Vanderbilt struggles early in the second half, falls to Seton Hall in Brooklyn

Despite a strong first-half performance, the Vanderbilt Commodores hit a brick wall in the second half, falling to the Seton Hall Pirates 72-59 on Friday night at Barclays Center.

After shooting 48.1% from the field in the first half, Vanderbilt finished the game shooting 20% and went 0 for 12 from beyond the three-point arc in the second half. Jeff Roberson picked up yet another double-double with 20 points and 13 rebounds.

“Our margin of error is really small,” Vanderbilt head coach Bryce Drew said of his team.  We have to shoot well.  We have to be able to play much better defense.  I think we’re there but a lot of chips have to fall our way for that to happen.”

The Commodores went with an interesting starting lineup in this one, choosing to put none of their sharpshooters on the floor. Larry Austin Jr., Maxwell Evans, Joe Toye, Clevon Brown and Ejike Obinna all got the start. All of them but Austin Jr. were swapped for the usual starters just over two minutes into the game.

“We didn’t start very well obviously last night,” said Drew of his teams effort against Virginia.  “We just wanted to change things up, see if we could add a little more energy to start the game.  I don’t have doghouses.  I want all our guys to be successful and we just thought we needed a change.

After a sloppy, lifeless start against Virginia on Thursday, Vanderbilt looked a bit better out of the gate, attacking the rim with more success and hitting their jump shots. They kept the deficit to just five at the under-12 TV timeout.

Vanderbilt found their groove as the half went on. They contained Seton Hall on defense and outrebounded them. In addition, Roberson, Riley LaChance and Saben Lee hit from long-range to give Vanderbilt the lead late in the half. The half wasn’t without mistakes, however. The Commodores were whistled for one shot clock violation and committed nine turnovers in the half, including two each on Toye and Austin Jr.

They finished the first half with a 32-31 lead over the Pirates. Roberson led the way with 10 points, while the team shot just over 48% from the field. They also contained one of the nation’s best big men, Angel Delgado, to eight points and three rebounds.

Vanderbilt started the second half flat, going scoreless in the opening minutes of the half. They remained solid on defense though, holding the Pirates to just five points before the first TV timeout of the half.

That defensive prowess wouldn’t last very long, as Vanderbilt continued to struggle offensively. Three-pointers from Sandro Mamukelashvili and Myles Powell put Seton Hall up 42-34 with around 13 minutes remaining in regulation.

The Commodores finally got their first field goal of the half around the 12-minute mark on an Obinna put-back slam to cut the Pirate lead to 10. Their struggles continued deep into the half, as Seton Hall found more space in the paint and started gashing the Commodore defense.

Despite the poor offensive performance, Lee and Evans found a way to electrify the Barclays center with an alley-oop dunk.

A couple of sets of free throws got Vanderbilt back to within 10, but Vanderbilt continued to struggle from the field, going 0 for 9 from beyond the arc with just under five minutes to play. Even layups weren’t falling for the Commodores.  Drew didn’t seem bothered by the shot selection, however.

“I think the biggest thing is that we didn’t make shots,” said Drew.  “If I could go back and write that over, I would take those shots all day.”

Djery Baptiste fouled out with over five minutes remaining in regulation.

Payton Willis didn’t see the floor in this one, and Drew cited a hand injury in the offseason that has impeded his progress in practice.

“He hasn’t really practiced three to four weeks before he played,” said Drew.  “It would be nice to get him back in and get him playing but we feel like we need to give him some practice time to catch a rhythm with the guys.”

The Commodores return to Nashville to face Redford on Tuesday night.

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