Vanderbilt Stays Unbeaten by Routing Memphis 73-49 12-12-03

Vanderbilt Stays Unbeaten by Routing Memphis 73-49 12-12-03

12/12/2003 Commodores Hold Lady Tigers to 32.8% Shooting From the Field

In a hard-fought, foul-filled matchup of unbeaten teams on Thursday night at the Elma Roane Fieldhouse in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Memphis, Tenn., the Vanderbilt Commodores improved their record to a perfect 7-0 overall by routing the previously undefeated Memphis Lady Tigers 73-49 in front of 1,837 fans.  UM entered the contest 6-0 and scoring 78 points-per-game but were limited by an inspired VU defense to a season-low scoring effort on just 32.8% shooting from the field.

 Senior forward Hillary Hager led all scorers with a career-high 25 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the floor, while senior All-America candidate Jenni Benningfield posted a solid 16 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals.  Tonight’s contest also marked the successful homecoming of former BriarcrestHigh School superstar and Memphis native Ashley Earley.  Playing in front of a large contingent of family and friends, the junior forward tallied her third double-double of the season by ringing up 16 points and 10 boards. 


On the evening, the Commodores shot a blistering 54.9% from the field, on 28-of-51 shooting, outscored the Lady Tigers 42-18 in the paint, forced 22 UM turnovers, dished 18 assists and outrebounded the Royal Blue and Gray by a 36-28 margin.  VU also limited Memphis’ leading scorer Tamika Butler, who came into tonight’s action averaging 16.5 ppg, to just 2-of-16 shooting from the field and five total points.


The Black and Gold set the tone of the game off the opening tip as hometown returnee Earley gave VU a 2-0 lead 22 seconds in.  The bucket by the junior opened the flood gates as a three-point play by Hager, another Earley deuce and tallies by both Benningfield and freshman Katie Antony boosted the ‘Dores out to a quick 11-0 lead with 15:55 to play.


UM opened the contest 0-of-6 from the floor and failed to score a single point until a pair of Victoria Crawford free throws got the Lady Tigers on the board.  Memphis’ first bucket, which cut the deficit to 13-4, didn’t come until 5:05 had elapsed off the first half clock.  A Devin Necaise three-pointer drew UM back to within six, but as they would demonstrate all evening, the Commodores always had a run in reserve as freshman Cherish Stringfield and Benningfield ignited a 7-0 run to put the Black and Gold up by 13 at 22-9. 


Necaise tried to keep the Lady Tigers in the game in the first stanza by hitting two consecutive triples with 4:39 remaining to draw Memphis back within six at 26-20.  However, Hager hit a jumper with only one second left on the shot clock, Benningfield tallied six straight VU points and Hager struck one more time to send the Commodores to the halftime break up by a more comfortable 36-22 margin.  Turnovers played a large role in the game as each team posted 12 miscues in the first 20 minutes and combined for 45 in the contest. 


Out of the locker room, Vanderbilt pressed its foot down on the offensive accelerator as VU converted a backdoor cut for a lay-up, Benningfield tallied two and Earley hit a lay-up to force Memphis coach Joye Lee-McNelis to ask for a 30-second timeout with 16:48 to play down 42-24.  Over the next few minutes the advantage stayed between 18 and 23 points as Hager and Earley combined for eight points. Freshmen Jen Hall and Carla Thomas got involved in the scoring as six straight tallies by the pair gave the Commodores their largest lead of the night at 27 points.  From there, VU would cruise down the stretch to take the game 73-49.


Vanderbilt will next take to the hardwood on Sat., Dec. 13, looking to extend a 40-game non-conference home winning streak in a match up against the Weber State Wildcats.  Tip-off is scheduled for 2:00 p.m.