Women's Hoops: Vanderbilt edges Georgia

Abi Ramsey sank two free throws with 0.7 seconds remaining to give the Vanderbilt Commodores a 58-56 victory over the Georgia Lady Bulldogs Sunday afternoon in Memorial Gym.

Ramsey's heroics came at the end of a game that was sometimes ugly, often physical, but always intensely competitive. Throughout the entire game, neither team ever led by more than 7 points, and for most of the game, the difference was less than 5 points.

The first ten minutes of the game weren't pretty. During that span Georgia's defense forced ten Vanderbilt turnovers. Fortunately for the Commodores, Vandy's defense was also causing problems for the Lady Dawgs, who turned it over seven times themselves. The net result was a slim 13-11 Georgia lead halfway through the first half.

Then for a while, it looked as if Georgia might pull away. An old-fashioned 3-point play by Kara Braxton gave the Lady Dawgs 5-point lead at 16-11. Shortly afterwards, a basket by Christi Thomas with 6:10 left in the half gave Georgia their biggest lead of the night at 22-15, and Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb called a timeout.

Whatever she said in that timeout apparently had the desired effect, because Vanderbilt immediately went on a 7-0 run, with five of their points coming from the free throw line, to tie the game at 22-22 with 3:58 left in the half.

And for the remaining minutes in the half, the teams basically traded baskets and headed to the locker room with the score 28-26 in favor of Georgia.

A basket by Kara Braxton to start the second half gave Georgia an early 4-point lead, but a couple of baskets by Chantelle Anderson soon tied the once again. And that's how it went for the rest of the game. In the second half, neither team led by more than four points, and for most of the time, the score was either tied or within 1 point.

As the second half began to wind down, neither team had taken control of the game. With 3:48 left, the game was tied at 51-51. Then each team scored a layup and a 3-pointer to once again reach a deadlock at 56-56 with 1:20 remaining.

Then after Georgia missed a couple of shots at the basket, Jenni Benningfield grabbed the defensive rebound, but missed a 3-pointer on the other end. Chantelle Anderson, however, pulled down the offensive rebound, and, with the score still tied, Vanderbilt called timeout with 37 seconds remaining.

When play resumed, the Commodores worked the ball around, and Anderson got the ball into Benningfield in the low post. But Braxton wrested the ball away, and the Lady Dawgs headed down the court.

At the opposite end, as Alexis Kendrick was trying to split two defenders, Ramsey managed to get a hand on the ball and deflect it. Benningfield grabbed the loose ball, and Ramsey took off down the court, catching Benningfield's pass on the run.

Two Georgia defenders took off in pursuit, but Ramsey got to the basket first, and Mary Beth Lycett fouled her from behind. The ball rolled around the rim, then fell out. But the foul gave Ramsey two free throws with 0.7 seconds remaining.

With few alternatives available, Georgia Head Coach Andy Landers called a 30-second timeout to give Ramsey some time to think about it, then immediately called another one. When she finally got to shoot, Ramsey sank the first free throw, then Landers called a full timeout.

Once again, when play resumed, Ramsey stepped to the line. And once again, she sank the second free throw, giving Vanderbilt a 58-56 lead. With 0.7 remaining, Lycett inbounded the ball under the Commodore basket. Benningfield was able to get a hand on the ball, which meant that time expired before Georgia could attempt a possible game-winning shot, sealing the 58-56 Vanderbilt victory.

Vanderbilt was led in scoring by Jenni Benningfield with 17 points, followed by Chantelle Anderson with 16, and Ashley McElhiney with 10. Benningfield was also leading rebounder with 15, for her ninth double-double of the season. Ashley McElhiney dished out five assists, and Abi Ramsey had five steals.

Georgia was led in scoring by Alexis Kendrick with 17 points, followed by Christi Thomas and Kara Braxton with 11 points each. Braxton was leading rebounder with 11. Mary Beth Lycett and Alexis Kendrick each had 3 assists, and Braxton had four steals.

For the game, the Commodores shot 42.3% from the field (14.3% from 3-point range) while the Lady Dawgs shot 38.6% (20% from 3-point range). Vanderbilt was 12 of 16 (75%) from the free throw line, while Georgia was 10 of 14 (71.4%). Georgia out-rebounded Vanderbilt 33-32, and also had a slight edge in turnovers with 22 compared to Vandy's 24.

With the win, Vanderbilt improves to 17-7 overall (7-4 SEC), while Georgia falls to 17-6 overall (8-2 SEC). Next, Vanderbilt has a break with no game scheduled for Thursday night. The team will have a couple of days off before resuming practice on Wednesday in preparation for a game at Florida next Sunday afternoon. The next home game will be on March 2 against LSU.

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Photos of #12 Tia Battle on the fast break, #42 Jenni Benningfield in the low post, #20 Abi Ramsey on the fast break, at the line, and sinking the game-winner by Micah Miller for VandyMania.

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