VU Women Fall in Oxford, 71-69

OXFORD, MS--Vanderbilt fell to the Ole Miss Rebels 71-69 in Oxford on Sunday afternoon after officials ruled that Jence Rhoads' game-tying layup was still in her hands when time expired. Tina Wirth led Vanderbilt with 20 points, followed by Merideth Marsh with 15 points and Jence Rhoads with 13.

There isn't a good way to lose a basketball game, but there aren't many ways worse than Vanderbilt's heartbreaker in Oxford on Sunday afternoon. "It's probably been one of the toughest losses I've ever had at Vanderbilt," said Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb after the game.

The heartbreak came on the heels of jubilation on the Vanderbilt sideline. After falling behind by 10 points with 4:32 left to play, the Dores staged a furious comeback. A 3-pointer by Merideth Marsh tied the game at 69-69 with 12 seconds left.

Ole Miss broke the tie with on a layup by Kayla Melson with six seconds left. Jence Rhoads drove the length of the floor and sank a jumper as time expired. The scoreboard showed a 71-71 tie, and the Vanderbilt bench prepared for overtime.

However, in the meantime, Dee Kantner was reviewing the play. Eventually she ruled that the ball had still been in Rhoads' hands when time expired, so the basket was waved off. The score on the scoreboard changed to 71-69.

"All I could do is go by what the refs say," said Balcomb. "If they looked at it, and you've got the best ref in the country I think looking at it, obviously it was too little too late."

Although in retrospect, it's easy to focus on that last dramatic moment, the struggles for the Dores began long before that. After jumping off to a 10-2 start, Vanderbilt fell behind 19-18 in the middle of the first half, but managed to take a 36-33 lead into the locker room.

However, just 12 seconds into the second half, Bianca Thomas, who finished the game with 25 points, tied the game with a 3-pointer, and within a minute and half, sank two more to give Ole Miss a 42-36 lead. A basket by Shantell Black completed an 11-0 Ole Miss run giving the Lady Rebels an 8-point lead.

From then on, the Dores had to play catch up. They did manage to take the lead at 47-46 on a steal and fastbreak layup by Tia Gibbs, but Ole Miss once again took control and held a 10-point lead with 8:40 left in the game at 62-52.

Vanderbilt cut into the lead, but with 4:32 left, the Ole Miss lead was back to 10 points at 66-56, setting the stage for the Dores' comeback and disappointment as time expired.

The team has a bye week before they wrap up the regular season in Knoxville next Sunday against the Tennessee Lady Vols. After that, the SEC Tournament in Little Rock begins on March 5. However, since Vanderbilt is assured of a first round bye, the first game for the Dores will be on Friday March 6. Seeding and therefore game time are yet to be determined.

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Photos copyright 2009 by Whitney D. for

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