VU women rally past Old Dominion, 82-77

NORFOLK, Va. -- Thanks to a furious second half comeback, Vanderbilt defeated the Lady Monarchs of Old Dominion University 82-77 Sunday afternoon in Norfolk, Virginia.

Four Commodores scored in double figures in the victory. Junior guard Caroline Williams led the way with 20 points, followed by junior point guard Dee Davis with 16, and 13 each from sophomores Rachel Brockman and Liz Sherwood off the bench.

Through the first eight minutes of the first half, the game was tightly contested, with the lead switching back and forth between the two teams. Then, three 3-pointers by the Lady Monarchs in a span of less than two minutes gave them the lead, and ODU began to pull away.

As the ODU lead was growing, so were foul problems for the Commodores. With eight minutes left in the half, the Lady Monarchs held a nine-point lead at 29-20, and Sherwood, Carla Thomas, and Tina Wirth each had two fouls. After Thomas picked up her third foul with 5:40 left in the half, Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb sent sophomore post Rachel Brockman into them.

Brockman responded with nine points in the remainder of the half, including a perfect 3 for 3 from the field and 3 for 3 from the free throw line, to help the Commodores reclaim the lead with 3:19 left in the half.

"Rachel Brockman hasn't played much all year, and I put her in because of foul trouble," said Balcomb after the game. "She stepped up and played attacking, aggressive, and determined, not hesitating. She looked different from everyone else out there on the floor, and I think that inspired and motivated everybody else, like 'If Rachel can do this against these guys, than I can.' Rachel had a lot to do with why we turned things around."

"When we're on the bench, we've just got to be ready for that time when coach calls our number, and she called my number," said Brockman afterwards. "We were down, and I went out there and I was going to fight. We were determined, not only me, but the entire team. We were determined to fight back and win the game."

But it wasn't going to be easy. After climbing out of the hole, the Commodores slid back down as the Lady Monarchs ended the half on 13-4 run to take a 10-point lead into the locker room at halftime.

Earlier in the week the Commodores were in a similar situation at North Carolina State in Raleigh, trailing the Wolfpack by ten points at halftime. In that game, NC State reeled off a 9-0 run to begin the half, putting the Commodores in a deep 19-point hole.

On Sunday, history began to repeat itself, as ODU started the second half on a 6-0 run to take a 16-point lead at 55-39. For several minutes the teams traded baskets and with 13:18 left in the game Vanderbilt still trailed by 16 points at 62-46.

Then the tide began to turn once again. In less than a minute, Williams sank a 3-pointer coming out of a timeout. After an ODU basket, Davis scored on a driving lay-up. Then Brockman stole the ball and drove the length of the court for a fast break lay-up to cut the lead to 11 points.

Another 3-pointer from Williams a couple of minutes later cut the lead back to single digits at 67-58. Then Thomas was fouled and hit one of her two free throws. Then Williams grabbed and offensive rebound and scored, cutting the deficit to six points at 67-61.

From that point on, Vanderbilt's junior class took over the game. Thomas scored on an inbounds play then again on a run out, and Williams hit a pair of free throws to bring Vanderbilt within two points at 69-67 with 6:26 left in the game.

ODU answered with a couple of baskets to put the lead back to six points. Then with 5:29 left in the game, a hard foul sent Davis sprawling to court on a drive to the basket. After shaking off the injury, she sank both free throws. Then, with 3:24 left in the game, she sank the 3-pointer that gave the Commodores a 77-76 lead, their first lead of the second half.

A lay-up by Sherida Triggs gave the lead back to ODU, but Davis countered with a baseline jumper with 1:03 left to put Vanderbilt back in the lead, then hit a pair of free throws to give the Commodores a little bit of breathing room at 80-77 with 28 seconds left.

At that point Balcomb called time out. "i put us in a defense that we use at the end of the game to make sure that we don't give up any 3-point shots and making sure we weren't fouling, especially fouling 3-point shots."

The Commodores got the defensive stop, and there was nothing ODU could do but foul, and Thomas sank the two free throws to seal the 82-77 victory.

With the win, Vanderbilt improves to 6-2 for the season. Next, the Commodores return home for a two-game home stand, hosting Northern Arizona on December 8, then playing Miami (OH) on Saturday December 10.

Old Dominion's Lawona Davis (3) defends Vanderbilt's Liz Sherwood (32) on Sherwood's way to the basket during the second half Sunday, Dec. 4, 2005, in Norfolk, Va. Davis was called for a foul on the play. Vanderbilt won 82-77. (AP Photo/Jason Hirschfeld)

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