UNC ends Vandy's season, 89-70

Vanderbilt's season ended Monday night when the Commodores fell to the #1-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels 89-70 in Memorial Gym in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Carla Thomas led Vanderbilt with 17 points, followed by Nicole Jules and Caroline Williams with 11 points each. Ivory Latta led North Carolina with 27 points.

Jules, playing what turned out to be her last game at Vanderbilt, gave the Commodores a 4-0 lead early on with a layup and then hitting two free throws. But the lead didn't last long, as a 22-4 run by the Tar Heels gave them a 14-point lead at 22-8 with 13 minutes left in the half.

Vanderbilt was able to trim the lead back to single digits on a 3-pointer by Williams with six minutes left to make the score 33-24. But once again the Tar Heels went on a run sparked by three 3-pointers to push the lead out to 20 points at 46-26 with 2:50 left in the half.

Then the tables turned again, and the Commodores finished the half on an 8-2 run to cut the deficit to 14 points as the Tar Heels took a 48-34 lead into the locker room at halftime.

During halftime Head Coach Melanie Balcomb talked about having the heart to fight back, and her team must have paid attention. After La'Tangela Atkinson scored the first basket of the second half on an offensive rebound, a 14-1 Vanderbilt run cut the North Carolina lead down to just three points at 51-48.

As the Commodores made their run, the partisan fans at Memorial Gym got loud and then got louder still. In the confusion, Williams was called for a foul and both Williams and Latta were given technical fouls. Latta hit the awarded free throws, but Jen Risper scored on a drive to the basket to keep the UNC lead at three points.

As it had all night long, the momentum shifted once again, and a couple of baskets by Erlana Larkins and a 3-pointer by Alex Miller pushed the Tar Heel back out to 10 points at 60-50 with 14:30 left in the game.

Then the Commodores showed their heart once again. A jumper by Thomas cut the lead to 10 points, then Jules hit a pair of free throws. Larkins converted an old-fashioned 3-point play, but then consecutive 3-pointers by Williams and Cherish Stringfield once again brought the Commodores to within three points at 63-60 with 11:49 remaining.

But as it turned out, that was as close as Vanderbilt would get. Slowly North Carolina began to pull away, and with five minutes left in the game, the Tar Heels led by 15 points at 81-66.

An old-fashioned 3-point play by Carla Thomas cut the lead to 13 points at 83-70 with 3:31 left, but those points were Vanderbilt's last points of the game. In the waning minutes a couple of baskets by Larkins and a pair of free throws by Latta put the finishing touches on North Carolina's 89-70 victory and to the Commodores' season.

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Photos copyright 2006 by Whitney D for VandyMania.com.

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