Vanderbilt blows by Tennessee State


Jordan Grapentine

At 6-0, the Tennessee State University Tigers came into Memorial Gym with the notion that they, not the Commodores, were the best basketball team in Nashville.

They were mistaken.

Instead, the Commodores asserted their dominance in an 83-59 beatdown.

Vanderbilt started the game slow, making Tennessee State look its equal. Over the course of the first half, though, Vandy methodically earned a commanding lead through deliberate offensive possessions, quality shooting and a 20-10 rebounding advantage.

“We’ve really been talking about rebounding,” head coach Bryce Drew said. “We only had two second chance points against Santa Clara…we knew if we didn’t rebound well, we wouldn’t win tonight, so that was a big emphasis coming into the game.”

Helping both build and maintain Vanderbilt’s lead was a field goal percentage of 54 percent (compared to TSU’s 41 percent) and a respectable record of 10 for 23 from behind the arc. It wasn’t prolific, but it got the job done.

Throughout the first half, Tennessee State struggled to establish an offensive rhythm, relying on guard Darreon Reddick to create shots off the bounce and forward Ken’Darrius Hamilton to work the post off quick passes, as well as pick-and-pop looks at the top of the key.

Vanderbilt took a 22-point lead into the locker room at half and would never relinquish it.

Helping build the lead was Matthew Fisher-Davis, who was nearly unguardable, scoring 16 in the first half alone. Not only did he get open off screens, but he created mid-range looks with the ball in his hands, utilizing his quickness to create separation and knock down jumpers with his oh so smooth shooting stroke.

When Matt’s got it going, it definitely helps out me and other guys a lot,” Vanderbilt guard Riley LaChance said. “When he’s making shots like that, he gets a lot of other guys open shots.”

Jeff Roberson played well too, scoring 13 points in the first half, including two three-pointers and a couple of pretty post moves. In a gym echoing from open seats, Roberson’s usual intensity was vital for the ‘Dores — the points were an added bonus.

Djery Baptiste made his presence known early in the second half. Grabbing an offensive board from a sea of blue jerseys and fighting through arms for the put-back bucket, Baptiste brought the Vanderbilt bench to its feet in a whoop of excitement, offering a needed boost to kick off the half.

There were definite flaws in Vandy’s performance, though. Discipline was an issue throughout the game. TSU found itself in the bonus only six minutes into the second half, as Vanderbilt committed some lazy fouls coming out of the break while TSU ramped up the intensity by driving hard to the hoop.

Even more symbolic of the sloppiness were Vanderbilt’s 19 turnovers. Yes, Tennessee State played active, high pressure defense throughout the game. But too many errors were unforced, including a pedestrian pass slipping through the hands of LaChance and out of bounds, a Payton Willis drop-step crossing midcourt for an over-and-back and several travel calls as Commodores broke with the ball.

“The new rules really emphasize traveling, as you can see out there, so we need to do a better job keeping our feet down,” Drew said. “We’ve actually incorporated drills in practice to not travel and keep our feet down, so we’ll continue to do that. Our big guys handle the ball a lot too, so as the season goes on they’ll hopefully be able to cut their turnovers down.”

The TSU press implemented in the second half was decidedly ineffective and lost its aggressive edge for good after LaChance found Nolan Cressler deep after the inbound, sending a pass over the heads of all five Tigers for an easy layup.

Vanderbilt, now 4-3 on the year, will hope to build on this performance as it travels to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to play Minnesota on December 3 at 7 p.m. CT.