Commodores defeat Liberty, 71-45, to advance to Round 3 of the WNIT

Led by 25 points from Iyana Moore, the Commodores secured another postseason victory and will now face Middle Tennessee on Thursday night for Round 3 of the WNIT.

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Yaubryon Chambers and the Vanderbilt bench celebrate during the Commodores’ Round 2 Matchup in the WNIT against the Liberty Flames. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

Andy Carr, Assistant Sports Editor

Recent Memorial Magic—which may still seem like a shock to the system for recent Vanderbilt fans—continued Monday night, as the Vanderbilt Commodores (16-18) defeated the Liberty Flames (28-5), 71-45, in Round 2 of the WNIT at Memorial Gymnasium. The Commodores got off to a slow start offensively, not making a field goal for the first seven-and-a-half minutes of the game, but were powered by 25 points from freshman guard Iyana Moore.

Both teams got off to sluggish starts at the beginning of the game, and at a media timeout with 3:37 left in the first quarter, the score was knotted at just 2-2.

“We couldn’t worry about what was going on in that moment,” junior forward Sacha Washington said. “We knew that it would come eventually; we just had to be patient and take everything one play at a time.”

Moore and senior guard Jordyn Cambridge soon provided a spark that got Vanderbilt out of its early funk, scoring six and four points, respectively, in the quarter to put the Commodores up, 12-8, after 10 minutes.

Once the Commodores established a lead in the first quarter, they never looked back, trailing for only 1:38 throughout the entire game. In the the second quarter, Vanderbilt continued to outplay Liberty, going on a 6-2 run over the last 1:30 and getting six more points from Moore to go into the break with a 31-22 lead.

After halftime, the Commodores put the Flames away, holding them to just seven points in the third quarter and getting nine points from Cambridge and five more from Moore. Starting in the third quarter, Vanderbilt began to also see a more balanced attack on offense, getting significant contributions from sophomore guard Bella LaChance and Washington.

After 30 minutes of play, the Commodores led 51-29, having expanded on their lead by generating much of their offense from forcing turnovers on the defensive side of the ball.

In the fourth quarter, younger players De’Mauri Flournoy and Yaubryon Chambers got some experience playing postseason basketball; meanwhile, Moore and Cambridge were awarded some well-deserved rest. Moore finished with 25 points and shot a blistering 7-of-11 from 3.

“I practice [shooting 3s] every daybefore practice, after practice,” Moore said. “So when I’m open, I’m gonna take it and I’m expecting it to go in.”

Cambridge set the single-season steals record for Vanderbilt as well, hitting 125 on the season thanks to four against Liberty. Overall, the Commodores had 13 steals, and scored 28 points off of forced turnovers. Their strong defense led to high-quality offense, as the team shot 53% from 3 and made 20-of-24 free throws.

Up next, Vanderbilt will play on the road against Middle Tennessee in Round 3 of the WNIT—in which 16 teams remain—on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. CDT. The Commodores were defeated by Middle Tennessee, 55-46, earlier this season in an away contest on Nov. 21, 2021.

“The people that are playing basketball right now in March are all really good,” head coach Shea Ralph said. “It was fun to come in tonight, get a win and understand that we’re going to be continuing to play.”