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Vandy cruises back into the Sweet 16

3/23/2004

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) -- Carla Thomas had 15 points, 11
rebounds and six blocks, and Vanderbilt beat Chattanooga 60-44
Monday night to advance to the round of 16.

The second-seeded Commodores (26-7) are in the regional
semifinals for the 11th time and will face Stanford.

Vanderbilt won its 10th game in a row by ending the nation's
longest winning streak.

Chattanooga (29-3), playing on its home court as the 10th seed
in the Midwest Regional, extended its streak to 27 with a 74-69
victory over No. 7 seed Rutgers in the first round.

It was the first win in the NCAA tournament for the Lady Mocs,
who have won the Southern Conference tournament four straight
years.

Hillary Hager and Jenni Benningfield each scored 12 points for
the Commodores, who held Chattanooga to 27 percent shooting from
the field. Hager also had 11 rebounds.

Reserve Miranda Warfield scored 12 while Katie Galloway added 11
points and Nicole Mattison had 11 rebounds for Chattanooga, which
lost at McKenzie Arena for the first time since Feb. 6, 2003, a
span of 17 games.

Vanderbilt led most of the first half and was ahead by just
three at halftime.

The Commodores opened the second half with a decisive 18-3 run
that pushed their lead to 45-27 with 12:40 remaining.

The Lady Mocs, feeling their dream season slipping away,
countered with an 8-0 run that cut the Commodores' lead to 10 with
7:48 left.

Chattanooga's fans roared and stomped, but Benningfield hit a
layup at the other end to quiet the crowd.

The Lady Mocs scored again, and Benningfield followed with a
driving layup and Hager had a 3 and a basket to restore
Vanderbilt's lead to 16 with 4:21 to go.

Chattanooga made a final push when Galloway and Warfield hit
back-to-back 3-pointers to reduce the lead to 12 with 3:12
remaining, but the Lady Mocs ran out of time.

The Commodores went ahead 8-6 after Thomas' layup with 12:01
left and extended their lead to as many as seven points before
halftime.

Chattanooga tied it twice and cut it to a point two times late
in the first half but couldn't get a run going.

Thomas, a freshman center, played only 14 minutes in the first
round and didn't score.

The Commodores redeemed themselves after losing in overtime to
Boston College in the second round last year. They improved to 11-4
in second-round games.