NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- Christina Wirth provided
Vanderbilt the lift it needed to pull away from Alabama.
The freshman scored 17 points and keyed a decisive run in No. 23
Vanderbilt's 84-62 victory over Alabama in the Southeastern
Conference women's tournament Thursday night.
"What's really nice about having freshman is that you don't
expect much of them. So when they do good, it's an added bonus,"
Vandy coach Melanie Balcomb said.
The Commodores (20-9) advanced to a Friday quarterfinal against
No. 12 Georgia.
Carla Thomas scored 15 and Cherish Stringfield scored 11 with
three 3-pointers early in the second half to help Vanderbilt
stretch a one-point halftime lead to 51-42 with 5½ minutes gone in
the second half.
"She took big 3s and she hit them when she was open," Balcomb
Wirth scored five points in a 10-0 run that made it 61-46 with
10 minutes left, and then worked inside after Alabama's Harriett
Barnes and Navonda Moore got in foul trouble to push the lead to
Alabama (9-19) put up poor shots and made bad passes as it ran
out of energy. The Crimson Tide had 21 turnovers, leading to 27
Vanderbilt points. Vanderbilt, meanwhile, easily worked the ball to
open shooters in the second half and finished with 32 assists and
only 10 turnovers.
"That's what we've been doing. Moving the ball around and
sharing the ball," Balcomb said. "Tonight we had 32 assists on 35
baskets, and that's really nice. It shows me that we're really
starting to develop as a team."
Lauren Hill had 24 points to lead Alabama, but with Barnes and
Moore carrying four fouls each in much of the second half the Tide
lacked the intensity that helped them hang with the Commodores in
the first half.
"It's been a season full of half-performances," said Alabama
coach Stephany Smith. "We have had 20-, 25-, 30-minute
performances all season and tonight was another one. I thought we
played well offensively and defensively for the first 20 minutes."
Alabama, the tournament's 11th seed, trailed only 37-36 at
halftime as Hill scored 12 points, many of them inside on second
shots as the Tide outrebounded Vanderbilt 20-15.
The sixth-seeded Commodores hit 61 percent from the floor in the
second half, however, including 6-for-9 on 3-pointers.