Vanderbilt downs Wofford 65-62 to improve to 4-4

Behind a very balanced performance, the Commodores defeated Wofford on Saturday.

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Josh Rehders

Ezra Manjon takes the ball down the court against Wofford, as captured on Dec. 3, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Josh Rehders)

Aiden Rutman, Sports Podcast Producer

After dropping their previous contest on the road against VCU, Vanderbilt returned to Memorial Gymnasium and captured a triumphant 65-62 victory over the Terriers, despite missing forward Jordan Wright. The senior leader was ruled out moments before the game due to a back injury. Several key contributors stepped up in Wright’s absence. Tyrin Lawrence (13 points), Liam Robbins (14 points and 9 rebounds) and Ezra Manjon (11 points) provided the Commodores with a lift. 

“Obviously we want Jordan out there, but we got a lot of guys in his absence. It’s an opportunity for guys like Colin Smith and Malik Dia to get some opportunities, and get some reps for us.” Head coach Jerry Stackhouse said in regard to Wright’s injury. “We used our big lineup a little bit tonight, thinking we can win in the paint using our big guys like that.” 

It was the Myles Stute show early on, as the junior started with 11 points on a perfect 4-for-4 shooting, including three knockdowns from beyond the arc. Wofford added a few threes of their own, and after the first six minutes of play, the Commodores were up just three points. 

Then, Manjon, as he so often does, got himself to the basket and converted an and-1 layup that sent the game into its first media timeout. After converting the free throw, Manjon had the Commodores up 16-10. From there, head coach Jerry Stackhouse opted to make some lineup changes, bringing in freshmen Colin Smith, Malik Dia and Lee Dort, as well as Trey Thomas. Lawrence remained in. An excellent sequence followed as Thomas nabbed a steal on the defensive end and found Lawrence for a thunderous alley-oop slam. Vanderbilt jumped up to a 26-15 lead halfway through the first half. 

Some effective ball movement from the Terriers led to a 6-0 run that got Wofford right back in the game. Soon after, Robbins subbed back in for Dia and ended the run where it stood, dominating the post and scoring the next six points for the Commodores. After an impressive put-back dunk from Wofford’s Corey Tripp, the Terriers trailed by just seven, 32-25. 

From there, both teams locked down defensively and refused to budge. Neither team recorded a basket during that span, as they went a combined 0-for-6 with 4 turnovers. 

The Commodores entered the locker room leading 35-24 after starting hot but cooling down as the game progressed. Vanderbilt started 4-for-5 from 3-point range, largely behind the efforts of Myles Stute (3-for-4). From there, the Commodores shot just 1-for-8 to end the first half. 

Wofford came out of the halftime gates aggressive, converting a tough and-1. Vanderbilt, on the other hand, came out sluggish offensively, and after failing to score for the first four minutes of the half, the Commodores saw themselves trailing for the first time, 35-34. After nearly five scoreless minutes, Thomas ignited the Memorial Gymnasium crowd, converting a 3-pointer from the corner and following it up with a block on the other end. A few possessions later, Dort blocked a Wofford shot attempt on the backboard and the Memorial Gymnasium crowd erupted. 

After Wofford completed another and-1, Thomas took over, going right back to the spot where he hit his first three and converted again. The junior followed it up with a steal and a fastbreak layup. Soon after, Manjon picked off an inbound pass and slammed down a wide open dunk. At this point, both teams were going back and forth, and at the 12-minute mark of the second half, the Commodores clung to a one point lead, 44-43. 

The teams continued to exchange layups until, Smith electrified the home crowd with a 3-pointer from the top of the key that extended the Vanderbilt lead to four points. After a few more possessions, Robbins found daylight in the paint and layed down an emphatic dunk that forced Wofford to take a timeout with the Commodores leading 57-52. 

With six minutes remaining, Wofford guard Jackson Paveletzke converted a layup through contact after being fouled by Robbins. Paveletzke missed the free throw and Vanderbilt went right down the floor as Lawrence converted an and-1 of his own. On the ensuing possession, Robbins took advantage of a mismatch down low, getting fouled and earning a trip to the free throw line. After he converted one of two, the Commodores led, 60-56, with less than five to play. 

In the waning moments of the contest, both teams struggled to gain much traction offensively, and with two minutes remaining, the Commodores clutched to a three-point lead, 62-59. Vanderbilt’s offensive struggles continued and a layup on the other end cut the gap to just one point. With less than 20 seconds remaining, Lawrence went up-and-under the basket for an impressive reverse layup that put the Commodores back up by three. 

On the final possession, Thomas fouled B.J. Mack and sent him to the line. Since the foul was a non-shooting violation, Mack was forced to make and intentionally miss his pair of free throws. Robbins had other plans in mind. On the second free throw, the fifth-year senior hauled in his ninth rebound of the game and made one-of-two from the charity stripe to extend the lead back to three. With just 1.4 seconds remaining, Wofford was forced to make a long pass down the court that went incomplete, rewarding the Commodores with a hard fought 65-62 victory. 

They’ll look to keep their momentum going next week in a home clash against Pitt on Dec. 7 at 8 p.m. CST.