basketball Edit

Vanderbilt holds off late run from UNC Greensboro

A 17-for-18 performance from the free throw line and rejuvenated Vanderbilt team held off a late run from Keyshaun Langley and UNC Greensboro in its 74-70 win.

Ezra Manjon finished with 24 points on Tuesday night.
Ezra Manjon finished with 24 points on Tuesday night. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

Vanderbilt gained some separation early in the first half behind a 13-0 run that included a UNC Greensboro scoring drought that lasted over five minutes.

The Commodores went into the break with a 41-29 lead behind their best half of basketball of the season, one where it looked rejuvenated and confident.

UNC Greensboro cut the Commodores' lead to two at one point in an entertaining second half, but Ezra Manjon and Evan Taylor iced the game with some late free throws as the Commodores held off one of the SoCon's top teams.

Manjon led the Commodores with 24 points and Colin Smith added 13 along with 11 rebounds.

Three quick takes:

Ezra Manjon looks to be an improved shooter. That wasn't the only thing he did well, either.

A 25% 3-point shooter in 2022-23 certainly hasn't looked like that through the first three games of 2023-24.

Manjon showed some signs of an improved shot through Vanderbilt's first two games with an 8-for-8 performance from the free-throw line on Friday night and two made threes in the opener.

That evidence continued on Tuesday night as Manjon knocked down his first two 3's of the evening and followed that up with a 12-for-12 performance from the free-throw line.

It's not just the performance, either. It's also the confidence that stands out for Manjon, the fifth-year senior is taking shots over closeouts and is speeding up his release.

If Manjon is closer to a 40% shooter than a 25% shooter from beyond the arc, Vanderbilt's offense could have a completely different dynamic.

The fifth-year senior wasn't only making 3's and free throws, either. The veteran guard did a tremendous job getting to his spots and rising up for tough makes in the mid range.

Manjon finished with 24 points and found his teammates for four assists, as well.

When Vanderbilt's lead guard plays with this level of freedom and confidence, there aren't many guys more fun to watch in the SEC.

Vanderbilt was tremendous in the first half but had a concerning second half stretch

A team that looked tense and afraid to make a mistake through its first two games sported one of confidence throughout a first half in which it scored 41 points and knocked down eight 3's.

There looked to be a completely different team on the floor in that half than there was in the Commodores' first two games.

A team that showed what it can be come January and February.

The team that Vanderbilt has largely been through three games showed up again in the second half of Tuesday's game, though. That looked more like a team walking on eggshells lacking flair or confidence in itself.

Those descriptions were evidenced by a Vanderbilt scoring drought of 4:06, 2:06 and the Commodores letting UNC Greensboro back in the game after possessing an 18-point lead.

That stretch showed Vanderbilt's offensive deficiencies outside of Manjon and its lack of put-away ability without Lawrence, Lubin and Dort on the floor.

The Commodores ultimately found a way because of their first-half success, but ultimately ended Tuesday's game as a tale of two halves.

Jason Rivera-Torres did some nice things, so did Carter Lang

Vanderbilt's freshmen have had plenty of opportunity through its first three games, it feels like all five of them have room to grow before becoming bellcow guys, but all have flashed at times.

Rivera-Torres and Lang feel like real examples.

Lang has shown flashes of tremendous rebounding, passing and some flashes of being in the right spot defensively. Rivera-Torres was perhaps the most exciting one of the bunch, though.

Rivera-Torres had eight points that mostly came from what he was able to do off the bounce. The freshman wing also had sets ran for him at times against Presbyterian. The 6-foot-7 wing looks to have a chance to be a special player.

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