Women's Hoops: Vanderbilt 66, UNC-Charlotte 43

The Vanderbilt Commodores bounced back from Saturday's loss at Texas Christian with a 66-43 victory over the UNC-Charlotte 49ers on New Year's Eve in Memorial Gym.

In the early going, it briefly looked as if the Commodores were going to pick up where they left off on Saturday. Only a minute into the game, senior center Chantelle Anderson picked up her first foul, and seconds later was whistled for a controversial offensive foul after pulling down a defensive rebound. A thundering chorus of booooo!! echoed through the gym, and Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb and the entire Vandy bench erupted in disbelief.

With two fouls and the score 4-2 in favor of Charlotte, Anderson headed to the bench to be replaced by Ashley Earley. At the same time, Abi Ramsey entered the game, and she proved to be the spark that Vanderbilt needed. Immediately after sinking a 3-pointer to give the Commodores their first lead of the game, Ramsey stole the ball and finished on the fast break to give the Commodores a 7-4 lead.

The 49ers countered with a basket from Peaches Harris to cut the lead to one at 7-6 going into the first media timeout. But coming out of the timeout, back-to-back 3-pointers by Jenni Benningfield and Ashley McElhiney sparked a 10-0 Vanderbilt run to give the Commodores a 17-6 lead with 12 minutes left in the first half. For the rest of the half, the teams essentially traded baskets, with both teams playing aggressive defense, forcing turnovers, and missing shots. When the half ended, Vanderbilt held a 10-point lead at 24-14.

Coming out of the locker room, Vanderbilt reeled off an 8-0 run, including a couple of baskets by Anderson on out-of-bounds plays, a fast break layup by Benningfield, and a jumper from the high post by Anderson. From there on, thanks in large part to their defensive pressure, the Commodores slowly but surely increased the lead until it reached the largest of the night at 65-31 on a fast break by Ramsey wtih 3:31 remaining. In the final minutes of the game, Vanderbilt emptied the bench and cruised to the 66-43 victory.

Vanderbilt was led in scoring by Chantelle Anderson with 15 points, followed by Abi Ramsey with 13, and Jenni Benningfield with 10. Benningfield grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds to earn her fourth double double of the season. Ashley Earley added 6 boards, and Ramsey had 5. Ashley McElhiney dished out 8 assists, followed by Benningfield with 4.

Leslie Cook led Charlotte in scoring with 10 points, the only 49er to score in double figures. Alica Abernathy and Pam Brown had 7 rebounds each.

For the game, Vanderbilt shot 48% from the field (43.8% from 3-point range) and 57.9% (11 of 19) from the free throw line. After making 7 of their first 8 shots from the field, the Commodores ended up shooting only 40% for the first half, but improved to 56% in the second half.

UNC-C shot only 31.7% from the field (11.1% from 3-point range) and 27.3% (3 of 11) from the line. Like Vanderbilt, Charlotte shot better in the second half, hitting 43% of their shots compared to only 22% in the first half. Charlotte won the battle of the boards with 40 rebounds, including 16 offensive rebounds, compared to 34 for Vanderbilt. The Commodores had 21 turnovers; the 49ers had 25.

With the win, Vanderbilt improves to 8-2, while Charlotte falls to 6-5. Next the Commodores hit the road again, this time for a homecoming game for Jenni Benningfield against the University of Louisville Cardinals on Thursday night. They'll then return home for a Fan Appreciation Day game against Holy Cross on Saturday. The first 2,000 fans in attendance will receive a life-size Chantelle Anderson growth chart, and tickets will cost only $1.00. Tickets are going fast, but are still available.

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VandyMania photos by Micah Miller.

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