Commodores Capture Banknorth Classic Championship 11-22-03
Burlington, Vt.–In front of 1,453 fans at the Patrick Gymnasium in Burlington, Vt., the Vanderbilt Women’s Basketball squad held off a tough challenge from the homestanding Vermont Catamounts to post a 65-54 victory and bring home the championship of the Banknorth Classic. With the win, the Black and Gold move their overall record to a perfect 2-0 on the young season.
Ashley Earley, who was selected as the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, paced the Commodore attack again for the second straight game with 15 points. She had company as high scorer for VU on this night as her total was equaled by freshman Cherish Stringfield’s 15 tallies. Senior All-America candidate and Banknorth Classic All-Tournament Team selection Jenni Benningfield was the only other Vanderbilt player in double figures with 14 points to go along with seven rebounds.
“I thought Ashley was our unsung hero during this tournament,” said Vanderbilt head coach Melanie Balcomb. “She was a great inspiration for our team and played tonight like she does in practice every single day. It was nice to see her have that type of success on the playing floor this weekend.”
For the contest, the Commodores shot 50 percent from the floor on 26-of-52 shooting, held UVM to only 34 percent, dished 21 assists and forced 19 Catamount miscues to post the win, despite being outrebounded 35-31.
“Tonight we did a good job defensively in holding a solid team like Vermont to 54 points,” said Balcomb. We were really confident coming into this game and our defensive intensity got us some easy baskets.”
VU got out to an “Earley” start as the Vanderbilt junior posted five quick points to help forge a 10-10 tie with 12:36 remaining in the opening stanza. Two quick Benningfield lay-ins and a Carla Thomas jumper helped push the Black and Gold to a 28-17 advantage with 3:16 remaining. The Catamounts clawed back to within eight before Stringfield hit a three-pointer and followed an Earley steal with a transition lay-up with one second left to send VU to the locker room up 11 at 35-24.
Another Stringfield trey and two Thomas buckets boosted VU’s advantage out of the break to 15 points. Vanderbilt’s lead eventually grew to as many as 16 points at 61-45.
Despite 15 second half tallies from UVM’s Lani Boardman, the Commodores managed to keep the Catamounts at bay as Vermont failed to get its deficit any lower than 10 the rest of the night. Four consecutive Dee Davis charity tosses held off any chance of a late UVM rally.
Vanderbilt now returns home to face Samford in the opening round of the Vanderbilt Tournament next Friday, Nov. 28th at 2:00 p.m.