BG women’s basketball upsets No. 16 Vanderbilt

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Curt Miller turned into BG’s lord of the ring in Nashville on Friday.

The Falcon women’s basketball coach wore the ring from the 2006-07 Sweet 16 run and it again helped the Falcons upset No. 16 Vanderbilt, 66-60, at Memorial Gymnasium. BG (5-2) knocked off Melanie Balcomb’s Vanderbilt squad, 59-56 on March 20, 2007 to become the first Mid-American Conference team to advance past the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

‘This is a fantastic road win for our program,’ Miller said. ‘We have an incredibly difficult road schedule this year and those tests really helped us. We made enough plays to get to the finish line.’

The game marked BG’s fourth straight win since back-to-back losses at No. 3 Ohio State and Marist in the Preseason WNIT and Vanderbilt’s first loss after opening the season with seven wins.

Poor Vandy shooting gave the Falcons an early 18-2 lead with 13:29 left in the first half following a Lauren Prochaska score. The Falcons made 23-of-41 shots (56 percent) including 14-of-26 in the first half (54 percent). Vandy made 24-of-63 (24 percent) including just 9-of-26 (35 percent) in the first half.

Vanderbilt slowly chipped away at the lead after that point. The Commodores cut the margin to 10 at 33-23 after two Meredith Marsh free throws. But Prochaska hit a triple and converted a three-point play with three seconds left after a Tamika Nurse assist to give BG a 39-23 halftime lead.

‘We didn’t show up, and I don’t know why,’ Balcomb said. ‘When we got the game close, we could not make shots and couldn’t get stops.’

Vanderbilt employed a 2-1-2 halfcourt trap the entire game and forced 25 Falcon turnovers, including 13 in the second half, to get back in the game. The Falcons committed 26 turnovers in their previous game against St. Francis. The Commodores committed just 12.

Jence Rhoads gave Vandy its only lead with 3:25 left in the game on a layup. But Falcon point guard Tracy Pontius answered at the other end giving the Falcons the lead for good at 60-59 with 2:26 left.

Tara Breske hit a jumper with 2:01 left to extend the margin to 62-59. She missed the past two games with injury. Pontius hit four free throws down the stretch to seal the win for BG.

‘Despite the turnovers, we never quit fighting even when we lost the lead,’ Miller said. ‘We didn’t need to be a better team for 40 minutes, just the better team down the stretch.’

Pontius led all three scorers with 19 points. She made three 3-pointers in the first half, finding holes in the Vandy defense.

‘Our ball movement worked well,’ Pontius said. ‘We shifted the zone and coach shifted us to work around the holes in their defense. I was just grateful to have such a strong start.’

Nurse and Prochaska followed with 15 and 14 points, respectively. All five starters scored slightly above their averages.

Rhoads led Vanderbilt with 17 and Lauren Leuders scored 11. But BG held Marsh to four points. She scored 25 points in Vandy’s 77-71 win over North Carolina State on Nov. 28.

‘We came out flat, and I think we took them for granted,’ Rhoads said. ‘We definitely weren’t doing the things we were supposed to be doing. Coach gave us a plan, and we didn’t stick to it.’

The Falcons continue their five-game road swing Wednesday at Detroit for a 7 p.m. tipoff.’