Commodores win a thriller 66-64 on Senior Night

Feb. 23, 2017

Box Score | Howell’s Photos media_icon_photogallery.gifmedia_icon_photogallery.gifSenior Night

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Thanks to two clutch free throws by a freshman, a pair of Vanderbilt seniors were able to celebrate a victory in their final regular-season game at Memorial Gym.

With Vanderbilt and Arkansas locked in a 64-64 tie, freshman Erin Whalen was fouled while attempting an offensive putback under the basket with three seconds remaining. Whalen walked to the line and calmly sank both free throws, and the Commodores held on for a 66-64 victory when Arkansas was unable to get a shot off on its final possession.

Whalen finished with a game-high 20 points and fellow freshman LeaLea Carter added 11 points while helping the Commodores (14-14, 4-11) extend their late-season surge. They’ve won three of their past four games, and posted a 4-1 record on their home floor in February. Arkansas (13-15, 2-13) has now dropped nine straight.

Thursday’s victory came on Senior Night at Memorial Gym, and the Commodores honored Marqu’es Webb and Minta Spears after the game. Fittingly, each of the seniors delivered typically gritty performances during the win.

Webb finished with eight points and 10 rebounds, representing her 13th double-digit rebounding effort of the season. Spears had four points, three rebounds, two assists — and no turnovers — in 30 minutes of action.

Aaliyah Wilson had 14 points for Arkansas, Jessica Jackson had 11 and Keiryn Swenson had 10.

Both teams were plagued by cold shooting, with Vanderbilt going 19-of-51 from the floor (37 percent) and Arkansas finishing 25-of-64 (39 percent).

After erasing an early Arkansas lead, the Commodores stayed in front for most of the night, leading 18-13 at the end of the first quarter, 33-25 at the half and 51-42 going into the final 10 minutes. Vanderbilt stretched the lead to 58-47 near the midway mark of the fourth quarter after a 3-pointer by Spears and a free throw by Rachel Bell.

But Arkansas wasn’t finished.

Ignited by a 3-pointer by Wilson, the Razorbacks ripped off a 17-6 run. Jackson capped the surge with a 3-pointer that tied the game at 64-64 with 31 seconds to go.

On Vanderbilt’s ensuing possession, Christa Reed missed a 3-pointer with five seconds to play, but Whalen collected the offensive rebound and was fouled as she attempted a shot in the paint with three seconds remaining. Whalen then knocked down the decisive free throws, and Arkansas — which did not have a timeout remaining — was unable to get a shot off on the game’s final possession.

The hold-your-breath finish added another chapter to a Vanderbilt-Arkansas series that has been filled with drama in recent years. The past four games between the teams (including Thursday) have been decided by a total of eight points, including a 59-56 win by Arkansas last month in Fayetteville.

Vanderbilt closes the regular season on Sunday, visiting LSU.