Women's Hoops: Vanderbilt SEC Tourney Champs

The Vanderbilt Commodores won the SEC Tournament championship Sunday night by defeating the LSU Lady Tigers 63-48 in the Gaylord Entertainment Center.

Vanderbilt jumped to an early 12-2 lead in the first five minutes of the game. However, after making six of their first eight shots from the field, the Commodores missed seven of their eight including several airballs by different players. LSU took advantage to inch closer and closer and by halftime, the Commodores held only a slim two-point lead at 28-26.

The second half began with LSU tying the score at 28-28 on a basket by Aiysha Smith. Vanderbilt regained the lead on a 3-pointer by Jenni Benningfield and maintained a slim lead until the 12:17 mark when LSU grabbed the lead for the first time at 39-38 on a fast break by Scholanda Dorrell.

It didn't last long, however, as Tournament MVP Zuzi Klimesova hit a couple of clutch jumpers to give Vanderbilt a 3-point lead at 41-38, and soon after, the first of Abi Ramsey's three 3-pointers gave the Commodores a 6-point lead at 44-38 with 10:07 remaining. Two LSU baskets cut the lead back to two, but once again, Klimesova hit a clutch basket with the shot clock winding down, and soon after, Ramsey hit her second 3-pointer to put Vandy ahead 51-44.

After that, LSU was unable to make a serious run, and Ramsey's third 3-pointer of the half with 3:07 gave Vanderbilt a 10-point lead, and the soft sounds of the fat lady starting her tuneups could be heard throughout the GEC. LSU did manage to whittle the lead single digits at 57-48 with 54 seconds remaining, but Ashley McElhiney and Klimesova hit 6 out of 6 free throws down the stretch to seal the 63-48 for the Commodores.

Vanderbilt was led in scoring by Chantelle Anderson with 18 points, followed by Klimesova with 16. Klimesova, Anderson and Jenni Benningfield each had 8 rebounds. Anderson led in assists with 4. Klimesova, McElhiney and Jillian Danker each had 2 steals.

LSU was led in scoring by point guard Temeka Johnson with 22 points, followed by Ke-Ke Tardy with 12. Aiysha Smith and Johnson each had 5 rebounds, and Smith had 4 assists.

For the game, Vanderbilt shot 49% from the floor, compared to 38.3% for LSU. The Commodores out-rebounded the Lady Tigers by a margin of 36-26. LSU however had only 9 turnovers compared to 17 for Vanderbilt. Particularly noteworthy in this game was the relatively small number of fouls. In Saturday's game against Arkansas, the two teams combined for 40 fouls, and in this game, LSU and Vandy combined for only 18 fouls. The first foul called against Vanderbilt didn't occur until the 9:39 mark of the first half, and when LSU's first foul was called, only 2:45 remained in the first half.

Vanderbilt's Zuzi Klimesova was named Tournament MVP and was joined on the all-tournament team by teammate Chantelle Anderson, Tennesee's Kara Lawson, Arkansas' Shameka Christon, and LSU's Temeka Johnson.

With the win, Vanderbilt finishes the season with a 27-6 record, and LSU finishes with at 17-11. The tournament championship gives Vanderbilt an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, and LSU is virtually certain to receive an at-large bid. NCAA tournament seedings and pairings will be announced on March 10.


The Press: Zuzi, how do you feel this year after losing the game last year?

Vanderbilt Forward Zuzi Klimesova: Oh, very excited. Pure emotion. I think everybody on the team feels it, and I think it was very visible on the court. We always play as a team, we lose as a team, and we win as a team. And so when something special like this happens, we always celebrate as a team. That feels even better, sharing it with others that you care about.

The Press: Zuzi, speaking of sharing things with people you care about, I saw your mother in the stands. I thought that you were going to have to do this one on your own. What happened?

Zuzi: What can I say? When I came over to this country for the first time, I didn't really believe in God. It's just not . .religion is not a big deal over in Europe. But the longer I am here, I am telling you there is a God, and He knew I wanted her here, and He knew that we were going to pull this, and He wanted her to be in the stands to celebrate with me. So He made it snow, and she was here tonight.

