ESTERO, Fla. - Entering Saturday night's game, the Vanderbilt women were holding opponents to 58 points per game.
Then the Commodores ran into No. 3-ranked UConn -- and the numbers didn't hold up. The two-time defending national champions shot 62 percent from the floor and rolled past previously-unbeaten Vanderbilt, 91-52, in the semifinals of the Gulf Coast Showcase.
Morgan Tuck and Kia Nurse scored 16 points each for UConn (4-1), which will face Green Bay in the championship game on Sunday night. Vanderbilt (5-1) will face Arizona State at 5 p.m. in the third-place game. It will be a rematch of last year's first-round NCAA tournament game, when Arizona State ended VU's season.
The Commodores will be looking to bounce back quickly after Saturday's game.
"Defensively, we weren't communicating tonight," said head coach Melanie Balcomb. "Our kids played really hard against one of the best teams in the country. But we gave up some really easy looks, and UConn made us pay."
Vanderbilt played most of the game without freshman star Audrey-Ann Caron-Goudreau. She left the game midway through the first half after being poked in the eye and did not return.
"Audrey-Ann does a lot of things for us, and she was coming off a double-double," said Balcomb. "But still, we won't use that as an excuse in any way. Injuries are part of the game."
The Commodores' defense had held its opponents to 58 points or less in four of their first five games. UConn almost scored that many in the first half alone.
The Huskies shot a sizzling 64.7 percent from the floor -- making 22-of-34 shots -- in the first 20 minutes, and led 52-27 at the half. The Huskies put together a 14-0 run shortly after the midway mark of the second half to push the lead to 81-43.
"They have some very talented kids; that's no secret," said Balcomb.
Freshman Christa Reed was a bright spot for Vanderbilt, scoring a team-high 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting. She became the sixth different player to lead VU in scoring through the first six games of the season.Kristen Gaffney added 12 points for the Commodores.
But it was a tough night for the Commodores essentially from the outset. They trailed from start to finish, and were unable to ever knock the Huskies out of their offensive sync. Vanderbilt shot 37 percent from the floor and attempted just five throws overall, making two. Vanderbilt did not attempt its first free throw of the night until less than three minutes remained in the game.
After falling behind 17-4 in the first six minutes, Vanderbilt trimmed the deficit to 22-14 after back-to-back 3-pointers by Reed and Caron-Goudreau. But UConn went on a quick 11-2 surge to push the lead to 33-16, and then reeled off a 16-2 run later in the half to extend the advantage to 52-22 with 1:07 left in the half. Vanderbilt then scored the final five points of the half on a 3 by Rachel Bell and a jumper by Paris Kea.