Advertisement

Fontleroy, Baylor pull away from Vanderbilt in first round of women's NCAA Tournament

BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) — Bella Fontleroy scored 19 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lift fifth-seeded Baylor to an 80-63 victory over No. 12 Vanderbilt in the first round of the women's NCAA Tournament on Friday.

Fontleroy hit 6 of 12, including four 3-pointers, for the Bears (25-7), who broke open a close game at halftime with a dominating third quarter in winning for the seventh time in their past eight games.

Sarah Andrews added 13 points, and Darianna Littlepage-Buggs had 11 for Baylor.

“Our defense was good in particular in the first half,” Baylor coach Nicki Collen said. “I thought we did a really good job of making their execution tough. Just taking away passes, so they couldn’t smoothly get into things

“And that’s as well as we’ve shot. We were 9 for 21 from 3, and if you take away some of those at the end, I thought that created separation.”

Iyana Moore led the Commodores (23-10) with 15 points, but made just 3 of 14 from the floor.

Baylor, making its 20th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, led 41-34 at halftime, but shot 61.1% (11 of 18) and outscored the Commodores 28-15 in the third quarter. The Bears held Vanderbilt to just one field goal in the final 6:32 of the quarter.

A 3-pointer by Jana Van Gytenbeek and a layup by Littlepage-Buggs on the Bears’ final two possessions of the quarter push the lead to 69-49. Baylor would go on to lead by as many as 25 in pulling away.

Baylor shot 46.2 percent from the floor (30 of 63).

“I thought Baylor played as well today as they’ve played in a long time,” Vanderbilt coach Shea Ralph said. “That’s how you want your team playing in March. They looked great.

“I’m looking forward to next year because this is just the beginning. It’s a stepping block. We’re going somewhere special. Hopefully, we were able to show, just in the couple of games we played, that and represent Vanderbilt in that way. I couldn’t be more proud to be the coach of this team and to represent Vanderbilt in the NCAA Tournament.”

BIG PICTURE

Vanderbilt: The Commodores looked tired in the second half, perhaps a byproduct of playing in a First Four game Wednesday night. They shot just 35.5% (11 of 31) in the final 20 minutes. The season, though, was a success for Vanderbilt, which was making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2014.

Baylor: The Bears are playing arguably their best basketball since losing six of 10 in late January and early February. They have talent, size, and experience and will need all of it for what will be a true road game Sunday against Virginia Tech.

BOUNCING BACK

Fontleroy had made just 9 of her past 33 shots entering the game, but finished with her second-highest scoring output of the season and was just two points shy of her career high. Her four 3-pointers were tied for her season best.

“We’ve been getting up a lot of shots lately, so I’ve been confident in my shot,” Fontleroy said. “I have folks that believe in me and tell me to shoot it whenever I’m open, so that definitely worked well for me. But also, just as a team, we moved the ball and got to the open space. A big key for us was having pace, and we played with pace the whole night and that’s why we got those open looks everywhere on the floor.”

UP NEXT

The Bears will take on fourth-seeded Virginia Tech on Sunday, with the winner advancing to the Sweet 16.

___

AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-womens-bracket/ and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness