VU Women Defeat Auburn 73-56

Led by 19 points each from Merideth Marsh and Jessica Mooney, Vanderbilt defeated the Auburn Tigers 73-56 in the final road game of the regular season. Jen Risper added a double double with 10 points and 12 rebounds, and Tina Wrth scored 10 points. DeWanna Bonner led the Tigers with 19 points and 10 rebounds.

Going into Thursday night's game against Auburn, Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb was looking for the same kind of energy from her team that had enabled them to jump out to big early leads before their loss to Tennessee on February 17.

For the first few minutes of the game, that energy wasn't reflected in the score. During that time, the teams traded baskets, leading to a 7-7 tie at the first media timeout.

Then Jessica Mooney and Liz Sherwood came off the bench and soon the game began to change.

An assist from Mooney led to a 3-pointer by Merideth Marsh to put the Dores in front at 10-7. As it turned out, Vanderbilt would hold that lead for the rest of the game.

But that wasn't immediately obvious, as an offensive rebound and putback by Auburn's Cassie Moore cut the lead back to just one point at 10-9.

Then, over the next seven minutes, Mooney took over, scoring 13 points in a 25-7 Vanderbilt run that put the Dores ahead by 19 points at 35-16 with seven minutes left in the first half.

Mooney's 17 points in the first half leaped off the page of the halftime box score, but according to Balcomb, her defense was the big difference maker.

"Jessica scored a lot of points" Balcomb said after the game, "but really what helped us at the beginning of the game, when we had trouble getting stops, was that she came in and got a steal and a run-out, getting points off our defense."

"That was huge" she continued. "Her coming out ready to play and defend as well as her six assists, breaking down the defense, and scoring as well. Her first half was a near-perfect game."

Although Mooney's 17 points made a memoriable first half, she wasn't alone in building the Vanderbilt lead. In addition to Mooney's two 3-pointers, Merideth Marsh connected on three of her five attempts from behind the arc in the first half, and Tina Wirth and Lauren Lueders each hit one from long range.

Between Mooney's heroics and the 3-point barrage, the Dores took at 42-26 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Midway through the second half, Vanderbilt's lead grew to as much as 24 points, but the Tigers, led by their All-American candidate DeWanna Bonner, refused to fold.

"We just tried to come out and chip away," Bonner said after the game. "They had a lead at halftime, so we just had to come out and try to play more confident."

As it turned out, however, every time the Tigers began to make a move, Vanderbilt had an answer, whether it was a 3-pointer by Wirth or a driving layup by Jen Risper. So, in the end, the Dores held on to their halftime lead and claimed the 73-56 victory.

After the game, Balcomb said that she was pleased with the energy that her team brought to the court.

"I thought we did a good job," she said. "We didn't defend them as well at the beginning of the game in our matchup, so we went man, and I thought we really buckled down man-to-man defense and broke it open early."

With the victory, Vanderbilt improved to 21-7 for the season, 10-3 in the SEC, while Auburn fell to 18-10 overall and 6-7 in the SEC.

With one game remaining in the SEC season, the Tigers are still fighting for an NCAA tournament berth, while Vanderbilt has already clinched a bye in the SEC tournament and is a virtual lock for the NCAA tournament.

The Dores finish the regular season on Sunday when they host the Alabama Crimson Tide at 2 p.m. After the game, Liz Sherwood, Vanderbilt's lone senior, will be honored in Senior Night festivities following the game.

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Photos copyright 2008 by Whitney D. for Top Stories