NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Exhibition games against Division II teams are supposed to be nothing more than tune-ups for Southeastern Conference teams like Vanderbilt. But the Commodores nearly got quite a shock in Monday night's contest against Greeneville, Tennessee's Tusculum College.
VU's Alex Gordon drew a blocking foul on a drive to the hoop with 2.2 seconds left and hit the first of two free throws, helping the Commodores escape with a 80-79 win. The Pioneers had erased a 19-point second-half lead on a 3-pointer by Jordan Lear with 32 seconds left on the previous possession.
Gordon then drove the lane and drew contact, sinking the first of two foul shots. A desperation heave by a Tusculum player off the in-bounds pass hit the scoreboard over center court as time expired.
The Commodores led 35-25 at half, and gave up 54 second-half points. Tusculum hit seven-of-17 3-pointers in the second period.
"Right now, we're not ready, obviously, to defend for 40 minutes in that way," Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings said.
Gordon scored 17 points for the Commodores, tying Andrew Ogilvy for the team's high. Ross Neltner and Alan Metcalfe added 10 each for VU. Tusculum's Kyle Moore had a game-high 30.
The Commodores were also beaten 44-35 in rebounding, as Tusculum gathered 12 second-half offensive rebounds.
"That's a bother… we're going to have to do something to address this, but we've got a couple of guys who don't think they've got any responsibility to rebound," Stallings said.
"I even said it before the game… certain guys have got to do a great job on the boards, because we've got a couple who don't think they have any responsibility to help with defensive rebounding."
Gordon and Ogilvy led VU with seven rebounds apiece.
VU's Shan Foster, an All-American candidate, scored just six points and missed all six of his field goal attempts. Gordon hit his first three shots, then missed nine of 10 the rest of the way.
Tusculum Coach Jim Boone was whistled for a pair of technical fouls by Southeastern Conference official Rick Crawford after Moore hit a 3 to cut the VU lead to 66-52 with 8:41 remaining. Foster hit three of the four ensuing free throws to extend the VU lead, just prior to a 27-10 Tusculum run that tied the game.
VU's Stallings was also given a technical later in the half.
The Commodores open the season against Austin Peay, the preseason pick to win the Ohio Valley Conference, on Saturday night. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. Central at Memorial Gymnasium.