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 runs out of gas against Texas A&M, falls 87-75 as SEC Tournament run comes to end

Vanderbilt will await their NCAA Tournament fate on Selection Sunday after being eliminated in the SEC Semifinals.
Vanderbilt Athletics
Ezra Manjon and Paul Lewis on the floor at the SEC Tournament against Texas A&M on March 11, 2023 (Vanderbilt Athletics).

A magical March run came to a halt for Vanderbilt (20-14) on Saturday afternoon as it was eliminated by Texas A&M (25-8) 87-75 in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament. The Commodores will await their NCAA Tournament fate on Selection Sunday after conference tournaments are wrapped up tomorrow evening. 

“Obviously we’re a little disappointed with the outcome of the game, but definitely not disappointed in our effort,” Jerry Stackhouse said afterwards. “Our guys continued to battle, battle. We talked at halftime about coming out and maybe getting at the 10 by the 10-minute mark. We got it super close.

After beating No. 3 seed Kentucky less than 24 hours earlier, Vanderbilt was punched in the mouth from the jump against Texas A&M on Saturday. The Aggies onslaught started from the opening tip and continued throughout the first half as the Commodores fell down by as many as 26 points. 

Texas A&M opened the contest on a 7-0 run that foreshadowed the beatdown that would ensue over the next 20 minutes. Julius Marble and Tyrece Radford punished Vanderbilt early as the Commodores’ legs looked extremely sluggish coming off of two games in two days. 

Colin Smith finally broke the Commodore scoring drought nearly four minutes in when he nailed a corner three at the 16:19 mark to make it 7-3. Dexter Dennis responded immediately for Texas A&M with an elbow jumper and Wade Taylor IV got in on the action with a three-pointer of his own to make the score 12-3. 

The Aggies continued to put the press on the drowsy Commodores early, pushing out to a 19-5 lead at the 12:04 mark. 

Lee Dort temporarily stopped the bleeding for Vanderbilt with a put-back layup off a missed Ezra Manjon layup, but Texas A&M had even more in the tank. The Aggies worked a 23-9 run over the next six minutes, punctuated by back-to-back triples from Taylor IV to make the score 42-16 with 2:43 left in the half. 

Vanderbilt limped back with another three from Smith and two free throws from Quentin Millora-Brown on a five-point possession to make it 47-25. Dennis closed the half with a layup to give the Aggies a 49-25 advantage at the break. Texas A&M shot 69% as a team in the opening frame and 58.3% from deep, knocking down seven triples. 

Vanderbilt turned the ball over an uncharacteristic 12 times in the first half and finished with 17 on the day. 

The Commodores came out of the locker room with a renewed sense of fight and a heavily Black and Gold Bridgestone crowd behind them. Smith continued to carry the Commodores, knocking down another 3 to open the scoring for Vanderbilt. Smith bookended a 12-4 run for Vanderbilt to give himself 15 points — eclipsing a career-high — with another corner three to make it 55-37. 

“Coach Stack and the rest of the staff have confidence on me and Paul [Lewis] and all the young guys,” Smith said about his performance “We were in a hole, we started off pretty bad. I saw the first one go in and I felt like I had to be the person to try and keep us in the game and be as confident as possible.”

The Black and Gold continued to chip away over the next several minutes behind a desperate crowd of Vanderbilt faithful. Four straight points from Jordan Wright pulled the Commodores within 12, 58-46 at the 13:08 mark. A pair of open three point looks for Myles Stute missed as Vanderbilt tried to cut the deficit to single digits. 

Taylor IV responded with two massive buckets on the other end, one a driving layup and the second a transition three to push the Aggie lead back to 63-48. 

The Aggie guard continued to flex his muscles as Texas A&M built a 16-5 run, with 11 of those points coming via Taylor IV. After two free throws at the 7:54 mark, the Aggies possessed a 76-53 lead. 

Vanderbilt again refused to go away, responding with a 12-4 run highlighted by the ‘Big 3’ of Manjon, Lawrence and Wright. Manjon mixed in a couple of smooth drives to the rim and Lawrence threw down a massive two-hand slam to bring the score to 80-65. 

The Commodores showed the warrior’s spirit that has characterized the team over the past two months as they continued to chip away at the Aggie lead. Fast break buckets from Lawrence and then Wright made it a 80-69 score, but Dexter Dennis shut the door on Vanderbilt with a baseline jumper on the other end. 

After a barrage of free throws both ways, Texas A&M emerged with the 87-65 victory. Taylor IV led the way for the Aggies with 25 points, while Manjon, Lawrence and Wright combined for 51 points for Vanderbilt. Colin Smith added a career-high 15 points. 

“Proud of our guys, the way they fought, competed,” Stackhouse added. “Our veteran guys, Jordan Wright, Ez [Ezra Manjon], played a ton of minutes for us. Tyrin [Lawrence], Q [Quentin Millora-Brown]. They left it all out there. They knew what we was playing for, fighting for. So proud of them, proud of their effort.”

Vanderbilt will await their NCAA Tournament fate on Selection Sunday tomorrow after the conclusion of the SEC Tournament championship between Alabama and Texas A&M.

“I think we handled our part of it,” Stackhouse said of his team’s NCAA Tournament chances. “We’ve done all that we could do as far as playing the game I think the right way, playing hard, tough.There’s no doubt about it in my mind that we play in the best, toughest conference. When they talk about us getting eight or nine teams, there’s no way you’re going to tell me that we’re not one of the best eight teams in this league.”

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About the Contributor
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].    
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