Vanderbilt Passes "Road Exam" With Win Over Saint Louis 12-22-03

Vanderbilt Passes “Road Exam” With Win Over Saint Louis 12-22-03


After a week off to take care of schoolwork, the Vanderbilt Commodores successfully passed their final road exam before the holiday break by improving their record to a perfect 9-0 with a 71-56 thumping of the St. Louis Billikens in front of 509 fans at the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Bauman-EberhardtCenter in St. Louis, Mo.  With the victory, VU heads into the break with its best opening mark (9-0) since the 1995-96 Black and Gold squad started the campaign 14-0.  The Billikens fell to 6-4 on the season.

Several Commodores turned in impressive performances in the road matchup as junior Ashley Earley led the way with a career-high 22 points and nine rebounds.  Senior forward Jenni Benningfield posted her first double-double of the year with 17 points and 13 boards in just 24 minutes of action.  Freshman Katie Antony posted a strong game from the point guard position with 12 assists, a high for any Vanderbilt player this season.  The Anacoco, La., native also had eight tallies while helping cover for the injured Dee Davis who sat out today’s contest with a minor injury to her right foot. 


On the afternoon, the Commodores shot extremely well from the floor hitting at a .528 clip while harassing the Billikens to only 32.8% shooting.  VU also dominated inside the paint outscoring the Blue & White an incredible 48-20 while dishing 22 assists.  By holding SLU’s Angie Lewis to only 14 points (had averaged 19.3 ppg so far), it marked the ninth-consecutive game to open the season in which VU has held the opposing team’s leading scorer below her season average.


Vanderbilt’s fast start against SLU brought back memories of the Memphis game where VU opened a quick 11-0 lead, as the Commodores utilized five consecutive Benningfield tallies, an Earley putback and a long Hillary Hager three-pointer to race to a 10-2 advantage.  Freshman Cherish Stringfield, who totaled five points and four rebounds in her first start in the Black and Gold, scored a deuce and was followed by an Antony two-pointer as the lead grew to as many as nine at 14-5 before SLU showed some offensive sign of life. 


Five Billiken free throws and a Yanique Javois bucket drew the Blue & White as close as they would get for the remainder of the afternoon at 16-11. 


That’s when All-America candidate Jenni Benningfield once again went to work inside as the senior scored six of Vanderbilt’s next eight points to move VU out in front by 12.  Another Hager three-pointer, five straight tallies by freshman Carla Thomas and two Earley buckets helped widen the gap even further to send the ‘Dores to the break up 15 points at 39-24.  Benningfield led all scorers with 13 tallies in the first stanza.


Vanderbilt showed that it wanted to end this game “Earley” on in the second half as the junior continued her torrid scoring pace with seven straight tallies out of the locker room to move VU out to what would be its largest advantage of the day at 46-24.  Another Thomas deuce signaled the end to a streak which saw Earley and Thomas combine for an incredible 20 consecutive Vanderbilt points.


A 9-2 run by St. Louis midway through the second stanza helped the Billikens claw back to within 59-45, but Benningfield, Earley and Antony responded to help VU fight off any comeback attempts down the stretch.  Senior Jutta Korkko put the finishing touches on the 71-56 victory with a bucket with 2:13 remaining.


VU was shorthanded this afternoon as several Commodores were forced to sit this contest out.  Freshman Dee Davis, with a minor injury to her right foot, and freshman Jenn Hall, who suffered a mild concussion in practice this week, failed to see action.  Junior Abi Ramsey continues to serve an indefinite suspension for a violation of team rules.


Following the Christmas break, the Black and Gold return to the road to play in the Gatorade Holiday Classic in Miami, Fla., over Dec. 28-29.  VU will meet Rhode Island on Sunday (4 pm CT), before participating in either the consolation (4 pm CT) or championship (6 pm CT) round against Toledo or the host Hurricanes on Monday.