VU Women Down St. Mary's, 90-69

BERKELEY, CA -- After a slow start, Vanderbilt defeated the St. Mary Gaels on Saturday afternoon 90-69 in the Contra Costa Times Classic in Berkeley, California. Tina Wirth led the Dores with 18 points, followed by Lauren Lueders with 13. Jen Risper, Liz Sherwood, and Jessica Mooney added 12 points each.

Sometimes appearances are deceiving. If you had walked into the gym late in the first half and noticed that the Dores was leading by 14 points late with the team's youngest post players on the court, you might have thought, "Hm, looks like things have been going pretty well for Vanderbilt."

But anybody who'd watched the game from the opening tip would have quickly cleared up that mistaken impression.

St. Mary's scored the first four points of the game in less than half a minute and maintained that lead through most of the first half. Vanderbilt trailed until an old-fashioned 3-point play by Merideth Marsh gave the Dores their first lead of the game at 27-25 with 7:58 left in the first half.

"I think they came out really quick, scored two baskets in the first 20 seconds," said Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb after the game. "They just go fast all the time, and we couldn't get the ball under control."

"We made our push, and we got in their heads," said Gaels guard Serena Benavente. "You can see that when we do come out and punch them in the mouth, we're going to come out and compete with you."

After St. Mary's hot start to the game, the tide shifted Vanderbilt's way. After finally claiming the lead, the Dores held on to it the rest of the way. Marsh's basket that gave Vanderbilt their first lead was also the beginning of a 20-0 Vanderbilt run to put the Dores up 44-25.

What changed the momentum of the game? "You would not like to say 'fatigue' but we play at such a high pace, I think that had something to do with it," said St. Mary's head coach Paul Thomas.

"We're a high risk, high rewards defense, we know that, I make no bones about it, and when you mistakes like we do, they're going to get easy looks at the basket."

Midway through the second half, the Dores took their biggest lead of the game at 74-46 . Balcomb took advantage of the big lead to give the team's starters some rest before taking on the #12-ranked California Bears less than 24 hours later.

But after the Gaels cut the big Vanderbilt lead in half to just 14 points at 78-65 with five minutes left in the game, Balcomb put juniors Jen Risper and Tina Wirth back into the game and soon the lead was back up to 20 points.

"[Risper and Wirth] work as hard and as fast as that team," she said. "Jen and Tina don't play down to anybody's level or anybody's speed."

After that, even with substitutions, the Dores were able to retain the 20-point lead for the rest of the game.

With the victory, Vanderbilt improved to 7-1 on the season. On Sunday afternoon, the Contra Costa Times Class continues, as Vanderbilts takes on the #12-ranked California Bears on their home court in Haas Pavilion. Next home action will be Thursday, December 6, when the Lady Hilltoppers from Western Kentucky visit Memorial Gym at 7 p.m.

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Photos copyright 2007 by Whitney D. for

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