March 22, 2014
TOLEDO, Ohio - The month of March didn't contain much madness for the Vanderbilt basketball team this year.
Unable to generate their traditional postseason push, the Commodores were ousted from the NCAA Tournament on Saturday with a 69-61 first-round loss to Arizona State at Savage Arena in Toledo, Ohio.
The defeat was the capper on a tough late-season stretch for the Commodores, who lost 10 of their final 12 games, including making rare first-round exits from both the SEC and NCAA tournaments.
Vanderbilt (18-13) had won at least one game at the NCAA tournament in 10 of the past 11 seasons under head coach Melanie Balcomb. But this time, the Commodores -- who were making their 15th consecutive appearance at the tournament -- exited quickly after being unable to slow down an Arizona State team that was red-hot from the floor.
The No. 9-seeded Sun Devils (23-9) shot 61 percent for the game, including 67 percent in the second half, and had four players finish in double figures. Katie Hempen scored a team-high 16 points, going 6-of-8 from the floor, including 4-of-5 from 3-point range.
Sophie Brunner added 14 points, Eisha Davis had 11 and Promise Amukamara had 10 for the Sun Devils, who advanced to play either Notre Dame or Robert Morris in the second round.
For Vanderbilt, freshman Marqu'es Webb had a terrific performance, scoring a season-high 18 points and pulling down eight rebounds. Christina Foggie added 16 points and Jasmine Lister had nine.
But their efforts weren't enough to enable the Commodores to overcome a frustrating performance during which they continually missed shots inside the paint and went just 14-of-27 at the foul line.
Vanderbilt entered March with hopes of recapturing the success they had in December and January, when they reeled off 13 wins in the span of 14 games, including a victory over Tennessee.
But the postseason didn't go as planned for the Commodores, who suffered a first-round loss to UGA in the SEC Tournament -- marking the first time since 1999 that Vanderbilt didn't win at least one game at the tourney -- and then saw their season end with Saturday's first-round loss to Arizona State.
The loss marked the end to the storied careers of Foggie and Lister, who are both ranked among Vanderbilt's Top-10 on the all-time scoring list. Foggie is the program's all-time leader in 3-pointers and Lister played more minutes than any other Commodore in team history.
"It was an honor to have played with them," said Webb. "I learned so much from them and my basketball IQ increased (from being around them). It was a blessing to be their teammate." Balcomb also raved about the two outgoing seniors, who participated in the NCAA tournament each year of their careers.
"There are just so many positives Jas and Foggie have left in their legacy here," she said. "There could not be any better ambassadors for Vanderbilt than those two."
Foggie finished 2-of-6 from 3-point range against Arizona State.
Her 3-pointer midway through the second half enabled Vanderbilt to pull within two points at 44-42, but Arizona State then put together a 10-3 run, capped by Hempen's jumper from the foul line, to push the lead 54-45 with 6:27 to go, and the Commodores never got within six points the rest of the way.
That sequence essentially summed up the game for the Commodores, who made a series of runs throughout the day, only to see the Sun Devils answer with a big shot each time.
"Emotionally, it deflates you a little bit when that happens," said Foggie. "But you just can't dwell on it."
Vanderbilt trailed 30-24 after an entertaining first half that featured one big scoring run by each team and some hot shooting by Arizona State's Hempen.
The junior guard went 4-for-4 from 3-point range in the half, and led all scorers with 12 points.
The Sun Devils had the first surge, putting together a 10-2 run to build an 18-8 lead.
The Commodores then responded in a big way, outscoring Arizona State 14-2 over the next five minutes and took their first lead of the game, 22-20, on a layup by Batey at the 3:19 mark. Kristen Gaffney helped fuel the run with a 3-point play, and Webb scored on a pair of forceful post moves.
Arizona State answered with pair of 3s by Hempen to retake the lead, and the Sun Devils eventually carried a 30-24 lead into the locker room after Davis scored in the paint right before the buzzer. Arizona State then maintained the lead throughout the second half.