Vanderbilt shrugged off a horrid start and locked up its 14th straight 20-win season.
The Commodores scored 18 straight points in the second half and pulled away for a 53-40 victory over Missouri in the opening round of the Southeastern Conference Women’s Tournament on Thursday night in Duluth, Ga.
No. 7 seed Vanderbilt (20-10) advances to play No. 2 seed Kentucky at 5 p.m. on Friday in a quarterfinal.
The Commodores looked like they were headed home early for much of the game. They shot just 17.1 percent in the first half but trailed just 17-16 at the break. The Tigers took their largest lead, 26-19, on a 3-pointer by Morgan Eye with 14 minutes left.
After a timeout by coach Melanie Balcomb, Vanderbilt woke up.
Tiffany Clarke sparked the 18-0 run with a jumper and Jasmine Lister and Christina Foggie combined for three straight 3-pointers. Foggie scored nine of her 12 points during the spurt, which spanned eight minutes. Clarke’s two free throws with 6:08 left gave the Commodores an insurmountable 37-29 lead.
“The ability to just play through it is very difficult,” Balcomb said. “I thought we showed a lot of maturity with a combination of some upperclassmen but also a lot of underclassmen. I’m proud of the defense, the comeback and the resilience that we showed as a team in the second half.”
Playing in her hometown, Vanderbilt senior Tiffany Clarke scored 14 points and had 11 rebounds. She scored 12 points in the second half and trudged through a 4-of-14 shooting night.
Liz Smith led Missouri (17-14) with a game-high 16 points.