The Press: Coach, can you talk about Abi's performance tonight in the second half, especially shooting the ball?

Vanderbilt Coach Jim Foster: Well, Abi and I had a discussion at halftime. A rather one-way. . . I have a great deal of faith in her as a shooter, and just restored that. I am not surprised. She's got a quick release. I saw her make a lot of big shots in high school. I saw her make a lot in AAUs. She's willing to put the game on her shoulders, and she's not reluctant. So I'm not surprised. I don't think any of her teammates are either.

The Press: Coach, can you talk about the defense you guys played, especially shutting down Smith and Doneeka Hodges tonight?

Coach Foster: Well, somewhere about the beginning of January we got started to evolve into a pretty good defensive basketball team. I think it's just growing. I think our post players did a terrific job of guarding with intelligence, not forcing things, reading situations, and making good, intelligent decisions defensively. And I think that we're continuing to grow on the defensive end of the floor. I think we finally slowed Johnson down. She's a great penetrator. I think Muggsy Bogues has a daughter. That's who she reminds me of. She's good.

The Press: Last night LSU show 29 free throws. Tonight they only got 2. How do you account for that?

Coach Foster: You just watched the two teams that foul the least in the SEC. I think they're two very disciplined defensive basketball teams. And it was a very well-officiated game. I'm sure the officials had fun refereeing that game because of the nature of the discipline that both teams have defensively. You don't see a lot of holding, grabbing, reaching. Fun.

The Press: Coach, you had two possessions in the second half where Zuzi was against the shot clock and hit those jumpers. How big was that?

Coach Foster: They were typical Zuzi shots. I mean, maybe baseline's not necessarily where she gets them. The second one, the one off the dribble, that was major league. That was Zuzi going to another level. It was little Larry Bird-ish, because I'm not convinced she wasn't behind the backboard. She had a very tough angle. I may have to explain to her who Larry Bird is. (laughter)

The Press: Abi, can you talk about your confidence in the second half shooting the ball, and maybe a little bit about what the coach talked to you about at halftime?

Coach Foster. That's off limits.

Vanderbilt guard Abi Ramsey: I think he knew he had to make me mad. When I released the first shot, I was like, "Oh, please, please" after the talk he gave me at halftime. And when it fell, my confidence was immediately back, and I knew if it came to me, I'd take the shot.

The Press: This is for anybody who will take it. In the first half, there were some airballs that I don't think I've ever seen this year. What was going on?

Zuzi: Well, since I was one of them . . . I don't really have an explanation for it. But somehow when I shot my airball, it kind of made me feel better that somebody else did, too. (laughter). I think it took us a little bit to get our legs back underneath us. I mean, we had a tough two games, and so did LSU. No reason for us to shoot airballs, but I think it kind of opened up our eyes, and it was like, "Okay, after this we have some days off, we need to pick it up and really make sure we can get the rebounds."

The Press: Coach, do you believe this is a #1 seed-worthy team?

Coach Foster: Yeah, without a doubt. We do what you're supposed to do. The criteria that they say -- play a strong schedule, our schedule the last time I looked was ranked fourth in the country and that was before this tournament, so I'm sure it's at least that high if not higher. Our non-conference schedule is tough. They say "win games", we've won games. We just won the tournament of the toughest conference in the country. I don't think it should take much discussion. We have played people -- on their courts. We took care of our end of the deal.

The Press: Chantelle, can you talk a little bit about this step and winning the title this year?

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Vanderbilt Center Chantelle Anderson: It's really exciting obviously. I think that we had discussions before this game. Last year we got to the championship game. We were almost there, but in situations like this, almost doesn't count. It's not good enough. We wanted to come into this game really focused and take that next step as a basketball team, and I think that it speaks well to the character of this team that we had the heart to pull it off because LSU is a very tough basketball team, and it's always hard to play somebody three times and beat them three times in a row. That speaks a lot to this team.

The Press: Again, for anyone who wants to take it, you guys got off to 12-2 early, then it's 38-37 early in the second half. What went on in the balance there?

Coach Foster: We weren't reversing the ball. It's that simple. When we move the ball, we're a very good basketball team. When we stand still, we're not a very good basketball team. And once we realized that we weren't doing it, we started to do it, and then our offense comes from a lot of different directions. It's not one-dimensional.


