VU women shock #7 LSU, 68-58

NASHVILLE-- Vanderbilt celebrated Senior Night with a 68-58 victory over the #7 LSU Lady Tigers Thursday night in Memorial Gym. All three Vanderbilt seniors scored in double figures, led by Carla Thomas with 23. Dee Davis added 17 points, and Caroline Williams scored 12. Sophomore Tina Wirth also scored in double figures with 12 points. Erica White led LSU with 22 points.

The victory was Vanderbilt's seventh consecutive win, and their first victory over a Top 10 team since defeating then #4 LSU on Senior Night in 2003 in the final game in Memorial Gym for Vanderbilt greats Chantelle Anderson and Ashley McElhiney.

Besides giving the seniors a memorable sendoff, the victory also appears to have clinched a first-round bye in the SEC tournament for the Dores, although neither the SEC nor Vanderbilt have confirmed it. Seedings for the SEC tournament will be announced at the conclusion of the regular season schedule on Sunday afternoon.

During the previous games in their current winning streak, the Dores had jumped out to early leads. Thursday night's game began the same way, with Vanderbilt running out to a double-digit lead ar 14-3 just five minutes into the game.

For most of the first half, Vanderbilt was able to keep LSU at bay, maintaining the lead around 10 points. But with six minutes left in the half, the Lady Tigers began to claw their way back into the game. A 3-pointer by White cut the lead to just two points at 33-31 with two minutes left in the half, then a pair of free throws by RaShonta Lablanc tied the score at 33-33 before halftime.

After halftime, the score wasn't tied for long, as the Dores reclaimed the lead on their first possession of the second half on a 3-pointer by Tina Wirth.

"I think it was really important that we came out in the second half ready to play," said Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb after the game. "We came out strong in the first half and then they caught up and chipped away.

"I felt like we were playing not to lose again," she continued, "and at halftime we talked about playing to win the way we started the game and we couldn't get complacent, so I think coming out and hitting a 3 right away helped us."

From then on, the game was a tight, see-saw battle. LSU regained the lead shortly afterwards and built a 5-point lead at 46-41 on a layup by Sylvia Fowles with fourteen minutes left in the game. But the Dores came right back and tied the game at 46-46. Then Thomas hit the first 3-pointer of her Vanderbilt career to give the lead back to the Dores and to ignite the crowd.

A layup by Fowles gave LSU a 1-point lead at 56-55 with 4:14 left in the game. As it turned out, however, that would be LSU's last lead in the game. It was quickly erased when Williams drove to the basket, then dished to Thomas, who scored the easy bucket.

From then on, it was the Vanderbilt defense that won the day. In the final four minutes of the game, the Vanderbilt defense forced four LSU turnovers and limited LSU to just one field goal. In the meantime, Wirth's fourth 3-pointer of the game gave the Dores a little breathing room. Then Thomas and Davis scored following LSU turnovers to give Vanderbilt an 8-point lead at 64-56 with 38 seconds left in the game.

The Lady Tigers then began to foul, first sending Jen Risper to the line, where she sank both free throws on a 1-and-1 opportunity. Then it was Davis' turn, and she also sank both free throws to seal the 68-58 victory and kick off the Senior Night celebration, which followed the game.

With the victory, Vanderbilt improved to 24-4 overall, and 10-3 in the SEC. On Sunday, the regular season comes to an end, as Vanderbilt travels to Knoxville to play the Tennessee Lady Vols on Senior Day for Sidney Spencer, Dominque Redding, and Elizabeth Curry. Game time is 12 p.m. CT, and the game will be televised on Fox Sports Net.

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