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    Vanderbilt Holds Off Auburn

    NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Behind a 24-7 second-half run and 38 combined points by Jence Rhoads and Hannah Tuomi, Vanderbilt was able to hold off a late charge by Auburn en route to earning its 17th straight win over the Tigers with a 67-59 victory on Sunday at Memorial Gym. With the win, Vanderbilt (11-5, 2-1 SEC) improved to 9-0 at home, while dealing the Tigers (9-7, 2-1 SEC) their first SEC loss of the season. Tuomi finished with a game-high 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting after starting 6-of-6 from the floor. Rhoads scored 12 of her 16 points in the second half and tied a career high with eight rebounds. “I think both seniors realize they have to close it, they have to step up, and they have to put people away,” Head Coach Melanie Balcomb said. “They understand that and we really don’t have anybody else on the floor that does understand and that has that experience. So they have to be willing to do that and what was fun was seeing both Hannah and Jence have that success.” Vanderbilt had two first-half runs to stretch its lead to eight on two occasions, but each time, the Tigers would answer. The same would hold true in the second half when Vanderbilt’s seven-point lead at the half was erased by an 11-4 Auburn run, which knotted the game at 33. With the game tied, Vanderbilt would go on a 24-7 run to extend its lead to 17 with 9:04 to play. However, Auburn would chip away at Vanderbilt’s lead and pull within five with 1:02 to play. The Tigers’ Alli Smalley had a chance to pull Auburn within two, but a three-pointer was off the mark with 44 seconds to play. A free throw by Rhoads and two more by Tuomi with 19 seconds to play would ice the game. Vanderbilt shot 52.0 percent from the floor and outscored Auburn 40-26 in the paint. The field-goal percentage was its second best of the season. Defensively, Vanderbilt held Auburn to 36.5 percent shooting and 21.4 percent from beyond the arc. Vanderbilt won despite attempting a season-low nine three-pointers and turning the ball over 20 times. The Commodores led by seven at the half after shooting 63.2 percent from the floor, but Auburn stayed in the game thanks in part to 10 Vanderbilt turnovers and 13 offensive rebounds by the Tigers. The Commodores will hit the road on Thursday when they travel to Tuscaloosa, Ala., for a 6 p.m. tip against the Crimson Tide.