The 19-point margin of defeat was the largest this season; in three losses to Kentucky and two losses to Tennessee, the Wildcats held the previous 13-point margin.
Louisville faces Xavier, 72-56 afternoon winners over South Dakota State, on Tuesday at 6 p.m. Central in the second round.
Chalk Louisville's win up to confidence, said Head Coach Melanie Balcomb. The Cards' shooters got in a rhythm, like Louisville's Monique Reid, who led all scorers with 22, and Shoni Schimmel and Tia Gibbs with 19 each.
Each time Vandy made a run, Louisville fired back. Cincinnati native Gabby Smith sank eight consecutive points in the first half. The 17-point half-time lead was trimmed to five (49-44) with 12:03 remaining in the game. With steals and layups by Jasmine Lister, blocks and jumpers from Stephanie Holzer, Vanderbilt made a comeback. But the 6-4 center was called for her third and fourth fouls at 11:13 and 11:04, forcing her to the bench before coming back with five minutes to go, stalling the run. With Louisville up 16 points with 50 seconds to go, former Vanderbilt freshman Tia Gibbs twisted the knife with a 3-pointer from the sidelines for the 19-point margin.
The ‘Dores sank seven three-pointers: 3 of 6 from Jasmine Lister, who led Vandy with 13 points; 2 of 5 from Elan Brown (8 points) and 2 of 4 from Gabby Smith with 11 points and Stephanie Holzer with 10. It was the sixth time this season that Jasmine, the All SEC Freshman point guard, led Vanderbilt scoring. Vanderbilt was out-rebounded 35-19, managing just 7 offensive rebounds and 12 on the defensive end.
Jasmine placed the loss squarely on her team's inability to defend and score when most needed.
"If we had made a run in the first half like we did in the second half, then we wouldn't have in that situation. We let them attack us instead of us attacking them. Rotation and knowing where the shooters were on their strong side would have helped us defend better. We put ourselves in trouble."
Jence and Hannah played their last game in a Vanderbilt uniform. Senior Rebecca Silinski was sidelined with a concussion suffered last Thursday in practice and could not participate. An emotional Jence emerged from the locker room to address her final game. The senior toughed it out time after time with a sprained ankle, sprained calf, broken wrist, and played two SEC Tournament games with the flu and a 102-degree temperature.
"I'm disappointed obviously. No one wants to end their career with a loss like that. Everyone keeps telling me that I'll forget the hurt and I'll just remember the good times that I've had the last four years, but right now it's hard to think about that. It wasn't the perfect senior year. I wouldn't wish this on anyone else. But in a couple of weeks I'll look back and be happy with the senior year I've had. Right now it's difficult to think about."
Looking ahead to what the senior leader could tell next year's squad, her hurt was still evident, but her heart spoke loudly: "I hope that they remember to not have any regrets and to play with more passion that we did this year because I don't want them to go out with a loss that we did. I hope that they see how much it hurts and how much better we could have done. They need to do their post season and off season workouts with a fire in their eyes and in their hearts and come back next year and have a better season."
Coach Balcomb pointed to the positive with the fight her team brought to get back in the game. She also explained to assorted media that this was a season of struggle, but better days are ahead.
"When we made our runs we had three freshmen on the floor and two sophomores most of the time. Jasmine Lister and Christina Foggie started off the season starting for us and Jasmine has probably been our most consistent player and has brought a lot. Foggie has had two concussions and concussion syndrome and been out of the lineup all year. Her first game she had 27 points for us, but it's been a struggle getting back to that, and you saw a little bit of that in the second half. We have a 6'4'' post player (Holzer) who had a stress fracture in her back and was in and out all season as well, so I think in the off-season if we can work on their strength and conditioning and keep them healthy, I think we have a lot of bright things to look forward to in that freshman class and our younger players for next season."
Commenting on her freshman class, Jasmine added that "we learned a lot and we have a lot of stuff to work on. Christina came off the bench strong and she gave us all she had. She did her part and all we could ask of her."