Commodores shoot down William & Mary, 92-66

NASHVILLE-- Propelled by red-shot shooting from beyond the arc, Vanderbilt defeated the Tribe of William & Mary 92-66 Friday night in Memorial Gym. Junior guard Caroline Williams led the attack with 21 points, including seven 3-pointers. Sophomore post Liz Sherwood added 18 points, followed by freshman Tina Wirth with 13 points and sophomore post Rachel Brockman with 10.

Less than 10 seconds after tip-off, Williams hit her first 3-pointer of the night to give Vanderbilt a 3-0 lead. Devin James countered with a basket for William & Mary, but then the Commodores held the Tribe scoreless for more than five minutes. By then, another 3-pointer by Williams and one each from Wirth and junior guard Cherish Stringfield had helped Vanderbilt build a 14-2 lead.

"I think in the very beginning we all were really pushing the ball, and Dee was doing a really good job of hitting the open person, whether it was me or Tina," said Williams. "We were all just seeing each other really well and running the floor. "

Williams continued her torrid 3-point shooting throughout the first half, as she hit six of her seven shots from behind the arc. In all, Vanderbilt connected on nine of twelve 3-point attempts in the first half to take a 47-24 halftime lead.

In the second half, Sherwood began to heat up on the inside, shooting a perfect 6 for 6 from the field, and 2 for 2 from the free-throw line for her 14 second-half points.

As the lead continued to grow past 30 points, Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb put all three of the able-bodied freshmen on the court at the same time.

Wirth, who has started all 13 games this season, hit three 3-pointers in the game, and so did freshman guard Holly Rogers. Jen Risper, who saw her first action of the season in Myrtle Beach after tearing an ACL in July, appeared in her first game at Memorial Gym, scoring four points with two assists and a rebound in 15 minutes of play. Amy Malo, the fourth freshman, is still rehabbing her injured knee.

"I love our freshman trying things and doing things that we teach and having fun with it and sharing the basketball," said Balcomb after the game. "I love to see them work hard and have fun with it. It's exciting for our future."

"I think that we're finally feeling like we're comfortable out there, and things are beginning to click, and it's a good feeling," Wirth said. "I think we're playing well together, and I felt like this was a good game for all three of us."

"It just seems like they have caught on to things so much quicker than we did as freshmen," said Williams. "It just took me forever to understand the little parts of the game, and I know Tina has had a lot of experience already and she understands, and now Jen and Holly are catching on really quick.

"You can just see it when they're out there. They actually did some things that the starters didn't do -- Jen driving baseline and kicking corner. I think they're really getting confident in things we work on, and it shows, and it also helps us to feel confident playing with them."

Rogers provided one of the highlights of the evening. An ongoing promotion offers free tacos for fans if the team scores more than 90 points. WIth the Commodores one shy of the magic number with a 89-61 lead with a minute left in the game, senior point guard Erica Grimaldi found Rogers, who sank the 3-pointer that put Vanderbilt over the 90-point mark.

When the shot fell through the next, the crowd erupted into cheers. The players on the bench knew exactly what was going on. "Dee and Cherish and me were on one end, and we were all chanting "TACO!" said Williams.

With the victory Vanderbilt improves to 10-3. The next action for Commodores comes on Tuesday night when they host the Western Kentucky Lady Hilltoppers (10-2) at 7 p.m. in Memorial Gym.

Photos copyright 2005 by Whitney D for

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