VU women blast Dartmouth, 79-49

NASHVILLE-- Vanderbilt overcame a sluggish start to defeat Dartmouth 79-49 in the home opener of the young season on Saturday afternoon. Carla Thomas led all scorers with 21 points, and every Commodore on the roster played at least five minutes.

For the third game in a row, the 'Dores got off to a slow start. Liz Sherwood scored the first point of the game on a free throw, but the first three minutes passed without a Vanderbilt field goal. In the meantime, Dartmouth took a 5-1 lead.

"They were keyed on Caroline [Williams] and Carla," said Head Coach Melanie Balcomb after the game, "and the reason we got off to a slow start on offense was nobody else was looking to score.

"So three people would pack it in when Carla would post, and Caroline would be ready to shoot and have somebody chasing her, and the other three players just looked around like, 'Well, they've been our leading scorers for two games.'"

So Balcomb subbed in sophomore Jen Risper and freshmen Amber Norton and Merideth Marsh. Risper responded immediately with two quick baskets, and Norton was fouled and sank both free throws to tie the game at 7-7.

The 'Dores ratcheted up their defense a notch, too. First, they forced Dartmouth into a shot clock violation, Risper scored again, then Thomas drew a charge. After a timeout and a basket by Thomas, a steal by Risper resulted in a pile of players on the floor. But Risper managed to get the ball to Marsh, who scored on the break.

"Risper came in ready," Balcomb said. 'The whole game changed when I subbed Merideth, Risper and Amber. They came in, and they were more ready. Amber was posting, Risper was looking to score, and they took those open shots that they saw on the bench that we were talking to them about."

From that point on, Vanderbilt gradually began to pull away. Midway through the first half, the 'Dores took their first double-digit lead of the game at 18-7. Three seconds before the end of the half, Jess Mooney sank a 3-pointer to give Vanderbilt a 41-27 lead going into halftime

Coming out of the locker room, two baskets by Sherwood and an old-fashioned 3-point play by Thomas gave Vanderbilt a 21-point lead at 48-27 in less than two minutes. The Commodore lead never fell below 20 points after that.

Throughout the second half, Balcomb liberally substituted, and every player coming off the bench scored. Out of Vanderbilt's 79 points in the game, the bench scored 37 of them. Risper and Marsh had eight points each; Norton scored seven, and Lauren Lueders scored six. Amy Malo and Ashlee Bridge scored their first points as Commodores, Malo on a steal, and Bridge on a steal and a fast break.

As the game neared the end, the only suspense was whether the team would score 80 points, the magic number for free tacos for the fans in attendance. A layup by Bridge brought the total to 79 points with 56 seconds remaining. But on the 'Dores' final possession, the shot wouldn't fall, so the free tacos would have to wait for another day, and the fans would have to console themselves with the 79-49 victory.

With the victory Vanderbilt improves to 3-0. Next action is on Monday night when the 'Dores host Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at 7 p.m, followed by the Vanderbilt Thanksgiving Tournament on Friday November 24 and Saturday November 25. Admission to the tournament is free.

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Photos copyright 2006 by Whitney D for Top Stories