Freshmen lead 'Dores past Ole Miss

Feb. 19, 2017

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For Vanderbilt’s touted freshmen class, it’s no longer about potential. It’s about production.

That was evident again on Sunday afternoon, as freshman Erin Whalen scored a career-high 24 points and fellow freshman Kaleigh Clemons-Green added a career-high 16 to lead the Commodores to an 85-67 victory over Ole Miss at Memorial Gym.

Two more freshmen — Kayla Overbeck and LeaLea Carter — also made significant contributions for the Commodores (13-14, 3-11). Overbeck recorded her team-leading seventh double-double, finishing with 10 points and 11 rebounds, and Carter had 13 points and six rebounds while helping Vanderbilt win for the third time in the past four home games.

Leading 58-56 at the end of the third quarter, the Commodores reeled off 13 straight points to open the fourth period, and they sailed home from there. Vanderbilt has now won 18 consecutive games against Ole Miss at Memorial Gym, with the Rebels going winless on Vanderbilt’s home floor since 1987.

Madinah Muhammed scored a team-high 19 points for Ole Miss (16-11, 5-9). Shandricka Sessom added 16 points for the Rebels, who finished just 4-of-28 from 3-point range (14 percent). Sessom was 0-of-11 from the floor in the first half but went 6-of-12 in the second half to finish 6-of-23.

Ole Miss had four players foul out during the physical game, which saw the teams combined for 55 fouls, including 34 by the Rebels. Vanderbilt finished 34-of-41 from the foul line. Ole Miss was 11-of-18.

Coming into the game, Vanderbilt’s five-member freshmen class had been combining for 32.4 points and 16.4 rebounds per game — which accounted for 46.9 percent of the Commodores’ scoring and 41 percent of the team’s rebounds for the season. The freshmen did even better than that on Sunday, combining for 63 of Vanderbilt’s 85 points and 25 of the team’s 38 rebounds.

The big numbers from the freshmen class might be even larger if it weren’t for the absence of Cierra Walker, who has missed much of the past month with stress reactions in both feet.

Whalen scored 14 first-half points, going 5-of-7 from the floor, to help Vanderbilt set the tone for the win. She hit two 3-pointers in the span of 28 seconds in the first half during a 26-2 run by the Commodores that enabled them to flip a 16-11 first-quarter deficit into a 37-18 second-quarter lead. Vanderbilt eventually carried a 43-27 lead into the locker room.

Ole Miss charged back in the opening minutes of the third quarter, putting together a 21-5 run to tie the game at 48-48 on a pair of free throws by Muhammed with 4:55 remaining in the third quarter.

But soon, it was Vanderbilt’s turn again. The Commodores opened the fourth quarter with their decisive 13-0 run — which included seven more points from Whalen — to build a 71-56 lead with 6:07 to play. Vanderbilt’s lead never dipped below 11 points the rest of the way.

Vanderbilt hosts Arkansas on Thursday night in the final home of the game season. The Commodores will salute seniors Marqu’es Webb and Minta Spears.