Vanderbilt Falls to Miami 79-57 12-29-03
On a day when #24 Vanderbilt (10-1) cracked the Top 25 in the Associated Press poll and had senior Jenni Benningfield receive her first selection as the Southeastern Conference’s Player of the Week, something had to give. Unfortunately, for the Black and Gold, the giving was done on the court as the Commodores suffered their initial loss of the season 79-57 to the homestanding Miami Hurricanes (11-0) in the championship contest of the Gatorade Holiday Classic.
Freshman Carla Thomas provided a spark off the bench for the Black and Gold with a career-high 18 points and eight rebounds, while senior Jenni Benningfield, Vanderbilt’s lone all-tournament selection, registered 17 points and five boards. Junior Abi Ramsey hit three three-pointers in ringing up a dozen tallies to close out those in double-figures for the ‘Dores.
On the night Vanderbilt shot only 38.2% from the field, suffered 25 turnovers and was outrebounded 37-34. The Hurricanes took advantage of the hot shooting of Yolanda McCormick (28 points), the dominant post presence of tournament MVP Chanivia Broussard (18 points/eight boards) and a 37-8 advantage in points off miscues to pull the upset.
Right from the opening tip, Miami set the tone as buckets from Broussard, Tamara James and Shaquana Wilkins boosted UM to a 6-0 advantage and forced a VU 30-second timeout. Six tallies from Benningfield and an Ashley Earley deuce closed the deficit to only four and then Ramsey struck for the first time from behind the arc as the Black and Gold cut the gap to 14-11. Seven more points from Benningfield and some inspired play from Thomas, who scored six straight points and emphatically swatted a Hurricane shot, helped keep the Commodores close at 28-24.
However, some inspired offensive board work by UM, a long three by McCormick and a three-point play by Wilkins boosted the ‘Canes to its largest first half lead of 12 points. Another Ramsey three sent the teams to the break with UM up 38-29.
Out of the locker room, a Hillary Hager triple and an old-fashioned three-point play by Thomas gave the ‘Dores renewed hope down just 40-35 with 17:47 remaining. But Miami always seemed to have an answer on this night as a 19-7 UM spurt gave the ‘Canes a 59-42 advantage.
The deficit for Vanderbilt reached as many as 28 points before two Thomas free throws and Ramsey’s last three of the night set the score at 79-57.
VU now will return to the friendly confines of Memorial Gym for “Vanderbilt Women’s Basketball Fan Day” as the Commodores face the Syracuse Orangewomen on Friday, Jan. 2. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m., with every seat in the house going for just $1.00.