Women's Hoops: Vanderbilt wins 24th

The Vanderbilt Commodores celebrated Senior Day on Sunday afternoon by defeating the Auburn Tigers 72-54 Sunday afternoon in Memorial Gym.

Vanderbilt jumped out to an early 11-0 lead, led by seniors Zuzi Klimesova and Jillian Danker. The seniors combined for 4 of Vandy's 5 field goals in the run and dished out an assist on the other.

The game was never really close after that. After Vanderbilt scored the first 11 points, a jumper by Le'Coe Willingham and a 3-pointer by Natasha Bracket cut the lead to six points at 11-5 with 15:59 remaining, but the Commodores quickly pushed the lead back to double digits. Auburn was able to trim the lead to 8 points once more in the game at 28-20 with 3:23 left in the first half. But every time that Auburn made a run, the Commodores slammed the door. At halftime, Vanderbilt held a 35-22 lead.

Auburn struck first in the second half, but 10 points from Chantelle Anderson, coupled with a 3-pointer by Ashley McElhiney, gave the Commodores a 20-point lead at 46-26 with 16:08 left in the second half. From there on, the lead hovered around 20 points until two free throws from Jillian Danker gave Vanderbilt a 26-point lead, their biggest of the night, with 4:43 remaining.

With 2:08 left in the game, all three seniors left the game together to a thunderous ovation from the crowd. Vanderbilt emptied the bench, and every player on the active roster got into the game. When all was said and done, the Commodores had won by a score of 72-54.

Two Commodores scored in double figures, led by Chantelle Anderson with 19 points, followed by Zuzi Klimesova with 14. Anderson was also leading rebounder with 6. Ashley McElhiney added 5 assists, while Zuzi Klimesova had 4. Le'Coe Williham led the Tigers with 17 points and 8 rebounds, followed Natasha Bracket with 13 points and 5 rebounds.

Vanderbilt shot 56.3% from the floor for the game, 42.1% from 3-point range including 3 of 3 from freshman Abi Ramsey, and 90.9% from the free throw line. Auburn shot 46% from the floor, 33.3% from 3-point range, and 66.7% from the line.

Auburn out-rebounded by Commodores by 1 at 24-23, but Vanderbilt won the turnover battle. The Commodores scored 21 points off 11 Auburn turnovers, while the Tigers scored only 8 points from 6 Vanderbilt turnovers.

With the victory, Vanderbilt finishes the regular season with a 24-6 record. The Commodores' 10-4 SEC record puts them in a second place tie with South Carolina. Since the Lady Gamecocks defeated Vandy, they hold the tiebreaker and the claim to the #2 seed in the SEC tournament. Auburn falls to 15-12 overall, 3-11 in the SEC.

Next action for both teams is the SEC Tournament. Auburn will face Florida Thursday night, while Vanderbilt will meet the winner of that game Friday night at 8:30 p.m.


Vanderbilt Media Relations: First some notes. Vanderbilt finishes the SEC season at 10-4, which is the most league wins in school history. 16-1 ties the most home wins in a season. Vandy is 9-3 on TV, and today is Jim Foster's 250th win at Vanderbilt.

The Press: Coach, what does that (the 250 wins) mean?

Head Coach Jim Foster: I don't know. It must be special, as dressed up as you are today. (laughter) It means I've had a lot of good players and that I've been here a long time. That's what it means.

The Press: Coach, can you talk about what this group of seniors has done for this program?

Coach Foster: They've helped get us back where we want to live. We went to a place we didn't like very much their freshman year. They started to help us build a foundation to be something else. We're happy with where we're -- we want to finish out the season in a very positive way to sort of top off their careers.

The Press: Was this a good way to see your seniors go out? It looked like they were having fun today.

Coach Foster: Yeah, I think they played well. They had people very important to them in the bleachers. I think sometimes how you handle that, sometimes people don't handle that very well. I think they handled it in a very mature fashion, in a heads very squarely on their shoulders fashion and went out after a very emotional -- I know Zuzi had a few tears when the Czech anthem was played and then to regroup and go out and play the way she played, I think it was very special. And both Jillian and Zuzi had their grandmothers here. They don't get to come as much as others do. And Candice --. Candice knows how to go through senior day better than any player in history.

