CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — During the first half of the East Regional championship game Saturday, Virginia's 6 foot 5 center Heather Burge was stopped repeatedly by Vanderbilt's 6-8 Heidi Gillingham.
Her ability to maintain her composure--coupled with Gillingham's foul trouble--enabled Burge, the junior from Palos Verdes Estates, to score 20 second-half points, leading No. 1-ranked Virginia past the Commodores, 70-58.
The victory, before a sellout crowd of 8,715 at the Cavaliers' University Hall, put Virginia (32-1) in the NCAA semifinals next Saturday against Stanford at the Sports Arena.
Burge finished with a game-high 28 points, including 10 during a late 12-2 run that ended 13th-ranked Vanderbilt's season at 22-9.
It was an impressive comeback after a first half during which Gillingham blocked four of Burge's shots and altered several others. Late in the half, Heather Burge was replaced by her twin sister, Heidi, who fared no better.
Gillingham, who finished with a regional record six blocks, was not fooled by the twins' head fakes. Moreover, Gillingham's presence--the twins had faced only one player taller than themselves, Gillingham's 6-7 sister, Gwen, of North Carolina--also made them rush their shots.
The Cavalier guards tried to compensate, but instead of using their quickness to attack Vanderbilt's zone defense, they settled for outside set shots, missing seven of eight from three-point range and shooting only 31.6% overall.
Vanderbilt also struggled from the perimeter, missing 13 of its first 17 shots. But during the last 1:30 of the half, Lisa King made an 18-footer and Shelley Jarrad connected on two three-point baskets, pulling the Commodores within 31-30 at halftime.
Julie Powell's three-point basket gave Vanderbilt its first lead with 16:30 to play.
The lead changed hands five times as the Commodores made their next four three-point attempts, including three in a row by Misty Lamb, a 6-2 forward who had never made a three-pointer.
Virginia maintained the pace when Heather Burge found her scoring touch.
"I learned that from last season," she said of her positive outlook. "Taking things too seriously ruins your life. I would let things get me down and I'd be gone. Today, I laughed when I shot a brick. What else could I do?"
Virginia took the lead for good with 5:51 to play when Heather Burge scored on a pass from All-American guard Dawn Staley.
After a violation against Gillingham, Burge scored again after faking out Gillingham.
"Once we settled down, Heather took over the game," Virginia Coach Debbie Ryan said.
Jarrad answered with a driving layup to cut the lead to 60-58 with 4:44 to play, but that was the Commodores' last gasp.
Virginia pushed its lead to eight points, but the Commodores did not foul.
"We didn't think we had to," Vanderbilt Coach Jim Foster said. "We have three-point shooters."
Those shooters then missed four shots and the Commodores committed five turnovers.