Vandy looks ahead to NCAA after SECT loss

Although Saturday's 68-49 SEC Tournament defeat to No. 4 Tennessee stung, Vanderbilt is taking what it learned to a fresh season in the NCAA. The 65-64 overtime win against scrappy Arkansas and 63-61 upset of No. 21 LSU over the long weekend likely strengthened Vandy's seeding for March Madness.

With the opening round and quarterfinal wins, Vanderbilt is 42-25 all-time in the SECT, which is the second-best record in the tourney record in both percentage and total wins.

Senior Merideth Marsh closed out her final SEC tourney with 11 points, 5 assists and a trio of 3-pointers – the only threes bagged by Vandy in the game. The additional 3-point baskets reportedly placed her at the top of the 3-Pointers Made list with 251 and surpassing Abi Ramsey.

Merideth and Jence Rhoads (8 points) played all but one minute shy of three games in three days, pulled with less than 60 seconds to go with UT so they wouldn't get hurt. "They both attacked the entire time," said Head Coach Melanie Balcomb. "They played a lot of minutes in three nights absolutely and they have a lot of guts and determination and heart."

The guard from Louisville, Ky., said the minutes were exhausting, but digging deeper into another gear was what it took. "We just lost focus a lot in the second half. We were losing people who got wide open shots. On the positive side, we weren't expected to win this game. I'm happy with the effort we gave -- we didn't completely lay down and we kept fighting until the buzzer went off."

Forward Hannah Tuomi led Vandy with 12 points and tied with Elan Brown for a team high five rebounds. Hannah's defensive play under the basket frustrated LSU's efforts to score Friday and also gave Tennessee (29-2) fits when diving for balls, defending the inbounds pass and spinning toward the basket. When called for a fifth foul with 48 seconds left, Hannah left the court amid an animated, relieved goodbye from UT fans.

"She's really tough minded," said Tennessee Head Coach Pat Summit."I think the team really looks to her because of how hard she plays. She's a player that's going to get on the floor, she's going to come up with a loose ball and she's going to come up with a big basket. I think she's had a great influence on the personality of the team."

Hannah, who scored 17 against LSU on Friday, tried to use her 6-1 frame in similar fashion, but found the going more challenging against more height from every angle. "This game was definitely harder, me being a smaller post and going against bigger players. My teammates got me the ball at opportune times, but I could have taken better shots at certain times."

As the focus moves toward Selection Monday on March 15, Coach Balcomb is feeling better about the team's position. "I like where we're at. I like how we finished this week better than last week. I thought we showed a lot of heart, I thought we showed a lot of determination. We came to play as a team and I like where we are. I have a much better feeling going into the next tournament."

Merideth agreed, and said after enjoying some needed rest, she and her teammates will be ready to move on to the next level. "We're not done. We've got great confidence going into the tournament that we need and we'll try to get back at it. We're excited about the tournament because we're always the underdog. We'll make a run at it. I'm excited to see where they put us."

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