And then once again Vanderbilt threatened to the put the game away, going on a 13-2 run including two 3-pointers from Ramsey to take a 16-point lead at 32-16 with a minute and a half left in the half. But three Vanderbilt turnovers allowed the Lady Rebels to finish the first half on a 8-0 run, capped by a 3-point buzzer beater from Genice Terry to cut the Vanderbilt lead back to single digits at 32-24 at halftime.
The second half was the same song, second verse. The Lady Rebels' aggressive physical defense racked up a string of fouls early in the half putting Vanderbilt into the bonus with thirteen minutes left in the half, and the resulting free throws helped the Commodores to their biggest lead of night at 49-32 with 12:12 left.
But once again, as they had all night, the Lady Rebels used their defense to claw their way back into the game, forcing three Vanderbilt turnovers in the next couple of minutes, and the Commodores also began to struggle with their shots, both from the field and from the line. A layup by Amber Watts cut the lead to 7 points at 50-43 with 9:33 left. Benningfield's putback of a miss by Ramsey on an inbounds play briefly interrupted the Ole Miss run, but a basket by former Shelbyville player Ashley Johnson and a 3-pointer by Carletta Brown cut the Vanderbilt lead to two points at 53-51 with 4:29 left.
And then, with the small but vocal crowd smelling blood in the air, the Commodores regained their composure. Chantelle Anderson scored on from the low post, drawing a foul. When she missed the free throw, Hillary Hager sneaked in to grade the rebound. Anderson was subsequently fouled, and went to the line again and this time sank both free throws.
Then, the other end of the court, after Ole Miss missed several attempted putbacks, Benningfield finally came away with the defensive rebound and soon after sank a jumper. On the Lady Rebels' next possession, Hager grabbed the defensive board, and Benningfield was fouled hard as she attempted to finish the fast break and hit one of the two free throws. Soon after she went to line again and sank two more free throws, finishing off a 9-0 Commodore run to make the score 62-51 with 1:42 left.
Though the Commodores fans in attenance, began to breathe easier at that point, the fireworks weren't over yet. After a basket from Genice Terry cut the lead back to 8 points at 63-55 with 12 seconds left, Anderson was whistled for a technical foul for her reaction to Amber Watt's fifth foul. After both teams sank their free throws, another 3-pointer by Brown cut the lead back to 5 points at 65-60 with just a little over a second left. Ole Miss immediately fouled Ashley McElhiney, who sank two free throws to seal Vanderbilt's 67-60 victory.
Vanderbilt was led in scoring by Jenni Benningfield with 25 points, followed by Abi Ramsey with 16 including four 3-pointers, and Chantelle Anderson with 13. Anderson and Benningfield each had eight rebounds, and Hillary Hager had seven. Ashley McElhiney had a team-high six assists, and Abi Ramsey had five steals.
Ole Miss was led in scoring by Carletta Brown with 19 points including five 3-pointers, followed by Genice Terry with 13, and Ashley Johnson with 11. Amber Watts was leading rebounder for Ole Miss with 11.
For the game, the Commodores shot 39% from the field, well below their season average of 52%. Ole Miss struggled even more, shooting only 27% for the game -- even though they shot a very respectable 40% (10 of 25) from 3-point range compared to only 31% for Vanderbilt. From the line, Vanderbilt shot 26 of 36 for 72%, while the Lady Rebels were 10 of 11 for 91%.
Ole Miss held a substantial edge on the boards with 49 rebounds, including 26 on the offensive glass, compared to 39 for Vanderbilt. They also held a slight edge in turnovers with 18 compared to 20 for the Commodores.
With the victory, Vanderbilt improves to 16-7 overall (6-4 SEC) while Ole Miss falls to 12-11 overall (1-9 SEC). Next the Commodores return home for a Sunday afternoon game with the Georgia Lady Bulldogs. To accomodore the CSS telecast, gametime is at 4 p.m. instead of the usual 2 p.m.
Photos of #42 Jenni Benningfield, #20 Abi Ramsey, and #22 Ashley McElhiney by Micah Miller for VandyMania.