Vandy hangs tough for 79-73 OT win over WKU

Using free throws and dogged determination, Vanderbilt (8-1) outscored one of its greatest non-conference rivals 17-11 in overtime to beat Western Kentucky 79-73 on Sunday. The Lady Toppers fall to 4-3 with other losses to Duke and Arkansas. Vandy now holds a 19-12 advantage in the series, including five consecutive wins over the area university.

At the end of regulation, the score was even at 62-all. There were six ties and the lead changed 13 times. Vandy led the half at 38-30 but was outscored 32-24 during the final 20 minutes. The comeback in overtime was fueled by a return appearance of intensity.

Senior guard Merideth Marsh, with 17 points and one of five Commodores in double figures, said, "Getting the first basket of overtime was crucial. That's one thing that Coach (Melanie Balcomb) talked about in the locker room that we try to outwork and outlast every team. We took advantage of their lack of defense in overtime. We were not going to back down and we were not going to lose this game."

Balcomb said execution improved down the stretch. "I think we toughed it out. We got smarter at the end. We executed better, better defensive decisions, and played harder. Driving hard and attacking drew fouls and this game was won on the free throw line. Merideth (Marsh) made big plays at the rim, as did Jence (Rhoads). Our three guards got to the rim and Hannah (Tuomi) did as well. They shut down our 3-point shot and we responded and were able to succeed in the paint."

Hannah, whose aggressive defensive posture on the boards recovered key possessions, also mixed it up offensively to end the game with 11 points on 4 of 5 field goals and 8 rebounds. Benched with four fouls at 17:15 in the second half, she returned to the game with 5:22 remaining and Vanderbilt down 53-54. The junior missed free throws during overtime, hitting just 3 of 10 for the game, but the rest of the forward's play was stellar.

"We didn't have that killer instinct when we had the lead and Hannah was on the bench," Balcomb said. "Hannah coming back in gave us the energy to come back and win. In the end of both the first and the second half, she gave us the boost we needed to push through overtime and she had some key rebounds in overtime as well."

Other Commodores in double figures were Jence Rhoads with 17 points, nine assists and five rebounds; Tiffany Clarke sank 12 points on 6 of 10 shooting and a career high two blocks and Jessica Mooney pitched in 10 points with five boards and one block.

Western Kentucky lost key player Dominique Duck midway in the second half. The fifth year senior went down with a twisted knee leading WKU scorers with 17 points. She is expected to make a full recovery.

Making her first collegiate start, Vandy freshman Elan Brown stepped into the shoes of a forward to replace Jordan Coleman, injured four days ago and out for the season with a torn ACL. The freshman guard, known for the 3-point shot, is adapting to a totally new position and scored 4 points and grabbed 5 rebounds.

"Elan stepped up and studied game film overnight to start today," Balcomb said. She really shone. She has a lot to work on, but I think it shows a lot that a freshman was willing to step in and try something she had never done for the betterment of her team."

Vanderbilt next plays on the road against Quinnipiac on December 10. The next home game is Sunday, December 20 against Tennessee State.

Elan Brown steps up defense against the Lady Toppers.

Hannah Tuomi defends the perimeter against WKU's Amy McNear.

Ashlee Bridge and Tiffany Clarke trap in a double team.

Merideth Marsh throws in a layup.

Elan Brown and Jessica Mooney encourage Hannah Tuomi at the free throw line.

Tiffany Clarke pops in a layup. Top Stories