7:30 PM ET, March 8, 2009
Wirth scores 20; Vandy holds Bonner to nine points for Commodores' sixth title
NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- For five minutes, Christina Wirth and Vanderbilt shot the ball everywhere but in the basket. The Commodores could have been in deep trouble against a powerful team like Auburn.Instead, they trailed by only six points, and when Tia Gibbs made a 3-pointer to break the drought, Vandy was very much in the game."Six points is definitely not too much of a deficit to come back from," Wirth said. "As soon as we scored, the game was basically almost tied."After that, it was all Vanderbilt. Wirth scored 20 points, and the Commodores (No. 23 ESPN/USA Today, No. 22 AP) beat Auburn (No. 5 ESPN/USA Today, No. 6 AP) 61-54 to win the Southeastern Conference tournament Sunday night.Vandy (24-8) upset the Tigers (29-3) for the second time in three weeks to win the SEC tournament for the sixth time. Vanderbilt also extended its winning streak over Auburn to 15 -- and in a season when so much has gone right for the Tigers."It hurts right now," Auburn coach Nell Fortner said. "Nobody likes to lose. We haven't lost much this year, obviously."Auburn star DeWanna Bonner was held to nine points after scoring a combined 58 in her first two games of the tournament. Whitney Boddie led the Tigers with 14 points and eight assists.Vanderbilt missed its first eight shots of the game, but Auburn missed an early opportunity to pull away. The Tigers led 6-0 but couldn't extend the margin. The Commodores shut down the Tigers with their zone defense, holding Boddie scoreless and Bonner to four points in the first half."They kept us from getting any kind of rhythm offensively," Fortner said. "They shot the 3-ball real well today. Hard to beat a team when they're shooting 3 that way."Vanderbilt shot 10-of-28 from 3-point range. Auburn went 0-for-7 and was held to its lowest point total of the season by a variety of Vandy defenses.
Vandy Wins SEC Crown
So Vanderbilt prevailed in the SEC tournament after all and once again didn't have to beat you-know-who to do it.
The Commodores had a couple of head-scratching results this year, and at one point I even had them out of my Top 25. They also lost their last two regular-season games. But at the SEC tournament, they really had their act together.
Vandy upset top-seeded Auburn 61-54 Sunday in North Little Rock, Ark., for the program's sixth SEC tournament title. In only one of those victorious tournaments, though, did the Commodores defeat their nemesis, Tennessee.
That was in 1995, when those teams met in the final and Vandy won 67-61. The other seasons that the Commodores have taken the title -- 1993, 2002, 2004, 2007 and this year -- some other team took out Tennessee.
Vandy had defeated the Orange Crush earlier this season, in Nashville, for the program's seventh victory in the series. But then in the regular-season finale in Knoxville, Tennessee won the matchup.
But Round 3 didn't happen. That's because Auburn eliminated Tennessee in the semifinals. The Tigers were flying high entering the final, but instead fell to Vandy for the second time this season.
This might have cost Auburn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, but the Tigers would still appear to be a legitimate Final Four threat.
The Commodores gave up 61, 47 and 54 points to their three foes -- Georgia, LSU and Auburn -- in North Little Rock. If they are able to control pace and play defense as well as they did in the SEC tournament, they will be a handful in the NCAA tournament, too.
-- Mechelle Voepel
Team Stat Comparison
|FG Made-Attempted||22-54 (.407)||23-57 (.404)|
|3P Made-Attempted||10-28 (.357)||0-7 (.000)|
|FT Made-Attempted||7-10 (.700)||8-9 (.889)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||11 (0/0)||12 (0/0)|