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.

Magic Hour: Vanderbilt beats Auburn at buzzer (again), wins fifth straight

There was more magic in the air at Memorial Gymnasium on Saturday night as Vanderbilt won on another last second buzzer-beater.
Nikita Rohila
Ezra Manjon celebrates with students after a 67-65 win over Auburn on Feb. 18, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Nikita Rohila)

It was a slow start between Vanderbilt (15-12, 8-6) and Auburn (18-9, 8-6) as the two sides felt each other out in a heavyweight battle on Saturday night at Memorial Gymnasium. An Ezra Manjon layup with 0.8 seconds to go stole the show in the end, though, as Vanderbilt won their second nail-biter in as many games at home, 67-65.

With the win, the Commodores vaulted themselves into fifth place in the SEC. The team has won five in a row for the first time since 2016. 

They had us buried, but we back alive.” Jerry Stackhouse said after the monumental win.

Liam Robbins opened the floodgates for the Commodores with a wing three to gain a 5-2 advantage and led Stackhouse’s crew all night, finishing with 24 points and 12 rebounds. Auburn took its first lead at the 15:04 mark after back-to-back paint buckets from Johni Broome and Jaylin Williams made it 6-5, Tigers. Myles Stute nailed consecutive triples to give Vanderbilt a lead it wouldn’t relinquish for the rest of the first half. 

Trey Thomas capitalized off a Broome turnover with a three-ball of his own to give the Commodores a 15-6 lead, their largest of the opening frame and with 11:43 left in the first half. An 8-0 Tiger run pulled Auburn back to within one at 15-14. 

Robbins began to flex his muscles, scoring the next seven points for Vanderbilt — five of which came from the charity stripe — as the Commodores took a 22-16 lead. The big man finished with a team-high 13 points and 6 rebounds in the opening 20 minutes. 

Williams did his best to claw Auburn back in, scoring six straight points for the Tigers to narrow the Vanderbilt lead to 24-20. Robbins knocked down a pair at the free throw line to put Vanderbilt back up 6 at the 4:57 mark. The 7’o” senior attempted 10 free throws in the first half. 

Five straight points from Jordan Wright gave Vanderbilt a 31-24 lead as the clock wound down in the first half. A Commodore turnover and Allen Flanigan three-pointer netted a five-point swing for the Tigers in the waning seconds of the first 20 minutes. Vanderbilt went into the break with a 31-27 lead. By halftime, a team spokesperson confirmed a near sell-out of Memorial Gymnasium, the largest recorded crowd since 2019. 

“They were huge,” Trey Thomas said of the crowd. “We know the other team is going to bring some fans so I feel like we matched their energy.”

Auburn carried Flanigan’s momentum out of halftime as Broome went on a personal 6-0 run to give the Tigers their first lead in over 15 minutes, 33-31. The Commodores responded with a Trey Thomas triple, which turned the lead back to Vanderbilt, 34-33. 

The seesawing continued throughout the first eight minutes of the second half as the teams traded punch after punch. Broome and Robbins led the way for each side, but it wasn’t until a Broome corner three that any separation was created by the two. Broome’s shot gave Auburn a 44-41 lead at the 13:14 mark. 

Vanderbilt buckets from Quentin Millora-Brown and Tyrin Lawrence scraped the Commodores back in front, but that lead was quickly diminished as Williams banked in a transition three to give Auburn a 48-45 advantage. 

The Tigers continued to possess momentum as a Dylan Cardwell second chance dunk and Lior Berman three-pointer brought the traveling contingent of Auburn faithful to their feet and gave Bruce Pearl’s squad a 55-49 lead. 

A 4-0 Vanderbilt run punctuated by a thunderous Lawrence slam brought the Commodores back within one, 55-54, at the 6:27 mark. 

Broome responded on the other end for Auburn after spinning off Robbins and driving baseline to make it 57-55, Tigers. 

Manjon connected with Robbins on a pick-and-roll on the ensuing possession, and the big man finished a dunk to tie the score at 57-57 and ignite the Memorial crowd. An ill-advised fadeaway two from Wendell Green Jr. turned the ball back over to the Commodores. Trey Thomas quickly capitalized as he snuck in a floater from the SEC logo to give Vanderbilt its first lead since the 12:17 mark, 59-57.

Green Jr. hung in the air and hit a floater of his own to knot the score at 59 apiece. The teams again traded buckets before a Myles Stute airball three gave way to a Manjon foul on Green Jr. as he went to the rim. 

Green Jr. split the pair, sending the ball back the other way as Auburn clung to a 62-61 advantage. Green Jr., though, — Auburn’s leading scorer — finished the game with just 6 points on 2-of-14 shooting.

“Ezra was just unbelievable,” Stackhouse said of Manjon’s defense on Auburn’s lead guard “I don’t think I’ve seen anybody guard Wendell Green Jr. as well as he did.”

Trey Thomas missed a floater in the lane on the next possession, but Robbins collected the rebound, and Stackhouse elected to use his first timeout of the game with 1:14 to go. 

The resulting play was a Thomas drive to the rim that was missed off the front iron. Robbins hauled in his 12th rebound of the game and was fouled; however, the referees went to the monitor to review whether or not Thomas’ shot hit the rim to see if there was a shot clock violation. After review, it was determined that Robbins was fouled before the shot clock expired and he went to the line for two shots. 

The senior nailed both to give Vanderbilt a 63-62 lead with just over a minute to play. 

Chaos ensued over the final minute. 

After a flurry of attempts — including a Broome hook that was blocked by Robbins — a missed three-pointer from Williams was rebounded by Vanderbilt, forcing the Tigers to foul Manjon with 23 seconds to play. Manjon calmly knocked down two free throws to give Vanderbilt a three-point lead, 65-62. 

Auburn’s following possession was disarrayed and frantic, ending in a Wendell Green Jr. jump pass to KD Johnson. Johnson — who scored 6 points on 2-of-5 shooting and is a 28% shooter from deep on the season — took two dribbles, stepped back and cashed a deep three-pointer to tie the game at 65-65 with 10 seconds left. 

Stackhouse took a timeout and drew up a play for the Commodores. Just like against Tennessee, that play was executed to perfection. 

Manjon sprinted past a Stute ball screen to the rim, floating for a game-winning layup with 0.8 seconds to go. Jordan Wright stole the Auburn inbounds pass for what everyone in the gym thought was a Vanderbilt win. 

“I was trying to get downhill,” Manjon said. “I got past my man — I’m always looking at the second man — he was kind of sticking to Liam [Robbins], he came a little late. I knew I had that layup.”

After a lengthy delay, the referees determined that Wright had been fouled with 0.4 seconds left and brought both teams back onto the floor. Wright intentionally missed a free throw and Williams heaved a full-court shot that grazed the rim before missing. 

“Ez just made the best decision,” Stackhouse said afterward. “He got downhill, the play was for him to make that. I thought he did a great job of finishing a tough basket in a key moment for us.”

As the clock hit 0.0 for the second time, Vanderbilt stood victorious, 67-65. 

With the win, Vanderbilt improved to 15-12 and 8-6 in the SEC. It’s the Commodores’ fifth straight win, third straight quadrant one win and fourth quadrant one win overall. The five-game win streak is Vanderbilt’s first since February 2015. 

The Commodores will return to action on Wednesday, Feb. 22 against the LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. 

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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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