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.

Vanderbilt earns come-from-behind-victory to knock off Arkansas 97-84, beat top-15 team for first time since 2017

After a first half scuffle that included an ejection of Ezra Manjon, the Commodores rode a wave of emotion to dominate no. 15 Arkansas in the second half.
Vanderbilt Athletics
Jordan Wright drives past Jordan Walsh on January 14, 2023 at Memorial Gymnasium (Vanderbilt Athletics).

Vanderbilt and Arkansas tussled on Saturday afternoon in a performance that can best be described as part basketball game, part wrestling match and part referee showcase. In the end, the Commodores rode an inspired second-half performance — that included 63 points scored — to defeat the No. 15 Arkansas Razorbacks, 97-84. Their last top-15 win was in March 2017 over Florida. 

“We kind of just played for each other,” senior Jordan Wright (17 points) said after the game. “We wanted to capitalize off of the momentum. We knew we had to come out and fight, and that’s what we did.”

Vanderbilt donned its road black uniforms in this game as part of a Stranger Things “blackout” theme in front of a full student section fresh off winter break. The contest started a bit sleepily as the teams traded buckets for the opening 10 minutes with the Commodores jumping out to a slight 17-14 lead. Most notably, big man Liam Robbins collected two fouls in less than a minute after checking in off the bench. He would sit for the remainder of the half. 

Things started to heat up between the two squads at the 5:27 mark in the first half when a double technical foul was assessed after Kimani Johnson shoved Myles Stute over on a sideline out-of-bounds play. The two sides scuffled at mid-court before Johnson was tacked with a flagrant foul. Stute knocked in both free throws to bring Vanderbilt within one point — down 27-26 to the Razorbacks. 

“Myles is always chippy, I don’t know if it’s in his breakfast or what,” Stackhouse said in the postgame press conference. “I thought we weathered it.”

A three-point flurry ensued with Arkansas and Vanderbilt both nailing two apiece to make the score 35-32 Razorbacks. 

Referees huddle both coaches on January 14, 2023 at Memorial Gymasium (Nikita Rohila/Hustler Multimedia).
Referees huddle both coaches on January 14, 2023 at Memorial Gymasium (Nikita Rohila/Hustler Multimedia). (Nikita Rohila)

That’s when chaos unfolded. 

With 49 seconds left in the opening frame, Arkansas guard Anthony Black drove to the lane and picked up an and-one foul on Quentin Millora-Brown. Black stood over a fallen Millora-Brown, appearing to taunt the Commodore center. Ezra Manjon responded and pushed Black in the back, causing another flare-up between the two teams. 

What followed was the most bizarre refereeing sequence of the season. 

After going to review, the officiating crew of Doug Shows, K.B. Burdett and Jason Baker determined that Manjon’s shove warranted a double technical, but not Black’s taunt. Manjon was ejected, causing Jerry Stackhouse to throw his clipboard and earn a technical foul of his own. Arkansas was awarded eight straight free throws, extending their lead from 35-32 to 42-32 without a single second coming off the clock. 

The Razorbacks took a 42-34 lead into the locker room after a pair of Jordan Wright free throws ended the half. Tyrin Lawrence led the way for Vanderbilt in the first half, tallying 12 points and 3 rebounds on 5-of-8 shooting. 

“It rallied us,” Stackhouse added on Manjon’s ejection. “Our guys came together and competed.”

The Commodores opened the second half on fire, behind a raucous crowd inside Memorial Gymnasium and hot shooting. Vanderbilt opened the second stanza on a 25-12 run to catapult to a 59-56 advantage at the under-12 timeout. Trey Thomas, Robbins and Wright all hit three-pointers to catalyze an inspired Commodore side. 

“[The student section] was big,” Wright said after the game. “The energy that they brought was amazing, it was one of the best games that I’ve played here for sure.”

Vanderbilt continued to ride a wave of emotion sans-Manjon as they went on a subsequent 16-6 run to extend the lead to 73-59 over the Razorbacks. Seniors Robbins and Wright scored all but three points on that run.

“That was a challenge that I put forward,” Stackhouse added after the game. “It’s time for our leadership and tenure to start showing up and winning games for us. As talented as that team is, it’s young guys out there.”

In what became a late foul-fest, the Razorbacks began to swing back, going on an 18-10 run to get within 6 points with less than 2 minutes left. Stute rattled in a pair of free throws to push the Commodore lead back out to 8 points, 85-77. Robbins fouled out on the ensuing possession, finishing his day with 14 points and 3 rebounds. Arkansas’s Makhi Mitchell converted 1-of-2 free throws to cut the Vanderbilt lead to 85-78. 

Thomas was subsequently fouled for the Commodores and sank two free throws to push out to an 87-78 lead. After a quick Arkansas bucket, Thomas stepped into a cool floater to keep Vanderbilt pushing ahead, 89-80. 

Both sides continued to trade buckets — Vanderbilt at the free throw line and Arkansas quick jumpers around the rim — over the game’s final minute. Lawrence knocked in four straight free throws to give Vanderbilt a 93-84 advantage, eclipsing the most points allowed by Arkansas all season. 

Wright and Stute finished off the scoring, nailing four straight free throws to give Vanderbilt a 97-84 victory. Wright led the Commodores in second-half scoring with 15 of his 17 points coming in the final frame. Lawrence led Vanderbilt with 22 points, one of five Commodores to finish in double figures. 

“Unbelievable,” Stackhouse said of the rowdy crowd. “That was fun. That energy — our guys felt that, and they feed off it. We’re looking forward to seeing them back here on Tuesday night.”

Vanderbilt’s last ranked win was last season over LSU, 75-66. The Commodores will face off against No. 4 Alabama on Tuesday, Jan. 16 at Memorial Gymnasium. 

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About the Contributors
Bryce Smith
Bryce Smith, Former Sports Editor
Bryce Smith ('23) is majoring in human and organizational development in Peabody College with a minor in business. Bryce previously wrote for SBNation before joining The Hustler. Hailing from Chicago, Bryce is a die-hard Bears and Cubs fan who is also hoping that the Bulls and Blackhawks may one day rekindle their dominance. He can be reached at [email protected].    
Nikita Rohila
Nikita Rohila, Senior Staff Photographer
Nikita Rohila ('25) is from a small town in Arkansas and is majoring in psychology and medicine, health and society in the College of Arts and Science. She previously served as Deputy Social Media Director. During her free time, she enjoys roaming around the city and getting cinematic-style shots for her photography account! You can reach her at [email protected].
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