Suuuweet! Vandy advances past K-State, 63-60

SEATTLE, Wash.-- Vanderbilt withstood a late Kansas State rally and hung on to defeat the fourth-seeded Wildcats 63-60 Monday in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Carla Thomas led the Commodores with 18 points. <p> Vanderbilt (24-7) advanced to face top-seeded Michigan State next Sunday in Kansas City.

SEATTLE, Wash.-- Vanderbilt withstood a late Kansas State rally and hung on to defeat the fourth-seeded Wildcats 63-60 Monday in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Carla Thomas led the Commodores with 18 points.

Vanderbilt (24-7) advanced to face top-seeded Michigan State in the Sweet 16 next Sunday in Kansas City.

The game was a game of runs, with shifts of momentum that favored first one team, then the other. The first shift came less than five minutes into the game with Kansas State leading 9-7, when Dee Davis picked up two quick fouls and went to the bench.

With Davis out of the game, the Wildcats stretched their lead out to eight points at 20-12, prompting Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb re-insert Davis with 8:47 left in the half.

"I was concerned because I knew we had to play her and one of the reasons I had to play her was that they had gotten a lead," said Balcomb. "I knew that we go as Dee goes and I had to get Dee back in the game. I had to take the chance that she was going to play smart."

"I was constantly being reminded that I had two fouls," said Davis. "I just knew I couldn't let my teammates down. Being on the bench you're not contributing, you're not helping your teammates, so I knew I had to get back out there and be more aggressive and do what the coaches were asking me to do."
"Yes, I kept reminding her," said Balcomb. "I was telling her every minute I could to be smart and remind her that she had two fouls and that she needed to be on the floor for us."

After her return Davis scored seven points, including a fast-break layup that tied the game, and a 3-pointer that put Vanderbilt ahead for good. Vanderbilt would finish the half on a 22-5 run, capped by a 3-pointer from Cherish Stringfield with four seconds left in the half, giving the Commodores a 34-25 halftime lead.

Kansas State scored the first six point of the second half to cut the Vanderbilt lead to three points at 34-31, but once again the Commodores seized momentum and built the lead to 16 points (57-41) with 7:10 left in the game.

But the Wildcats chipped away, as Vanderbilt made only one field goal over the next six minutes. KSU whittled the lead to three points (59-56) on a 3-pointer from Laurie Koehn that gave her the all-time NCAA record for 3-pointers in a career.

A layup from Thomas restored the lead to five. As the Commodore defense clamped down on Koehn on the perimeter, Brie Madden scored on a couple of layups to cut the Vanderbilt lead to 61-60 with 0:05 left.

For the third year in the NCAA tournament, the Commodores found themselves holding a slim one-point lead with five seconds or less left in the game. [In 2003 a layup by Amber Jacobs with 2.5 seconds left sent Boston College to the Sweet 16; in 2004, a 3-pointer by Stanford's Kelly Suminski knocked Vanderbilt out of the tournament.]

Balcomb called time out and put the game into the hands of her seniors. Abi Ramsey, who rarely inbounds the ball, took the ball out of bounds under the Kansas State basket. Earley went deep, and Ramsey found her on a long baseball pass over the Kansas State defense. Earley took the ball to the basket and sank the layup with 0:02 left.

"In the timeout coach said that if it was wide open, to just go ahead and take it," said Earley. "She also told Abi not to throw it unless I was wide open, so I trusted that there was no one behind me, so I just went up strong."

The Commodores got the defensive stop as Kansas State missed a desperation 3-pointer, sealing the 63-60 victory.

Besides Thomas' 18 points, Ashley Earley finished with 17, and Dee Davis added 13. Kendra Wecker led all scorers with 29 points for the Wildcats.


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