Lady Vols oust Vanderbilt from tourney, 76-73

GREENVILLE, S.C.-- Vanderbilt's hopes of repeating as SEC women's basketball tournament champions came to an end Saturday night, as the Commodores fell to the Tennessee Lady Vols 76-73 in the tournament semifinals.

Four Commodores scored in double figures in the loss, led by senior forward Ashley Earley with 20 points, followed by senior guard Abi Ramsey with 19, sophomore guard Caroline Williams with 15, and sophomore guard Dee Davis with 11. Ramsey and Williams each sank five 3-pointers. Shanna Zolman led the Lady Vols with 18 points.

In the early going, Vanderbilt held the upper hand. Tennessee briefly led 5-4, but otherwise the Commodores led through the first nine minutes of the game. A pair of free throws by Davis gave the Commodores their biggest lead of the night at 16-9 with 12:59 remaining in the half, but within a couple of minutes, the Lady Vols tied the game at 18-18.

A couple of jumpers by Alexis Hornbuckle gave the Lady Vols their first lead of the night at 22-18 with 9:11 left in the first half. As it turned out, Tennessee would manage to fend off every Vanderbilt run and hold the lead for the rest of the game.

Much of the story of the game as written behind the 3-point arc. After Tennessee first took the lead, a 3-pointer from Williams cut the lead back to one point at 22-21. But then two 3-pointers from Brittany Jackson gave the Lady Vols a seven-point lead at 28-21. with 7:35 left.

Then a few minutes later, 3-pointers by Williams and Davis cut the Tennessee lead back to just one point at 32-31 with three minutes left in the half. However, the Commodores weren't able to score again in the half, and a couple of baskets by Shyra Ely gave Tennessee a 36-31 halftime lead.

The second half began inauspiciously for Vanderbilt when Earley fouled Nicky Anosike just ten seconds into the half. She sank both of her free throws, then a basket by Ely gave the Lady Vols a 9-point lead at 40-31. Shortly afterwards, a 3-pointer by Shanna Zolman off an inbounds play gave Tennessee a 10-point lead at 45-35. with 17:05 left in the game.

For the next five minutes, the teams essentially traded baskets, and with 12:56 left in the game, the Lady Vols held an 11-point lead, their biggest of the night, at 54-43. All twelve of Vanderbilt's second half points until then had come in the paint from Earley.

Then Davis saw Williams was screaming for the ball from the corner, got the ball to her, and Williams sank the 3-pointer to trim the lead back to eight points, and the Commodores were on their way to climbing back into the game.

Over the next few minutes, Thomas drove to the basket and scored, Williams sank another 3-pointer, Earley scored in the low post, and Davis scored on a reverse layup to cut the Tennessee lead back to just one point at 56-55 with 8:48 remaining.

From that point on, the Commodores continued in hot pursuit. The Lady Vols would pull away by five or six points, then Vandy would counter to narrow the gap. A 3-pointer from Ramsey, her fifth of the game, cut the lead once more back to one point at 74-73 with 1:43 left in the game.

But that was as close as it would get. Several turnovers and missed shots kept the Commodores from capitalizing on their opportunities. Even the fact that Vanderbilt had been called for so few fouls in the half worked against the Commodores, since they weren't able to force Tennessee to take free throws in the closing seconds of the game.

But despite it all, with 12 seconds left in the game, the Commodores were in position to tie the game. But this time, William's 3-point shot didn't fall, and so when the final buzzer sounded, the Lady Vols escaped with the win.

For the game, Vanderbilt shot 53.6% from the field compared to 46.9% for Tennessee. Both teams shot well from 3-point range, with Vanderbilt connecting on 11 of 21 attempts for 52.4%, and Tennessee making seven of their 13 attempts for 53.8%.

The Lady Vols held an edge on the boards at 32-28 and had fewer turnovers with only 11 compared to 14 for Vanderbilt. Both teams were charged with only six personal fouls in each half, so neither team was in the bonus at any point during the game. In the second half, Vanderbilt didn't attempt a single free throw.

With the win, Tennessee moves on to the championship game against LSU on Sunday evening. Next action for Vanderbilt will be in the NCAA tournament, but the date, time and place won't be known until the NCAA announces seedings, pairings and placements on Sunday, March 13. Top Stories