VU Women Fall to Lady Vols 81-68

Vanderbilt's six-game winning streak came to an end Sunday afternoon in Memorial Gym at the hands of the #1-ranked Tennessee Lady Vols. Tina Wirth led the Dores with 14 points, and Merideth Marsh scored 11. Candace Parker led all scorers with 23 points.

In the first meeting between the two teams in Knoxville on January 20, Vanderbilt fell to the Lady Vols by a final score of 79-63, as Tina Wirth paced the team with 24 points, including six 3-pointers. Since then, the Dores had won six straight games, including three games on the road, to improve to19-6 overall and 8-2 in the SEC, enough to put the Dores into third place in the conference standings.

Early in Sunday's game, it looked like that winning streak would quickly be gone with the wind. Tennessee jumped out to a 15-point lead on a layup by freshman Angie Bjorklund less than six minutes into the game.

But the Dores regrouped and gradually began to climb out of the early hole. An old-fashioned 3-point play by Liz Sherwood and a jumper by Jen Risper, cut the lead back to 10 points. Then a steal by Wirth led to a free throw by Risper, putting the Dores back within single-digits.

For the rest of the half, Tennessee held the lead. A couple of times the Lady Vols went ahead by as much as 14 points, but late in the half, a 3-pointer by Merideth Marsh cut the lead to just five points, and at halftime, Vanderbilt trailed by six, by the score of 42-36.

In the first few minutes of the second half, the lead slipped back into double digits on a layup by Nicky Anosike to put the Lady Vols head by 13-points at 51-38.

But then Vanderbilt grabbed the momentum. A 3-pointer by Wirth cut the lead back to 10 points at 51-41. Then Jessica Mooney went coast-to-coast and scored on the fastbreak. Hannah Tuomi missed a layup, but was fouled on putback following an offensive rebound. After a timeout, she hit both of the awarded free throws to cut the lead back to six points at 51-45.

But the Vanderbilt run didn't stop there. Sherwood scored on a layup, then another 3-pointer by Wirth to cap the 12-0 Vanderbilt run brought the Dores to within just one point of the Lady Vols at 51-50 with 13:58 left in the game.

Unfortunately, from the Vanderbilt point of view, that was as good as it got.

Less than a minute after Wirth's 3-pointer, she was whistled for her fourth personal foul and had to go to the bench. With Wirth out of the game, the Lady Vols went on a run of their own. By the time that Wirth returned to the game, Tennessee led by double digits at 66-55, and the wind was out of the Commodores' sails.

Four Vanderbilt fouls, four Vanderbilt turnovers, and four Vanderbilt missed shots later, the Lady Vols' lead had ballooned to 20 points at 79-59.

The Dores regrouped again to cut the lead to a more respectable margin, but it was too little, too late. In the end, it was double digit loss, Vanderbilt's first loss since the last time the two teams met, by the score of 81-68.

After the game, Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb gave credit to the Lady Vols. "I give Tennessee all the credit in the world," she said. "They're a great team; that's why they're the #1 team in the country."

But at the same time, she was disappointed in her own team's performance. "You can't play the #1 team in the country and expect to win not playing you're A-game," she said. "We didn't play well tonight."

Despite her disappointment, Balcomb said that when she talked to her team in the locker room after the game, that wasn't the emphasis of her post-game talk in the locker room.

"I'm mad because I'm a competitor, but it's hard to get mad at these kids because they work their tails off every day, and I think that it's more important to talk to them about not having a letdown," she said.

"We want to get better from this loss instead of getting down from it," she continued. "And that's really what I talked about - recovery from this game so that we get back on the winning track the next couple of games so we can put ourselves in a position to play Tennessee again in the SEC tournmament."

With the six-game winning streak behind them, Vanderbilt returns to the road, as they travel to the Fayetteville, Arkansas, to face the Lady Razorbacks on Thursday night. The next home game for the Dores will be March 2, when the Alabama Crimson Tide visits Memorial Gym for the final game of the regular season. Top Stories