In a back and forth game with nine lead changes, Vanderbilt failed to pull away down the stretch, something that is becoming a common theme for the Commodores, and fell 66-63 to Middle Tennessee State.
Shooting struggles for much of the game plagued Vanderbilt, especially down the stretch, as this loss brings the Commodores to 3-6 on the season with just one win in their last six games. Commenting on the collective shooting woes, Matthew Fisher-Davis said that as a team “they missed a lot of shots they normally hit”. One of those players that couldn’t hit shots that he normally makes was one of their best shooters in Riley LaChance. Among five other missed three-pointers from LaChance, at the very end he had a wide open look that just didn’t fall.
To start the game, Vanderbilt’s offense ran through Saben Lee who took the Commodores first 3 shots and contributed to their first 6 points. Yet, the Commodores struggled to rebound the ball early on and the Blue Raiders capitalized, taking the early 15-8 lead 13:43 into the game.
Rebounding became a further problem for the Commodores when starting Center Djery Baptiste and their other Center, Ejike Obinna, both had 2 fouls each just 10 minutes into the game leaving them exposed on the inside, especially against a bigger Middle Tennessee State team. Enter Matthew Fisher-Davis. Fisher-Davis was tremendous on the glass, grabbing 7 rebounds in the first half.
Adding to his work on the glass, Fisher-Davis led the Commodores in scoring through the first half with 11 on just three attempts from the field, including two three-pointers during the Commodores 15-4 run that gave them a 23-19 lead with 6:38 left in the half.
With Baptiste in early foul trouble, Vanderbilt was dominated on the offensive glass 10-2. Despite this lopsided result, their defense remained poised and they were only outscored 8-5 on second chance points. Losing Baptiste proved not just to be detrimental for rebounding, as Vanderbilt also missed their inside presence defensively as they allowed 20 points in the paint in the first half.
As they came down the stretch of that first half, Vanderbilt had some momentum boosters. Clevon Brown had a massive dunk and Joe Toye came up with a huge block on Middle Tennessee as the shot clock ran down at the very end of the half, with the Commodores up 32-28.
Despite the momentum heading into the locker room, the Commodores’ energy was matched by that of Middle Tennessee at the start of the half, seemingly trading buckets through the first 3 minutes of the half to take it to 38-32 Commodores.
Then Middle Tennessee State began to take over quickly, going on an 8-0 run. Enter Matthew Fisher-Davis (again). Fisher-Davis had decided that he and the Commodores were hungry for the lead as he hit two three-pointers quickly, bringing his total to 17 on 5-5 three-point shooting.
Unlike the first half, Vanderbilt attacked the offensive glass and had 9 offensive rebounds of their own, amounting to 9 second half second chance points total in the second half, mostly due to Baptiste staying out of foul trouble throughout the second half.
Even with the now better rebounding, Vanderbilt just still couldn’t pull away. Despite not hitting a field goal for 4 straight minutes, Middle Tennessee began to creep back into Vanderbilt’s lead at the free throw line and eventually hit a big three-pointer to tie it up at 53 with 5:11 left in the game.
Leaving shooters open, fouls and sloppy turnovers were abundant for the Commodores for the next few minutes as Middle Tennessee hit two big three pointers including the aforementioned one to take the lead 62-56 with just 2:30 left in the game.
Coach Drew after the game acknowledged that those “little things [rebounding and turnovers] throughout the game that you have to take care of… add up and really hurt [Vanderbilt] at the end.”
After a quick three-pointer and from Payton Willis, the Commodores cut the lead to just 2 points with 1:45 left. This deficit only grew larger however, even with strong defense, as Giddy Potts made a huge three-pointer while falling back. Then after a failed three-point attempt by Joe Toye, Potts had another free throw as the Blue Raiders’ lead went to 6.
On the next Commodore possession, Riley LaChance was fouled on a three pointer and made all three of his free throws to cut the deficit to 3. After a miss from Potts on the other end, the Commodores had 9 seconds to hit a three and send the game into overtime. With 2 seconds left, LaChance had a wide-open look that just didn’t fall, as the Commodores fell to Middle Tennessee State 66-63.