The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Vanderbilt prevails over Columbia, advances to 64-team NCAA Tournament bracket

The Commodores rode strong defense and great rebounding to a 72-68 win over the Columbia Lions.
Josh Rehders
Vanderbilt celebrates its win over Columbia during the First Four of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship, as photographed on March 20, 2024. (Hustler Multimedia/Josh Rehders)

With a 64-team NCAA Tournament bracket ticket in the balance, the Commodores bested the Columbia Lions 72-68. Vanderbilt consistently played stout defense, forcing 18 turnovers and a 43% shooting percentage. On the other side of the court, Sacha Washington pulled down 7 offensive rebounds and the team collected 16 assists as a whole. 

This win is the first NCAA Tournament victory for Vanderbilt since 2013 and moves the Commodores to a 23-9 record on the year. Last season, Vanderbilt had just 12 wins — the 11-game swing in victories ties the biggest one-year improvement in program history.

“It’s [an NCAA Tournament game] been a long time coming. I’ve been waiting for this moment since I got to college,” graduate Jordyn Cambridge said. “It can’t be more special than this — getting this in my final year.”

The game started with the Lions on the front foot, going up 10-6 off of well-coordinated layups and cuts through the Vanderbilt defense. Vanderbilt, for its part, got its offense going through a team effort with Justin Pissott, Iyana Moore, Cambridge and Washington each contributing on the way to 13 first quarter points. Though the Commodores didn’t shoot the ball that well, going 6-of-20 from the floor, Washington’s four offensive rebounds kept the Black and Gold in the game. After exchanging blows on both ends, the teams finished the period tied at 13. 

In the second quarter, the Commodores started to take over. Khamil Pierre made her presence felt with a few early buckets, and Vanderbilt as a whole found its stroke. The team shot 8-of-15 offensively and collected five steals on the defensive end. Thanks to these takeaways, head coach Shea Ralph’s squad went on a 10-0 run that would ultimately put them ahead 36-26 heading into the locker room.

The Lions came out of halftime fast, scoring twice in the first two minutes to shorten Vanderbilt’s lead. Pissott answered with a 3-ball that Columbia echoed right back. Then, each team’s leading offensive weapon took over. Columbia guard Abbey Hsu had a few foul calls go her way and ate away at the Commodores’ lead, but Moore’s offensive arsenal was even more impressive. The junior had nine points in the quarter to go along with two offensive rebounds as well. Still, Columbia was creeping up on Vanderbilt. With momentum to end the quarter, the Lions trailed just 53-46.

The fourth quarter began with a Pissott and-1 layup which was followed by multiple Columbia baskets. A 6-0 run from the Lions closed the gap between the teams to just four points. Moore answered this run with a 3-pointer of her own, then Pierre and Washington each added scores to put Vanderbilt back up by 10. Columbia would not go away, though. A layup, a free throw and another 3-pointer from the away side brought the teams within four once more with just under two minutes remaining. At this point, Cambridge had fouled out due to some untimely defensive miscues, so the Commodores would have to finish the tilt without their graduate signal-caller.

The final minutes of the matchup were heated and kept fans at the edge of their seats. However, a dagger 3-pointer from Moore made the final moments a game of free throws with Pissott and Jordyn Oliver making their charity stripe opportunities and ultimately ending the contest 72-68.

“We’re not just happy to be here. We have a purpose, and today was the first step in that purpose. We prepared all year for this moment,” Ralph said. “This was our goal from the moment we got together in June, and I’m excited for my players that we get to keep dancing.”

All of Vanderbilt’s stars made a massive impact on the game: Washington had 16 points and 15 rebounds, Moore had 22 points on 4-of-7 3-point shooting, Pierre had 11 points, Pissott added 10 with clutch free throws and Cambridge was consistently the best defensive player on the floor. Ralph’s squad impressed on the national stage and will now have another chance to showcase their talent against Baylor.

The No. 12 Commodores take on the No. 5 Lady Bears on Friday, March 22, at 5 p.m. CDT. Winner advances to play the victor of the Virginia Tech and Marshall matchup.

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About the Contributors
Sam Curtis
Sam Curtis, Former Deputy Sports Editor
Sam Curtis (’24) is from Wallingford, Conn., majoring in human and organizational development and French and minoring in data science in Peabody College. He was previously Assistant Sports Editor and Sports Copy Editor. When not writing for The Hustler, he cheers on the Philadelphia Eagles, the 76ers and Leeds United. Outside of sports, he enjoys traveling and learning about history and philosophy. He can be reached at [email protected].    
Josh Rehders
Josh Rehders, Former Photography Director
Josh Rehders ('24) is from Houston and is studying computer science in the School of Engineering. When he is not shooting for The Hustler, Vanderbilt Athletics or freelancing, he enjoys finding new music and good food. He can be reached at [email protected].
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