Freshman Jasmine Lister scored a team-high 13 points, but Tia Gibbs scored a career-high 19 for Louisville as Vanderbilt’s women’s basketball team was eliminated in the first round of the NCAA Tournament with an 81-62 defeat Sunday at Cincinnati.
Gibbs played for the Commodores in 2008-09 but then transferred to Louisville, in her hometown, and sat out last season.
"As much as I want to say this is just another first round NCAA Tournament game, it meant a lot," she said. "Ever since I transferred this has been the game that I have been wanting to play. I was prepared and my teammates had my back."
Gibbs was one of four players who scored in double figures for the Cardinals, who shot 60 percent from the field (30-for-50) and made 13 of 14 foul shots (92.9 percent). She also had eight rebounds as Louisville (20-12) finished with a decisive 35-19 edge in rebounds.
"I thought we could do a better job on offensive rebounding and we only had seven," coach Melanie Balcomb said. "... We've been struggling. That hasn't been our strength. In our last five games we have given offensive rebounds to the other team. It wasn't our strength yet we tried to emphasize it going into the game and hoped it would be something we could capitalize on."
With the loss, Vanderbilt (20-11) was eliminated in the opening round for the first time since 1998 and the first time ever under Balcomb.
The margin of defeat was the program’s largest in NCAA Tournament play since an 89-70 loss to North Carolina in the second round of the 2006 tournament. Coincidentally, VU defeated Louisville 76-64 in the opening round that year.
Lister scored her team’s final four points — all on free throws. Prior to that, Vanderbilt attempted just two foul shots.
Sophomore Gabby Smith scored five straight VU points in the first half and tied the game twice, at 13-13 and 16-16. Louisville scored the next 11 and led the rest of the way. The deficit was 15 at halftime (41-26), and the Commodores got no closer than five throughout the second half.
""I think we lost the game in the first half and I don't say that very often, but the confidence we allowed them to get on offense really hurt us," Balcomb said. "They did a great job spreading us out and shooting the 3. ... We had a really tough time and they built that confidence in the first half."
Smith finished with 11 points, and Stephanie Holzer added 10 for Vanderbilt. Holzer and Jence Rhoads each had a team-high four rebounds.
Louisville’s Monique Reid made 10 of 15 field goal attempts and led all scorers with 22 points. Shoni Schimmel matched Gibbs (7-for-9 from the field) with 19 points, and Keshia Hines added 16.
"We just fed off of [Gibbs]," Reid said. "She played an excellent game. ... I am just really proud of her and I am glad she plays for us."