March 18, 2007
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Will Matthews' Post-Game Column: Early Challenge Could Serve VU Well
Box Score |
EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Maybe it was two weeks without a game that left Vanderbilt a little rusty.
Maybe it was a case of NCAA tournament nerves.
Whatever the case, the second-seeded Commodores were able to shake off an early malaise Sunday to beat 15th-seeded Delaware State 62-47 in the first round of the Greensboro Regional.
Christina Wirth scored 17 points and Carla Thomas added 16 to lead a balanced Vanderbilt attack.
"We hadn't played in about 15 days, and it kind of showed," Vanderbilt guard Caroline Williams said. "It definitely took us a while to get going."
The Commodores did get going when it counted most.
Vanderbilt led 43-40 with about 8:50 remaining, then clutch 3-point shooting and inside power helped the Commodores (28-5) pull away.
Wirth hit key 3-point shots and Thomas and Liz Sherwood, who came off the bench to score 12, were too much to handle inside for the smaller Lady Hornets (20-13).
Raquel Collier, Delaware State's top scorer this season, had 22 points. Selena Galloway added 11.
Vanderbilt, a Southeastern Conference power and an NCAA regular, next plays Tuesday against the winner of Bowling Green and Oklahoma State.
The Lady Hornets, champions of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament, were making their first trip to the NCAA tournament.
The trip started with trouble. Bad weather stranded Delaware State at a Philadelphia airport Friday night, forcing players to sleep on chairs, benches and the floor.
But the Lady Hornets came out strong Sunday, using a suffocating defense to stay within range of Vanderbilt most of the way.
"We were not going to use the airport situation as an excuse," Delaware State coach Ed Davis said. "We were here, and we came to play."
Vanderbilt struggled the entire first half, leading 28-24 at the intermission.
The Commodores were hurt by turnovers in the first half and couldn't get any offensive flow, attempting only 15 shots.
Delaware State whittled the lead to one point before a 3-pointer by Vanderbilt's Jessica Mooney beat the halftime buzzer.
Vanderbilt later scored eight straight -- capped by a 3-pointer from Williams -- to take a 36-28 lead with 16:52 left.
The Lady Hornets scored four straight points to pull within two, but never got closer. Vanderbilt led by as many as 17 points late in the second half.
"We got the rust out in the second half," Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb said. "And I really liked our composure."
The Commodores shot 64 percent from the field, connecting on 13 of 18 attempts in the second half.
Delaware State shot just 33 percent from the floor.
"It was tough dealing with their size," Collier said. "But we were never out of it. We just needed to knock down a couple more shots."
Vanderbilt has won 11 of its last 12, the only loss coming Feb. 25 at Tennessee.