Commodores edge Auburn 66-64 for 17th win

NASHVILLE-- Vanderbilt didn't bring its A-game, and possibly not even its B-game, but was nonetheless able to hang on for a 66-64 victory over Auburn Thursday at Memorial Gym. Ashley Earley led the Commodores (17-5, 6-3 SEC) with 17 points, while Natasha Brackett had 20 for the Tigers (12-10, 3-6).

NASHVILLE-- Vanderbilt didn't bring its A-game, and possibly not even its B-game, but was nonetheless able to hang on for a 66-64 victory over Auburn Thursday at Memorial Gym.

Ashley Earley led the Commodores (17-5, 6-3 SEC) with 17 points. Dee Davis and Abi Ramsey contributed 12 each, and sophomore guard Cherish Stringfield added 10. Natasha Brackett led all scorers with 20 points for the Tigers.

The game was a close one from start to finish, with neither team ever establishing a double-digit lead. In the game's first ten minutes the lead flip-flopped several times, but the Tigers held their last lead of the game at 14-12 with 10:15 left in the first half.

The Commodores crept ahead by 5 to 7 points and would never again trail, but could never quite put Auburn away. Just as the Vanderbilt faithful thought their team might finally establish some breathing room, the tenacious Tigers clawed their way back to narrow the gap to just a point or two.

The last seven-point lead for the Commodores came with 8:26 left in the game. Earley scrambled to save a ball going out of bounds to Stringfield, who sank a 15-foot jumper to stretch the lead to 52-45.

But as they did all night, the Tigers whittled the lead down again until a Nicole Louden layup cut it back to just one point at 59-58. Once again the Commodores held off the rally, this time with a driving layup by Katie Antony to make the score 61-58.

On the other end, Tiffany Presley grabbed an offensive rebound of a miss by Louise Emeagi, but turned the ball over when she stepped over the baseline. On Vanderbilt's possession Presley fouled Earley, who sank one of two free throws to give the Commodores a 62-58 lead with 2:50 left in the game.

But once again, Auburn hung on, and a pair of Alexis Obugie free throws cut the Vanderbilt lead to 63-62 with 1:50 left. After a missed 3-point attempt by Davis, Auburn Coach Nell Fortner used her last timeout with 1:23 left in the game.

After the timeout, Emeagi missed a jumper, and Earley snared the critical defensive rebound. Then Davis found Ramsey, who shot a 3-pointer that bounced and rolled around the rim and then finally fell through to push the Vanderbilt lead to 66-62.

Ogubie scored again to cut the lead back to two points. With 0:13 left, Davis missed a layup and 6-5 Marita Payne grabbed the board for the Tigers. But on her way down the court she injured an ankle, and the game officials called timeout with 0:05 left on the clock.

Vanderbilt went to a man-to-man defense on the inbound play, with Ramsey doing everything she could to deny Brackett the ball. She was successful. Taneshia Thompson took - and missed - the final shot for the Tigers, sealing the 66-64 victory for the Commodores.

Auburn led Vanderbilt in most statistical categories. The Tigers shot 46.4% from the field for the game, compared to only 40.0% for Vanderbilt. They also held a substantial edge on the boards with 40 rebounds to only 27 for Vanderbilt and had four blocked shots while the Commodores had none.

But Vanderbilt did have fewer turnovers with only eight, their lowest total for the season, while forcing 16 Auburn turnovers. Those 16 turnovers led to 14 points for Vanderbilt, while Auburn only scored six points off of Vanderbilt turnovers.

With the victory, Vanderbilt improves to 17-5 for the season, 6-3 in the SEC, while Auburn falls to 12-10 overall, 3-6 in the SEC. Next action for Vanderbilt is a road trip to Knoxville for play the Tennessee Lady Vols on Sunday afternoon. Gametime is 2 p.m. CT and will be televised on ESPN2.


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