VU Women Advance to 2nd Round in NCAA Tourney

Hannah Tuomi's 14 points led a well-balanced offensive attack as Vanderbilt trounced the Montana Lady Grizzlies 75-47 Saturday night in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Tina Wirth added 13 points for the Dores, and Liz Sherwood scored 12. Mandy Morales led Montana with 11 points.

If Vanderbilt had any opening round jitters going into their first game in the 2008 NCAA tournament, it didn't show on either end of the court. Just 15 seconds into the game, Tina Wirth hit a 3-pointer. Then a steal by Jen Risper led to a fastbreak basket by Hannah Tuomi, giving the Dores a 5-0 lead in the first 30 seconds of the game.

"I think it was really important that we came out with the level of intensity that we wanted," said Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb. "We always talk about starting the game off really strong, the first four minutes of each half, and I think we set the tone with our effort."

That early lead continued to grow, and soon Vanderbilt had built a double-digit lead at 15-5. But the Lady Grizz were able to stop the bleeding and gradually climbed to within three points at 17-14. When the Dores once again threatened to pull away, Mandy Morales answered with a 3-pointer to keep the game close at 21-17 with 7:51 left in the first half.

But that was as good as it got for the Montana. Wirth immediately answered with a 3-pointer. Then, over the next five minutes, the Dores reeled off 16 straight points. The 19-0 run broke the game open, and Vanderbilt took a 45-22 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Coming out of the halftime intermission, once again the Dores came out with intensity. A layup by Tumoi, a steal by Jence Rhoads, and another 3-pointer by Wirth boosted the Vanderbilt lead to 28 points.

After that, Montana was never able to make a serious run. The comfortable margin allowed Balcomb to send her three upperclassmen to the bench with plenty of time remaining. Wirth left the game for good with 14:12 left; Risper at the 11:36 mark, and Liz Sherwood with 8:34 left. From that point on, the game was in the hands of the freshmen and sophomores.

"These kids are hungry to play, and every minute that they get when they come off the bench if we're able to break it open, they give us a great effort," Balcomb said. "We don't lose anything; we gain sparks because they come in and play so hard because they're excited to play."

By the end of the game, every Vanderbilt player got into the game, and scoring , rebounds, assists, and steals were distributed all through the lineup. Twelve players scored, nine players had at least three rebounds, six players had at least two assists, and four players had at least two steals.

With the victory, Vanderbilt advances to the second round of the tournament on Monday night game. Their opponent will be the #5-seed West Virginia Mountaineers, who broke the hearts of nearly 10,000 New Mexico fans in attendance by fending off the upset bid of the #12-seeded Lady Lobos, who were playing on the home floor in front of their hometown crowd. Gametime on Monday is 6:30 p.m. MT (7:30 p.m. CT).

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