VU Women Advance to Sweet 16

ALBUQUERQUE, NM—Vanderbilt advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year with a 74-61 victory over the Kansas State Wildcats at The Pit in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Jen Risper led Vanderbilt with a career-high 27 points, and Tina Wirth added 24. Ashley Sweat led Kansas State with 17 points.

One year ago, Vanderbilt won two games in "The Pit", the legendary basketball court at the University of New Mexico, to advance to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament. This year once again Vanderbilt was sent to Albuquerque for the first two rounds, and once again, the Dores won two games to advance to the Sweet 16.

That's déjà vu.

Four years ago, Vanderbilt and Kansas State met in the second round of the NCAA tournament. In 2005 Vanderbilt had two great seniors leaders in Abi Ramsey and Ashley Earley, and Vanderbilt prevailed to earn the trip to the Sweet 16. In 2009, Vanderbilt has another pair of great senior leaders in Tina Wirth and Jen Risper, and once again, Vanderbilt emerged victorious.

That's déjà vu all over again.

In the early going, however, it looked as if history might have a different outcome in mind. Vanderbilt took the early lead when Risper and Wirth scored the first two baskets of the game, but by the first media timeout, Kansas State had taken a 9-6 lead on a 3-pointer by Danielle Zanotti.

After that, the Wildcats held the lead for almost the entire rest of the half. But every time the lead grew to as much as seven points, either Wirth or Risper had an answer on the Vanderbilt end of the court. The Dores managed to take the lead at 20-19 midway through the first half, but Kansas State quickly regained it on a 3-pointer by Ashley Sweat. The Wildcats then were able to hold on to the lead for the remainder of the half and took a 38-37 lead into the locker room.

Vanderbilt reclaimed the lead less than ten seconds into the second half on a layup by Jence Rhoads. Then, for the next ten minutes, neither team could gain the upper hand. With 18:01 left, the game was tied at 40-40. Then it was tied at 42-42, again at 46-46, and then at 48-48 with 11:41 left to play.

Finally, Vanderbilt aggression began to tip the scales. First, a steal by Risper led to a jumper by Wirth to put the Dores ahead by two points. Then Lauren Lueders drove to the basket and scored. After a block by Lueders and a defenseive rebound by Risper, Risper drew a fourth foul on Marlies Gipson. The pair of awarded free throws put the Dores ahead by six points at 54-48.

But the Vanderbilt run didn't end there. Another steal by Risper set up a drive by Lueders, who dished to Risper for another basket to give Vanderbilt an 8-point lead at 56-48. And then a defensive rebound by Wirth set up Merideth Marsh for a 3-pointer in transition, and Marsh knocked it down to put Vanderbilt ahead by double-digits at 59-48 with 7:38 left in the game.

Over the next few minutes, the Wildcats managed to trim the lead to single digits a couple of times, but then Vanderbilt put the clamps on and held Kansas State scoreless for four minutes, allowing the Dores to take a 16-point lead at 71-55 with 1:31 left to play.

By then, the fat lady was tuning up in one of the dressing rooms at the top of the ramp, and when she began to sing, it was Vanderbilt's song, as the Dores claimed the 74-61 victory to advance to the Sweet 16.


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