At halftime Vanderbilt's modest lead over the Texas A&M Aggies on Sunday afternoon was eerily reminiscent of the halftime score in College Station last month when the two teams met for the first time this season. Then, the Dores led 27-24 going into intermission; on Sunday, the score was 25-20.
Head Coach Melanie Balcomb and her team didn't like the ending of the script that played out in Texas. After solid defense against A&M in the first half in that game, in the second half the Aggies shot a blistering 70% from the field. Courtney Walker scored 14 points on perfect 7-for-7 shooting to dash Vanderbilt's hopes of a big upset on the road.
So on Sunday afternoon, the Dores re-wrote the ending. Instead of one half of stellar defense, Vanderbilt played solid team defense for both halves. They held the Aggies, who are fifth nationally in field goal percentage, to 28.6% shooting in the first half and 33.3% in the second half.
That defense coupled with solid rebounding, a career high of 30 points from Tiffany Clarke, and timely shots by Jasmine Lister and Elan Brown meant a happy ending for Vanderbilt in the encore performance. Put all together, the result was a 61-51 victory, Vanderbilt's first victory over an AP Top10 team in more than two years.
Even though the ending was a happy one, the script also included plenty of suspense. For the first 17 minutes of the game, neither team led by more than three points. Then, with three minutes left in the first half, Vanderbilt took a 7-point lead on a layup by Jasmine Lister and a pair of made free throws by Clarke. A basket by Kelsey Bone trimmed the lead back to five points at 25-20 going into the locker room.
Coming out of the locker room, Vanderbilt didn't want to reprise the early minutes of the second half in their most recent game at Florida. In that game, the Gators came out of intermission smoking hot and reeled off a 12-0 run in the first few minutes of the half. On Sunday, the Dores took over that role, starting the half with a 6-0 run, prompting Texas A&M Coach Gary Blair to call a time out.
Texas A&M stopped the run, but by the first media timeout, Vanderbilt's lead had grown to 12 points at 38-26. But then the plot took a twist. Slowly but steadily the Aggies fought back until they'd reduced the Vanderbilt lead to just three points on a pair of free throws by Kristi Bellock.
But the Dores were able to stand their ground. A made free throw by Clarke and a 3-pointer by Lister increased the Vanderbilt lead to seven at 51-44 with 5:43 remaining. Free throws by the Aggie cut the lead by to four, but then an 8-0 Vanderbilt run gave the Dores a 12-point lead at 59-47 with a little over a minute left in the game. The fat lady tuned up, and when she sang a little later, Vanderbilt emerged victorious.
Next action for the Vanderbilt will be Thursday night when the Dores host Auburn in the final home game for seniors Tiffany Clarke, Elan Brown, and Gabby Smith. Because of the late start time of 8 p.m., senior recognition including introduction of the seniors and their parents, will take place a few minutes before tip-off. Then, after the game, the celebration will continue for the team and fans who are able to stay.
Heather Bowe puts Vanderbilt on the scoreboard
Tiffany Clarke's first points
Elan Brown provides first half scoring
Texas A&M Head Coach Gary Blair
Morgan Batey, Jasmine Jenkins, and Kendall Shaw
Next up -- Senior Night!
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Photos copyright 2013 by Whitney D. for VandyMania.com