VU WBB: Vandy 75, Florida 69 OT

VU WBB: Vandy 75, Florida 69 OT

Led by double doubles from Tiffany Clarke and Stephanie Holzer and clutch shooting by Christina Foggie and Jasmine Lister, Vanderbilt defeated the Florida Gators 75-69 in overtime in Memorial Gym. The victory was the 20th of the season for the 'Dores, ensuring that 2011-12 will be their 13th consecutive 20-win season.

The game was tight from start to finish. Neither team ever led by more than seven points. In all, there were ten lead changes, and the score was tied nine times.

Stephanie Holzer finished the game with 14 points, 12 rebounds, two assists, three blocked shots, and a steal.

Tiffany Clarke led the team in both scoring and rebounding with 18 points and 17 rebounds, six of them on the offensive end of the court.

Elan Brown led the team in assists with four. She also scored four points and had three rebounds and a blocked shot.

Midway through the first half, Florida led 24-17. The 'Dores pushed back, and this basket by Holzer cut the Gator lead to two points at 24-22.

After Florida built the lead back up to five points, another basket by Holzer and this basket by Clarke cut the lead back down to one.

Clair Watkins played her first minutes since January 25. She wowed the crowd with her energy and athleticism as well as scoring six points in 11 minutes of playing time.

"Clair did a great job," said Head Coach Melanie Balcomb in the post-game press conference. "She's been practicing hard. She's been hustling, she's been making a lot of changes in practice on both ends of the floor, and I thought this was a good matchup for her.

"They had size inside and an inside game, two really good post players that I thought Steph and Tiff were going to need some minutes and to be able to go hard and do what they did, we needed Clair to come in and play those minutes, and she was ready tonight."

After trailing for most of the first half, the 'Dores took a 1-point lead into the locker room. During the halftime, the popular act Red Panda entertained the crowd.

Before the first media timeout in the second half, Vanderbilt built a four-point lead on a basket by Holzer with an assist from Brown.

After Florida regained the lead, a basket by Holzer, this time assisted by Clarke, returned the lead to Vanderbilt.

With 6:33 left in the game, Florida took a six-point lead at 53-47 on a second-chance basket by Lily Svete.

With the game in danger of slipping away, on the other end of the court, Jasmine Lister hit a 3-pointer, assisted by Brown, to cut the deficit in half.

After a steal by Christina Foggie, Lister then scored on the fastbreak with a foul giving her an "and one."

She made the free throw to complete the old-fashioned 3-point play and tied the game at 53-53.

Foggie, the SEC's leading scorer, had been contained by the Florida defense for much of the game. But in the second half, she had success taking the ball to the rim.

Lister played the entire 45 minutes of the game. "Jaz is putting the team on her back as a leader, handling the basketball the whole time by herself since Maggie went down, and she's making plays and handling the pressure and the bumps," Balcom said. "That was tough defense, full court for 40 minutes. 45 minutes.

Foggie was the center of three dramatic plays in the final 32 seconds of regulation. First, on the Florida end of the court, with the 'Dores trailing by one point, she drew a charge on Jaterra Bonds.

Then, on Vanderbilt's possession, she drove to the basket and was whistled for a charge herself, returning possession to Florida with 16 seconds left. Two free throws from Lanita Bartley gave Florida a three-point lead at 65-62. with 11 seconds left.

On Vanderbilt's possession, a heavily-guarded, off-balance Foggie somehow managed to get a shot off just before the buzzer. After it bounced off the backboard, then off the rim, it settled into the basket to tie the game as time expired.

In overtime, a fast break layup by Foggie gave Vanderbilt a 70-67 lead.

In the end, it came down to making free throws. Foggie, who is the SEC's leading free throw shooter, knocked down a couple.

Next it was Tiffany Clarke's turn to go the line, and she also made both of her shots to seal the 75-69 victory for Vanderbilt.

With the victory Vanderbilt improves to 20-6 on the season and 8-5 in the SEC, putting the 'Dores in a four-way tie for third place in the conference.

Vanderbilt now returns to the road, first to Lexington, Kentucky, for a "Big Monday" matchup with the Wildcats, then to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to complete the home-home with LSU. Next home game is the final game of the regular season, when Vanderbilt will host Alabama on February 26.

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Photos copyright 2012 by Whitney D. for Recommended Stories

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