A double-digit, second-half lead evaporated once again for the Vanderbilt women’s basketball team. Then when Florida forced overtime with a game-tying layup with 12 seconds left in regulation, it appeared the Commodores’ road woes would continue.
Tiffany Clarke and Hannah Tuomi made sure that wouldn’t happen.
The frontcourt combo combined for 43 points — and freshman center Stephanie Holzer scored 23 before fouling out in the first overtime — as Vanderbilt held off the Gators for a 103-97 victory in double overtime on Sunday in Gainesville, Fla.
Clarke, making her third straight start, scored 23 points and grabbed 13 rebounds and Tuomi added 20, including an offensive putback early in the second overtime that put the Commodores ahead to stay.
Vanderbilt (16-7, 7-3 SEC) won its third straight and improved to 3-7 on the road. The Commodores avoided falling into the same trap that they did in road games against Virginia Tech, Mississippi and Kentucky. They lost all three after blowing double-digit leads.
“I’m really proud of our mental toughness,” coach Melanie Balcomb said. “We just kept talking about the Kentucky game [two weeks ago] and what we have done to fix our issues, which were mental and physical toughness and communication and check-out, and I believe that is what we did down the stretch to win this game.”
Vanderbilt never trailed after a 10-9 deficit five minutes into the game and took a 43-30 lead early in the second half.
Florida (14-11, 4-7) slowly came back as it took advantage of miscues by the Commodores, who finished with 21 turnovers.
Still, Vanderbilt led 83-78 with 48 seconds left before Florida finished regulation with a 7-2 run. Jennifer George scored off her own miss and tied it 85-85 with 12 seconds left. Jence Rhoads’ jumper on the other end missed to send it to overtime.
There, Florida took its first lead since the early moments of the first half. But Tuomi tied it with a hook shot that banked off the backboard and in with 1:04 to go. Neither team scored the rest of the period, which forced another overtime.
Tuomi’s layup off a missed free throw catapulted Vanderbilt ahead for good. Angela Puleo’s 3-pointer with 2:10 remaining gave the Commodores a big four-point edge and forced Florida to foul.
Vanderbilt was just 28-of-41 from the free-throw line but made six of its last eight to ice the game.
Jasmine Lister also had 15 points for Vanderbilt and Rhoads had 11. George led Florida with 20 points and 14 rebounds, including 10 offensive boards.
The Commodores stay on the road for their next contest at 6 p.m. on Thursday at Georgia before coming back to Nashville to host fifth-ranked Tennessee next Sunday.