After taking three minutes for either team to score, the Vanderbilt Commodores struck first in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against Western Carolina on Saturday, March 21 and never looked back as they won 73-44.
It was the Commodores third win in The Pit after they beat Montana and West Virginia to advance to the regional semifinals of the NCAA Tournament last year.
Vanderbilt won the game comfortably against the Lady Catamounts in this season’s tourney after it scored four straight points in the opening four minutes of the game and left WCU in the rear view mirror for the remainder of the contest.
Western Carolina inched close to the Commodores in the beginning after shooting 44 percent from outside the arc, coming back to be within a point with eight minutes left in the first half, but was not able to close to gap as Vanderbilt opened up an 11-2 shooting spree to lead 29-18 at the break.
Following halftime, the Commodores continued off of their momentum from the first twenty minutes of play, leading at times by as much as eighteen points.
Western Carolina scored seven straight points to pull within 41-29 and force a timeout by Commodores coach Melanie Balcomb at the 12:22 mark. But Christian Wirth quickly ended the Lady Catamount’s spurt with a jumper in the lane, then hit two 3-pointers and drove for another bucket as Vanderbilt went on a 12-2 burst that put the Commodores ahead 53-31 with 9:31 to go.
Vanderbilt crusied through the rest of game, winning 73-44.
Lauren Powell and Brooke Johnson led Western Carolina (21-12) with eight points apiece. The Lady Catamounts shot just 28 percent (16-of-57) from the floor.
Johnson scored six of her eight points in the second half. She was 3-of-11 from the field with seven rebounds. The loss against the Commodores was WCU’s second slip-up in NCAA Tournament. The Lady Catamounts fell to Tennessee in the first round of the 2005 tourney.
Western Carolina head coach Kelli Harper said after the game she was proud of her team’s accomplishments.
“Although the girls are not feeling that good right now, they have a lot to be proud of this season,” said Harper. “They accomplished a lot and I see us carrying over our successes to next season.”
(More comments from the fallout of WCU’s tournament loss to Vanderbilt will be posted in an upcoming special section of the Western Carolinian print edition. A slideshow of the highlights from the game is on the front page of the WC website.)