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Vanderbilt responds to adversity in win over Ole Miss

Vanderbilt snapped its three-game losing streak on Saturday afternoon in its refreshing 74-71 win over Ole Miss at Memorial Gymnasium.

The win moved Vanderbilt to 4-6 in league play and 7-5 at home.

Ezra Manjon and Tyrin Lawrence combined for 10 assists in Vanderbilt's win over Ole Miss (George Walker IV, The Tennessean, USA Today Network)
Ezra Manjon and Tyrin Lawrence combined for 10 assists in Vanderbilt's win over Ole Miss (George Walker IV, The Tennessean, USA Today Network) (George Walker IV, The Tennessean, USA Today Network)

“Proud of our guys, ready to continue to get back at it and continue to work and try to build from where we are,” Vanderbilt coach Jerry Stackhouse said.

After it’s 57-point loss in Tuscaloosa, Vanderbilt responded with a first half in which it closed the half with a 3-point lead and led for over 13 minutes.

The Commodores were led by 11 first-half points from Liam Robbins, eight from Tyrin Lawrence, and seven from Colin Smith.

For Vanderbilt the key to first-half success was controlling its turnovers.

The Commodores shot just 36.4% from the field along with 23.1% from 3-point range, but committed just three turnovers in the half and allowed just two points as a result of them.

Vanderbilt led for nearly the entirety of the second half but didn’t pull away until a 10-0 run in the final minutes that cemented the Commodores three-point win.

Vanderbilt was led by 19 points from Robbins, 18 from Lawrence, and a season-high 10 from Quentin Millora-Brown.

The win moves Vanderbilt to 11-12 on the season and gives it something to hang its hat on as it enters another challenging stretch.

Vanderbilt pulls away behind late 10-0 run

It felt like Vanderbilt was in control for much of Saturday’s outing, but it couldn’t quite throw the knockout punch. Until it did…

With about four minutes to play, Trey Thomas knocked down a shot from the top of the key that sparked Vanderbilt’s 10-0 scoring run.

“I think Trey’s three was as big of a three as we had all night, his only three, it hit the backboard a bit and rattled but we got a bit of Memorial Magic to help tonight,” Stackhouse said.

The run extended the ‘Dores lead to 11 which ultimately proved to be too much for Ole Miss to overcome.

“I think we just were tougher, we secured the rebounds we needed to secure, we finished the plays we needed to finish around the rim,” Robbins said of the run, “It was just a collective effort and gritty.”

Three quick takes:

The most important thing from Saturday is the disaster that Vanderbilt avoided

Saturday’s contest certainly had an argument to be the most important game of the season fo Stackhouse.

Tuesday night’s blowout loss, which marked the biggest margin of defeat in Stackhouse’s tenure, brought up plenty of questions about the Commodores’ future. Those questions weren’t limited to on-court ones, either.

When a team loses by a margin of that magnitude, there are likely issues beyond what happened on the floor. Questions regarding Stackhouse’s control over the locker room arose, as well as questions about how secure the fourth-year coach’s job is.

Vanderbilt had to provide evidence that there was legitimate reason to believe in anything but a disastrous last month, it also had to prove that its players still believe in each other and that they are bought in to the “benevolent dictatorship” that Stackhouse wants to run.

“Guys really responded after having a few days to stew over a tough loss, we were all a little bit embarrassed but I thought we had a couple good days of preparation and the guys came out and responded,” Stackhouse said.

Saturday’s contest provided hope that the Commodores are still on board with the message they’re receiving and haven’t rolled over yet.

That hope is much needed as Vanderbilt faces off against 2nd ranked Tennessee on Wednesday night and travels to Gainesville to face off against a red-hot Florida team in a week. With a loss on Saturday, that three-game losing streak could’ve turned into a six-game stretch in the blink of an eye.

Saturday should be put in perspective

The result of Saturday’s game was positive but the contest was a testament to where the program currently is.

Until late in the game, Memorial Gymnasium was as quiet as it’s been throughout Southeastern Conference play, for much of the afternoon the quality of basketball was comparable to the first night of the SEC tournament, and Vanderbilt couldn’t pull away from a team tied for last place in the league.

The Commodores ultimately got a much-needed win, but Saturday’s contest shouldn’t be thought of in the same way that their bout with Arkansas was or that their win over Georgia was.

Vanderbilt’s season and future will be determined by how it builds on days like Saturday.

Vanderbilt’s go-to guys showed up

In the absence of Jordan Wright, Vanderbilt needed something from its two leading scorers on Saturday. It certainly got that.

Lawrence responded to his benching in Tuscaloosa by “coaches’ decision” with a 18-point outing on Saturday. The junior guard did it on 7-for-10 shooting, a mark of efficiency that hadn’t been present much in the 6-foot-4 guard’s game this season.

“We had a conversation and it was just about saying I demand more from you, your talent and you ability, not to take anything away from the guys on our roster, is different, I think he has the potential to play at the next level.” Stackhouse said of Lawrence.

Robbins also provided much of what Vanderbilt missed in his two-week absence in Saturday’s 19-point performance.

Where the big man may have made the biggest difference was the way he protected the rim, the 7-footer charted seven blocks and altered plenty of other shots around the rim. Robbins made the Rebels one dimensional down the stretch with the way he slowed down drivers around the rim.

That aspect of Robbins’ game was sorely missed. In the four games without Robbins, the Commodores charted just eight blocks as a team, on Saturday Robbins got seven of his own along with a team-high 12 rebounds.

The recipe to success for Vanderbilt has always lied on the back of its veterans, that recipe was certainly successful on Saturday afternoon.


Tyrin Lawrence, Ezra Manjon, and Liam Robbins returned to the starting lineup for Vanderbilt.

Jordan Wright missed Saturday’s game due to concussion protocols. Lee Dort remains out with a foot injury.

Malik Dia and Noah Shelby didn't see the floor on Saturday.