Vanderbilt women overwhelm Arkansas, 78-43

The Vanderbilt Commodores got back on the winning track Thursday night with a dominating 78-43 victory over the Arkansas Lady Razorbacks in Memorial Gym.

Sophomore forward Carla Thomas led the Commodore attack with 23 points. Senior forward Ashley Earley notched her tenth double-double of the season with 15 points and 11 rebounds, and senior guard Abi Ramsey added 11 points. Sarah Pfeifer led Arkansas with 13 points.

Vanderbilt took the first lead of the game on a jumper by sophomore guard Caroline Williams less than 15 seconds after tip-off. The Commodores never trailed after that, but the Ladybacks did tie the game once at 4-4.

Sophomore guard Cherish Stringfield's 3-pointer with 15:46 left in the first half gave Vanderbilt a 7-4 lead, and from there on, the Commodores continued to pull farther and farther away over the rest of the game.

It wasn't completely smooth sailing, however. The Arkansas defense, which has led the nations in steals per game for much of the season, forced six Vanderbilt turnovers in the first six minutes of the game. In all, Vanderbilt turned the ball over 24 times, including 16 steals by the Ladybacks.

But despite the turnovers, the Vanderbilt lead continued to grow, reaching double digits for the first time at 17-6 on a layup by Earley with 9:36 left in the first half. Arkansas countered with a couple of baskets by Sarah Pfeifer to cut the lead back to 17-10.

But then the Vanderbilt defense held Arkansas scoreless for more than five minutes, allowing the Commodores to go on a 14-0 run to push the lead past 20 points at 31-10 with 3:19 left in the first half. After the teams swapped a couple of baskets, a jumper by Ramsey at the buzzer gave Vanderbilt a 37-14 halftime lead.

In the second half, the Commodores picked right up where they left off, out-scoring Arkansas 13-4 in the first five minutes of the half to push the lead past 30 points at 50-18.

The biggest lead reached its biggest point of the night at 72-33 with 5:06 left in the game allowing Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb the chance to get all of her eligible players into the game. When the final buzzer sounded, the Commodores claimed a 78-43 victory.

For the game, Vanderbilt shot 64.6% from the field, while holding Arkansas to just 30.4%. The Commodores also more than doubled the Ladybacks on the boards with 41 rebounds to only 20 for Arkansas. But the Arkansas defense forced 24 Vanderbilt turnovers while committing only 16 themselves. Despite the difference, however, the points scored off the turnovers were nearly equal with 21 for Vanderbilt and 20 for Arkansas.

With the victory, Vanderbilt improves to 18-6 (7-4 SEC) while Arkansas falls to 15-9 (3-8 SEC). The win gives the Commodores sole possession of fourth place in the SEC as they head to Florida for a Sunday afternoon game at the O'Connell Center in Gainesville. The next home game will be next Thursday night when the Commodores host Alabama on Senior Night, the last home game of the season.

Vanderbilt's Carla Thomas, right, gets poked in the eye by Arkansas' Sarah Pfeifer during the second half in Nashville, Tenn. on Thursday Feb. 17, 2005. Thomas scored 23 points as Vanderbilt went on to win 78-43. (AP Photo/Neil Brake) Top Stories