Vanderbilt wins in thrilling fashion over Pittsburgh, 75-74

Last-second free throws and a strong offensive performance were able to get the Commodores over the finish line versus the Panthers.

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Josh Rehders

Tyrin Lawrence dribbling versus Pittsburgh on Dec. 7, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Josh Rehders)

Anish Mago, Deputy Sports Editor

Following a tense home victory over Wofford, Vanderbilt (5-4) was able to end Pittsburgh’s (6-4) five-game winning streak with a thrilling 75-74 victory over the Panthers. Despite falling behind with just nine seconds remaining, a pair of Tyrin Lawrence free throws with 1.1 seconds left was enough to earn Vanderbilt a dramatic victory.

Even as the Panthers shot nearly 50% (12-25) from behind the arc, the Commodores were able to win behind the offensive performances of Myles Stute (14 points, 6 rebounds) and Liam Robbins (14 points, 9 rebounds). 

“Every game’s tough. We were down, and we had to execute, and I thought we did a pretty good job of that,” head coach Jerry Stackhouse said after the game. “I think we’re a better offensive team than what we showed, but it’s our defense that keeps us in games, and we’ll continue to hang our hat on that.”

The Commodores began the first half looking stout defensively, forcing the Panthers into four turnovers in the game’s opening minutes. With Jordan Wright coming off the bench after a back injury held him out of the Wofford game, the length of Vanderbilt’s big man duo of Quentin Millora-Brown and Robbins gave Pittsburgh issues offensively. Despite this defensive success, however, the Commodores began the game by converting just five of their first 16 shots and found themselves in a 16-11 hole as the first half approached its midway point. 

Vanderbilt was able to stay within striking distance in the first half largely due to a dominant performance in the paint, where the team outscored (18-4) and outrebounded (20-15) the Panthers. Even with their shooting struggles, the Commodores were able to take their first lead of the game with nine minutes remaining after three consecutive steals and conversions in transitions. The first-half substitution of Emmanuel Ansong (7 points, 3 rebounds) proved to give the Commodores a needed jolt of energy that was needed for the struggling offense.  

As the first half wore on, the Commodores were not able to shake off their shooting struggles, though. After the team missed its tenth three-pointer of the first half, Pittsburgh guard Greg Elliott (20 points, 6-9 3PFG) converted on his third triple of the first half to push the Panthers back ahead, 24-22. Vanderbilt found success offensively down the stretch with strong forward play from Stute but was not able to pull away as the Panthers continued to convert from deep. With a 7-11 shooting performance from behind the arc, Pittsburgh was able to keep pace with the Commodores as the sides headed into halftime knotted at 34. 

As both teams came out of the locker rooms, Wright and Robbins began to carry the load for the Commodores offensively. The pair combined to score Vanderbilt’s first 10 points in the half, as both were able to get to the rim with ease versus undersized defenders. The interior success seemed to open up the game for Vanderbilt, with the team making six of its first 11 shots in the period. With a steal from Manjon and an emphatic dunk from Wright in transition, Vanderbilt jumped out to a three-point lead as the second half neared the ten-minute mark. 

With the clock ticking under seven minutes, Stackhouse looked to his bench again for quick production. Once again, it delivered. With consecutive steals and three-point conversions from Ansong and Trey Thomas, the Commodores worked their way to a 61-56 lead. Vanderbilt continued to rely on the contributions of Robbins and Wright down the stretch of the second half until an apparent lower-body injury forced the latter out of the game. After a block and post-up conversion from Robbins, the Commodores found themselves leading 70-66 with just over two minutes remaining in the contest. 

With the matchup hanging in the balance, the Panthers refused to go away. Following a pair of Vanderbilt turnovers at the hands of Pittsburgh’s full-court press, the Panthers went on an 8-0 run to take a 74-73 lead with just under 10 seconds remaining. On Vanderbilt’s final possession, Manjon blew past his defender and found a cutting Lawrence, who was fouled on his layup attempt with 1.1 seconds remaining. With the pressure on, Lawrence drilled both free throws. After a failed hail-mary attempt from the Panthers, Vanderbilt hung on for a 75-74 victory. 

“I was just thinking, ‘let’s go home!'” Lawrence said of his game-clinching free throws.

The Commodores will look to pick up their third consecutive victory in a home date versus Grambling State on Dec. 9 at 6 p.m. CST.