Vanderbilt blew a 10-point lead but recovered and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Women’s Tournament with a 60-54 victory over St. Joe's on Saturday at Storrs, Conn.
Tiffany Clarke scored 16 points and grabbed 12 rebounds as the Commodores got beyond the first round for the 13th time in 14 years.
Vanderbilt missed 10 of 12 3-pointers, committed 15 turnovers and shot 37.3 percent. But it held the Hawks to 34.5 percent shooting, including just 1-of-15 from 3-point range, and won the rebounding battle 47-32.
“It was ugly but I think the first round, first game, usually is,” coach Melanie Balcomb said. “The shooting percentages were down because both teams played very good defense and were very prepared. In the end, I think we made some clutch baskets.”
The Commodores (21-11), a No. 8 seed, now face the challenge of knocking off top-seed Connecticut on its home floor on Monday. The Huskies, who have reached the Final Four the last five years, destroyed No. 16 seed Idaho 105-37 in their first-round matchup.
Vanderbilt is 2-2 all-time against UConn. The teams last met in the second round of the 2002 NCAA Tournament, with Connecticut winning 69-50.
Against St. Joe’s (23-9), the Commodores led most of the game and were up 40-30 lead after a 3-pointer by Jasmine Lister with 16:06 to play. Then they missed seven straight shots and let the Eagles hang around. Chatil Van Grinsven tied the game 48-48 on a layup with 6:50 to go.
“Basketball is a game of runs,” Clarke said. “They made adjustments and they made a run. But we regrouped and we had confidence in ourselves.”
After a 30-second timeout by Balcomb, freshman Heather Bowe drove the lane for a go-ahead layup on the next possession. Van Grinsven then committed a turnover and Christina Foggie pushed the cushion back to four points with a jumped on the other end. Vanderbilt answered every time St. Joe’s cut it to two. Lister’s layup with 40 seconds left thwarted the last rally and Foggie and Elan Brown hit late free throws to close the door.
Lister added 14 points, five rebounds and three assists. Foggie scored eight points in her first start since injuring her knee against Kentucky on Feb. 10. Van Grinsven had 14 points and nine rebounds for St. Joe’s, which is coached by former Vanderbilt assistant Cindy Griffin.