March 6, 2009
NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb sensed she'd get the hustle plays she talks about when her players ran onto the court rather than let her finish her final pep talk before facing Georgia.
The No. 22 Commodores committed only three turnovers as Christina Wirth scored 23 points in a 69-61 victory Friday in the Southeastern Conference tournament quarterfinals.
"It was a good sign," Balcomb said.
Playing without leading rebounder Hannah Tuomi, who has a stress fracture in her left ankle, Balcomb said her team would have to go underneath for rebounds against a taller team.
"We wanted hustle plays," she said, adding that a loss would follow "if you want to be the victim and say they're going to go over us."
Vanderbilt (22-8) never trailed and the last tie was less than three minutes into the game. But Georgia (18-13) stayed within striking distance, though its leading scorer, Ashley Houts, was held without a point for almost 38 minutes.
Georgia trailed 62-56 when Houts hit a 3-pointer with 2:06 to play. Houts then fed Angel Robinson underneath to cut the deficit to 62-61 with 1:22 left.
But Vanderbilt answered with a 3 by Meredith Marsh and two foul shots by Wirth for a 67-61 lead with 31.3 seconds to play.
Robinson finished with 29 points and 16 rebounds for Georgia. Marsh scored 12 and Jennifer Risper had 11 for Vanderbilt. The three turnovers was an SEC women's tournament record low.
Houts remained in the thick of many plays; she was usually in the middle if bodies were hitting the floor. But Vanderbilt's game plan was to render Houts a nonfactor. She finished 1 of 4, hitting only the 3 pointer, with three assists in 40 minutes on the court.
"If you disrupt Ashley Houts, you disrupt Georgia, and that really was what the plan was," Balcomb said.
Georgia coach Andy Landers said he expected as much and was prepared to have Angela Puleo step into Houts' role. Puleo scored nine points, had five assists but also had three of Georgia's 12 turnovers.
"We didn't defend the dribble, we didn't defend the 3," Landers said. "No sense of urgency about defending those things."
Wirth said the game came down to hustle.
"We outworked them, that's always a key for us," Wirth said.
Risper, who had four offensive rebounds, agreed.
"We stuck together and played hard," she said.
Vanderbilt made 9 of 26 from 3-point range and hit 10 of 11 free throws but shot 37 percent for the game (25-67).
"The number that counts for them is 16, the 16 offensive boards," Landers said, even though Georgia had 39 rebounds to Vandy's 34.
"We didn't box out at all. Nor did we pursue the ball," Landers said. "We got outhustled."