Vanderbilt WBB defeats Alabama, 87-80

Jan. 26, 2017

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Combining a hot-shooting start with a determined finish, the Vanderbilt women snapped a nine-game losing streak on Thursday night with an 87-80 victory over Alabama, giving head coach Stephanie White her first SEC win.

After building a 20-point lead in the second quarter, the Commodores (11-10, 1-7) withstood a furious third-quarter charge by Alabama (15-6, 3-5) to notch their first victory since a win over Tennessee Tech on Dec. 18. Vanderbilt improved to 19-1 all-time against the Tide at Memorial Gym.

The Commodores went 8-of-10 from 3-point range in the first half and finished 11-of-19 from behind the arc.

Erin Whalen, who made her first career start, scored a game-high 22 points, going 4-of-7 from 3-point range. Marqu’es Webb recorded her fifth double-double of the season, finishing with 11 points and 12 rebounds, including eight offensive boards. Rachel Bell and Christa Reed added 15 points each, and Kayla Overbeck had 10 points and eight rebounds.

Hannah Cook led Alabama with 17 points. Shaquera Wade had 16.

Vanderbilt, which ranks among the top five in the nation in 3-point percentage, made 5-of-7 shots from behind the arc in the first quarter and went 3-of-3 in the second.

The early hot shooting helped Vanderbilt build a 36-16 lead with 4:01 to play in the second quarter. Whalen played a key role in the Commodores’ quick start, scoring 11 first-quarter points, and Bell hit a pair of 3s early in the second quarter to help pad the lead.

But Alabama outscored the Commodores 29-10 during the next 8½ minutes — closing the first half with a 12-3 run and opening the third period with a 17-7 spurt — to slice Vanderbilt’s lead to 46-45 with 5:29 to play in the period.

Alabama pulled within one point again just over a minute later when Cook hit a pair of free throws. But the Commodores — who have suffered five last-minute losses in SEC play — reversed the momentum by putting together a quick 6-0 run, which begin with a jumper by Overbeck, to build a 54-47 cushion with 2:14 remaining in the third quarter. Webb eventually closed the period with a buzzer-beating bank shot to give Vanderbilt a 59-52 lead.

The Commodores extended the lead to 68-55 on a jumper by Overbeck with 7:33 to play in the game, and held off the Tide from there by converting a steady stream of free throws. Vanderbilt went 11-of-12 from the foul line in the final 10 minutes, and was 18-of-21 (85.7 percent) for the game.

Senior Minta Spears, who finished with seven points and six assists, knocked down four straight free throws in the final minute to help seal the deal for the Commodores.

Vanderbilt hosts Florida on Sunday at 2 p.m. in the annual Jam the Gym game. Tickets are $1, and hot dogs and drinks will also be sold for $1.

NOTES: Vanderbilt won the rebounding battle, 42-32. … The Commodores finished with a season-high 20 offensive rebounds. … Vanderbilt’s 87 points represented the Commodores’ second-highest total of the season. Vanderbilt scored 89 against Tennessee Tech on Dec. 18.