Vandy Runs Hog-wild Over Arkansas, 98-61

NASHVILLE-- Led by Tina Wirth's career-high 24 points and a double double by Carla Thomas, Vanderbilt opened the SEC season with a dominating 98-61 victory over the #20-ranked Arkansas Lady Razorbacks Thursday night in Memorial Gym.

Caroline Williams added 15 points for the Dores, Dee Davis scored 13, and Jen Risper added 10. Donica Cosby was the only Ladyback to score in double figures with 15 points.

The first few minutes of the game didn't give a good idea what to come, as the 'Dores missed several point blank shots at the basket. In those early minutes the game was close. At the first media timeout, Vanderbilt led by only one point at 7-6.

Coming out of the timeout, the 'Dores began to heat up. Thomas scored on an inbounds play. After Arkansas scored on a couple of free throws, Davis stole the ball and took it all the way to the basket and laid it in. Then over a span of three minutes, Wirth sank three 3-pointers.

"Other teams in the SEC know us pretty well, and they know Dee, Caroline and Carla, and because of that a lot of focus goes on to them, so I had some pretty open looks to start," said Wirth after the game. "And Dee's awesome at getting the ball right to where you need it to be successful, so it worked out."

After Wirth's spurt , a jumper from Thomas gave Vanderbilt a 10-point lead at 22-12, and Arkansas Head Coach Susie Gardner called a timeout. That momentarily stopped the bleeding, and the Ladybacks held their ground for a few minutes. With eight minutes left in the half, Vanderbilt still led by 10 at 26-16.

But then Wirth scored again on a run-out, igniting a 18-3 run to give the 'Dores a 25-point lead with 1:20 left in the half. A 3-pointer by Cosby just before the halftime buzzer ended the scoring at 46-25 for the half.

By then, the Ladybacks felt shell-shocked. "I thought at halftime they were shooting 80%," said Arkansas forward Danielle Allen. "Honestly, that's the way it felt.

"We knew that we weren't hitting shots, and I think we might have gotten our heads down a little bit on that because every time we missed a shot, it seemed like they'd come back by making one."

Arkansas got off to a promising start in the second half. "We needed to get it under 20, and then slowly whittle away at it," said Arkansas Coach Susie Gardner. "They shot 63% in the first half, and we thought for sure that they would cool off in the second half."

For the first few minutes in the half, Arkansas held their ground as the teams traded baskets. Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb didn't like what she saw and called a timeout. After the timeout, the Vanderbilt defense got back on track, and the 'Dores began to pull further ahead. The lead reached 30 points with 12:17 left, and 40 points at 93-53 with 4:12 left in the game.

With the big lead, Balcomb cleared the bench, and the reserve players finished out the game.

Afterwards, although much of the postgame discussion focused on the Commodores' 62% shooting for the game, Balcomb was especially pleased with the team's defense.

"We're a lot more confident defensively than we've ever been," she said. "We pressured the basketball and made them play a slow-down halfcourt game by picking up and doing a much better job in transition D and slowing them down.
"Then we made them run a lot of things in the halfcourt, and we forced a lot of turnovers and made them take tough shots. We were there on the catch and we challenged almost every shot. So I was very impressed with our defensive game as well."

With the victory, Vanderbilt improved to 14-1 on the season (1-0 SEC). Next the Dores will travel to Oxford, Mississippi, to play the Ole Miss Rebels on Sunday afternoon. Game time is 1:30 p.m., and the game will be televised on FSN South. The next home game will be the "Jam the Gym" promotion on Sunday January 14 when the Florida Gators come to visit.

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