VU Women rout WKU, 72-57

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Led by a career-high 28 points from sophomore post Liz Sherwood, Vanderbilt defeated the Western Kentucky Lady Hilltoppers 72-52 on Tuesday night in Memorial Gym. Junior post Carla Thomas added a double double with 14 points and 10 rebounds in her first game since suffering a concussion against North Carolina on December 20.

Vanderbilt jumped out to an early 11-4 lead, with ten of those points coming from the two starting post players, Sherwood and senior Nicole Jules. Then the Lady Toppers solved the riddle of the Commodores' zone and took a one-point lead at 16-15 with 12:47 left in the half.

Vanderbilt Head Coach didn't like what she saw and made a change. "After we saw them get some really easy baskets and they went up by one, we scratched what we were going to do defensively and just played straight man, and that seemed to really help," she said after the game.

After that, Commodore defense held Western to just two field goals for the remainder of the half, allowing Vanderbilt to take a 20-point lead at 46-26 into the locker room at halftime.

During the first five minutes of the second half, Vanderbilt pushed the lead out to 24 points but also committed five fouls, which would come back to haunt them later in the game.

"That's all I talked about at halftime -- not fouling, don't get them early in the bonus, don't stop the clock, we have a lead," said Balcomb. "Then we went out and fouled five times in the first five minutes and that put us in a tough situation. You're stopping the clock, and we were fouling out on the perimeter where they weren't even in shooting position. So we had to play smarter."

As the half progressed, the Vanderbilt fouls continued to mount, putting the Lady Toppers into the bonus with 13:40 left in the game, and junior point guard Dee Davis picking up her fourth foul shortly afterwards.

With Davis out of the game, Western picked up their defensive pressure. Their swarming defense disrupted the Commodore offense, and the bonus free throws from every Vanderbilt foul helped the Lady Toppers to start clawing their way back into the game.

The once-comfortable Vanderbilt lead dropped to 15 points with 12 minutes left in the game, then to 12 points with five minutes left, and finally to just 10 points at 65-55 with 2:40 left in the game.

Then Western's Crystal Kelly picked up her fourth foul, finally putting Vanderbilt into the bonus and sending Thomas to the free throw line for a one-and-one. After Thomas sank both free throws, a basket by Sherwood and a 3-pointer by Caroline Williams, her first points of the game, pushed the lead back out to 17 points at 72-55 with less than a minute remaining, effectively ending the Lady Topper's comeback attempt.

With the victory, Vanderbilt completes the non-conference portion of the schedule with an 11-3 record. The Commodores begin SEC play this weekend in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where they will play the Lady Razorbacks on Sunday afternoon. The next home game will be on Thursday, January 12, when Vanderbilt hosts Mississippi State.

Looking Ahead: The annual "Jam the Gym" promotion will take place on Sunday, January 29, when the Ole Miss Lady Rebels visit Memorial Gym. Special children's activities will take place in the gym, and the ever-popular mascot basketball game will take place during halftime. Tickets for the game cost $1 .

Western Kentucky's Crystal Kelly, right, and Tiffany Porter-Talbert, center, battles Vanderbilt's Nicole Jules, left, for a rebound .(AP Photo/John Russell)
Western Kentucky's Crystal Kelly, right, and Tiffany Porter-Talbert, center, battles Vanderbilt's Nicole Jules, left, for a rebound during the first half of women's college basketball action in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2006.(AP Photo/John Russell) Photo at upper right Nicole Jules, top, wrestles for a loose ball with Western Kentucky's Taylor Kopple during the first half. (AP Photo/John Russell)

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