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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 eliminated in NIT Quarterfinals, stifled by UAB, 67-59

Vanderbilt couldn’t overcome a poor offensive showing and bowed out of the NIT in the quarterfinals against UAB on Wednesday.
Nikita Rohila
Paul Lewis shoots a jumper against UAB on March 22, 2023 (Hustler Multimedia/Nikita Rohila).

Vanderbilt (22-15) and UAB (27-9) squared off in the NIT Quarterfinals on Wednesday night in front of a packed house inside Memorial Gymnasium. The Commodores ran out of magic, though, falling to the Blazers, 67-59, ending their 2022-23 season.

“Disappointed with the outcome tonight,” head coach Jerry Stackhouse said after the loss. “Definitely not disappointed in our effort, thought our guys competed well throughout the game…Give them credit, man, they played a good game, but I thought our guys, as usual, played with the effort and toughness we expect.”

The opening 20 minutes between Vanderbilt and UAB were a slugfest as both teams struggled to find their footing on the offensive end of the floor. The Commodores shot just 11-for-38 from the field, including 4-of-19 from three-point land and 1-for-4 from the free throw line. Nonetheless, Vanderbilt took a lead into the break, 27-24, thanks to 1o offensive rebounds and seven turnovers forced.

Jordan Wright opened the scoring for the Commodores with a mid-range jumper. UAB controlled the pace over the next few minutes, jumping out to a 7-2 lead that was punctuated by a KJ Buffen triple. Over six minutes of game-time after Wright’s opening bucket, Ezra Manjon found the bottom of the net for Vanderbilt to close the gap to 7-4 at the 13:41 mark.

A packed student section anxious to erupt was rewarded a few minutes later when an 8-0 run catalyzed by Manjon and scores from Malik Dia and Emmanuel Ansong put Vanderbilt on top, 13-11. UAB regained the lead on the ensuing possession thanks to two free throws from Tavin Lovan, but it would not last long.

The Commodores found their stroke from deep at the 9:13 mark of the first half, knocking down triples on their next four  possessions. Tyrin Lawrence started the avalanche with a smooth step-back jumper and Paul Lewis, Trey Thomas, Wright got in on the fun as well to push Vanderbilt out to a 25-18 lead.

Stackhouse’s bunch struggled to capitalize on that momentum though, making just one shot from the field over the final 4-plus minutes of the half. UAB used a 6-2 run to creep back in and make it a 27-24 game at the half. Despite the porous shooting, Vanderbilt controlled the offensive glass and took seven more shots than the lengthy Blazers in the opening frame.

“I think we were just missing shots, honestly,” Wright said of the shooting struggles. “We got our same looks, felt good coming off our hands…I just think we missed the shots we usually make.”

UAB erased that 3-point deficit less than a minute into the second half as Trey Jamison flushed down a dunk off a pick-and-roll and was fouled by Wright in the process. Jamison converted the and-one to knot the Blazers and Commodores at 27 all at the 19:22 mark.

The game began to seesaw at that point as the team’s traded leads back and forth. Jordan “Jelly” Walker, UAB’s leading scorer, got the action started for the Blazers after nailing a side-step wing three to make it 30-29 UAB. Manjon responded right back with a runner in the lane to bring the Commodores back ahead, 31-30.

Walker continued his surge, scoring on the other end with a pull-up jumper in the paint. Lawrence nailed a three of his own on the other end to give Vanderbilt a 34-32 lead.

UAB used a 5-o run to pull themselves ahead 37-34 at the 15:11 mark. After a series of blocks, deflections, turnovers and general sloppy play, Vanderbilt clawed back to knot the score at 39 nearly 3 minutes later.

An acrobatic layup from Eric Gaines gave the Blazers a 41-39 lead, but Malik Dia nailed a high-arcing straightway three and sent a UAB shot flying on the other end to preserve a 42-31 Commodore lead.

Dia got a little overly ambitious at that point, however, taking an ill-advised turnaround three that led to an easy dunk on the other end for Jamison. Manjon — as he so often has this season — steadied the ship for Vanderbilt with a jumper in the lane to retake a 44-43 lead.

UAB controlled the next few possessions, jumping out to a 49-46 advantage at the 8:15 mark thanks to Jemison and Walker’s continued dominance.

Manjon momentarily turned the tide for the Commodores with a clean swipe of Walker at mid-court that led to an easy run layup to make it 49-48. An Emmanuel Ansong flush was sandwiched between two tough jumpers from Walker as the Blazers maintained a 53-50 lead.

Ansong continued to be a bright spot for Vanderbilt over the next few minutes. The 5th-year senior collected eight rebounds — six of them on the offensive glass — in the game and converted a put-back layup at the 5:36 mark to make the score 53-52. He followed that up with a ferocious swat on the other end.

UAB held the Commodores at bay, though, scoring four straight points to increase their lead to 57-52 with 3:49 remaining.

The offensive stalemate continued until a Manjon layup and Wright wing triple injected life into the Commodores to make it 59-57 with 52 seconds to go.

UAB quickly silenced the raucous Memorial crowd with a speedy press break that resulted in an alley-oop connection from Walker to Jemison at the 45-second mark.

Manjon tripped on the other end and the Blazers dove on top of the Commodore guard as he cradled the ball. The referees ruled it a jump ball and gave UAB possession back, forcing Vanderbilt to foul to save the clock.

The Blazers knocked down both free throws and turned Vanderbilt over again on the other end to put a bow on the victory. Millora-Brown put back a Wright three that missed to bring the Commodores to within six at 65-59, but it was too little, too late.

UAB finished out a perfect 17-for-17 night from the free throw line and held off Vanderbilt, 67-59, in the end. Seniors Manjon and Wright led the way for the Commodores with 15 points apiece.

With the loss, Vanderbilt’s 2022-23 comes to a close. It is the second straight season the Commodores have been eliminated in the NIT Quarterfinals.

“I told them [in the locker room] that our future is really bright,” Stackhouse said. “We had some spells this year where we felt like we weren’t going to lose again and I think that’s a positive for our group.”

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About the Contributors
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, Deputy Social Media Director
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. 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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