Vandy women top Colorado, 81-76

BOULDER-- Carla Thomas scored 26 points and Caroline Williams added 21 as Vanderbilt opened its 2006-07 season with an 81-76 win over Colorado.

Vanderbilt survived a second half rally by a determined Colorado squad to defeat the Buffs 81-76 Sunday afternoon in the Coors Event Center in Boulder Colorado. Carla Thomas led the 'Dores in scoring with 26 points, followed by Caroline Williams with 21 points and Tina Wirth with 14.

Colorado held the upper hand in the early minutes, hitting five 3-pointers in the first six minutes of the game to take a 19-11 lead.

"They came out hot and fired up," said Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb after the game. "When you play teams that are ranked preseason, people are going to be fired up at home to beat them, and they're going to bring their best game, and we have to be ready for that."

A 3-pointer Williams began to turn the tide, and soon afterwards Wirth tied the game with a 3-pointer and then gave Vanderbilt the lead on a pair of made free throws with 10 minutes left in the first half.

For a few minutes the lead went back and forth until another 3-pointer from Williams put Vanderbilt ahead for good at 28-26 with 7:17 left in the first half. As the first half came to a close, 'Dores began to take control with the lead growing to as much as eight points.

But when a basket by Whitney Houston cut the lead back to just five points with four seconds left in the half , it looked like the Buffs would take the momentum into the locker room. Just as swiftly, however, the momentum changed again when Meredith Marsh banked in a 3-pointer from halfcourt as time expired for the first points of her Vanderbilt career.

For the first five minutes of the second half, Vanderbilt threatened to turn the game into a blowout as they took a 17-point lead at 57-40.

But slowly and surely, the Buffs scrapped and clawed their way back into it, and little by little the once-formidable Vanderbilt lead evaporated.

"The toughest part for us was we got a big lead in the second half and then played too passive," said Balcomb. "We really struggled defensively and got into some foul trouble. They really did a good job stepping up and they got the momentum going, and it was tough for us to respond."

At the 9-minute mark, the Buffs had cut the lead back to single-digits and kept whittling away, buoyed by the enthusiastic hometown crowd.

With 1:57 left in the game, the Vanderbilt lead had shrunk to just four points at 69-65 when yet another 3-pointer from Williams gave the 'Dores a 7-point lead. When a pair of free throws from Dee Davis increased the lead to 9 with 53 seconds left, a Vanderbilt victory appeared eminent.

But the Buffs still weren't done. A combination of a couple of key missed free throws on the Vanderbilt end of the court and a couple of Vanderbilt fouls on the other end, opened the door for Colorado. With 23 seconds left, the Vanderbilt lead was a very slim 2 points at 74-76.

At that point, Colorado had no choice but to continue to send Vanderbilt to the free throw line. Davis hit a pair of free throws, and Williams followed suit. With the 'Dores being careful not to foul, Houston hit a jumper with six seconds left to cut the lead back to four points at 80-76. Then the Buffs sent Davis to the line again, where she missed her first but sank the second to seal the 81-76 victory.

With one road win under their belts, the Commodores will hit the road again on Thursday when they travel to Bowling Green to play Western Kentucky. In their first home game of the season, the 'Dores will host Dartmouth on Saturday, November 18.

Game time for the Dartmouth game is 4:00 p.m., following the Tennessee-Vanderbilt football game. Fans attending the football game can bring their tickets to Memorial Gym to receive free admission to the basketball game. Top Stories