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December 2, 2013

Late-game rally not enough as Vandy falls at Texas

Vanderbilt made a game of it late but couldn't quite get over the hump, falling by a 70-64 score to Texas in the Big 12 - Southeastern Conference Challenge in Austin, Texas on Monday night.

Sophomore point guard Eric McClellan (22 points, helped by an 11-of-14 performance at the foul line) led a nice comeback attempt for Vandy (4-3), but a typically poor foul-shooting Longhorn team got hot down the the stretch. That, coupled with one huge un-forced error, cost the Commodores a shot at their first win on an opponent's court this year.

When Vandy's Josh Henderson hit a long two-point jumper with 2:26 left, the Commodores had cut what had been a 14-point Longhorn lead to 57-54. Within a minute, Texas had stretched the lead back to eight, but after McClellan hit the first of two free throws with 1:06 left and then missed the second, Rod Odom rushed in from behind the 3-point arc, grabbed a long rebound and got a stick-back in traffic at short range to pull Vandy within 62-58.

Texas's Isaiah Taylor hit a foul shot with 55.2 left, but missed the second and VU rebounded. McClellan drove the right side and missed a lay-up but drew a foul, and hit both ends of a 1-and-1.

With 36 seconds left, the Longhorns turned the ball over in the open court, with Dai-Jon Parker picking up a steal and feeding McClellan for a fast-break dunk with 33.6 left to cut the lead to one.

Texas struggled at the foul line all evening (15-for-29 ,51.7 percent), but the Commodores next fouled Javan Felix, the one Longhorn they probably didn't want to foul. Felix drained both shots and Vandy turned it over with 17 seconds left when Odom, popping off a high screen at the top of the key to get in position to try a game-tying 3, slipped and fell at the very instant McClellan delivered a pass and watched the ball roll harmlessly out of bounds.

Texas then got a three-point play off a Demarcus Holland lay-up and free throw with 12.6 seconds left, and though the Longhorns gave McClellan an easy lay-up with 8.1 seconds left to cut the lead back to four, Jonathan Holmes hit a pair of foul shots with 6.9 seconds left to account for the final margin.

Odom finished with 11 points after a scoreless first half, and Henderson had 12 off the bench for Vandy. One positive on the night was foul shooting; Vandy came in ranked 336th in America (60 percent) but nailed 71.4 percent of its 21 attempts.

However, the Commodores also gave up 13 offensive rebounds, committed 15 turnovers (five by McClellan) and hit just 23.8 percent (5-of-21) from behind the 3-point arc. VU was also plagued with foul trouble from Parker and James Siakam, both starters, who had four each.

Vanderbilt trailed 31-25 at the half, but it could have been worse, as it trailed by 14 at one point. The Longhorns extended that lead to 39-26 with 15:35 to play until the 'Dores slowly chipped away at the lead over the next five minutes.

A young Texas team, which lost the core of last year's squad in the off-season, improved to 7-1 overall.

Vandy now returns home for the first of five consecutive home games, starting with Marshall at 7 p.m. Central on Thursday.

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