Women's Hoops: Vanderbilt 81 Oregon State 55

The #3 Vanderbilt Commodores used a balanced scoring attack to defeat the Oregon State Beavers 81-55 Sunday afternoon in Memorial Gym. With the victory the Commodores advance to the semifinals of the preseason Women's NIT in a Thursday night matchup with #12 Colorado.

Four Commodores scored in double figures, led by sophomore forward Jenni Benningfield with 15 points, including three 3-pointers. Junior center Chantelle Anderson, junior point guard Ashley McElhiney, and freshman forward Ashley Earley each scored 12. In addition, three other Commodores scored either 8 or 9 points.

The Commodores got off to an inauspicious start, as Klimesova picked up two fouls in the first three minutes of the game, and the Dores missed 4 of their first 5 shots from the field. Vandy finally took the lead for good at 11-8 on a 3-pointer by McElhiney with 13:58 remaining in the half. Vandy's lead slowly grew for the remainder of the half, reaching double digits at 25-15 with 5:36 remaining and 37-25 on a basket by Ashley Earley.

The first half was atypical for Vandy. After Anderson picked up her second foul with 12:10 remaining, sixth year senior center Candice Storey replaced her. Klimesova, who normally shoots over 50% from the field, hit only 1 of 4 shots. So in the entire first half, Anderson and Klimesova together scored only 2 points. Fortunately, Benningfield, McElhiney and Storey took up the slack scoring 10, 9, and 8 points respectively.

In the second half, the Commodores slowly but steadily increased their lead. Anderson scored her first points of the game with 14:15 left in the half and went on to score 12 points. The lead reached 20 at 71-51 on a layup by Anderson with 3:29 left. Ashley Earley's two free throws gave Vandy their biggest lead of the night at 81-53. A final basket by OSU set the final score at 81-55.

Benningfield was Vandy's leading scorer on 6 of 8 shooting from the field, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range. Earley was leading rebounder with 6, followed by McElhiney with 5. Bennningfield and McElhiney each at 6 assists.

Oregon State was led in scoring by Leilani Estavan with 18, including 4 of 4 from 3-point range, followed by Erica Cook with 12. Cook was also leading rebounder with 8. OSU's Naismith candidate Felicia Ragland had a rough night, scoring 8 points with only 1 assist and 3 turnovers and fouling out with 3:50 remaining.

For the game, Vandy shot 50% from the field compared to 45% for Oregon State. The Commodores also out-rebounded the Beavers 31-24. Despite the Beavers' gambling aggressive ball-hounding guards, Vandy had only 7 turnovers for the entire game compared to 16 for OSU.

With the victory, Vandy advances to the semifinals of the WNIT. Their opponent will be #12-ranked Colorado, who defeated the New Mexico Lobos Sunday afternoon 78-63. For the Buffs, the Thursday night game will be a chance to revenge their loss 65-59 loss in Memorial Gym in the second round of the NCAA tournament last spring. Gametime is 7:00, and tickets can be purchased for $10 by calling 322-GOLD.

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Post-game comments:

The Press: Were they doing anything in particular against Chantelle in the first half?

Coach Foster: They had two and three people on her.

The Press: Are you overall pleased with the performance tonight?

Coach Foster: Yeah. When you play teams from the traditional power conferences that are used to playing good competition, they've been there, and they had a little different style. They showed some things that maybe we hadn't worked on as much. And I thought we did some good things. They thought that taking Chantelle out of the game would cause us problems. And I think this is a much deeper, more diverse basketball team than that. I think that people make a mistake if they just assume we're one dimensional. We've got a lot of different weapons, and I've got a couple of freshmen who don't act it. They're unflappable. That's a nice thing to have.

The Press: Are you getting a glimpse into the future of what Jenni can do?

Coach Foster: Yeah, offensively. I'm not getting enough of a glimpse of her defensive future. Offensively, she may have played the best game she's ever played here, in terms of six assists, no turnovers, timely baskets, timely decisions. She knew when to shoot, just played a smart offensive basketball game. As soon as she gets the other end of it, we'll really be happy.

The Press: Did you expect that Ashley Earley would play more tonight than Chantelle?

Coach Foster: Did you ever see those psychic channels? I've never called in, but that's what I would have to be if I saw that. It surely wouldn't be my decision.

The Press: Ashley, can you talk about how you responded to how they played Chantelle?

