McElhiney shines near hometown; sets record

Officially, Vanderbilt's 101-77 victory over UT-Martin on Sunday afternoon was the concluding game of the SkyHawk Classic. Unofficially, however, Sunday was Ashley McElhiney Day, as the Gleason native set Vanderbilt's all-time career assists record in front of a hometown crowd and numerous Vanderbilt fans who had made the trip.

Going into Sunday's game, McElhiney needed only four assists to break the all-time record. She passed that milestone halfway through the first half on her way to a career-high 13 assists for the game. Those assists, coupled with her 15 points, gave McElhiney her third double-double of the season.

As the game started, Vanderbilt's motto was "Score early, and score often." In the first five minutes of the game, the Commodores raced out to a 19-6 lead, featuring three-pointers by McElhiney, Hillary Hager, and Tia Battle. Though the frenetic pace eased somewhat, Vanderbilt continued piling up the points. By the end of the half, Vanderbilt led 60-31, their highest point total for a half since 1993. Six Commodores scored at least eight points in the half, led by McElhiney and senior center Chantelle Anderson with 11 points each.

The second half began in a similar fashion, with the Commodores gaining their biggest lead of the night of 38 points at 77-39 about five minutes into the half. After that, however, The Skyhawks began to hold their ground, and then to start chipping away at the Vanderbilt lead, trimming it down to 22 points with about five minutes left in the game. The Skyhawks had the chance to reduce the lead below 20 points when Torre Thomas was fouled on a 3-point shot, but she missed the free throws. After that, the teams traded baskets until the final buzzer sounded with the score 101-77.

Vanderbilt was lead in scoring by Chantelle Anderson with 27 points, her highest point total of the season, followed by Jenni Benningfield with 16, McElhiney with 15, and Hillary Hager with 12. Benningfield was leading rebounder with 11, for her third double-double of the season, followed by Anderson with seven. McElhiney dished out 13 assists, while Benningfield had five, and Tia Battle and Hager had four each.

Amy Watson led UT-Martin with 20 points, followed by Danielle Page with 13, Jenny Lanom with 11, and Tiffany Brundige with 10. Lanom and Watson had six rebounds each, and Page and Watson had five assists apiece.

For the game, Vanderbilt shot 60% from the field, compared to 43.3% for UT-Martin. The Commodores were pretty consistent across the two halves, shooting 62% in the first half and 57% in the second half. The Skyhawks, however, shot 51% in the second half after being held to only 35% shooting in the first half. The taller Commodores dominated the boards 42-27. Turnovers were nearly even at 14 for Vanderbilt and 13 for UTM.

With the win, Vanderbilt improves to 7-1 on the season, while UT-Martin falls to 3-6. The Commodores will now take a three-day break for the Christmas holiday before returning to campus on Thursday to begin to prepare for next Saturday's game at Texas Christian University in Dallas.

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Photos by Micah Miller for VandyMania. Top Stories