VU Women Defeat Mississippi State 72-50

Vanderbilt uses 45.8% shooting and ramped up defensive pressure to end Mississippi State's streak at four and well below the Lady Bulldog's 77.4 points per game average.

A balanced attack from Vanderbilt tripped up Mississippi State (12-4, 0-1) in the Commodore's SEC opener Thursday night as players from both sides found themselves on the floor and scrambling in a physical game in which Vandy pressured, scrapped, and rebounded their way past the Lady Bulldogs for a 72-50 win. MSU was held to 29% shooting.

Four Commodores posted double figures as Meredith Marsh led with 15 points, including three treys and 13 points in the first half. Junior Jen Risper followed with 13 points on 4 for 5 field goal shooting and 5 of 7 at the free throw line. Tina Wirth scored 12 with a pair of threes and Liz Sherwood had 11 off the bench on 4 for 5 field goal and 3 of 4 free throw shooting.

Vanderbilt (12-4, 1-0) heads to Bayou country for a 4 p.m. CST televised match-up on Fox Sports South with LSU on Sunday. Coach Melanie Balcomb termed the win a must before facing three of the nation's top ranked teams, LSU and UT on their home courts, and Georgia for the Commodores' next home game on January 17. The 11th-ranked Tigers defeated previously unbeaten Arkansas 76-54 on Thursday in Fayetteville.

"Obviously, you can't go to LSU 0-1. This was a game we had to get. We know what the next game is. It's on the road so we had to get this game and gain some confidence. I like what we're doing right now with our young players and the experience they're getting."

Vandy is 2-2 on the road this season. With freshman guard Jence Rhodes gaining more experience at point and sophomore Meredith Marsh adjusting well to her new role as a shooting guard, the lineup changes have produced more offense confidence, a priority for play against SEC powerhouses.

"The last three games we've had new roles. People have been doing a good job in those roles," Balcomb said. "One is Meredith (Marsh) playing shooting guard. We needed a consistent shooter and Meredith has been doing that. We've been playing Jence (Rhoads) and also Jess (Mooney) a lot at the point. You saw Jess in the open court making some nice plays. I like the ball in Jess's hands. They have really been unselfish and stepped up and accepted those roles and are working very hard to do a good job with them."

The "sixth man" role is second nature to 6-4 senior Liz Sherwood, who along with playmaker Jessica Mooney have come off the bench to drive up the intensity.

Balcomb explained, " I think it's really important that when Liz and Jess come in, that the intensity rises. I think starting freshmen, playing Hannah (Tuomi) and Jence so much early on, we're going with defense and rebounding. Those guys have been rebounding the crap out of it in practice. That's carried over to games and so we've tried to go more with defense and rebounding to start and then bring Liz off the bench. She's been in that role the last two years and she's comfortable with that role."

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Jence Rhoads

Tina Wirth

Photos copyright 2008 by Sharon Harper for

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