Riley LaChance had 27 points and five rebounds and the Vanderbilt Commodores avoided a scare from Radford on Tuesday night, 74-62. Although the Commodores struggled mightily for long stretches, especially on the offensive side of the ball, they were able to do just enough down the strecth to stave off the Highlanders.
LaChance’s best game of the season for the Commodores started inauspiciously, but he spurred a late-first half comeback with eleven quick points before adding fourteen more in the second half in what always seemed to be the most crucial moments.
Vanderbilt Coach Bryce Drew had nothing but praise for his guard after the game: “Riley was sensational…he was the smallest guy out there but his desire was the biggest. He made play after play after play to win us this game.”
Forward Jeff Roberson added 14 points and 9 rebounds for Vanderbilt and Ed Polite Jr. lead Radford with 16 points and 12 boards in a game that was much closer than the final score suggests, as Commodore stars such as Matthew Fisher-Davis struggled throughout.
Vandy started the first half extremely slow, missing its first eight shots from the field as Radford jumped out to a quick 7-2 lead. A Joe Toye three-pointer with 4:54 into the game gave Vandy its first field goal and cut that lead to 7-5.
From there, the Dores continued to struggle to make shots while Radford began to assert themselves in the paint offensively. At the under 12 media timeout, the Highlanders held a 17-14 lead after forward Devonnte Holland scored easy layups on three straight trips. Holland was dominant inside against Vanderbilt forward Djery Baptiste in the first half.
The lone bright spot for the Commodores in the early part of the first half was forward Jeff Roberson. At the under 12, Roberson had nine points on three-of-four shooting while his teammates had combined for five points on just two-of-twelve shooting. He would finish the first half with 12 points to go along with 8 rebounds.
Radford was able to stretch its lead to 29-19 after a three-pointer from guard Donald Hicks. From there, Vanderbilt finally began to assert themselves on the offensive end of the floor.
LaChance followed a Roberson three with back-to-back and-ones in the span of 53 to put the Dores up 32-31 with just over a minute to go in the first half. LaChance hit another big three with under a minute to go to put Vanderbilt up 36-33 at the break, a score that probably flattered their offensive efforts in the first half.
“We needed a confidence boost, and I thought Peyton Willis did a great job during that stretch getting the ball to people and Riley did a great job scoring” Drew said of his team’s late rally.
LaChance continued his hot end to the first half by pacing the Dores out of the gate in the second half, tacking on 4 free throws before making a corner three to put Vanderbilt up 43-36. Matthew Fisher-Davis followed a Roberson layup with his first points of the game with 16 minutes remaining to put the Commodores up 45-36 at the under-16 timeout.
Vanderbilt guard Peyton Willis touched on the importance of getting Commodore scorers such as LaChance the ball when they get hot: “Guys like Riley and Matthew Fisher-Davis, when they get it going, we try to get the ball to them every time down the court because they can fill it up with the best of them.”
Radford quickly countered with a 7-0 run in just over two minutes that saw the Vanderbilt lead cut to 49-45. After a one-for-two trip to the line from Djery Baptiste, the Commodores led 50-45 with just under 12 minutes remaining.
The Vandy lead was cut to three immediately after the time-out, but LaChance again took it upon himself to rescue the Commodores. A fast-break layup followed by a deep pull-up three fueled a quick 7-0 run that put Vanderbilt back up by 10 with just over 8 minutes to go in the game.
Radford was still not finished. After Jeff Roberson fouled out, the Highlanders capitalized with another quick run to cut the Commodore lead to two with just over three minutes remaining. Fisher Davis was then able to finally break out of his three-point slump, making a huge three to put Vanderbilt back up five. Fisher Davis finished the game shooting just 3-11 and 1-9 from three for seven points.
From there, the Commodores were able to clamp down on defense and get a couple more key buckets to salt away the victory as Radford began to get hasty with their shot selection.
Vanderbilt (3-4) will look to build on this victory on Sunday as it hosts Big 12 opponent Kansas State in Memorial Gymnasium.