Vanderbilt 83, DePaul 76
Coming out of the sideline huddle at the start of overtime, Vanderbilt players reminded each other that under the biggest pressure, they'd never cracked.
Wouldn't this time, either.
Merideth Marsh scored nine of her 26 points in overtime Sunday, rallying the Commodores to an 83-76 victory over DePaul in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Vanderbilt (23-10) had won both of its overtime games during the season, including its opener in the SEC tournament. Marsh, one of three seniors taking the floor for overtime, brought that up.
``Overtime is about heart,'' Marsh said. ``It's a mental game, and you don't want to walk away with a loss.''
Marsh became Vanderbilt's career 3-point leader in the first half, when she scored 14 points. She hit only one basket in the second half - another 3 - but led the Commodores through overtime by scoring the old-fashioned way. She had a three-point play and a fastbreak layup as Vanderbilt ran off the first 11 points.
``I could see my players' eyes and body language, and I felt good about it,'' coach Melanie Balcomb said. ``I had three seniors and two juniors out there. I felt I had the kids on the floor that could win it.''
In a match between teams with long streaks of NCAA appearances, no lead lasted very long. Vanderbilt pulled ahead by 11 in the first half, but couldn't hold on.
The Blue Demons (21-12) made a comeback behind point guard Sam Quigley, who sat most of the opening half with three fouls. With the score tied at 64, both teams missed shots in the final minute of regulation, giving the women's tournament its first overtime game.
``That was unfortunate,'' Quigley said of her foul trouble. ``But it gave me the opportunity to see some things that we might be able in the second half, being on the bench and watching what was going on.''
Hannah Tuomi had 17 points and a career-high 12 rebounds for Vanderbilt, which is making its 11th straight NCAA appearance. Anna Martin scored 20 for DePaul, which was making its school-record eighth straight appearance. Quigley finished with 14 points, fouling out in overtime.
Balcomb returned to the Cintas Center, which she helped design as Xavier's coach when it opened for the 2000-01 season. Then, she sweated one out in an arena where she's had many big moments.
The Commodores pulled ahead 15-5 and had everything going their way. Quigley, one of the eight finalists for Nancy Lieberman award as the nation's top point guard, got her third foul only seven minutes into the game and went to the bench for the rest of the half.
DePaul has a lot of practice at gritting them out. The Blue Demons lost top player Deirdre Naughton to a torn knee ligament in November and had three other players injured during the season. They hung in there with their point guard watching, trailing only 33-26 at the half.
With Quigley back leading the offense, the Blue Demons made a run at the start of the second half. Quigley's 3-pointer from the top of the key highlighted a 14-3 run that put DePaul up 48-41.
Vanderbilt responded with a 16-2 run led by Jessica Mooney, building a nine-point run that didn't last long. Felicia Chester's three-point play tied it at 64 with 1:07 to go, and both teams missed shots in the last minute.