VU Women Upset #3 Auburn 73-70

Vanderbilt celebrated Senior Night with a 73-70 upset of #3 Auburn Thursday night in Memorial Gym. Jence Rhoads led the Dores with a career-high 16 points, and seniors Jen Risper and Tina Wirth scored 14 points each.

When Melanie Balcomb took over as head coach of the women's basketball team in 2002, she changed the Senior Night tradition. Instead of following the old tradition of recognizing the team's seniors before the game, she decide to celebrate Senior Night after the game.

One potential problem with post-game Senior Night festivities is the possibility that a loss might put a damper on the fun. But fortunately that's an eventuality that the Dores haven't faced because Balcomb is now 7-0 in Senior Night games at Vanderbilt.

The challenge this year was that the Senior Night opponent was ranked #3 in the nation and the only team ahead of Vanderbilt in the SEC standings. A win couldn't be taken for granted.

Auburn scored the first points of the game on a 3-pointer by DeWanna Bonner, but then Vanderbilt began to click on both ends of the floor and took a 40-24 lead into the locker room at halftime.

But the Tigers aren't ranked so highly for no reason. In the second half, the Tigers cut the lead to single digits at in the first few minutes of the half, then kept chip, chip, chipping away all through the half.

With six minutes left, Auburn closed the gap to five points then continued to answer every time Vanderbilt threatened to put some breathing room between the two teams. Down the stretch the Tigers closed the gap even further, cutting the lead to just three points at 71-68 with 46 seconds left in the game.

But that wasn't the worst. On their next possession, Trevesha Jackson scored on a fast break to cut the Vanderbilt lead to one point at 71-70 with 11 seconds left in the game. After the Tigers used their last time out, they sent Merideth Marsh to the foul line.

Marsh, who came into the game with a 96.4% free throw percentage in SEC play including a streak of 18 consecutive made free throws, stepped to the line and knocked down both shots to give Vanderbilt a 3-point lead.

The Dores had only been whistled for four team fouls in the half, so they had a foul to give, and with three seconds left, they fouled to disrupt the Auburn offense. The Tigers then badly missed a 3-pointer, and Tina Wirth grabbed the defensive rebound to secure the victory for Vanderbilt. So once again, the Vanderbilt players and fans didn't have to face the question of what Senior Night would be like after a loss.

With the victory Vanderbilt moves into a first-place tie with Auburn atop the SEC standings with identical 10-2 records in conference play. Both teams have two more games. Auburn hosts Georgia and Arkansas, while Vanderbilt goes on the road to Ole Miss and Tennessee to wrap up regular season play.

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The spirit team wore "Lyme" green t-shirts.

Tina Wirth

Jen Risper

Jessica Mooney was a spark off the bench,

Senior Amy Malo played her last game in Memorial.

Jence Rhoads played 40 minutes.

Tina Wirth

Tia Gibbs scored 7 points off the bench.

Jen Risper shot 8 for 11 from the foul line.

Tina Wirth

Hannah Tuomi

Jen Risper

Merideth Marsh

Seniors Jen Risper, Tina Wirth and Amy Malo

Lauren Lueders, Tia Gibbs, and Jen Risper

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Photos copyright 2009 by Whitney D for

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