1995-96 Women's Basketball Review
The Commodores began the season at an incredible pace, winning their first 14 games and rising to a number two ranking in the country. The season opened in Boston at the Reebok Classic, where the Commodores overcame early season jitters to put away UCLA 70-64. Vanderbilt had 25 steals in the game and shot the ball 51 percent for the victory. After a victory at Manhattan, the Commodores challenged the USA National Team before over 7,000 fans at Memorial Gymnasium. The Commodores lost to the national team, 78-50, in one of the tightest games the national team played on its college tour. Vanderbilt's first home game was against 5th ranked Virginia. Down by six at halftime to the Cavaliers, the Commodores rebounded to win the game 72-65. Sheri Sam scored her 1,000th career point in the game. After a couple of wins, Vanderbilt tested its perfect record on a road trip to Austin, Texas. The Texas Longhorns were ready to spring the upset, but the Commodores rose to the challenge. Tied at 57 with 1:02 remaining, Mara Cunningham hit two free throws, and then Ginger Jared hit two more with 10 seconds left to give Vanderbilt a four-point win. Vanderbilt once again pulled a victory out of the fire against 17th ranked Purdue, spotting the Boilermakers a five point lead in overtime before winning 80-77 on national television. Na'Sheema Hillmon scored six of Vanderbilt's 10 points in the overtime period. Vanderbilt won its 14th in a row of the season at Arkansas by holding the Razorbacks scoreless in the final minute, increasing the Commodore one-point lead with one minute to go to a 65-60 victory.
Then came a seven game stretch, including four games on the road. It started in Knoxville against eventual national champion Tennessee. Vanderbilt lost the game, 85-82, after leading a majority of the game. Then came another road trip to a ranked team, Mississippi, and a 72-53 loss. After a 74-60 home victory against Florida, the Commodores came up short against DePaul on the road, 76-61. After a 67-64 loss at Mississippi State, the Commodores defeated North Carolina State on national television, 93-61. Auburn got a win in Nashville, 71-66, dropping the Commodores to their fifth loss in seven games.
The Commodores traveled to Baton Rouge and won, 78-56. Then came #1 ranked and undefeated in the conference Georgia to Memorial Gymnasium. With a crowd of 8,176, the Commodores defeated the Bulldogs. Vanderbilt never trailed Georgia after the 6:51 mark in the first half, and won 71-66. After wins over ranked Alabama and Texas A&M, the Commodores closed out the regular season with a 79-71 loss to Tennessee in front of 15,187 fans at Memorial Gym, the second largest crowd in history.
After a loss in the SEC Tournament to Florida, the Commodores primed themselves for a run at the national title. Harvard put up an early battle before Vanderbilt rolled to a 100-83 win. Big Ten power Wisconsin was the next challenge, with Vanderbilt winning 96-82. Sheri Sam displayed her All-American abilities by scoring a total of 67 points the first two games. It was on to the Sweet Sixteen, the seventh consecutive year the Commdores had advanced to that round. Vanderbilt then defeated 7th ranked Iowa 74-63 -- Sheri Sam scored 30 -- to advance to the Elite Eight. But the season ended, as the defending national champion Connecticut Huskies defeated the Commodores, 67-57.
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