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The Press: I think that Jillian and Zuzi were involved in first 8 points.

Coach Foster: Yeah, it was nice of them to let other players to start to score, too. (laughter) Sharing the ball. They did a great job of sharing the ball, moving the ball. When you've got 27 baskets, 22 assisted, against what I think is a very very good defensive basketball team. Auburn traditionally in this conference has been a sort of a bellwether of defense. I don't think anything's different. They may have lost a couple of players that have hurt them on the offensive end, but defensively, they're still Auburn. I was really happy with our patience and our ball movement and our execution.

The Press: They beat South Carolina the other night, Did that give you any more focus?

Coach Foster: Nah, I think this team has gotten into focus. I think we have been playing very purposefully on offense and for the most part, with intensity on defense. We got into an exchange the basket mode a little bit in the second half with Auburn, but Auburn had a couple of players come off the bench and play very very well.

The Press: Chantelle, talk about what it was like watching these two get you rolling early on.

Chantelle Anderson: well, it's always nice to see players hitting shots. And I think keeping in mind what night it was, it was nice that it was Zuzi and Jillian. I noticed it, and usually you wouldn't notice it, you'd just notice "Oh, we're hitting shots!," but I did notice the fact that it was Zuzi and Jillian starting us off.

Coach Foster: I noticed the fact that Willingham got a lot of rebounds in the first half. (laughter)

Chantelle: I noticed that too.

Coach Foster: Good. You did a much better job in the second half.

The Press: Over and beyond basketball, talk about each senior as a person. What will you miss?

Coach Foster: Candice Storey -- her nickname is "Mother Storey" for a lot of reasons. She has a lot of wisdom between her ears that she's been able to distribute to our basketball team both on and off the court. That's probably irreplaceable. You don't get anybody with that kind of experience.

Jillian has grown probably the most of our seniors in terms of where she is today from the way she was when she first got here and a player who has developed other facets to her game. When she got here, she was maybe a little one dimensional, but she spent a lot of time and worked hard to be more than one dimensional, and I think she's grown a lot, both on and off the court.

Zuzi is sort of the spirit of this team in terms of willing to do so much for others. I think both Candice and Zuzi lead us in that direction. They've done an incredible job, both off the court, as well as on the court. I mean, today is a great example. We had over 1500 books come in for the Charles Davis Foundation. This team does a lot of things around this community that they don't publicize. They don't seek out compliments. They just go do it. I think quietly Zuzi has sort of led us in that area.

The Press: Coach, you have the most league wins in the school's history and your possibly won't finish better than third. What does that say?

Coach Foster: Well, it says two things. They're playing more league games. A couple of those teams that won 9 were 9 and 2. We only played 11 league games then. I think it speaks to the strength of this conference and what it takes to go through this conference. You need to be multi-faceted because you're going to play teams with a lot of different looks and our whole thing has always been to be ready for March, and that's what we prepare for and that's what we strive for. It's getting close, and we just need to be on this track and continue on this track. I think that the team has learned how to work hard, make some adjustments, get some things done through the course of a game. I think they've started to grow in the dimensions they need to grow at this time of year.

The Press: Coach, is it any more significant having the SEC tournament here at home?

Coach Foster: I don't know. Wait and see.

The Press: Zuzi, can you talk about today?

Zuzi Klimesova: Today was just special You can't go through a program for four years and not feel like it hasn't changed. It has helped you to grow, put you through some hard times, through some awesome times. It was just great, especially because my mom got to come, and my grandma and my aunt even though that was not planned at first. The fans were great, just knowing that you made a difference in their lives, just like they made one in yours. You get to share it with them for -- of course, you're still hoping for two more home games, but it is still different when you get recognized like that before the game. So it was just very special.

The Press: Zuzi, will your family get to stay through the tournament.

Zuzi: They're going to be here definitely through Saturday. Sunday they have to leave. So if we make it to the finals, then I'll be on my own again.

The Press: Jillian, could you say some things, too?

Jillian Danker: Like Zuzi said, it's just a special day. It's something that you think about -- I remember talking about senior day with Zuzi freshman year and just planning some of the stuff we wanted to do. I remember her talking about the Czech national anthem being played, and just what we wanted to do, like making the sign and stuff like that. It's just something we've been planning. You can't go through a program and not -- I mean, it's four years, you know what I mean? It's four years that are very important. It's just fun. Like you've enjoyed it, and there have been some hard times and good times. And senior days is something that's -- It's just special. My best buddy, right here, (pointing to Zuzi) you know what I mean. This wouldn't have happened if we weren't here together.

