Vanderbilt Remains Undefeated; Cruises Over Weber State 73-47 12-15-03

Vanderbilt Remains Undefeated; Cruises Over Weber State 73-47 12-15-03


Vanderbilt remained undefeated and moved its non-conference home winning streak to 41 games with a 73-47 victory over the Weber State Wildcats of the Big Sky Conference in front of 1,324 fans at Memorial Gym. The win improved the Commodores to 8-0 on the season and continues VU’s best opening win streak since the 1995-96 squad began 14-0. The Purple and White fell to 1-6 overall.

Both teams struggled from the field to open the game, but VU managed to find the bottom of the basket a little more as two deuces each from Dee Davis and Ashley Earley opened a 9-3 Commodore advantage, keyed in large part by two critical Wildcat turnovers.  Davis’ second bucket was unusual and left the rookie shaking her head in disbelief.  While jumping in the air to pass to a teammate, she lost control of the ball only to see the rock somehow find the basket.

Weber State, the defending champion of the Big Sky Conference, showed it were here to play as a 5-0 run, keyed by a Lindsey Hille jumper as the shot clock expired and a Julie Gjertsen three-pointer, drew WSU back within a single point at 11-10. Coach Balcomb immediately signaled for a 30-second Vanderbilt timeout.

It was quickly becoming apparent that today might be Dee Davis’ day as the freshmen was fouled on a drive to the basket and converted the old-fashioned three-point play for her ninth first-half tally and a 14-10 Commodore lead.  Deuces by Katie Antony and Carla Thomas moved VU ahead 18-10 and meant that Black and Gold rookies had accounted for 13 of VU’s first 18 points.

Once again, Weber State showed its youth with five consecutive turnovers (the product of five Vandy steals) by three different players in a three-minute stint midway through the half. Vanderbilt eventually opened a 10-point lead after a lay-in by Earley before Weber State, playing a version of slow-down offense to use much of the shot clock on each possession, utilized a quick 10-5 spurt to stay close, down just 25-20 with 3:53 to play in the opening half.

That’s when Vanderbilt’s senior leader Jenni Benningfield made an All-American type scoring appearance with a lay-in, a conversion of an up-and-under move for a three-point play and another close bucket to cap a personal 7-0 run to send VU to the locker room up a more comfortable 34-22.

Earley was the Commodores leading scorer at the break with 10 points and four rebounds.  Benningfield chipped in eight as Vanderbilt dominated in the paint, 20-4 in the first period.  Weber State chose to attempt threes instead of going inside, but could only muster four out of 12 first half attempts from behind the arc.  Senior guard Kristen Hesselbach led the Cats in the first stanza with eight points, but was one of three Purple and White players with three turnovers.

Benningfield continued to shine for the Dores in the second half, scoring back to back buckets and 12 of Vandy’s 17 points in one stretch to extend the home lead to 18 just seven minutes into the half. The senior from Louisville, Ky., finished with 13 points and four rebounds.

Vanderbilt’s swarming defense limited the Wildcats to just six points in the opening 12:00 of the second half, capped off by a 14-0 VU run covering five minutes. WSU would miss seven shots, commit four fouls, and miss two free throws during the run. The Purple and White would go on to shoot 36 % in the game, after coming into the contest with a 48% average.  Weber State’s desperation would result in the an 0-11 second half performance from behind the arc.

The Commodores moved ahead by 25 points on a Caroline Williams three pointer with just over 11 minutes to play in the game.  The bucket marked her first shot and initial make of her career. She finished with eight points (including two for three from the three-point arc) in 15 minutes.

Poor shooting and a wealth of Wildcat turnovers would seal the deal for Vanderbilt and drop Weber State’s mark to 1-6. The Black and Gold have controlled the past four games, outscoring their opponents (Weber State, Memphis, Duquesne, and New Orleans) by a combined 101 points after needing overtime to beat two of their first four foes.  Vanderbilt has shot better than 46% during each of those contests and has limited their opponents to an average of just 53 points.

For the second time this season, every available Commodore saw action. Earley led the squad with 14 points to go along with seven boards. Freshman Carla Thomas finished with a career-high 10 points and two assists, besting her previous mark of six and one, respectively. Hillary Hager added 11 points and six rebounds.  Anacoco, La., native Antony tied a career high with six assists.

Junior Julie Gjersten had 10 points and three assists to lead the Wildcats after coming into today’s game averaging 17. Senior Angela Sampson contributed five rebounds, but fouled out with seven minutes to go in the game.  Weber State’s 47 points were its fewest this season.

The Commodores are off until next Sunday, Dec. 21, for a final exam break before traveling to St. Louis, Mo., to battle the Billikens in a non-conference tilt.  Tip-off is scheduled for 2:00 p.m.