Vanderbilt's veterans lead the way in road victory over Georgia
Georgia made run after run, but Vanderbilt was able to weather the storm and come out with an 85-82 victory in front of a sold-out crowd at Stegeman Coliseum.
Trey Thomas sealed the deal with four late free throws and pushed the Commodores back above .500.
“Trey was huge making those free throws down the stretch." Stackhouse said.
Thomas was one of five Vanderbilt players that scored in double figures. Tyrin Lawrence, Myles Stute, Jordan Wright, and Ezra Manjon also joined the club.
Coach Jerry Stackhouse couldn’t have asked for a much better half on the offensive end than he got in the first half and those five were at the center of it.
The Commodores’ 44-point first half was led by eight made 3-pointers on 12 attempts along with 10 second-chance points.
After struggling to gain breathing room, Vanderbilt closed the half with an 8-0 run to extend its lead to eight as it ran into the tunnel.
The ‘Dores were led by eight first-half points from Myles Stute, seven from Lawrence, along with six from Trey Thomas and Paul Lewis.
Georgia pushed Vanderbilt in the early-second half, but two steals and eight quick points from Ezra Manjon extended the Commodores’ lead to nine at the second media timeout.
Georgia stormed back on an 11-0 run to cut Vanderbilt’s lead to just one with a few minutes to go, but Vanderbilt never allowed Georgia to get over the hump as it grinded out a three-point victory.
Despite only shooting 22.2% from 3-point range in the second half and not knocking down a field goal for the final 4:51 of the game, Vanderbilt was able to hold off the Bulldogs behind a few timely plays from its veterans.
Vanderbilt comes together to pull out road victory
For every run that Mike White’s team put together, it felt like Vanderbilt had an answer at the perfect time.
It took plenty of firepower and creativity but Vanderbilt found a way to close things out in front of a sold-out opposing crowd. Something the Commodores hadn’t done yet this season.
Stackhouse credited that to a complete group effort.
"I thought Quentin was unbelievable, he had 11 rebounds, he went up to the line and made all three of his free throws, Tyrin was good getting downhill, and Jordan was leading tonight,” Vanderbilt’s head coach said.
The fourth-year coach was especially complementary of his point guard, though.
“Ezra ran the show, all the minutes that he played, all the decisions that he made to do all of that without a turnover was a pretty big feat, I thought his pace and his control and how he defended was a key to the victory tonight,” Stackhouse said.
“He controlled the game, he really got into the ball and made it tough on their guards," Stackhouse added.
Saturday afternoon’s win meant a lot to Lawrence in particular.
"There was definitely a lot of motivation there, coming out of high school I felt like I was good enough to come here and play but unfortunately they never gave me a chance so anytime I step on the court against them I'm looking to get the win," the junior guard said. “It means a lot being able to play in front of my family and friends, trying to give them a show.”
Vanderbilt’s win counts as a quad two victory and moves it to 3-3 in Southeastern Conference play.
Three quick takes:
Lee Dort’s injury caused Stackhouse to get creative
Vanderbilt’s frontcourt has certainly fallen on some hard times over the last five days.
A week ago against Arkansas, Stackhouse had three centers that he felt comfortable with. After injuries to Dort and Liam Robbins, the fourth-year coach has just one of those three.
The injuries will surely throw Quentin Millora-Brown into a bigger role and will force Malik Dia to “grow up quickly” as Stackhouse said after Vanderbilt’s loss to Alabama.
Dia picked up two early fouls that forced the fourth-year coach to get creative.
Stute, who stands at just 6-foot-7, was forced into minutes at the three, four, and the five. Paul Lewis, who had played sparingly, was thrust into action. Dia, who had primarily played the four, was forced to shift down to the five.
Vanderbilt’s lineups ranged from one with three players on the floor that stand 6-foot-7 or over to one where its center faced a four-inch height disadvantage.
Stackhouse generally likes to experiment during non-conference play, but the fourth-year coach likely wasn’t expecting to have to do so in mid January. In all likelihood, we aren’t done seeing new-look lineups from Vanderbilt due to its depleted frontcourt.
Vanderbilt’s new offensive blueprint was shown on Saturday
Without its leading scorer and best player, Vanderbilt will certainly be challenged over the last two months of the season, but their path to wins is clearer after the ‘Dores win over Georgia.
The Commodores have to knock down the 3-ball at a high volume as well as a high efficiency.
If that can be done then it will open up the floor for guards like Manjon and Lawrence to get downhill, that threat from beyond the arc can also allow Millora-Brown to get cleaner looks around the rim. Knocking down the 3-ball can add another dimension to a Vanderbilt offense that could otherwise be one dimensional.
Vanderbilt opened up both dimensions by shooting 10-for-21 from 3-point range and scoring 34 of its 85 points from the paint.
Saturday afternoon’s road win proved that the strategy can translate to wins, but it lends a much smaller margin for error than a gameplan that involves Robbins as a focal point.
It felt like Vanderbilt did everything right offensively on Saturday, but still. Stackhouse’s team shot nearly 50% from 3-point range, opened up the floor, controlled the pace, and were led by terrific performances by its veterans.
The Commodores were still pushed to the wire, though.
The ‘Dores win over Georgia proves that there is a path to success throughout the rest of conference play, but it may require them to play their “A game” each night, it will require them to defend at a higher level, as well.
Myles Stute’s improved performance feels especially significant
Throughout non-conference play, Stute was Vanderbilt’s most consistent player and its go to guy during a scoring drought. But as Vanderbilt entered Southeastern Conference play, teams made it a point of emphasis to run the prolific shooter off of the 3-point line.
Through five games, Stute averaged six points per game throughout the early portion of Southeastern Conference play while shooting just 20.5% from the field and along with an uncharacteristic 19% from 3-point range.
With the injuries in Vanderbilt’s frontcourt Stute’s role has become that much more important for Vanderbilt. Simply put, the Commodores can’t afford to have a quiet Stute throughout the late months of the season.
The junior forward certainly wasn’t that on Saturday afternoon in his 14-point performance in which he shot 83.3% from the field and was perfect from beyond the arc.
“It was good to see him make a few today…we needed everything that he gave us tonight,” Stackhouse said of Stute.
Paul Lewis started both halves after playing just three minutes against Southeastern Conference opponents through five games.
Noah Shelby didn't chart a minute in Saturday's contest
Tyrin Lawrence is from Monticello, Georgia, which is about an hour from Athens.
Jordan Wright scored his 1,000th career point on Saturday.