Vanderbilt overcame a seven-minute scoreless stretch in the first half and three missed free throws by Merideth Marsh in the final 18 seconds in a 63-61 victory over LSU in a quarterfinal matchup at the Southeastern Conference women’s tournament on Friday.
Marsh, the SEC’s leader in free throw shooting during the regular season, was 1-for-5 from the line during the contest. Her final two misses came with 3.3 seconds to play and allowed LSU’s Allison Hightower to attempt a game-winning shot from beyond halfcourt.
The senior guard still finished with 17 points, tied with Hannah Tuomi for team-high honors. She made all four of Vanderbilt’s 3-pointers (on eight attempts) and played all 40 minutes for the second consecutive day.
The Commodores took a 3-0 lead on Marsh’s first 3-pointer 24 seconds after the opening tip but then were held without a point for the next 7:11 and fell behind 15-3. They finished the first half on an 18-8 run and led 32-30 at intermission.
“We've been struggling with leads this year,” coach Melanie Balcomb said. “So I decided to remind them it's hard to hold leads, and that they're probably going to get tentative and start to hold leads.”
Hightower led all scorers with 24 points. Katherine Graham added 10 for LSU (20-9), which had advanced beyond the tournament quarterfinal each of the past eight years.
Vanderbilt (22-9) will face Tennessee in the semifinals, 2:30 p.m. (CST) Saturday. The game will be televised by ESPNU.
“It's tournament time,” junior guard Jence Rhoads said. “That's what you do. We came here to play. We're excited. We'll be going off adrenaline, so I don't think it will be a problem.”
Atlantic Sun Conference
East Tennessee State 77, Belmont 63
Haley Nelson and Cacy Burtnett each had double-doubles for Belmont, which overcame a slow start but eventually fell 77-63 to top seeded East Tennessee State in an A-Sun semifinal contest.
The Lady Bruins fell behind 11-0 at the start of the game before Burtnett finally made a 3-pointer 5:04 into the contest. They eventually led twice in the first half, the second time on Kristin Nash’s 3-pointer with 1:44 to play before intermission.
ESTU scored the first six points of the second half and led by at least five the rest of the way.
Nelson finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Burtnett added 14 points and 13 rebounds.
TranSouth Athletic Conference
Union 86, Trevecca Nazarene 69
Senior Christian Gibson became the third Trevecca Nazarene player this season, and the 11th all-time, to surpass 1,000 career points when she scored 22 in an 86-69 loss to Union, the NAIA’s top-ranked team, in a conference tournament semifinal.
Gibson also had a game-high seven rebounds, four steals and three assists. She was 8-for-11 from the field. As a team, the 19th-ranked Lady Trojans shot 48 percent (24-for-50).
Union, which got 22 points each from Jessica Graves and Kaitlin Dudley, jumped out to a 15-5 lead and remained in front the rest of the way.