VU women whip Princeton, 89-74

NASHVILLE-- Dee Davis scored 18 points as Vanderbilt defeated a tenacious Princeton team 89-74 Saturday afternoon in Memorial Gym. Carla Thomas added 14 points, including a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line, and Liz Sherwood scored 12 as the Commodores improved to 12-1 on the season.

Although Princeton never led in the game, the Tigers kept the game close for most of the first half. Meghan Cowher, who led all scorers with 21 points, gave Princeton an early lift by scoring 10 points in the first seven minutes of the game.

"Our game plan was to get the ball to the basket as soon as we could whenever they made one and just push the ball," said Cowher after the game. "Our point guard was doing a great job of pushing the ball up early and getting to me, and I just had some opportunities to drive from that."

Through the first part of the game, every time the 'Dores threatened to pull away, the Tigers had an answer. With 11:17 left in the first half, a 3-pointer from Ali Prichard pulled Princeton within three points at 23-20. After the Vanderbilt lead reached 10 points 35-25, another Princeton 3-pointer cut it back to single digits at 35-28 with 7:10 left in the half.

Then, over the next five minutes, Vanderbilt's freshmen helped the 'Dores take control of the game, scoring half of the team's points in a 16-1 run. The spurt gave Vanderbilt a 22-point lead with two minutes left in the half, and ultimately it turned out to be the difference in the game.

But Princeton didn't go quietly into the night. After trailing by as much as 22 points in the first half and 18 points at halftime, the Tigers scored the first seven points of the second half to cut the Vanderbilt lead to 11 points at 53-42.

The 'Dores stopped the run, and Princeton never came closer than that for the rest of the game. But on the other hand, Vanderbilt couldn't blow the game open, either. One reason was that the 'Dores uncharacteristically lost their shooting touch. After shooting 58% in the first half from the field, in the second half, the 'Dores shot only 32% with many of the misses coming from point-blank range.

"When you're hot and everybody's hitting, everybody wants a piece of it, everybody wants to shoot, and everything's going down," said Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb. "The same thing happens when you miss easy layups. Then everybody starts over-thinking and over-trying and not relaxing, and then everybody starts to get a piece of the missing, and that's kind of where we were."

"It's kind of hard to explain," said Davis. ""But I feel like we have a great team, and it just happened tonight. I don't know if it was up-and-down, up-and-down and we weren't taking our time because you're running so much, but it's something we're not going to dwell on."

One dimension of the game that will get attention in the future is communication on the defensive end of the court.

"We switched up our defenses a lot, which is something we do in most games," said Tina Wirth. "But when we're switching and some people are still in our old defense, that's a communication issue.

"We just need to get better at making sure that everyone's on the same page. If a cutter cuts through the middle that we' can't be like, 'I assume that you're going to get that.' We have to make sure that someone's picking that up, and that sort of thing."

With the victory, Vanderbilt improves to 12-1 on the season. Next action will be Monday, New Year's Day, at 2:00 p.m. when the 'Dores host LaSalle in their last non-conference tune-up before the SEC season begins on Thursday night when the 'Dores host Arkansas at 7 p.m.

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