NASHVILLE, Tenn—Vanderbilt returns three senior starters from last year's Sweet 16 team.
But on Wednesday night, a freshman carried the Commodores down the stretch of a tight game.
After VU blew a 15-point lead with 12:30 remaining, Commodore center Andrew Ogilvy took over. The freshman scored 19 points in the game's final 12:10, as Vanderbilt held on for an 87-78 victory over the Crusaders at Memorial Gym on Monday night.
"I think our guys are confident [getting the ball to Ogilvy] in close game situations, which is good. … A.J. got going a bit in the second half," Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings said.
Ross Neltner added 16 points and 10 rebounds. Shan Foster (16) and Alex Gordon (10) joined Ogilvy (21) as double-digit scorers for Vandy.
Valparaiso opened the second half on a 22-6 run to take a 53-50 lead, most of that with Ogilvy on the bench after the center picked up his third foul at the 19:37 mark of the half.
With the lead erased, Stallings re-inserted the 6-foot-10 Australian, and the Commodores' fortunes changed immediately. On the Commodores' next two possessions, freshman point guard Keegan Bell found Ogilvy under the basket for layups.
Valpo answered the second with an Urule Igbavboa layup, but Ogilvy got the ball at the foul line on Vandy's next try, took Crusader center Bryan Bouchie to the hole, drew a foul and converted the free throws for a 56-all tie.
The Crusaders re-took the lead moments later on Bouchie's layup, but a 3 by Foster and a dunk by Ogilvy on the next two possessions, the last at the 8:50 mark, put Vandy back ahead, 63-60.
The closest the Crusders got from there was 65-63 at 6:01 on Jarryd Loyd's 3-pointer, which Ogilvy answered with a pair of foul shots on the next possession.
Valparaiso took 23 more shots from the field than the Commodores, out-rebounded Vandy by eight, got 21 offensive boards and hit 13-of-33 3-pointers. But Vanderbilt converted 25-of-31 free throws and shot 50 percent from the field to make up for it.
"We go to the line a lot more than they do," Stallings said. "I would take more trips to the free throw line than more shot attempts every day of the week.
The Commodores held sophomore Samuel Haanpaa, the team's leading scorer this season and last, to zero points on 0-of-11 shooting. Loyd (20) and Shawn Huff (18) led Valparaiso in scoring.
Vanderbilt (3-0) had not trailed all season until the game's second half. The Commodores face Utah State at 9 p.m. in South Padre Island, Texas on Friday.