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Vanderbilt dominates Savannah State 120-85 in first full game without Garland

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Vanderbilt dominates Savannah State 120-85 in first full game without Garland

Vanderbilt defeated Savannah State on Tuesday night 120-85 to move to 5-1 on the season (Photo by Shun Ahmed.)

Vanderbilt defeated Savannah State on Tuesday night 120-85 to move to 5-1 on the season (Photo by Shun Ahmed.)

Vanderbilt defeated Savannah State on Tuesday night 120-85 to move to 5-1 on the season (Photo by Shun Ahmed.)

Vanderbilt defeated Savannah State on Tuesday night 120-85 to move to 5-1 on the season (Photo by Shun Ahmed.)

Max Schneider, Associate Sports Editor

Vanderbilt may have lost one top recruit Tuesday, but its other two made sure they didn’t go unnoticed.

The Commodores dominated for all 40 minutes on Tuesday night, defeating the Savannah State Tigers by a score of 120-85.  It was the best scoring output of the season for Vanderbilt, and Bryce Drew’s team proved, at least for one night, that they are far from a one trick pony. They proved that even without Darius Garland, this team’s lifeblood, they could still compete at a high level.

“It’s definitely been an emotional roller coaster,” said Drew of having to play without Garland, who tore his meniscus last Friday against Kent State. “I’ve known him for such a long time. First, I’m just crushed for him that he doesn’t get the chance to play when he was playing so well. Next as a coach you’ve got to prepare your team. Our team is very close. You could tell our players were affected, but I was really proud that they came out there ready to focus on the game and the task at hand.”

That focus was clear from the opening tip, and what ensued was nothing short of an offensive clinic. The Commodores relied heavily on the team’s freshmen, Simisola Shittu and Aaron Nesmith, and the newcomers answered the bell.  Shittu scored 17, while Nesmith put up his first career double-double, notching 20 points and 13 rebounds to go with three blocks.

“Different guys played a lot of minutes out on the court,” said Drew. “It’s great to get Aaron in a rhythm.  His 13 rebounds were spectacular and he had some highlight blocks, which we’ve seen in practice but it’s the first time we’ve seen it in a game, so it’s nice that other people got to see that.”

Vanderbilt came out hot to start the game, making six of its first eight shots.  Saben Lee and Shittu looked comfortable early, helping to navigate Vanderbilt’s press break and creating transition opportunities, but Savannah State was able to stay in it by forcing turnovers and scoring inside.

The Commodores extended their lead in the first half with a 13-0 run.  Matthew Moyer’s hard work on the glass helped create second chance opportunities and Vanderbilt took advantage.  Maxwell Evans helped cap the run off with a steal and a dunk on the other end, showing why he has become such an asset on the defensive end.

Joe Toye found himself in foul trouble with three fouls with nine minutes to play in the first half after a questionable charge call, thinning the Vanderbilt bench just a little more.  That didn’t stop the Commodores from continuing their offensive onslaught.  Vanderbilt went on a 19-5 run to extend the lead to 54-29 with four minutes remaining, and Matt Ryan became the catalyst.  He threw a beautiful alley-oop pass to Shittu for the jam before nailing a couple threes of his own.

Just before halftime, Yanni Wetzell threw his hat in the ring, scoring a quick ten points and hitting all four of his shots, including a three from the top of the key.  He’d finish with 15 to go along with seven boards on the night.

“It took me about three or four months to adjust to the speed of the game,” said Wetzell.  “I was kind of limiting myself and hadn’t really found a rhythm so far so it was nice to get in there today and get the threes going.”

The Commodores led 65-37 at the conclusion of the first half, which put them halfway to tying their single-game scoring record of 130 points.

Of course, Vanderbilt didn’t reach that mark, but the second half proved to be more of the same.

The transition offense continued to flourish, especially with Lee and Shittu at the helm.  After quick threes from Evans and Toye, Lee dished to Shittu for the dunk.  After stealing the ball on the ensuing possession, the 6’10 freshman quickly returned the favor, finding Lee for a layup.

The second half was really all about Nesmith, though.  With 17 minutes to play in the half, Nesmith rebounded a block from Joe Toye and took the ball coast to coast for the slam.  He followed that up with two monster blocks off the glass and another jam.

“I hadn’t been as aggressive in the first few games attacking the rim,” said Nesmith. “I know I’m not shooting the ball as well as I want to, so I just tried to make up for it a little today and attack a little more.”

Collins Joseph cut into the lead a little bit with three second-half triples. The freshman from the Virgin Islands led the way for the Tigers with 21 points on 8-10 shooting. Joseph’s effort wasn’t nearly enough to keep this one close, though.  Vanderbilt continued to pour it on late in the second half thanks to Nesmith and Evans.

With just under three minutes left in the game, walk-ons Isaiah Rice and Mac Hunt checked into the game.  Hunt, still without a name on the back of his jersey, calmly drained a deep three, his first shot of his college career, causing an eruption from the bench.

It was just one of those games for the Commodores.

Vanderbilt has a few days off before the team travels to Miami to take on North Carolina State on Saturday in a tough non-conference test.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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