Vandy Advances to WNIT Finals

For the second time in less than a year, the #3 Vanderbilt Commodores knocked the "12 Colorado Buffaloes out of a major tournament. In March, the Commodores defeated the Buffs in the second round of the NCAA tournament, and on Thursday night, Vandy earned the right to advance to the WNIT finals with a 72-51 victory over Colorado.

The sequel that played out in Memorial Gym Thursday night might have been sub-titled "Party in the Paint." Only three players for the game scored in double figures, and all of them were post players. Colorado's sophomore center Tera Bjorklund led all scorers with 25 points. For Vanderbilt, forward Zuzi Klimesova scored 24, while center Chantelle Anderson added 18.

Colorado's usual potent perimeter attack wasn't in evidence. The dynamic backcourt duo of Mandy Nightingale and Jenny Roulier managed to shoot only a combined 4 for 19 from the field. Prior to today, the Buffs were shooting a healthy 38.7% from behind the arc. Tonight, they shot a woeful 9.1%

"We were very aware of where they were -- very aware," said Coach Jim Foster after the game. We were just going to guard their perimeter. And as a result, our post players were out there with no oars for a while. We wanted the perimeter taken care of."

Colorado Coach Ceal Barry's view was a little different. "We had some wide open outside shots that typically fall for us," she said after the game. "Our guards' shooting was really really poor, and that hurt us tonight."

"I think we were getting open shots," Nightingale agreed. "We just weren't knocking them down."

As the game began, it looked as if another story would unfold when Jenny Roulier drained a 3-pointer to give Colorado a 3-0 lead less than a minute into the game. But soon 3-pointers by Zuzi Klimesova and Ashley McElhiney put Vandy up 10-7, and the Commodores never relinquished their lead for the rest of the game.

By halfway through the first half, Vandy slowly but steadily increased their lead, taking their first double-digit lead of the night at 21-11 with 11:31 left in the first half. With 10:06 left in the half, Chantelle Anderson picked up her second foul and spent the remainder of the half on the bench. Zuzi Klimesova picked up the slack, finishing the half with 18 points to help Vandy to a 36-24 halftime lead.

Anderson returned to start the second half. The coaches might disagree over whether Colorado's shooting or Vandy's defense was responsible, but, whatever the reason, it's indisputable that the Buffs struggled out of the locker room. Britt Hartshorn's layup with 14:45 was Colorado's first field goal of the half. In the meantime, Anderson had reeled off six straight points, giving Vandy a 20-point lead, which continued to grow until it reached 25 points several times. Late in the half, the Buffs managed to cut the lead back to 16, but the Dores quickly pushed it back up, ending with a final score of 72-51.

Tera Bjorklund led all scorers with 25 points. No other Buff scored more than 7 points. For the Dores, Zuzi Klimesova earned a double-double with 11 rebounds to go along with her 24 points and also had 3 steals. For the game, she was 9 for 15 from the field, including two 3-pointers. Chantelle Anderson scored 18. Jenni Benningfield had 7 rebounds, and Ashley McElhiney had 9 assists.

In the first half, Vanderbilt shot 54% from the field, but cooled off considerably in the second half and ended shooting 49% for the game, 41.7% from 3-point range. Colorado shot 34.5% from the field, 0.9% (1 of 11) from 3-point range. Vanderbilt also won the battle of the boards, outrebounding the Buffs 37-29. Both teams took care of the ball, with 12 TO's for Vandy and 10 for Colorado.

With the victory, Vanderbilt advances to the finals of the WNIT to meet #1 Connecticut, who defeated North Carolina tonight 94-74. Gametime is 4 p.m. CT Sunday in Storrs. The game will be televised on the Oxygen network.


The Press: What made this game so different than the last time they played here?

Coach Foster: They're different teams. Even with everybody back, they're just different basketball teams. That was our 32nd game of the season; this was our third game of the season. And we're a better defensive team, I think, now because we've got some depth than we were last year. We'd have to let kids stay out there when they were tired or not playing as well. Now we can bring them down and get them calmed down and get them ready to go back out and be a little more energetic the next time. So I think probably we're just better on defense because we have more depth.

The Press: What did you like best about your defense?

Coach Foster: I liked its energy. We had a lot of energy.

The Press: How did you get Nightingale and Roulier out of the game with their shooting?

Coach Foster: We were very aware of where they were. Very aware.

The Press: Did you have any insights on Roulier from the World University Games?

Coach Foster: No. No. Just what she likes to eat and things like that. Nothing that we could apply to a basketball game. We were just going to guard their perimeter. And as a result, our post players were out there with no oars for a while. We wanted the perimeter taken care of.

The Press: Could you elaborate?

Coach Foster: Like in a boat with no oars. No help. No help. That would be sitting in a boat, you gotta paddle on your own to get home.

The Press: Zuzi, good game for you tonight. What helped you get a lot of good looks?