VISITORS: LSU 17-11                                                             
                          TOT-FG  3-PT         REBOUNDS                         
01 Tardy, Ke-Ke         f  6-17   0-1    0-0    0  3  3   2  12   1  4  0  0  38
05 Hodges, Roneeka      f  0-1    0-0    0-0    0  2  2   0   0   0  0  0  0  14
31 Smith, Aiysha        c  2-10   0-0    0-0    1  4  5   4   4   4  2  0  0  38
02 Johnson, Temeka      g 11-20   0-1    0-0    0  5  5   3  22   2  2  0  3  40
04 Hodges, Doneeka      g  1-5    0-1    0-0    2  2  4   2   2   2  1  0  1  37
32 Dorrell, Scholanda      3-7    0-2    2-2    0  3  3   0   8   0  0  0  2  33
TEAM ........................................   1  3  4                         
TOTALS                    23-60   0-5    2-2    4 22 26  11  48   9  9  0  6 200
TOT-FG 1stH: 13-30 43.3%  2ndH: 10-30 33.3%  OT:  0-0  00.0%  Game: 38.3% Deadbl
3pt-FG 1stH:  0-1  00.0%  2ndH:  0-4  00.0%  OT:  0-0  00.0%  Game: 00.0%  Rebs 
FThrow 1stH:  0-0  00.0%  2ndH:  2-2  100.%  OT:  0-0  00.0%  Game: 100.%   1, 1
HOME TEAM: Vanderbilt 27-6                                                      
                          TOT-FG  3-PT         REBOUNDS                         
13 Klimesova, Zuzi      f  7-10   0-1    2-3    2  6  8   2  16   2  4  0  2  35
42 Benningfield, Jenni  f  2-6    2-4    0-0    0  8  8   0   6   3  2  1  0  23
21 Anderson, Chantelle  c  8-11   0-0    2-2    0  8  8   1  18   4  5  1  0  39
22 McElhiney, Ashley    g  0-4    0-3    4-4    0  1  1   2   4   2  1  0  2  39
33 Danker, Jillian      g  3-6    0-2    0-0    0  3  3   0   6   3  1  0  2  22
12 Battle, Tia             0-1    0-0    0-0    0  0  0   0   0   0  0  0  0   2
20 Ramsey, Abi             3-7    3-6    0-0    0  0  0   1   9   2  0  0  0  15
23 Colli, Juli             0-0    0-0    0-0    0  0  0   0   0   0  0  0  0   1
32 Earley, Ashley          1-4    0-0    2-4    1  4  5   1   4   1  1  0  0  23
50 Storey, Candice         0-0    0-0    0-0    0  1  1   0   0   0  0  0  0   1
TEAM ........................................   1  1  2                         
TOTALS                    24-49   5-16  10-13   4 32 36   7  63  17 14  2  6 200
TOT-FG 1stH: 13-29 44.8%  2ndH: 11-20 55.0%  OT:  0-0  00.0%  Game: 49.0% Deadbl
3pt-FG 1stH:  1-10 10.0%  2ndH:  4-6  66.7%  OT:  0-0  00.0%  Game: 31.3%  Rebs 
FThrow 1stH:  1-2  50.0%  2ndH:  9-11 81.8%  OT:  0-0  00.0%  Game: 76.9%   1   
OFFICIALS:   Sally Bell, June Courteau, Bryan Enterline                         
TECHNICAL FOULS:                                                                
LSU                           -  none                                           
Vanderbilt                    -  none                                           
ATTENDANCE:  7,131                                                              
SCORE BY PERIODS:                  1st  2nd  OT1  OT2  OT3  OT4   TOTAL         
LSU                                 26   22                          48         
Vanderbilt                          28   35                          63         
PTS IN THE PAINT:  LSU - 24  Vanderbilt - 20                                    
PTS OFF TURNOVERS: LSU - 14  Vanderbilt - 11                                    
2ND CHANCE POINTS: LSU - 06  Vanderbilt - 03                                    
FAST BREAK POINTS: LSU - 08  Vanderbilt - 00                                    

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