get in this conference tournament, and they just play their heart out," Chancellor said.

In a game of big swings, a baseline jumper by Elan Brown gave Vanderbilt a 60-59 lead with 3:13 remaining. Marsh's free throw a minute later pushed the lead to two points, and the senior guard added a short jumper with 43 seconds remaining for a 63-59 lead.

Taylor Turnbow's follow shot for LSU cut the lead to two points with 20 seconds remaining.

The Commodores, the defending champions but only the fifth seed in the tournament, overcame a sluggish start. Marsh hit a 3-pointer to open the game and LSU scored the next 15 points.

Vanderbilt recovered with an 11-2 run to cut LSU's lead to 17-14. Tuomi scored eight points in a 12-0 run later in the half that gave the Commodores the lead.

The momentum shifts continued in the second half. Vanderbilt led 40-32 before LSU used a 15-2 run to lead 47-42.

LSU's struggles to defend Tuomi inside became more difficult when starting forward LaSondra Barrett fouled out with 5:05 remaining. Barrett, who averages 12.7 points and a team-leading 6.8 rebounds, left with nine points and three rebounds.



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