The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

Commodores advance in SEC tournament with crucial win over Texas A&M


After only going 3-of-15 from beyond the arc in the first half, Vanderbilt exploded for eight three-pointers in the second period, led by five threes by Joe Toye, to beat Texas A&M 66-41 for their first win in the SEC tournament since 2013.

The Commodores opened their account with a three-pointer by Riley LaChance from the top of the key. This was, however, followed by five misses from beyond the arc, with six of the team’s first seven attempts from downtown.

The Aggies, though, opted to go inside early with their superior size in the front court. An Admon Gilder layup was followed by a Tyler Davis dunk after a nice find by Tonny Trocha-Morelos.

Vanderbilt came out of the media timeout with defensive intensity, and coupled with some sloppy play by the Aggies, led to five turnovers early in the game.

Both teams continued to miss shots, making for a very low-scoring start to the game — the score was only 6-4 eight minutes in after another LaChance three, this time late into the shot clock. The Commodores continued to struggle to find good shots, passing the ball around only to hoist ill-advised shots late into the shot-clock.

Payton Willis made one of his two free throws for a foul inside and followed it up with a steal on the other side to make it eight A&M turnovers with 10 minutes still to play in the half. Davis, who had been relatively quite to this point, was forced into a walk by Luke Kornet’s defense inside.

Kornet made the first Vanderbilt field goal inside the three-point line with a hook shot following another Aggies turnover, this time confusion between Eric Vila and Trocha-Morelos, who went for the same ball.

JC Hampton made the first three-pointer for Texas A&M, which went into the media timeout following a slam by athletic big, Robert Williams, off an alley-oop. Coming out of the timeout, Williams made a rare corner three after a Nolan Cressler runner at the other end.

Vanderbilt continued to double-team Aggies bigs in the post throughout the half, forcing turnovers on a couple of occasions. LaChance found Djery Baptiste inside for an easy layup at the other end to make it 15-12 for Vanderbilt.

“Vanderbilt’s aggressiveness in trapping in the post gave us problems offensively,” Texas A&M head coach Billy Kennedy said.

The Aggies continued to go for the spectacular, throwing an attempted alley-oop pass for Williams off the corner of the backboard.

Davis continued to make baskets inside for the Aggies and led his team with eight points going into the locker room. LaChance led the Commodores with 11 points, including a three-pointer on the final possession of the half to maintain a slender three-point lead, 23-20.  

“Riley, I thought, really kept us in with some big threes in the first half,” said Vanderbilt head coach Bryce Drew.

Neither team shot the ball very well, especially from the three-point line, where both teams were under 30 percent. Vanderbilt clearly held the turnover advantage, forcing 10 Aggies turnovers for six points while only turning it over once itself.

Cressler opened the second period with a three-point play, an aggressive drive for the hoop and the harm. A Davis shot with his back to the basket was followed by a Toye three. Williams and Davis both made jumpers from the mid-range, with Cressler adding to his total at the other end to make it a five point Vanderbilt lead.

Cressler continued to drive the basket, this time going coast-to-coast for a layup after collecting the rebound at the other end.

“Nolan did a good job for us,” said LaChance. “Really getting out in transition, that helped us a lot and helped us to flow into our offense a little bit better.”

Toye heated up from outside, making two more shots from beyond the arc on the left wing to give the Commodores their first double digit lead of the game.

Davis, who tied a game-high 18 points, collected the rebound from his own shot for an easy lay-in. LaCahance then stared down the defense and made another three-pointer from the top of the arc to make it 44-30 with 12:38 left.

Baptiste turned it over and fouled a blazing Gilder on his layup attempt for a three-point play. At the other end, Williams came out of nowhere and blocked Jeff Roberson’s dunk attempt. Toye continued where he left off, making two more shots from downtown to help extend the lead to 20 points following a three from Fisher-Davis and a Willis jumper.

Although a block by Tavario Miller sent his shot attempt into the stands, Fisher-Davis was unfazed, making another three-pointer the next time down. Toye continued his second-half explosion, this time with a break-away layup following another A&M turnover, their 13th, faking right and going left instead for a career-high 18 points.

“My teammates kept passing to it me, so I’m just happy my shots were going in today,” Toye said.

A basket inside by Cressler made him the second Commodore in double-digit scoring with 11 points. He followed up with a nice pass inside for Willis for an easy layup the next possession. Vanderbilt earned a big blowout win, a 25-point margin, to go through to the next round.  

Vanderbilt plays the second-seeded Florida Gators, who they have swept in the regular season, tomorrow at 6 p.m. CT.

“Hopefully, the guys can stay in this groove and keep it going,” Drew said.

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Elias Ukule, Former Author

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