Vanderbilt 61, No. 10 Texas A&M 51

Melanie Balcomb reminded herself to breathe. She was already
looking ahead to the final two games of the regular season but the
Vanderbilt coach tried her best to soak in a huge win.

It was one worth celebrating.

Without their second leading-scorer for the fourth straight
game, the Commodores received a career-high 30 points from Tiffany
Clarke and upset No. 10 Texas A&M 61-51 on Sunday. It was
Vanderbilt’s first win against a Top 10 team since knocking off No.
6 Georgia on Jan. 14, 2010.

”I just want to enjoy it for a minute and that is hard for me
to do,” Balcomb said. ”My wheels are already turning but for this
team to do that after so many injuries and illnesses . to just
fight through and get better, I’m proud of them – really proud of
them.”

Vanderbilt (18-9, 8-6 Southeastern Conference) won consecutive
games for the first time since Jan. 6. Clarke paved the way with 22
points after halftime. The senior made 12 shots out of 25 attempts
– the most shots taken by a Vanderbilt player in eight years.

She carried the injured Commodores. Reigning SEC scoring champ
Christina Foggie has missed the last four games and is one of four
Vanderbilt players currently hurt.

”I just saw open looks,” Clarke said. ”It was executing our
offense and getting the best shot, the open shot. Sometimes I guess
that was me.”

Most of the time it was her, especially late.

Texas A&M (21-7, 11-3) trailed by 12 twice early in the
second half but pulled within 47-44 with 6:53 left. After a free
throw by Clarke, Jasmine Lister pushed the lead back to seven with
a 3-pointer. Lister later found Clarke for an open layup. Clarke
followed with a turnaround jumper for a commanding 55-47 lead with
1:58 to go.

”She is tough when it is the toughest opponents,” Balcomb
said. ”Down the stretch in the SEC, she’s done that now every
season. And now she is just turning it up.”

She also turned up the defense. Along with Elan Brown, who
scored 12 points, Clarke helped contain the SEC’s third-leading
scorer, Kelsey Bone.

The 6-foot-4 center finished with 17 points but was just 6-of-18
from the field. The junior entered as the second-best shooter in
the country, shooting at a 59-percent clip.

As a team, Texas A&M made just 30.9 percent of its shots (17
of 55) for its second-worst shooting performance of the season,
behind only a loss to Connecticut in November. Texas A&M
entered ranked fifth in Division I in field-goal percentage, making
47 percent of its shots. But the Aggies missed eight straight shots
early and sputtered in their first trip to Memorial Gymnasium since
1996.

”We had wide-open shots in the first half but we all became
jump-shot judies in the first half,” Texas A&M coach Gary
Blair said. ”Bone was making every hard shot she possibly could
take instead of trying to score easy like Clarke does. As a result,
that is how you shoot 6-for-18.”

Karla Gilbert’s layup with 8:58 left in the half gave the Aggies
their last lead, 13-12. Clarke quickly responded with a turnaround
jumper and the Commodores never trailed after that. Adrienne
Pratcher’s 3-pointer tied it at 16 but Brown responded with a 3 on
the left wing to propel Vanderbilt in front for the last time. It
was the beginning of seven straight points and a 13-2 run that
spilled over into the second half.

Vanderbilt led 25-20 at halftime but Texas A&M had a chance
to cut into it before the break. Lister, however, forced Pratcher
into a turnover with 7 seconds left to maintain the five-point
advantage.

The Commodores made their first five shots out of the break,
including four from Clarke. Lister’s 3-pointer off an offensive
rebound lifted Vanderbilt to a 38-26 lead with 15:44 left.

”We take it by four minutes at a time and that gave us a big
momentum shift going into the half,” Brown said. ”(Lister) had
really good lockdown D and everyone was there to help her. We
really stressed team defense and I think we did a great job.”

The Aggies, who had won nine of 10, answered back though. Kristi
Bellock led the charge, scoring all 12 of her points in the second
half. She also grabbed eight of her 10 rebounds after halftime. Her
two free throws with 6:53 to go cut the deficit to 47-44.

Lister then drained her third and final 3-pointer and Vanderbilt
responded with eight straight points. Lister scored 11 points and
freshman Morgan Batey set a career-high with 11 rebounds.

In the process, Vanderbilt strengthened its NCAA tournament
resume. The Commodores were 1-5 against ranked teams. Their lone
win over a ranked opponent came in December against then-No. 12
Oklahoma. Vanderbilt is just one of eight programs in the country
to make the NCAA Tournament each of the last 13 years.

”I thought if we could get a win at Florida (on Thursday) it
would make all the difference on whether we could win this game or
not,” Balcomb said. ”We’re really doing a good at focusing on
just getting better each game. Each game is our biggest game. We’re
not looking past anything or anybody.”