March 4, 2007
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DULUTH, Ga. (AP) -- Vanderbilt's defensive intensity finally satisfied coach Melanie Balcomb.
Georgia's lack of defensive effort left its coach frustrated.
Christina Wirth scored 21 points and Vanderbilt pulled ahead by 23 points in the first half Saturday night en route to an 81-56 victory over No. 10 Georgia that advanced the 13th-ranked Commodores to the Southeastern Conference championship.
Vanderbilt proved its hot shooting in a tournament-opening win over Florida was no fluke. The Commodores made 57 percent of their shots against Georgia one night after shooting 66 percent from the field against Florida.
Balcomb, however, was more impressed with her team's defense, which held the Bulldogs to 32.8 percent shooting.
Christina Wirth and Carla Thomas reflect on Vanderbilt's impressive 81-56 victory over tenth-ranked Georgia Saturday night. The Commodores will be playing in the SEC title game for the third time in six years.|
"I think that was the best defensive effort by a Vanderbilt team I've ever coached," said Balcomb, who is in her fifth year with the Commodores. "That made offense easy."
Vanderbilt (26-5) will face No. 11 LSU in the tournament final Sunday night. The Commodores beat LSU 68-58 on Feb. 22 in Nashville.
Vanderbilt will be playing for its fifth tournament championship, including the third in six years. The Commodores won the 2002 and 2004 tournaments.
The tournament's two top seeds lost in the semifinals. LSU beat top-seeded and second-ranked Tennessee 63-54. Georgia was the No. 2 seed, but it couldn't come close to repeating its 83-71 regular-season victory over the Commodores.
"When you're in a tournament and you just don't bring the intensity and toughness you're supposed to have, it's not just a surprise, it's shocking," Georgia coach Andy Landers said.
"Tournament teams have to bring a fight to the tournament. We didn't come out of the locker room ready."
Tasha Humphrey and Cori Chambers each scored 17 points for Georgia (25-6). Humphrey, who added 12 rebounds, couldn't explain the team's defensive letdown.
"We had a defensive game plan coming into the game," Humphrey said. "We just didn't execute."
Meredith Marsh scored 15 points, Carla Thomas had 13, and Jennifer Risper added 11 for Vanderbilt. The Commodores were 11-for-15 from 3-point range in their 105-77 quarterfinal win over Florida on Friday night and were still hot in the first half Saturday.
After the Florida game, however, Balcomb complained about shortcomings on defense.
"She called us out on it," Thomas said. "It was something we had to focus on."
Balcomb explained why.
"You win championships with defense," she said. "That's something we haven't been able to do."
Improved defense and continued strong shooting made for the surprisingly easy win against Georgia.
"Put them together and it's tough," Balcomb said.
Vanderbilt made six of nine 3-pointers in the first half and was 8-for-13 for the game. It took a 7-0 lead and never trailed while stretching the advantage to 32-12.
Georgia matched its season low for first-half points, trailing 37-18 at the break. Chambers hit two 3-pointers late in the half for Georgia's only offensive highlight.
Vanderbilt kept the lead over 20 points most of the second half and stretched it to 70-39 on a basket by Wirth with 6:38 left.