Zuzi Klimesova: I think it's just a good example of how versatile we are. We have a lot of offensive weapons, and every night it's somebody else who gets open. Chantelle is so strong on the inside that a lot of teams do double down, and that opens up somebody. And today it happened to be me. Sometimes the shots go happen to go in. It just happened to me tonight. Next time it's going to be somebody else, and we'll make sure we'll find them.

The Press: Do you plan on shooting the three a little more this year?

Zuzi: I'm working on it.

The Press: It is important for you to get your first few shots down to give you confidence to keep shooting it?

Zuzi: Well, if they are not falling, Coach Foster usually tells me what's wrong. Oftentimes, I'll rush my shots. I still do when I'm going off the dribble. I think it's just a matter of composure. I do not try to let that faze me, though, because why should it? If I'm open, then they'll start falling. And if not, hopefully I'll draw some defense on me and find somebody else.

The Press: Chantelle, it was a lot closer last year. What do you think turned things around for Vanderbilt?

Chantelle Anderson: I think what Coach Foster said. Our defense was definitely very good tonight. We were very intense. We got out on their shooters and took care of what we needed to do. They didn't get too many open three's. Of course, Zuzi's always too modest. It always helps if you have someone to score 18 in the first half. That's always nice to kind of pick us up when our offense was a little stagnant at times.

Coach Foster: Especially when you're sitting on the bench.

Chantelle: Yeah, that's always nice. After the past two games, you probably think I like it there, but I don't.

The Press: Did you think this was an important game to them, since they're season ended here last year?

Chantelle: Reading everything they said in the paper before hand, I thought it might be an important game to them because they did talk a lot in the paper. But other than that . . . I did know that Jenny was really excited about the possibility of playing us because she was my roommate in China. That was one of those things that didn't make any difference, but you just know. Other than that, no.

The Press: Was it as physical, because last time you spent a lot of time on your backside? You didn't seem to do that as much. It may have been because you lost your contact. How do you attribute the game's physicality?

Chantelle: I'd like to say that's two games in a row that Zuzi has found my lost contact. I don't know, maybe they were consciously focusing on trying not to be so physical so that their post players wouldn't foul out. They wanted to keep their post players in the game a little bit more because I do know that they were in foul trouble the whole game the last time we played them. It was still physical, but, no, it wasn't as physical.

The Press: What did you think about Tera Bjorklund?

Chantelle: I have to give her a lot of credit. She's improved a lot since last year. We made a conscious decision to play behind and try to contest her shots and make sure we had people on their outside shooters because she looks to get the ball and relocate her shooters by drawing defenses. We did not want to let that happen. Obviously, it worked -- I mean, she had a good game, but it didn't hurt as much as them raining down three's on us all night. So I think it was a good strategy. Coach Foster's a pretty smart man. (laughter)

The Press: Can you talk about the next game?

Coach Foster: What do you want to talk about?

The Press: What's it going to be like taking on the #1 team in the country this early?

Coach Foster: It's a game that has a meaning because it's the championship of this tournament, but it doesn't have any long range. It's where you are. We want to play in March, real deep into March. So we're going up there in November to see where we are relative to where we want to be in March.

The Press: Who comes out ahead on that wine and food thing? (laughter)

Coach Foster: Who hired him?

The Press: Chantelle, can you tell us about the significance of this game?

Chantelle: I think it's a good test for us -- a good measuring stick. It's always nice to play in a tournament like this early because it helps you get a lot of games in in a short amount of time to kinda work out the kinks and see where you are as a team. And I think it'll be a good test for us. We're going up there to play a very good basketball team. It'll be good to see where we are -- see things we need to work on, things we're good at. It'll be good for us.

The Press: What do you expect will be the toughest matchup with UConn for your team?

Coach Foster: They have great speed. They have great speed. We haven't played against that. We don't have a frame of reference for that, so we're going to have to get ready for it. It's a nice game to be playing this time of year. It's a nice for the media, it's a nice game for the fans, it's a nice game for the players. We were well aware that this could happen. We saw the brackets. And we've been pretty focused on game to game, getting a game out of the way, then getting another game, and then getting another game. Now we're just looking forward to going to Connecticut. Vanderbilt hasn't played in the state of Connecticut. So we get another state.

The Press: What can you tell us about Connecticut?

Coach Foster: They're different. They're different than most teams. They've always been real good offensively, but their defense is gone up a notch. They get people to turn the ball over. They're a talented basketball team.

The Press: What did you think about Bjorklund's play today?

Coach Foster: I thought she did a nice job. Again, we made some choices and some decisions about how we were going to guard this team. And she took advantage of those opportunities that came her way. But I think we were very very conscious in the last game I think that Nightingale took 14 three's and Roulier took 9. That's 23, and they made a lot of them.

The Press: Zuzi, from what you've seen of Connecticut, what can you tell us?

