Vanderbilt slips past UT Martin 79-77

Nov. 27, 2016

Box Score |

MARTIN, Tenn. — With Sunday’s game hanging in the balance, Rachel Bell came up big — on both ends of the floor.

Bell scored 14 points in the fourth quarter and also came up with a crucial blocked shot in the final five seconds to help Vanderbilt escape past UT Martin, 79-77. Bell finished with a team-high 22 points for the Commodores (5-1), who won their fourth straight game.

Bell made 5-of-6 shots from the floor in the fourth quarter, including 4-of-5 from 3-point range.

Rebekah Dahlman finished with 17 points while helping Vanderbilt stretch its winning streak in the series to 11 games. The Commodores finished 13-of-22 from 3-point range.

Emanye Robertson scored a game-high 23 points for UT Martin (1-5).

The Commodores owned a 76-70 lead with 2:38 to play after two free throws by Christa Reed, but UT Martin used a 7-2 run to pull within 78-77 with 39 seconds left. UT Martin’s Kendall Spray, who is ranked among the national leaders in 3-point proficiency, appeared to have an open look from long range with five seconds remaining, but Bell stepped up and blocked the shot.

Vanderbilt’s Cierra Walker then hit the back end of two free throws with 1.1 seconds remaining to give the Commodores a 79-77 lead. On UT Martin’s final possession, Emanye Robertson missed a contested shot under the basket.

“I am proud of our team for gutting it out and finding a way to win,” said first-year head coach Stephanie White, who posted her first road win with the Commodores. “This was a chance for us to learn and get better. And hopefully that’s what we did.”

The intense game featured 11 lead changes and five ties. It was the second consecutive year that the teams have played a down-to-the-wire finish after the Commodores held off the SkyHawks 65-62 last year in Memorial.

Vanderbilt appeared to be pulling away early in the second half of Sunday’s game, building a nine-point lead in the first two minutes of the third quarter. But UT Martin roared back to take a six-point lead early in the fourth quarter.

Bell then brought the Commodores back with a series of big shots. She made a pair of pivotal 3-pointers in the final six minutes, and her jumper in the paint with 50 seconds to play gave Vanderbilt a 78-74 lead.

The Commodores now will begin preparing for the the Air Force Classic. Vanderbilt plays Air Force in the opening round on Dec. 2.