VU women blast Alabama

In a record-breaking performance, Vanderbilt stormed to a 91-51 victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide Sunday afternoon in Memorial Gym. For the game, the Dores shot 76.2% from the floor, shattering the previous all-time school record of 72.5% set in 2003 against Arkansas and the all-time SEC record of 74.1% set by Kentucky in 1987.

Five Dores scored in double figures for the game, led by Caroline Williams with 17 points, followed by Liz Sherwood with 13, Tina Wirth and Carla Thomas with 11 points each, and Jessica Mooney with 10. Alabama's Kate Mastin led all scorers with 21 points.

The game was never in doubt. Vanderbilt scored the first 15 points of the game, and Alabama never recovered. At halftime the Dores led 39-18, and the lead continued to grow until Jen Risper's free throws gave Vanderbilt the 40-point lead at the end of the game.

All the Vanderbilt players who played got into the act. Every Dore who saw action scored at least one field goal, and four of them were perfect from the field, led by Mooney who was a perfect 5 for 5.

"We had the best shoot-around we've had all year coming off that win at Kentucky," said Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb after the game.

"It's just the timing of it, winning a close one on the road and now getting to play at home," she said. "I think they were really relaxed and having fun at shoot-around. And on offense, to shoot well you have to relax, and I think we were very relaxed today."

"We've been working on taking the best shot within our offense not just a good shot or an okay shot, and to do that, we have to share the ball," said Williams. "Like maybe I have a good shot, but Carla has a better shot, so I think that's one of our major emphasis lately, and it showed tonight."

The victory came against an Alabama Tide team that is struggling. As if a 0-8 start in SEC play weren't bad enough, before the game Alabama Head Coach Stephany Smith learned two starters would be unavailable to play. Navonda Moore, the Crimson Tide's leading scorer, was sidelined with a mild concussion, and Alyson Butler, who had started the last four games at the point, was out with possible mononucleosis.
"The reason Butler earned the starting point guard position was because of her poise and composure and just kind of keeping everybody under control, and we didn't have either one of them," said Smith.

"This all was late-breaking news, so it had us scrambling at practice yesterday here," she said. Players had to be shuffled, playing positions that were new to them.

"So it just was a little bit of a domino effect, and you have to give Vanderbilt an awful lot of credit," Smith said. "It was obviously a fun game, for the home team and the home crowd, but not so much fun for the visitors."

Besides the team's record-setting performance, Sunday was also a special day for senior point guard Dee Davis. Davis set Vanderbilt's all-time career assists record in Fayetteville in Vanderbilt's 62-34 win over Arkansas. Because Sunday's game was the first home game since that accomplishment, Davis was honored before the game.

By a twist of fate, the record's previous owner, Ashley McElhiney, is currently an assistant coach at Alabama. McElhiney had set the record during her senior year, which was Balcomb's first year at Vanderbilt. Before the game, McElhiney joined Balcomb in recognizing Davis' new record.

"That was a little awkward, but it was an honor for her to hand me the ball, basically saying, it's your turn now," Davis said. "It means a lot because she's a point guard that I always looked up to -- she was smart, she was athletic, she worked hard, and she was a great leader. Those are the qualities that I want to follow, and I appreciate the lessons that I've learned from her."

Besides receiving recognition for setting the new assists record, Davis passed another milestone in the game as she scored her 1000th point as a Commodore.

"I think it's amazing," said Balcomb. "We always try to get four starters in double figures and your point guard with 8 or 9, and you want your point guard to be in the top five in assists in the country.

"And Dee has done that as an assist leader year in and year out, but for her also to score 1,000 points is more than we could really ask for," she said. "For her to do that as well, as much as she distributes the ball and as unselfish as she is, I think that's a really amazing feat."

With the victory, Vanderbilt improves to 20-4 for the season (6-3 in the SEC), while Alabama falls to 10-14 (0-9 in the SEC). After a bye for the midweek games, Vanderbilt returns to action next Sunday, when the Dores host Auburn at 2 p.m. in Memorial Gym.

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Melanie Balcomb, Ashley McElhiney and Dee Davis

Tina Wirth

Caroline Williams

Jen Risper

Photos copyright 2007 by WhitneyD for

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