VU Women Hold Off Lady Razorbacks 63-50

Vanderbilt clinched a first round bye in the SEC tournament by defeating the Arkansas Lady Razorbacks 63-50 Thursday night in Fayetteville. Four Dores scored in double figures in the win, led by Jessica Mooney with 14 points, and Liz Sherwood scored the 1000th point of her Vanderbilt career.

Maybe it was midterm exams. Maybe it was the long day waiting for the first Thursday road game in nearly a month. Maybe it was the cold, rainy weather. Whatever the reason, the Dores started the game as if they were slogging their way through a muddy field.

Vanderbilt didn't put any points on the board until Jen Risper sank a couple of free throws after more than four minutes of play. The Dores didn't score their first field goal of the game until Jessica Mooney's 3-pointer with 15:34 remaining in the first half.

In the meantime, Vanderbilt had turned the ball over three times, missed five shots, committed two fouls, and forced Head Coach Melanie Balcomb to go to the bench early and use a timeout to try to right the ship.

Fortunately for the Dores, Arkansas was having troubles of their own, which allowed Mooney's 3-pointer to give the Dores their first lead of the game at 5-2.

As it turned out, Vanderbilt would hang on to the lead for the rest of the game. But at times the Dores were hanging on for dear life by their fingernails, as the Ladybacks held their ground every time the Dores threatened to put the game away until the final minutes of the game.

With seven minutes left in first half, it looked like Vanderbilt would get a little breathing room as a fastbreak layup by Jence Rhoads put the Dores ahead by eight points at 18-10. But by the end of the half, Arkansas had whittled away at that lead, and by halftime, the Vanderbilt lead had been cut to just one point at 26-25.

The second half got off to a promising start when Tina Wirth, who was the primary target of the Arkansas defense, hit a 3-pointer, and five minutes into the half, Vanderbilt held a 6-point lead at 36-30. But as they had all game, the LadyBacks answered and soon it was once again a one-point game at 36-35.

But just as the crowd began to wake up when they sniffed a possible upset, a 3-pointer from Lauren Lueders, who had just entered the game, nipped that excitement in the bud. Another 3-pointer by Wirth a minute later gave Vanderbilt a seven-point lead at 44-37 with 11:21 remaining.

But once again, the Dores didn't put the game away. An old-fashioned 3-point play by sixth-year senior Sarah Pfeiffer and a jumper by Ayana Brereton cut the Vanderbilt lead to just two points at 44-42 with 8:54 left in the game.

Then, finally, Vanderbilt's two "sparks off the bench", Jessica Mooney and Liz Sherwood, started the run that finally put some distance between the Dores and the Ladybacks, starting with Mooney's third 3-pointer of the game. Then Sherwood scored off a putback of her own missed shot to put the Dores back ahead by seven points. Then a steal by Lueders led to another Sherwood layup, giving Vanderbilt a nine-point lead at 51-42 with 6:34 to go in the game.

This time, that nine-point lead turned out to be too much for the Ladybacks to overcome. With 3:40 left, a layup by Pfeiffer cut the lead back to five points, at 53-48. But the Dores cranked up their defensive intensity, and Pfeiffer's basket turned out to be the last Arkansas field goal of the game. In the meantime, the Dores continued to attack the basket and hit their free throws down the stretch to seal the 63-50 victory.

With the win, Vanderbilt improved to 20-7 overall (9-3 in the SEC), ensuring the sixth consecutive 20-win season for Melanie Balcomb in her six seasons at Vanderbilt. The win also clinched a first-round bye in the SEC tournament for the Dores.

Next action for Vanderbilt will be next Thursday night in Auburn. Then the Dores will play their final game of the regular season on Sunday night, March 2, as they host the Alabama Crimson Tide. Vanderbilt's only senior, Liz Sherwood, will be honored in Senior Night festivities following the game. Top Stories