Bowling Green slips by Vanderbilt, 59-56

EAST LANSING-- The career of three seniors who left their mark in the record books came to an end Tuesday night as Vanderbilt fell to the Bowling Green Falcons 59-56 in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Liz Sherwood led the Commodores in scoring with 18 points, and Carla Thomas ended her career with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

As they did against Delaware State in the first round of the tournament, the Dores struggled offensively. To make matters worse, in the first half, the struggle extended to both ends of the court. Bowling Green scored the first basket of the game and never trailed after that. Slowly but surely they pulled away, and by halftime they had amassed a 13-point lead at 37-24.

In the second half, a determined Vanderbilt squad began to chip slowly away at the lead. After cutting the lead to nine points several times, a 3-pointer from Tina Wirth pulled the Dores within seven points. After a strong defensive stand, Sherwood scored after pulling down an offensive rebound to cut the deficit to just five points at 46-41.

Bowling Green briefly pushed the lead back out to double digits, but Vanderbilt kept fighting, and with 1:41 left in the game, a driving layup by Jen Risper made it a single possession game at 52-49. But unfortunately for the Dores, on the other end of the court, a 3-pointer by Ali Mann once again made it a 6- point game with 52 seconds left.

But even then Vanderbilt wasn't done. Risper was fouled on a rebound and sank two free throws. From then on, the Dores had no choice but to foul and send the Falcons to the free throw line to attempt to regain possession.

It almost worked, and a 3-pointer from Caroline Williams, the last 3-pointer of her Vanderbilt career, cut the lead to just two points with two seconds remaining. When Bowling Green inbounded the ball, the Dores fouled immediately as time was about to expire.

As the Falcons began to celebrate, the officials studied the monitor and determined that 0.4 seconds were left on the game clock. Kate Archer missed the first free throw for Bowling Green, then sank the second to make the score 59-56. But with the length of the court to go and less than a second remaining on the clock, Vanderbilt was unable to score, and the game and the season came to an end.

"Bowling Green did a great job preparing for us in a short amount of time," said Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb after the game. "They took away a lot of things in our offense, and I don't think we responded very well.

"In the first half, we didn't play good D. In the second half, I thought we played good enough D, and we got the shots we were looking for, but our shots still didn't fall," she said, adding that the frustration at not making shots in the first half seemed to carry over to the second half.

With the loss, the Vanderbilt careers of seniors Carla Thomas, Caroline Williams, and Dee Davis came to end. Their Vanderbilt careers included four seasons with 20 or more victories, four trips to the NCAA tournament, and two SEC tournament championships.

After the game, an emotional Balcomb fought back tears as she talked about the three seniors, the core of her first recruiting class at Vanderbilt.

"Dee, Caroline and Carla have put their mark on the program," she said. "They're great people. They're great players, and I think they'll truly be successful in life just like they were on the court.

"They've done so much for the community. They've worked so hard in the classroom. I just feel bad for them because they deserve better than this, and I know they wanted to go a lot farther."

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio) Top Stories