Vandy clobbers Youngstown State in Tourney opener

Six Commodores scored in double figures as Vanderbilt defeated Youngstown State University 91-60 in the opening game of the First Tennessee Tournament Saturday afternoon in Memorial Gym.

The game began in a now-familiar fashion, with Hillary Hager sinking a 3-pointer to give a Vanderbilt an early 3-0 lead. But Barb Fabianova immediately tied the score for YSU with a 3-pointer on the other end. And so it went for the first four minutes of the game, with the Penguins countering every Vandy basket with one of their own. When the first media timeout was called, the Commodores held a 9-8 lead.

When the teams came back onto the court, Vandy began to take control. Tia Battle scored on a jumper, then on a fast break following a defensive rebound by Jenni Benningfield. After Benningfield was fouled and sank a couple of free throws, Hillary Hager's second 3-pointer of the game gave Vanderbilt its first double-digit lead of the night at 18-8. After Tia Battle's jumper took a sky-high bounce off the rim, then dropped cleanly through the net, YSU Coach Ed DiGregorio had seen enough and called timeout.

The timeout helped the Penguins to slow the bleeding, but couldn't stop it entirely. The Commodores continued to pull away throughout the remainder of the half. Ashley McElhiney's first 3-pointer of the game with 5:27 left in the half pushed Vanderbilt's lead to over 20 for the first time. By the time the time the teams headed to the locker rooms at halftime, Vanderbilt's lead had grown to 27 at 52-26.

Throughout the second half, the Penguins weren't able to chip significantly into Vanderbilt's lead, but, on the other hand, the Commodores didn't extend it significantly, either. An old-fashioned 3-point play by Ashley Earley with 12:24 left in the half gave Vanderbilt a 30-point lead for the first time in the game. YSU whittled it down to 24 points a few minutes later, but that was as close as they could get. A layup by Nicole Jules with less than a minute remaining pushed the Vanderbilt lead back up to 31 points, and a couple of made free throws by Jutta Korkko gave the Commodores their biggest lead of the night at 91-58. A layup by YSU's Nicole Neila ended the scoring for the game at 91-60.

Chantelle Anderson led the Commodores in scoring with 16 points. Ashley McElhiney added 14, Jenni Benningfield and Ashley Earley had 13 each, and Tia Battle and Hillary Hager had 12 each. Anderson was also leading rebounder with 10, including 6 offensive rebounds. Battle had 7, and Benningfield had 6. McElhiney dished out 11 assists, and Anderson had 6 blocks.

Barb Fabianova led Youngstown State in scoring with 20 points, including 6 of 9 from 3-point range, followed by Tara Fleming with 12. No other Penguin scored in double figures. Fleming was leading rebounder with 9.

For the game, Vanderbilt shot 54.8% from the field (42.1% from behind the arc) and 78.9% from the free throw line, while YSU shot 37.9% from the fieleven with 14 for the Commodores, and 15 for the Penguins.

In the other game in the opening round, Harvard defeated Central Michigan 69-58. The first half of that game was competitive with several lead changes and ties, but the Crimson took the lead for good with six minutes left in the first half. From there on, Central Michigan kept hanging around, but could never catch up. Harvard's leading scorer was #23 Hana Peljto, who finished with 29 points. #21 Rochelle Bell added 13, including 3 of 5 from 3-point range.

With the victories, Vanderbilt and Harvard advance to the championship game to be played at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Youngstown State and Central Michigan will meet in the consolation game, which tips off at noon.

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