Ashley McElhiney: I think their closing down on Chantelle -- they had two or three people on her -- it opened up our outside shot. As he said, I think we were timely with our shots. We knew when to take them. We didn't take them early in our offense. We worked it around, found the open player. That's what a big target inside is going to do for us. If they decide they want to stop her, we can open her up by making outside shots.

The Press: Ashley, how much better is this team now that depth is getting larger? How is it making things easier?

Ashley McElhiney: Being able to have freshmen come off the bench and not be scared and not be timid. I love playing with them. I think it gives us all confidence, including them. That's going to help every one of us in every dimension, offensively and defensively.

The Press: Are you still shaking rust off or are you in the form you want to be in?

Ashley McElhiney: I think we have a ways to go to be where we want to get. We're taking it a game at a time, seeing where we need to improve. Hopefully we'll care of the little things, and hopefully soon we'll be where we need to be.

The Press: Can you make some comments specifically about the play of Abi Ramsey, Ashley Earley and Candice Storey?

Coach Foster: We've always had pretty good freshmen, and we've never been reluctant to play our freshmen. We play our best players. When you have a couple of kids that just step in and just play naturally and fit in with the flow of what it is you're trying to do. Ashley Earley -- on our defenses, she's gotta learn where to be a little more often to be effective. But offensively, she just has some instincts at a game. Abi Ramsey is not afraid to miss a shot. Therefore, she's not afraid to take the next shot. Players that are tentative when they miss a shot or two, it starts to affect a lot of their play. And she's got a lot of confidence. We've always felt Candice Storey is a good player. We've always known in our own gym that she's the best offensive rebounder of all our post players. And she's worked very hard at the game. And the NCAA has really done a good one -- a sixth year for that kid. She will help us in many different dimensions. Obviously, off the floor, I'll probably go see her once or twice a week for counseling. Professionally. And on the floor she does some great things for us.

The Press: Jenni, (question inaudible)

Jenni Benningfield: I think like coach says, offensively there's always stuff you have to work on. There's always something you have to get better at. Offensively, the team really worked together and made the extra pass and really moved the defense around to see what kind of gaps or where the openings were for people to get open and get the shots. But defensively, especially for me, that's something that we always need to work on and get better at. That's going to win basketball games, because there are going to be nights when we can't put the ball in the basket as easy as other games so defensively we just need to keep it up, make sure that we keep blocking out and rebounding and stuff like that. But I'm proud of the team, the way they all came together and worked hard to make the extra pass and communicated.

The Press: Coach, hat are some of the particular things they need to improve upon?

Coach Foster: Just know where to be. What's next. Defensively, if you're a, the phrase would be "a ball watcher" and don't know what's next, you can get yourself into some trouble. And when you're playing against teams, especially the way we play defense, when it's the first time, obviously, we don't have any film on these guys, it's a new team. So we have to make adjustments as we go through the game. And I thought there was a period in the first half when I thought we were playing absolutely terrific defense and made some terrific adjustments. And in the second half, I think we got a little of the mentality that we would exchange baskets a couple of times. We can't be of that mentality. We're going to be in some every possession games very soon. If you have the mentality of just exchanging baskets, that can harm you greatly in an every possession game. So we're working on the mental approach, and just different groups of people out there. Again, freshmen, they've been here four weeks, for gosh sakes. Four weeks ago yesterday they had their first practice. So to think they're going to be in position every time is silly. So we've got to learn to communicate, and we've got to know what's next. And that only comes through experience.

The Press: Jenni, do you feel a little different this year having a year under your belt?

Jenni Benningfield: I feel a lot more confident in my shot and I just know that with the team, they're going to get me in the right position, and I'm going to get them in the right positions, and I have to let the game come to me. I'm not going to worry about how many points I score every night. I'm there to do my role and see what's opening, because every team is going to be different. They're going to play us a little bit different, which is going to give someone else on our team an opportunity each game. So we've got to take each opportunity. I think this year I'm just having the experience of learning from game to game has helped me a lot.

The Press: Overall, would you say this is an improvement from Friday night?

Coach Foster: Sure, we just played a better basketball team. We just played a Pac-10 team and held them to 55 points. We just played 40 minutes of basketball and had 7 turnovers. There's so many things you could focus on and say yeah, we did some things very well. Could we have played better? Sure. But it's November the 11th. And as a veteran on Veteran's Day, I know it takes a long time to get to where you need to get.

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