'Dores set career, season highs in 96-83 win

Vanderbilt (No. 18) kept the Lady Bucs of East Tennessee State University at bay Monday with a strong second half that showcased what a team playing as a solid unit can do. Digging in for the 96-83 win, the Commodores loosened up with several career and season highs in the making.

Freshman Tiffany Clarke scored career highs in three areas for her first collegiate double-double: 27 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks. She led five players in double figures as seniors Merideth Marsh sank 18 points and Lauren Lueders hit a career high 16 with four 3-pointers. Merideth stands at 199 in career 3-pointers and is 9 points shy of inclusion in the 1,000 Point Club.

Lauren's final 3-pointer started the Commodores on a 13-5 run to start the second half. Juniors Jence Rhoads added 16 and Hannah Tuomi 14 to round out the scoring.

Comparing Tiffany to previous Vanderbilt standouts Carla Thomas and Ashley Earley, Head Coach Melanie Balcomb said, "She's been practicing well, just dominating and building confidence. I told her this morning that she can be as good as she wants to be. That confidence has finally carried over to the game. Tiffany brings us a much-needed element of power."

This marked the first time a freshman scored more than 20 points since 2004 when Carla Thomas did so against Georgia in the SEC Tournament.

Tiffany explained the outcome was based more on feelings of trust in their teammates' abilities. "We're very together. We know what to expect of each other and we're confident in each other."

A trio of 3-pointers from Lauren kept Vandy from trailing too far in a first half battle with the Lady Bucs (4-5) who were also draining threes. ETSU guard TaRonda Wiles finished with 30 points and sank four 3-pointers in the first 20 minutes, ending the game with five (the most allowed by Vandy this season). The 'Dores edged the Lady Bucs 42-37 at the half, allowing them within 7 points at the 5:59 mark in the second half. Vandy led by as much as 17 in the second half.

Lauren's buckets were instrumental in the win, Balcomb added. ""Her 3-point shooting was huge and we weren't getting it done defensively. We were tight and we weren't getting stops. It was nice to have Lauren get off early and get relaxed and comfortable in the perimeter. It helped us get in the game."

The bonding is taking effect at the right time as the crucial conference season begins January 3 against Ole Miss and the team faces its highest ranked opponent Thursday in Notre Dame (No. 3) in South Bend, Ind.

Lauren said, "I feel like we are all on the same page. We are a cohesive unit right now. We were moving in spurts during practice and it's been getting better each day."

Merideth Marsh nails one of three 3-pointers in an 18-point effort.

In a game marked with boos and a technical, a passionate Lauren Lueders questions a call.

Jence Rhoads sinks a jumper, one of 5 players in double figures.

Tiffany Clarke hits 2 in a 27-point effort.

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