It was not exactly a case of “Outwit. Outplay. Outlast.”
Vanderbilt’s women’s basketball team did survive a serious upset bid by Western Kentucky, though, with a 79-73 overtime victory Sunday at Memorial Gymnasium.
“We always outwork somebody and we outlast that person,” VU senior guard Merideth Marsh said. “In the overtime, I could tell that we were going to win from that (first) basket. They laid down, and all they cared about was scoring.”
The 16th-ranked Commodores (8-1) made five of six field goal attempts in the extra period beginning with a layup by Marsh right off the opening tip. All five baskets, including three by Marsh, were layups.
They also made seven free throws (five by Jence Rhoads) as they rolled up 17 points in the extra five minutes after having scored just 24 in the preceding 20 minutes of the second half. Marsh and Rhoads each finished with a team-high 17 points.
“To get that first basket, I thought, was huge,” coach Melanie Balcomb said. “We toughed it out. We played hard, but then at the end we got smarter. We took great shots, we executed better and we made better defensive decisions.
“I think we played smarter in the overtime than we had finishing the game.”
Vanderbilt had a chance to end it in regulation, but Rhoads’ driving layup as time expired was off the mark. In the 9:30 that preceded that attempt the score was tied three times and each team led at least three times – neither by more than three points.
A critical juncture came with 7:25 to go when WKU senior forward Dominique Duck went to the floor and grabbed at her right knee. At the time, she had scored seven of her team’s last nine points and led all scorers with 17 points. No other Lady Toppers’ player had more than six.
After she received attention from the trainer Duck went to the bench and never returned.
“She was really good at that moment and we were really rolling with her,” WKU coach Mary Taylor Cowles said. “At the same time, I want to compliment our team for not just quitting and folding and getting in a panic. … We continued to fight.”
WKU (4-3) actually led by three with 2:32 to play but Jessica Mooney (10 points) tied it when she was fouled on a layup and made the ensuing foul shot. Marsh then got fouled and made a pair of free throws with 2:01 to play, which gave the Commodores a lead they held until the Lady Toppers tied it with seven seconds to go.
They layups and free throws in the extra period, therefore, were merely a continuation of what Vanderbilt did throughout much of the contest.
For the game, the Commodores made just four 3-pointers (on 16 attempts), the last of those by Rhoads with 5:09 to play in the first half. Yet they scored more than half of their points in the paint and made 17 free throws, 12 more than WKU.
“We got high percentage shots inside from layups,” Balcomb said. “That’s what’s so great about Merideth Marsh is that if you take the 3 away from her all game, she’s clever enough to make big plays at the rim. … Jence also made some big layups, and Jess Mooney the same thing.
“Our three guards got to the rim, and I really liked the high-percentage shot.”
Maybe they did outwit the Lady Toppers as well.