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November 22, 2013

VU collapses down the stretch in loss to Providence

ST THOMAS, US Virgin Islands -- If you watched the first 30 minutes of the Vanderbilt-Providence basketball game played at the Paradise Jam Tournament, you'd think the rebuilding Commodores were on their way to becoming a borderline NCAA Tournament contender.

But if you watched the last 10 minutes, you'd swear it was a team that wouldn't sniff the NIT.

The truth is probably somewhere in-between those two extremes. But the way Vanderbilt fell from a 16-point lead to a six-point loss leaves a mark that will be difficult to fully dismiss. In the end, the Commodores were outscored 27-4 in the game's final 10 minutes, and lost 67-60.

Providence moves to 5-0 on the season, while the Commodores fall to 2-2.

The favored Friars were the victims of a suffocating Vanderbilt defense in the first half, shooting just 34.5 percent from the field, including just two of 15 3-pointers.

"...defensively, that's the best 20 minutes of basketball we've played this season," said VU coach Kevin Stallings.

Vanderbilt came out shooting in the second half, led by several long 3-pointers by leading scorer Rod Odom. The Commodores stretched their 32-25 halftime lead to 16, 56-40, with 10 minutes left. At that point, it seemed all that was left to determine was VU's final margin of victory.

Instead, the Friars' ice cold outside shooting touch got red hot. On defense, Providence abandoned man to man and switched to a stretched-out 2-3 zone.

Vanderbilt, which had cruised effortlessly on offense through the game's first 30 minutes, lost its poise and fell apart. It seemed every missed layup, off-balance 3-point attempt, bricked free throw and careless turnover immediately led to another back-breaking PU basket.

"This was an incredible team win," said Providence coach Ed Cooley. "Although we did not shoot the ball well, we did a great job defensively. We played all zone over the final 10 minutes and the team did a fantastic job. This was a true team win as we got contributions from everyone."

Providence moves on to the winner's bracket to face LaSalle. Vanderbilt faces Morgan State next at 4 Central on Saturday.

Odom led VU with 17 points, with all five of his made field goals coming from behind the 3-point line. Eric McClellan had 13, and Josh Henderson scored 11.

Four Providence players finished in double figures, led by Tyler Harris' 15. Bryce Cotton scored 14, LaDonte Henton had 12, and Kris Dunn had 10.

While VU out-shot the Friars, Providence dominated the Commodores on the glass-especially down the stretch. PU pulled down 19 boards in the second half, including eight on the offensive glass. The Commodores, shell-shocked and panicked, had nine turnovers and just two offensive rebounds in the second half.

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