Vanderbilt prevails over Austin Peay in foul-filled showdown

Nesmith leads the way again as Commodores use second-half run to down the Governors 90-72


Brent Szklaruk

Aaron Nesmith converts a layup on a fastbreak to extend the Commodore lead in the second half.

Max Schneider, Sports Editor

In a stop-and-start game that saw nearly as many foul calls (49) as field goals (53), the Vanderbilt Commodores persevered and earned a hard-fought 90-72 victory over the Austin Peay Governors.

The win moved the Commodores to 3-1 on the season and extended Aaron Nesmith’s 20-point game streak to four in a row to open the season. The sophomore guard poured in 26 points on 10-17 shooting, including a three-point play on a fast break late in the second half before flexing his muscles and smiling at a Commodore student section that stood up and applauded its star.

It was the same formula as the first three games for Vanderbilt. Nesmith carried the bulk of the load offensively and Saben Lee supplemented the scoring output in a complementary role, providing 19 points and a career-high nine assists off the bench. Scotty Pippen Jr. chipped in with 21 points, his most in a Vanderbilt uniform.

“We just made basketball plays,” head coach Jerry Stackhouse said. “Guys continued to try to get their foot in the paint, and between the free-throw shooting contest, we were able to play a little basketball in the second half.”

The Commodores came into this matchup with the daunting task of stopping Terry Taylor, the junior forward who had been averaging 21.7 points and 8.0 rebounds over his first three games. It was freshman guard Jordyn Adams, though, that lit up the scoring column, pouring in 25 points on 8-10 shooting from the field. Ultimately, the Commodores did just enough to stop the Governors and come out on top.

The first half was a choppy one for both sides. The two teams combined for nine fouls in the first 3:09 and both teams were in the bonus just six and a half minutes into the game. Vanderbilt in particular was forced to go to the bench early in order to replace forwards Clevon Brown and Dylan Disu, who each picked up two fouls in the first five minutes of play.

In between the whistles, Nesmith got the Commodores in the scoring column early. A couple strong drives from the sophomore guard and an early Maxwell Evans three-ball put the Commodores up 9-6 at the first media timeout.

“There were a lot of foul calls,” Nesmith said when asked about how to stay in a rhythm with all the early whistles. “Just saying focused and locked in, don’t let your mind wander, and just keep playing the game.”

Austin Peay took the reins from there in the first, though. After converting on a few chances at the free throw line, the Governors took a six-point lead thanks to two consecutive threes from Taylor. Taylor then put his stamp on the first half on the defensive end, blocking a Nesmith jumper and feeding Adams for the triple. That sparked a mini-run for Adams, who scored 11 points in quick succession to push the Austin Peay lead as high as nine.

The Commodores started to chip away following Adams’s barrage. Pippen Jr. and Nesmith nailed consecutive threes and Evans threw down a dunk off a touch pass in the lane from Lee to cut into the deficit. Vanderbilt’s big run didn’t start until the final few minutes of the half, though. Matthew Moyer, who notched a few extra minutes because of the early foul trouble to Vanderbilt’s bigs, converted a three-point play and followed it up with a tip-in to get the lead down to just three. Moyer’s steal and dish to start the fast break led to a put-back for Lee to give Vanderbilt a 38-37 lead heading into the locker room.

The foul calls didn’t stop in the second half. After a first period that featured 11 fouls on each side, the Commodores picked up four more in the first four minutes of the second half, allowing Austin Peay to surge in front. Vanderbilt quickly answered, though, with a three from Pippen Jr. in the waning seconds of the shot clock and another three from Nesmith on the break to give them a 46-42 lead.

“As a point of emphasis, every time we get the rebound, we want to get out and get easy opportunities if we can,” Stackhouse said of his team’s effort in transition. “I don’t have a problem with threes in transition as long as it’s the right people shooting them.”

After a timeout, Vanderbilt continued to swing the ball on offense, this time creating opportunities inside. Ejike Obinna and Dylan Disu threw down dunks on consecutive straight possessions, finding their way behind the zone. A third straight jam off a no-look feed from Pippen Jr. extended the lead to seven. The three dunks in just over one minute got the Memorial Gym crowd up on its feet midway through the second half.

Vanderbilt started to pull away from there. An up-and-under layup on a fast break followed by a corner three-ball extended the lead, and his three-point-play gave the Commodores an 11-point lead, their largest to that point. Austin Peay entered the double bonus with five minutes remaining, and the Commodores found themselves at the line often late in the second half, nailing their free throws and clinging to a lead that hovered around 10 points for the final few minutes.

A steal from Pippen Jr. who found Nesmith on the fast break for a slam dunk closed the game and secured the win the Commodores. Austin Peay’s coaching staff appeared to take exception to the late dunk, leading to some words between Stackhouse and assistant coach Sergio Rouco during the post-game handshake.

“I’m always gonna stick up for my guys and that’s all I told him,” Stackhouse said. “I’ll coach my team and you coach yours.”

Stackhouse and his team will take the court again on Friday against South Carolina State at 8:00 p.m. CT looking to move to 4-1 on the season.