Clarke carries Vanderbilt women to upset of No. 10 Texas A&M

Sunday, February 24, 2013 at 9:45pm

The opportunities came in waves for Tiffany Clarke. And Vanderbilt rode the senior to a huge upset on Sunday.

Clarke scored a career-high 30 points as the Commodores held off No. 10 Texas A&M in a 61-51 victory at Memorial Gymnasium.

It was Vanderbilt’s first win over a Top 10 team since blowing out No. 6 Georgia on Jan. 14, 2010. Clarke was just a freshman then and chipped in 14 points and eight rebounds. This time, she was the center of the offense, scoring 22 points in the second half.

“She is tough when it is the toughest opponents,” coach Melanie Balcomb said. “Down the stretch in the SEC, she’s done that now every season. And now she is just turning it up.”

The 6-foot forward had the green light against Texas A&M (21-7, 11-3). She made 12 of 25 shots, the most attempts by a Vanderbilt player since 2005.

It was more than usual for Clarke, who used her body to spin inside for layups and turnaround for jumpers. The Duluth, Ga., native has attempted more shots than any Commodore this season but has averaged 11.3 attempts a game.

“I just saw open looks,” Clarke said. “We were getting the best shots. It was executing our offense and getting the best shot, the open shot – and sometimes I guess that was me.”

Clarke helped the Commodores (18-9, 8-6) build on a five-point halftime lead when she made her first four shots of the second half. She aggressively drove the lane for a layup for a 40-28 lead with 15:19 left.

When Texas A&M pulled within three with less than seven minutes left, Clarke again stepped up.

She converted an easy layup on a dish from Jasmine Lister, who had 11 points and five assists in 40 minutes. The following possession Clarke sunk a turnaround jumper for an eight-point lead with 1:57 left.

She also grabbed seven rebounds, and with freshman Morgan Batey’s career-high 11 boards, Vanderbilt outrebounded the much taller Aggies 41-36. Clarke and Elan Brown, who had 12 points, also bothered Texas A&M center Kelsey Bone.

The SEC’s third-leading scorer and top rebounder, Bone missed 12 of 18 shots. She still finished with 17 points and eight rebounds but had to work for those numbers. As did the rest of the Aggies, who entered as the fifth-best shooting team (47 percent) in Division I. Against Vanderbilt, they had their second worst performance of the season, making 30.9 percent.

“Vanderbilt played with so much poise. Clarke was great,” Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said. “Bone was making every hard shot she possibly could take instead of trying to score easy like Clarke does.”