Arizona State never led in this game. Vanderbilt jumped out to an early 10-2 in the first five minutes of the game. The Sun Devils trimmed the lead to 6 points at 19-13 with 7:37 left in the first half, but Vanderbilt finished the half with a 13-2 run to take a 32-15 lead into the locker room at the half.
Arizona State had won their last four games after overcoming sizable deficits, thanks to their bumping, grinding, in-your-face defense. In Saturday night's game against Wisconsin, the Sun Devils dug themselves out of a 14-point hole, only to come back with a strong second half.
But tonight, the Vanderbilt defense kept the clamps on for the entire 40 minutes of the game. In the first 5 minutes of the second half, the Sun Devils missed 7 of their first 8 shots from the floor, the Commodores grabbed all the defensive rebounds, and Chantelle Anderson sank three straight baskets to give Vanderbilt a 21-point lead at 38-17.
After that, the ASU managed to cut the lead to less than 20 points only once at 45-26 with 9:34 left in the half, but a jumper by Ashley McElhiney with the shot clock about to expire restored the 20 point lead on Vanderbilt's next possession. From there on, Vanderbilt's lead slowly increased, thanks in part to Jillian Danker's nine points in the remainder of the game. Vanderbilt's biggest lead of the night came at the end of the game with the final score of 61-35.
Four Commodores scored in the double figures, led by Zuzi Klimesova with 15 points. Chantelle Anderson added 14, Jillian Danker 13, and Ashley McElhiney had 12. Jenni Benningfield was leading rebounder with 10, followed by Klimesova with 7, and Anderson with 5. Melody Johnson was the only player for ASU to score in double figures with 13 points. She was also leading rebounder with 7.
For the game, the Commodores shot 51.1% from the field, compared to only 28.8% for Arizona State. Vanderbilt attempted only four 3-pointers for the game, making only 1 of them. The Sun Devils likewise made only one 3-pointer, but attempted 14. Vanderbilt controlled the boards with 36 rebounds compared to only 24 for ASU. The Sun Devils turned the ball over 14 times compared to 16 for Vanderbilt.
With the victory, Vanderbilt (29-6) advances to the Sweet Sixteen for the tenth time in program history. The Commodores will face the North Carolina Tarheels, who advanced to the Sweet 16 by beating Minnesota 72-69. In the other regional semi-final, the Tennessee Lady Vols will face the #11-seed Brigham Young Cougars, who upset host Iowa State 75-69. Gametime for the first game is 6 p.m. CT, and the second game follows. Both games will be televised on ESPN or ESPN2.
Photo by Micah Miller (Tennessee Tribune)