March 8, 2013
DULUTH, Ga. -- Unlike its first round game with Missouri, the Vanderbilt women's basketball team was unable to overcome a slow offensive start and was eliminated from the SEC Tournament by second-seeded Kentucky, 76-65.
Vanderbilt (20-11) was led by 24 points and 12 rebounds from Duluth native Tiffany Clarke. The senior forward averaged 19.0 points and 11.5 rebounds in two games at her final SEC Tournament. Jasmine Lister contributed 17 points and four assists.
Kentucky (26-4) was led by 16 points from A'dia Mathies. DeNesha Stallworth contributed 14 points and eight rebounds. Samantha Drake and Azia Bishop added nine apiece.
"Kentucky's defense to start the game was really good, really aggressive, really physical and they created a lot of offense off their defense," Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb said. "Want to give them credit for how they came out and attacked us right away and put us on our heels. Then we just tried to fight back for the rest of the game."
The first half saw the seventh-ranked Wildcats come out with a defensive intensity that forced Vanderbilt into 16 turnovers in the opening period, more than the Commodores had the entire game the previous night against Missouri. Off those turnovers, Kentucky scored 17 points.
Stallworth and SEC Co-Player of the Year Mathies carried Kentucky on the offensive end in the first half, scoring 12 and 11 points, respectively. The duo helped the Wildcats carry a 38-23 advantage into the locker room.
The second half looked early as if it would be more of the same, as Kentucky built a 22-point lead just over five minutes into the period. The Wildcats held Vanderbilt to just four points over the first 6 minutes of the second stanza.
Then Vanderbilt began to show some life. With Kentucky leading 54-34 with 12:29 remaining, Vanderbilt went on a 9-0 run to cut the lead to 11, 54-43. Foggie made a layup to start the run, which was followed by another layup from Lister, a jumper from Kendall Shaw and a three from Lister.
Kastine Evans halted the run, connecting from beyond the arc for her only points of the game and pushing the Kentucky lead back to 14, 57-43.
A free throw from Elan Brown cut it back to 13 with 7:57 remaining, but Vanderbilt could get no closer until the closing minute of the game. Drake helped put the game away for Kentucky, scoring seven straight UK points to help push the Wildcat lead back to 19, 70-51, with just 4:02 remaining.
Clarke was not going to go silently in her home town, scoring 13 points over the final four minutes of the game, but it was too little, too late, and the Commodores fell, 76-65.
Vanderbilt shot 47.3% for the contest, while shooting 33.3% from three-point range. The Commodores were just 9-19 (47.4%) from the foul line and turned it over 23 times. Kentucky outscored VU, 24-26, off turnovers, offsetting a 40-26 Vanderbilt average on points in the paint.
Kentucky's depth also kept the Commodores from fighting back. Head Coach Matthew Mitchell used 12 players in the game and continued his usual pattern of substituting for all five players on the court at one time. The UK bench outscored the Vanderbilt bench, 32-12.
Lister felt Vanderbilt's good stretches in the game came when the Commodores played solid defense.
"Our runs came from getting stops on defense, going slow, kicking out and playing like we know how to do," the point guard said. "On the flip side, when we sped up and wanted to play like them, we turned the ball over and we weren't getting stops."
Vanderbilt now stands at 20-11 on the year and will await its NCAA Tournament fate. The field of 64 will be announced on Monday, March 18. The tournament begins with the first rounds on Saturday and Sunday, March 23-24.