VU shoots hot, stops streaking Auburn 67-59

In Vanderbilt's second-best shooting night, the 'Dores improve to 11-5, 2-1 in the SEC with a 67-59 win over Auburn, putting the brakes on the Tigers' 5-game win streak and 2-0 conference start. Senior Hannah Tuomi, honored Thursday with an honorary game ball for surpassing 1,000 points, was perfect from the field in the first half with 14 points and finished with 22.

Vandy was sizzling from the start, shooting 63.2% before the break, and finishing with 52%. It was the second highest percentage this season following 57.1% against Samford on November 18.

The Dores led 29-22 at the half on 6 of 6 shooting from Hannah, who sank 14 points before heading to the locker room. Equally reliable senior Jence Rhoads finished with 16 points and tied a career high with eight rebounds. Head Coach Melanie Balcomb credited the pair for delivering the plays needed to win.

"They have to step up, and they have to put people away. They understand that and we really don't have anybody else on the floor that does understand and that has that experience. So they have to be willing to do that and what was fun was seeing both Hannah and Jence have that success."

Auburn Coach Nell Fortner also complimented Hannah. "I have a tremendous amount of respect for her. She's a tough one to play. It's hard to shut her down and really hard to guard her. She always fights for position and always challenging on every play on the floor."

Although Auburn, which lost for the 17th consecutive time to Vanderbilt, had fewer turnovers at 17 compared to Vandy's 20, seven came during a 17-3 run that Fortner said "sealed our fate."

Defensively, Stephanie Holzer's eight rebounds, four steals and two blocks helped shut down the taller Auburn squad as well. She contributed nine points and was joined by Angela Puleo with eight and Jasmine Lister with eight. Jasmine, termed scrappy by Balcomb and "a little spark plug" by Jence, had six rebounds off teammates' tips from under the rim. "She's not going in there," Balcomb said of the 5-4 guard, adding that offensive rebounding practice includes tipping the ball to guards and kicking it out for three when defenders are not in place.

Jordan Coleman started for the second game in a row, igniting the defense despite spraining her ankle in warm-ups. She and post Tiffany Clarke combined played just 16 minutes but were credited with slowing down Auburn power players Blanche Alverson, who ended with 12 points and Alli Smalley with 10 points.

Auburn sprinted to an 11-4 run after the break to tie the game at 33 at the 15:57 mark. Vandy responded with its own run and led by as much as 17 with 9:07 remaining. The Tigers clawed their way back into the game, trimming a 10-point lead at 3:25 to come with five points with 1:01 left. A pair of free throws by Jence, a steal by Stephanie and two more free throws by Hannah protected the lead and saved the win.

After SEC play ended Sunday, the ‘Dores are tied for third in the league with Auburn, Arkansas and Florida at 2-1 behind Tennessee (3-0) and Georgia (2-0).


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