By Zac Ellis
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – There’s nothing like securing a win in your final game at Memorial Gymnasium.
“It means a lot,” Vanderbilt women’s basketball senior Christa Reed. “It’s actually really good for us, going into the [SEC] tournament. Yeah, this is our Senior Night, but we’re still on a mission to become the most improved team in the SEC.”
On Sunday, Vanderbilt sent Reed and her fellow seniors, guards Rachel Bell and Myka Dancy, out with a victory. The Commodores rallied from nine points down to top Arkansas, 78-73, at Memorial, generating season-ending momentum ahead of this week’s SEC Tournament. No. 12 seed Vanderbilt will face a rematch with No. 13 Arkansas at 11 a.m. CT on Wednesday at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.
But while the Dores came out on top on Senior Day, the victory also came on an afternoon of historical significance at Vanderbilt. This weekend, the university hosted its “VU Black Girl Magic” celebration, a branch of a national initiative that honors and empowers African-American female students, faculty and staff. The event took place in recognition of Black History Month.
In 1977-78, Teresa Lawrence (Phillips) broke the glass ceiling by becoming Vanderbilt’s first female African-American student-athlete as a member of the Dores’ basketball team. One season later, Mt. Juliet native Cathy Bender joined the Vanderbilt women’s basketball program as its first female African-American scholarship student-athlete.
As Reed has navigated her Vanderbilt career, she has come to appreciate the history that came before her – a notion not lost on her on Senior Day.
“As a part of the younger generation, Black History Month is important to me,” Reed said. “We get to learn and see all the many people that paved the way for us, to be able to go to school and play the sport we love.”
On Sunday, Reed helped spark Vanderbilt’s second-half rally. She scored all 11 of her points after halftime, including five straight to give the Dores a 61-56 lead with 5:10 to play. She later calmly sank two free throws with 49 seconds left to push Vandy’s advantage to 73-66. The senior finished with 11 points and four rebounds.
Reed entered Sunday averaging a team-best 12.7 points on .479 shooting in her last 10 games. Bell, meanwhile, scored 10 points to help the Commodores to victory. Head coach Stephanie White said her seniors stepped up at the right time against Arkansas.
“This was a great opportunity for them on Senior Night to come out and play free,” White said. “I think Christa looked more confident in the fourth quarter than she had all game. I’m not sure why, but she was more aggressive, she went to get rebounds, she did the things that we need her to continue to do.”
Vanderbilt now hopes its seniors can harness that momentum into the SEC Tournament. That’s why Reed isn’t resting on her laurels following Sunday’s Senior Day victory.
“It’s good that we got this win,” Reed said. “Now we need to turn the page and focus on going into the tournament.”
Zac Ellis is the Writer and Digital Media Editor for Vanderbilt Athletics.