The Press: Zuzi, Chantelle says she was mindful of who was scoring earkt. Did you come out more of an offensive threat than normal?

Zuzi: I think that they guarded Chantelle from beginning on very closely. And usually when that happens, some outside shots get open. Sometimes it's a 3. Today it just hapened to be me. The coaches have been talking to me that I just need to take the open shots because 15-footers -- that's what I do best. I was open, and I shot, and it went in, and it just makes all the difference.

The Press: Candice, can you say a few words about today?

Candice Storey: I'd like to clarify that I'm not coming back. (laughter) Are you tricking us? No, I'm really not. No, it was nice to share it with Zuzi and Jillian. I went through it last year, but I was all by myself. It was nice to enjoy it with my uniform on this year and with two other people who have really done a lot for the program and worked really hard. I was really more happy for them. I really appreciate the opportunities in the 6 years -- it was funny, because they were saying 4 years, it was 4-6 years. It was nice to share it with my teammates. This is a great group, so it made me happy that I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to come back. So it makes it worth it. When I hugged my parents, they said, "Is this it -- really?" (laughter) They've been just great. It't just great when you have people that support you. It's just nice. It was a good day.

Auburn Head Coach Joe Ciampi: We know they are a great shooting team. When you let a great shooting team have the looks we gave them early, the results are obvious. You have to respect first of all their inside game with Anderson and Klimesova. And that's all we talked about. You have to defend from the inside out. Then you take your poison from there. We were in a situation where we permitted too many good looks. Their shooting percentage in the first half was just outstanding. They're a great team, but you can't give a great team as many easy looks as we did.

The Press: You have to turn around and come back to Nashville for the SEC tournament. You want to talk about that:?

Coach Ciampi: Well, right now we're trying to regroup. We're in a situation where our inside presence has been gone since the second game of the SEC season. When we lost Tia Miller, our leading scorer and rebounder to an ACL at Tennessee. That was a Thursday night game and the following Sunday we played at Kentucky and were successful there, and our second post, Brandi Hillman who played today, broke her foo. Brandi Hillman just came back Thursday. So we didn't have an inside presence. So what we're trying to do now is in these next two to three days is to develop an inside presence so we can defend from the inside out. That's why she played today. Hopefully, by her playing Vandy, it helped. We have a go to person in Le'Coe WIllingham on the inside, but still, we need defensively that presence inside. Hopefully Brandi will be ready for Thursday night. It looks like we're going to play Florida. We played them the first game of the year and we know that they have Hayden on the inside and then McCain on the outside. But they don't have the weapons Vanderbilt has, so we may be able to get a defensive plan for them.

The Press: Coach, are you any more concerned when you go into somebody's gym for senior night than you would otherwise be?

Coach Ciampi. We did the same thing Thursday night at our place. And you're right. You're charged. We beat South Carolina 69-47 at our place with this team you saw today because you sold your young players, we've got so many young players, we sold them on the idea that this is the last game for your seniors -- where's your energy, where's your pride, put on that uniform the last time they're going to be in it. We played a great game. You don't know how to addresss a senior day. Do you go into the locker room? What do you do? I decided to keep everyone out here just to see that . . they need to stay in the charged, if you go in the locker room --you do it both ways. You have to play the game, and you knew they were at a higher level so we tried to focus in on defending a little bit better. Any time you're charged up, you're doing to defend an extra step. And they did a great job early. They did a great job of changing defense. Chantelle has done a great job of putting herself in a position where -- she defends the right way now. She keeps herself in the game. She picks and chooses how she defends you on the inside. That's a compliment to her.

The Press: Could you talk a little bit about Nicole Louden?

Coach Ciampi: Nicole is our point guard of the future. She's developing into a point guard that is learning how to distribute the ball at the right time to her teammates. Nicole was a great scorer in high school, so it's difficult for her to sway to the other side and become a distributor of the ball, but she's learning it. What she gives us defensively is . . .and leadership. She's the young lady that's going to step in for us in the future.

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