March 7, 2013
The Vanderbilt women's basketball team overcame a slow offensive start to defeat Missouri, 53-40, and advance to the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament. The Commodores improved to 20-10 on the season, while the Tigers dropped to 17-14.
Vanderbilt advances to play second-seeded Kentucky in tomorrow's quarterfinals. The win also gives the Commodores 20 victories for the 14th-consecutive season, including all 11 years under Head Coach Melanie Balcomb.
Vanderbilt was led by a double-double effort from Tiffany Clarke, playing in her native Duluth, Ga. The senior posted 14 points and 11 rebounds. Of her 14 points, 12 came in the second half. Christina Foggie also started to look like she is finally overcoming a knee injury suffered on February 10, scoring 12 points and shooting 3-of-6 from three-point range. Jasmine Listeradded seven points and three assists.
Clarke wasn't the only Georgia native to play well in her home state for Vanderbilt. Senior guard Elan Brown (Atlanta) score seven points and grabbed six boards, freshman guard Morgan Batey (Atlanta) made her first career start, scored five points and grabbed six boards, all on the offensive glass. Freshman guard Jasmine Jenkins(Gainesville) scored six points, all at the foul line, grabbed four rebounds and dished out a team-best four assists.
The Missouri effort was led by center Liz Smith, who scored 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds. The Tigers also got seven points from Morgan Eye and five from Bri Kulas, but struggled to find offense from any other source, as no other Missouri player scored more than three points.
Balcomb was very pleased with the way her team continued to focus on the defensive end, in spite of the offensive struggles in the first half.
"The ability to just play through it is very difficult," Balcomb said. "I thought we showed a lot of maturity with a combination of some upperclassmen but also a lot of underclassmen. I'm proud of the defense, the comeback and the resilience that we showed as a team in the second half."
Lister was also thrilled to see her classmate and fellow guard, Foggie, hitting shots again.
"It's great (having Foggie back)," Lister explained. "There's not as much pressure (on me) to shoot or score. I've always been comfortable playing with Foggie that she'll knock a shot down. There's more energy on the court when she's out there."
The first half saw both teams struggle offensively. Vanderbilt shot just 17.1% (6-35) from the floor and 2-10 from three-point range. Missouri managed just 18 field goal attempts in the opening period while turning the ball over 10 times.
Smith helped the Tigers take a 17-16 advantage into the locker room, scoring 10 points in the first frame. Defensively, Smith also helped limit VU's Clarke, who entered the game with the league's third-best field goal percentage at 52.7%, to 1-of-8 from the floor in the opening period.
The second half saw Missouri start strong, as they opened the half on a 9-2 run to build a 26-19 lead with 14 minutes remaining on a three from Eye. Vanderbilt, however, began to turn up the pressure on defense and kept the Tigers off the score board for nearly eight minutes.
During the stretch, the Commodores got a jumper from Clarke, then three-pointers from Foggie and Lister on ensuing possessions to retake the lead, 27-26, with 11:17 to play.
Foggie followed with another three, Clarke and Foggie each made layups, Foggie hit a foul shot and Clarke made a pair from the line before Missouri finally ended the drought on a three form Liene Priede with 6:08 to play, cutting the Vanderbilt lead to eight, 37-29.
By then the damage was done, as after Vanderbilt's 18-0 run, Missouri would get no closer than eight in the closing minutes. The last Commodore field goal, a layup by Batey, made it 41-31 with 359 left. The Commodores then made 12 free throws over the final four minutes to provide the final margin of 53-40.
Vanderbilt shot much better in the second half, hitting 42.9% (9-21) of its field goals. Turnovers also ended up being a huge difference maker, as Missouri turned it over 20 times while Vanderbilt's total was just half that. The Commodores turned those 20 miscues into 20 points, while Missouri scored just five off Vanderbilt errors.
The Commodores now move on to face second-seeded Kentucky in the quarterfinals. The seventh-ranked Wildcats won the only meeting between the two teams, 75-53, in Nashville on February 10. SEC Co-Player of the Year A'dia Mathies had a season-best 28 points, while Vanderbilt was led by 20 points from Tiffany Clarke.
Tipoff at The Arena at Gwinnett Center is set for 5:00 p.m. CT. The game can be seen on SportSouth, FOX Sports Southwest and Sun Sports. Outside the SEC footprint, the game can be seen online at ESPN3.com. On the radio, the game can be heard in Music City on WNSR 560 AM and around the world as part of Vanderbilt All-Access on VUCommodores.com.