Ramsey Scores 21 in Return; Vanderbilt Defeats Rhode Island 74-61 12-27-03
The Vanderbilt Commodores (10-0) remained undefeated and advanced into the championship game at the Gatorade Holiday Classic in Miami, Fla., with a come-from-behind 74-61 victory over a determined group of Rhode Island Rams (6-4). VU will meet either Toledo (4-4) or the homestanding Hurricanes (9-0) in the title tilt at 6 pm (CT) on Monday, Dec. 29.
Senior Jenni Benningfield led all scorers in the hard-fought contest with an impressive double-double of 31 points and 13 rebounds. The 6’3″ forward hit 11 of her 16 shots from the floor and 9-of-11 tosses from the charity stripe in totaling almost half of the Black and Gold’s points. Junior Abi Ramsey made her long awaited return from a season-long suspension, and made it count by establishing new career marks for scoring (21 points) and rebounding (nine boards). Senior forward Hillary Hager was the only other Commodore player in double-figures with 11 tallies and supplemented that total with six steals.
On the evening, the Commodores shot at a .535 clip from the field, hit eight three-pointers and held the Rams to only 36.1% shooting from the floor. The two teams combined for 46 turnovers and 45 fouls in the hard-fought contest. VU also suffered at the free throw line by making only 20-of-32 charity tosses.
From the outset, it was obvious that Rhode Island showed up at the Convocation Center ready to play as the Rams used a Katie Stailing three-pointer and a Denise King deuce to open up a quick 5-0 advantage. Following four tallies from Benningfield to help cut the deficit to 7-5, a 10-1 URI run, finished by two consecutive transition lay-ups, sent the Rams in front by its largest total of the evening at 17-6. VU would not bucket its first field goal until 4:53 had elapsed off the first half clock and would not get its second FG until 10:09 remained in the opening frame. Turnovers were the story as VU had 15 and URI 12 miscues in the first stanza.
Vanderbilt had an answer for the Rhode Island run as the ‘Dores immediately embarked on an 11-0 spurt behind five points from Benningfield and the 99th and 100th three-pointers of Abi Ramsey’s career to knot the count at 17-all.
The lead changed hands several times over the next few minutes with URI holding its final lead of the night at 23-21, before a 14-3 run over the last 4:04 sent the teams to the locker room with VU holding on to a 35-26 advantage. Benningfield had 15 points and Ramsey a dozen at the break.
VU charged out of the locker room behind Benningfield and Ramsey as the two combined for 12 straight tallies (three buckets by JB and two straight threes for Abi) to move the Black and Gold to a more comfortable 47-30 lead. A Cherish Stringfield trey made the score 53-36, before the Rams began to mount a comeback.
Peta Kneen, who posted 18 points in the second frame for URI, ignited a 10-3 Ram spurt to cut the deficit to only 10 points at 56-46. A Yolett McPhee bucket made it 56-48 before an Ashley Earley deuce, a pair of Benningfield free throws and a Hillary Hager triple boosted VU out to a 63-51 lead.
URI would claw back to within just eight points three more times, but couldn’t get any closer than that as the Commodores connected on 7-of-8 free tosses down the stretch to close out the 74-61 victory.