March 21, 2009

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -Make it 3-0 at The Pit for the Vanderbilt Commodores.

Christina Wirth scored 23 points and Jennifer Risper had 11 points and nine rebounds as fourth-seeded Vanderbilt beat No. 13 Western Carolina 73-41 Saturday night, ending the Lady Catamounts' 10-game winning streak.

Vanderbilt (25-8), in the NCAA tournament for the 10th straight year, made its second straight trip to Albuquerque. Last year, the Commodores beat Montana and West Virginia to advance to the regional semifinals.

Lauren Powell and Brooke Johnson led Western Carolina (21-12) with eight points apiece. The Lady Catamounts shot just 28 percent (16-of-57) from the floor.

Wirth played well here last spring, scoring 13 in the opening win over Montana and 21 in the victory that carried Vanderbilt to the regional semifinals.

Last weekend, Wirth was named Most Valuable Player of the SEC tournament after averaging 20.3 points in her team's victories over Georgia, LSU and Auburn. She offered no hint that she plans to slow down in the NCAAs.

Western Carolina scored seven straight points to pull within 41-29 and force a timeout by Commodores coach Melanie Balcomb at the 12:22 mark.

But Wirth quickly ended Western's spurt with a jumper in the lane, then hit two 3-pointers and drove for another bucket as Vanderbilt went on a 12-2 burst that put the Commodores ahead 53-31 with 9:31 to go.

Not only that, Wirth often drew the defensive assignment against Johnson, Western Carolina's 6-foot-4 forward, who averaged 18.3 points and nine rebounds during the Southern Conference tournament.

Johnson scored six of her eight points in the second half. She was 3-of-11 from the field with seven rebounds.

Vanderbilt took control in the first half, using an 11-2 run over the last 6:16 of the opening 20 minutes to lead 29-18 at the break.

The Catamounts couldn't find an offensive rhythm and struggled all night against Vanderbilt's fullcourt press.

Coach Kellie Harper, who won three national titles as Tennessee's point guard from 1996-98, urged her players to be aggressive but they didn't shoot a free throw until Kendra Eaton made 1-of-2 with 14:16 remaining.