Vanderbilt women swamp Gators, 84-73

Senior guard Abi Ramsey broke the all-time school record for 3-pointers in a game and scored a career-high 30 points to lead the Vanderbilt Commodores to a 84-73 victory over the Florida Gators Sunday afternoon in Memorial Gym.

Sophomore forward Carla Thomas added 14 points, while senior forward Ashley Earley scored 13. Three Gators scored in double figures, led by Bernice Mosby with 15 points.

Sophomore guard Caroline Williams fired the opening salvo when she nailed a 3-pointer for the Commodores less than 15 seconds into the game to give Vanderbilt the first lead of the game. Both teams were shooting well in the first half, connecting on 16 of their first 20 shots.

But even though Florida was in hot pursuit, the Commodores were able to hold on to their lead for most of the first half, with the lead reaching as high as seven points several times during the half.

Late in the half, however, Florida began to catch up. With Vanderbilt leading 33-26 at the 6:21 mark, Florida went on a 7-0 run to tie the game at 35-35 with 4:12 left in the half. Then a 3-pointer by Sarah Lowe gave the Gators their first lead of the game at 38-35 with 3:27 left.

Florida was able to hold Vanderbilt off for a while, despite a 3-pointer from sophomore guard Cherish Stringfield that tied the game at 40-40. Going into the final seconds of the half, the Gators held a skinny two-point lead at 42-40, but then a 3-pointer from Ramsey at the buzzer gave Vanderbilt a 43-42 lead going into the locker room.

The first five minutes of the second half were nip-and-tuck, with neither team able to build more than a 3-point lead. Then, with 14:41 left, Tamia Williams scored for the Gators on a fast break to give Florida a 4-point lead at 55-51, and then a couple of baskets by Lowe gave the Gators an 8-point lead with 13:31 left.

In the midst of the Florida run, Thomas picked up her fourth foul and had to go to the bench. Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb then went to a lineup that featured no players taller than 5'10.

Any comfort the Gators might have felt with Thomas on the bench quickly evaporated when Ramsey hit two consecutive 3-pointers in less than a minute to cut the Florida lead back to just two points at 59-57. After a media timeout, Earley scored on an inbounds play to tie the game at 59-59 with 11:42 remaining.

Ramsey hit one of a pair of free throws to give Vanderbilt a 1-point lead, then a layup by Mosby gave the Gators their last lead of the game a 61-60. Another 3-pointer from Ramsey soon afterwards gave the lead back to the Commodores, and a couple of minutes later, yet another Ramsey 3-pointer increased the Vanderbilt lead to five points at 66-61.

And that was as close as Florida would get for the rest of the game. The Gators cut the lead to five points once at 68-63 with 6:27 remaining, but after that, the Commodore lead slowly inched upward, reaching ten points at 75-65 with 1:47 left.

Then the Gators began to foul to regain possession of the ball, sending Vanderbilt repeatedly to the free throw line. From that point on, the Commodores connected on 10 of 14 free throws to seal the 84-73 victory.

For the game, both teams shot well, with Vanderbilt shooting 59.2% for the game compared to 48.4% for Florida. There was a difference in the halves, however. In the first half, Florida shot 54.8% from the field, but fell to 41.9% in the second half. On the other hand, Vanderbilt shot 58.6% in the first half and improved to 60% in the second half.

Both teams also shot well from 3-point range, with Vanderbilt sinking 13 3-pointers on 23 attempts (56.5%), including eight from Ramsey and three from Williams. Florida connected on 7 of 15 (46.7%). The Gators were 6 of 9 from the free throw line (66.7%) while Vanderbilt was 13 of 20 (65%).

The Gators out-rebounded the Commodores 32-28. In the first half, the difference was more than double with 19 rebounds for Florida and only nine for Vanderbilt, but the Commodores held a 19-13 edge in the second half. Turnovers were nearly equal, with 15 for Florida, and 16 for Vanderbilt.

With the victory, Vanderbilt improves to 15-5 overall, 4-3 in the SEC, while Florida falls to 12-8 overall, 3-4 in the SEC.

Next the Commodores travel to Starkville, Mississippi, for a Thursday night game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs before returning home on Sunday for a 2 p.m. game against Auburn.

Florida's Dalila Eshe, second from left, goes up for two points against Vanderbilt's Cherish Stringfield, left, Ashley Earley, center and Carla Williams (AP Photo/Neil Brake)

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