Zuzi: You're asking the wrong person. I play in games, and once the game is over, I take the bad things, I take the good things, and I move on. Seriously, if you would ask me about last year's Colorado game, I would remember very little. To me, it's just very exciting to get the chance to play against them. I mean we have made such progress since my freshman year. Playing such a big team in my senior year, it's just going to be another test for our program -- how far do we need to go to become a program at such a level. That's how I'm looking at it. It's the fourth game of the season. There are many many to go. Sorry.

* * * * *

The Press: When was the last time you had as had a time getting three's as you and Jenny did tonight?

Mandy Nightingale: I think that we got them, we just weren't hitting them. Probably last year when we played them was my worst shooting game.. . . I think we were getting open shots; we just weren't knocking them down.

The Press: Was this an important game for you guys, given that last season ended here?

Mandy: Oh yeah. It was a big game for us. They're also ranked #3. So we thought we'd come back and play a lot better than we did. They're a good team, but we didn't play up to our potential either.

The Press: (inaudible)

Tera Bjorklund: I also think statistically our shots weren't falling. Like Mandy was saying, we had shots, they just weren't falling. I think we could have done better on the boards getting second shots and that would have made a difference. I think last time too we weren't rebounding very good. So I think that's something we can definitely work on and step up.

The Press: Were you intentionally less physical this time around?

Tera: We didn't emphasize anything like that. I know we're focusing more on working the post and trying to use our quickness, but I don't think defensively we did anything like that.

The Press: Did Vanderbilt do anything different this time?

Tera: I really don't think they did much of anything different. We kind of went back to our old scouting report from last year, and obviously it worked really well for them, so I don't see why they would change anyway. But I think it was pretty much the same.

The Press: Did you feel any sense of urgency in this game compared to the last game?

Tera: Probably not as much because we know we can keep playing. But this was definitely a big game for us. It seems like we just played them yesterday the last time we played them. . . . For us, it was pretty big, though.

The Press: So did you feel a sense of urgency?

Mandy: I did. I think our whole team did. Since we lost last year, we wanted to come back in here and prove ourselves. And we didn't.

The Press: How do you feel about your effort?

Mandy: I think our effort was good. Give us an A for effort, but an F for shooting. I think that was our only thing tonight -- shooting and rebounding. I thought even though two of their players went off, I thought we held everybody else down pretty well. So I thought we had a sense of urgency; we just needed to knock down our shots.

The Press: You obviously didn't make enough shots tonight, but were you getting the kind of shots you wanted?

Coach Ceal Barry: Yeah. That was probably the more frustrating thing. We had some good open shots. We had some post player shots that were pretty close to the basket, and we had some wide open outside shots that typically fall for us. Nightingale, Sabrina Scott had an airball. She's a better shooter than that. We usually don't get much from our forwards, so that's not a surprise that they didn't score because they usually don't score very often. But our guards' shooting was really really poor, and that hurt us tonight.

The Press: (inaudible)

Coach Barry: Klimesova is a ball player. I mean she is a player. She's just good. She doesn't do anything special -- she can drive, she can shoot, she can pass, she can rebound. And when you've got Benningfield at the other forward, it's not like you can take your pick. Both of them are strong, and Jim's a great coach. He spreads out the floor, so you can't really help on one of them. She hurt us last year. That's what hurt us so much because you know she's going to score a lot. That's why it hurt us so much that our guards didn't score.

The Press: In women's basketball, they don't give poundage, but you can tell by looking . . . was Vanderbilt more physical this time around?

Coach Barry: This time around as compared to last time? I couldn't tell you because we didn't even hit anything. It wasn't so much them being physical as much as . . . I mean this is early, before being physical would have worn us down. We missed shots the first ten minutes of the game that we should have hit, then we got behind. . . I thought they were more disciplined than us. Physical? Benningfield's probably 6'3 and I'm going to guess her weight, but Bohman's 5'9. They are bigger than us, Anderson's bigger than us. They're not bigger than us at the guard spot.

The Press: It's early in the season. Is there a particular lesson you'll take from this?

Coach Barry: Yeah, what I told my team is that they played with more discipline. Not that we're an undisciplined team, because we're not, but they very much are. They believe in their system. They have confidence in their system, and I suspect that Vanderbilt has confidence in their system when they're behind. And I felt like when we were behind, we showed a little bit of immaturity and not staying with what we do and being patient. I told them that today -- that patience was going to be a big, big part of this game, and we didn't demonstrate much.

The Press: Any thoughts on Vanderbilt's chances?

Coach Barry: I think it's going to be a different venue -- the home court advantage is significant in women's basketball, and certainly Connecticut has one of the best. And we just came from the other best, in New Mexico. But that's going to be a real test for Vanderbilt. They're disciplined, and like I said, they've got a lot of it. If anybody can go in there and play well, it's Vanderbilt. I'm not as familiar with Connecticut, though, because we don't play them.

The Press: Coming back here next March?

Coach Barry: I hope not. I like it down here, but I'm getting too familiar with it. (laughter) Top Stories