Carter scores 17 as Commodores fall to Lady Vols

Photo courtesy of John Russell/Vanderbilt Athletics

Photo courtesy of John Russell/Vanderbilt Athletics

Max Herz

Vanderbilt women’s basketball suffered its fourth consecutive loss Thursday night at Memorial Gym, falling 70-57 to Tennessee after hanging tough with the team’s biggest rival for three quarters. Freshman LeaLea Carter scored a game-high 17 points for the Commodores in the loss.

Vanderbilt (10-5, 0-2 SEC) outscored Tennessee (10-4, 2-0) in both the second and third quarters after a sloppy opening period. The Lady Vols finished the first quarter with a 20-7 lead on the strength of a 9-0 run in the final three minutes of the period. The Commodores went nearly five minutes without scoring, a drought which carried into the second quarter.

“When you have lulls against really good teams they make you pay,” Vanderbilt head coach Stephanie White said. “It starts with that first quarter.”

Marqu’es Webb’s basket ended the scoreless drought and started a 7-0 Vandy run, as the Commodores doubled their seven first quarter points in the first 3:06 of the second quarter. The deficit shrunk to just five points midway through the period before a stream of Commodore turnovers shifted momentum back to Tennessee. The Commodores posted their lowest first half scoring output of the season, trailing 36-26 at the break.

“We really can’t afford to have slow starts,” Coach White said. “We have to be able to give ourselves a better opportunity than that and take care of the basketball… We can’t afford to put ourselves in a hole.”

The Commodores again outscored Tennessee 18-17 in the third quarter, but could not get within nine points of their rival.

Although the Lady Vols have now won six straight against Vanderbilt dating back to January 2014, a newcomer to the rivalry gave the Commodores plenty to look forward to.

Carter, a highly-touted recruit and McDonald’s All-American who struggled to earn playing time early in the season, continued her recent success, leading all scorers with 17 points in 33 minutes off the bench. After scoring just 32 points in the team’s first 10 games, Carter has averaged 12.0 points per game in the last five contests.

“She was really good,” Coach White said. “She’s really starting to finish stronger as opposed to throwing it up there and hoping it goes in. She’s just continued to improve every single day and it’s great to see.”

38 of Vandy’s 57 points in the game came from their five freshmen, with Cierra Walker adding 10 to support Carter’s 17.

Still seeking its first SEC win, Vanderbilt faces the Georgia Bulldogs Sunday morning at 11 a.m. in Athens, Georgia, on SEC Network. The Commodores’ next home game is next Thursday night, January 12, at 7 p.m. against Auburn.