Vanderbilt's problems were compounded by foul trouble. Chantelle Anderson picked up her first foul five minutes into the game. When she picked up her second with 8 minutes left in the half, she went to the bench for the remainder of the half. When Benningfield picked up her second with two minutes left in the half and the Cards leading 40-32, she too headed for the bench for the rest of the half.
The Commodores wouldn't score for the rest of the half, while a jumper by Sabrina Minter gave Louisville a 10 point lead with a minute left. Then, Minter delivered the crushing blow by draining a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer, to give the Cardinals the luxury of a 45-32 halftime lead.
Following a halftime which Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb described as probably "not the nicest halftime we've had," from a Vanderbilt point of view, things got worse before they got better. Two minutes into the half, Louisville held their biggest lead of the night of 16 points at 49-33.
But the Commodores didn't give up. Anderson and Benningfield scored 7 straight points for Vandy to cut the Louisville lead back to single digits at 49-40. Unfortunately for Vanderbilt, Louisville wasn't giving up either and pushed the lead back up to 15 with about ten minutes left at 66-51.
In the rest of the half, the Commodores trimmed the lead to single digits several times. However, they were unable to make the defensive stops that would have allowed them to catch up. With 1:28 left a jumper by Abi Ramsey cut the lead to 7 at 81-74, and the Commodores began fouling to get possession of the ball. The Cardinals, however, sank 9 of 10 free throws, so even though Vanderbilt continued to score, it wasn't enough to overcome the deficit, and Louisville claimed the 92-82 victory.
Vanderbilt was led in scoring by Chantelle Anderson with 25 points, followed by Jenni Benningfield with 18, Hillary Hager with 13, and Abi Ramsey with 10. Anderson was also leading rebounder with 6, followed by Hager with 5. Ashley McElhiney dished out 17 assists, breaking the previous all-time Vanderbilt single game record of 15 held by Ashley Smith. Five Commodores finished with at least four fouls.
Louisville was led in scoring by Sara Nord with 25 points,followed by Lori Nero with 22, Sabrina Minter with 18 and Amanda Wolke with 11. Nero was leading rebounder with 7, followed by Nord with 6. Nord finished the game with 7 assists.
For the game, Louisville shot 54.1% from the field, including a sizzling 61% for the first half, while the Commodores shot 50%. The Commodores attempted 25 3-pointers, but connected on only 7 of them, compared with 7 of 15 for Louisville. Both teams were good from the line with Louisville hitting 83% of their free throws, while Vanderbilt shot 77% from the line. Despite their early rebounding woes, the Commodores held the rebounding edge at the end of the game at 31-20. The Commodores committed 20 turnovers with eight of them coming from offensive fouls, while Louisville committed 15.
With the loss, Vanderbilt falls to 8-3, while Louisville improves to 7-4. Since Lori Nero became eligible to play after transferring from Auburn, the Cardinals are now 5-1 with only a loss to LSU. The Commodores now return home for Fan Appreciation Day on Saturday, when they host the Holy Cross Crusaders at noon. All tickets are $1.00, and the first 2,000 fans will receive a lifesize Chantelle Anderson growth chart. Tickets are still available.
VandyMania photos of Chantelle Anderson, Jenni Benningfield, Ashley McElhiney, and Melanie Balcomb by Micah Miller.