A reopened wound couldn’t keep Hannah Tuomi down – not with family in town and not in a tournament that Vanderbilt never loses.
Playing with a band-aid over her right eye, the 6-foot-1 senior forward battled and pushed inside against a smaller Princeton team. Her season-high 16 points and nine rebounds lifted No. 24 Vanderbilt to a 74-68 victory on Sunday in the championship game of the Thanksgiving Tournament.
The Commodores are 24-0 in the tournament, which dates back to 1999. Tuomi was named the tournament MVP – she scored 15 points in a victory against Quinnipiac on Friday. To make the weekend even more memorable, family from Thornton, Colo. made the trip.
“You obviously want to play well in front of your family, but I would say it is more of an energy you get from it – ‘Wow, my family is here. I’m going to go out and do the best I can,’” Tuomi said. “Of course, it is your family, no matter if you do bad or do good – they are still going to say ‘I love you. You did great.’”
Her family had plenty of reason to be proud.
Just 10 minutes into the game, however, Tuomi had to be patched up. She received three stitches above her right eye after cutting open her lower eye lid in a loss to Florida State a week ago. Since then she had the stitches removed but against Princeton (3-2) the cut was reopened. The gash was quickly sealed up with liquid bonding glue and Tuomi was back on the floor.
That was good news for Vanderbilt (4-1), which went to Tuomi and Tiffany Clarke down low early as the Commodores jumped out to a nine-point lead less than five minutes into the game.
Princeton hung in there and cut the lead to 29-26 by halftime. The Tigers, who a year ago went 26-3, won the Ivy League and reached the NCAA Tournament, wiped away a seven-point VU lead in the second half with an 8-0 run and led 44-43 with 11:59 to go.
“They turned it up,” Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb said. “I like to give the other team credit when credit is due. I think they are a very good team ... They beat USC (in the first round of the tournament) for a reason. We didn’t take them lightly and they were ready to play with a lot of confidence.”
Vanderbilt responded with a run of its own, though. The Commodores scored the next 10 points to grab some breathing room and led 69-59 with 2:56 left after a basket by Tuomi.
Coupled with Clarke’s 12 points and six rebounds, Vanderbilt scored 28 inside and outrebounded Princeton 32-27.
“Those guys do a great job with their post players,” Princeton coach Courtney Banghart said. “Though we’re long, we’re really skinny… So we asked the guards to get up in them a little bit and we asked the post to have more toughness and move their feet, even think of fronting. So basically play more together on defense and I thought they did.”
The margin was whittled down to three points twice in the last 90 seconds. Princeton grabbed huge offensive rebounds – Tuomi fouled out with 1:24 to go – and Addie Micir drained long-range 3-pointers. She sunk a couple from well beyond the men’s 3-point line and made six in the game, scoring a game-high 20 points.
Her last trey pulled trimmed the deficit to 71-68 with 40 seconds remaining. But Jence Rhoads hit a big free throw on the ensuing possession, which was followed by a missed 3-pointer from Micir and Vanderbilt hung on for the win.
“Obviously, championship game of a tournament, they are going to put up a fight,” Tuomi said. “It just depends on who is going to stick in there longer for the fight.”
On Sunday, it was the Commodores who emerged victorious – and Tuomi has the battle wound to prove it.
• Freshman guard Jasmine Lister scored 15 points on Sunday and had 12 points and six assists against Quinnipiac as she was named to the all-tournament team. Clarke joined Lister on the team as she scored 16 points and 11 rebounds on Friday.
• Freshman center Stephanie Holzer was back on the floor after sitting out Friday’s game against Quinnipiac due to back spasms. She scored four points in just eight minutes against Princeton, and Balcomb said Holzer was still bothered by the back injury. The 6-foot-4 native of Pennsylvania has averaged 14 points in four games after redshirting last year due to an ankle injury.
• Vanderbilt hits the road for its next two tests. The Commodores play at Bowling Green (6-1) on Wednesday and the travels to Denver on Dec. 5. Bowling Green has won six straight Mid-American Conference championships. The Falcons went 27-7 last year and reached the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
It is the second game of a home and home series between the two schools. Bowling Green defeated Vanderbilt 66-60 last year at Memorial Gym. Denver is just 2-3 but the game will serve as a homecoming for senior forward Hannah Tuomi, who is from nearby Thornton, Colo. The Commodores’ next home game is on Dec. 7 against Southern Illinois.
• Franklin native Beth Binkley returned home. The junior guard/forward for Princeton went to Harpeth Hall. She played one minute against Vanderbilt and has played in just two games this season.