During the first half, it appeared as the Commodores were going to sail to an easy victory. Vanderbilt jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead in the first couple of minutes of the game, and by the time of the first media timeout, the Commodores had staked a 13-3 lead. A couple of 3-pointers by 6'2 forward Jessica Pierce helped the Bulldogs close the gap to 16-12 with 11:05 left in the half.
And then the Commodore barrage began. Four free throws from All-American candidate Zuzi Klimesova and a 3-pointer from freshman guard Abi Ramsey restored the Vanderbilt lead to double digits at 23-12 with eight minutes left in the half. After a Georgia timeout, the Commodores continued the onslaught fueled 3-pointers from Ramsey, Ashley McElhiney, and Jenni Benningfield.
In the meantime, the energized Commodore defense held Georgia scoreless for over 11 minutes until a basket by Whitney Law with five seconds left in the half finally broke the long scoring drought for the Bulldogs. All told, from the 11:08 mark onward, Vanderbilt outscored Georgia 23-2 to finish the half with a 39-14 lead.
But during halftime, the sleeping Dawgs awoke. Out of the locker room, Georgia reeled off 10 straight points as the Fan Appreciation Day crowd of over 6,000 came to life. Klimesova finally broke the Bulldogs' run, but Georgia wasn't finished yet. The Bulldogs continued chipping away until Pierce's third 3-pointer of the game cut the Vanderbilt lead to single digits at 47-38.
Then the Commodores abruptly regained their composure. A clutch 3-pointer by Jenni Benningfield, followed by an easy layup by Chantelle Anderson, and a 3-pointer from Klimesova in a little over a minute restored the Vanderbilt lead to 17 at 55-38 with 7:31 remaining in the game.
Georgia managed to cut the lead to 14 on a couple of occasions after that, but key offensive rebounds by Benningfield and sixth-year senior Candice Storey down the stretch limited Georgia's chances. In the last five minutes of the game, the Bulldogs managed only two points on a field goal by Kara Braxton with 2:26 left. Three free throws from Klimesova and a layup by Storey ended the scoring for the game with the final of 64-47.
Vanderbilt was led in scoring by Zuzi Klimesova with 23 points including 12 of 14 from the free throw, followed by Chantelle Anderson with 14. No other Commodores scored in double figures, but every Vanderbilt player in the game scored at least 2 points. Jenni Benningfield was leading rebounder with 9, and Ashley McElhiney and Klimesova each had 6 assists.
Jessica Pierce led the Bulldogs in scoring with 11, followed by Christi Thomas and kara Braxton with 10 each. Mary Beth Lycett was leading rebounder with 6. Three Georgia players had two assists.
For the game, Vanderbilt shot 51.2% from the field, while the Georgia shot 36.2%. In the first half, the Commodores shot 55% from the floor and dropped to 47.6% in the second half, while Georgia shot a woeful 20% in the first half and a redhot 54.5% in the second half. Vanderbilt out-rebounded the Bulldogs 31-23, but had more turnovers with 17 compared to only 11 for Georgia.
With the victory, Vandy improves to 18-3 on the second, 4-1 in the SEC. Georgia falls to 13-4, 2-3 in the SEC. The Commodores now return home to host the Florida Lady Gators on Thursday night in Memorial Gym, while Georgia travels to Ole Miss.
Post Game Comments
The Press: Zuzi, can you talk about the flow of the game -- getting out to a big lead in the first half, then losing it in the second,
Zuzi Klimesova: I think it was quite obvious that we came out, and we were quite ready. We were out there, we were energized on defense, we executed on offense. In the second half, I guess we were sitting in the locker room for too long. It took us about half of the second half to even get back our energy. At the same time, it was fortunate that we caught ourselves when we did. Ashley hit a big shot, Jenni and Candice rebounded like crazy on the offensive boards, and altogether it just helped us to get our momentum back and finish out strong.
The Press: Coach, would you add anything to that?
Vanderbilt Head Coach Jim Foster: No. I think we played a great first half and had a lot of intensity. Teams go through different things through the course of a season. I think we didn't come out with the energy necessary. I think Zuzi hit the nail on the head. This is the Southeastern Conference, and people are going to come back at you. They don't roll over, and they know how to play. I think they did a good job, and I think then we righted the ship, and I thought we did a great job down the stretch. So we played a great 30 minutes and a lousy 10 minutes, and I'll take the great 30.
The Press: What were you trying to do defensively in the first half?
Coach Foster: Well, we didn't want them to score. We didn't want their 3-point shooters to get good looks. and we didn't want their post players to get good looks. I think we did a good job on the 3-point shooters making their life a little difficult. I think Pierce was a player who we said if she starts to get going, we've gotta get out there and guard her, and our post players probably did a bad job of defending her on the perimeter, but our guards did a great job defending the rest of the 3-point shooters. I think we just guarded the high-low game. They're big. They're big, and they're talented, and they throw a lot of stuff at you.