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 rights the ship, defeats USC Upstate 74-67

After suffering a shocking upset at the hands of Presbyterian earlier in the week, the Commodores got back on track with a win against USC Upstate.
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Barrie Barto
Ezra Manjon drives along the left baseline before finishing strong at the rim during Vanderbilt’s win over USC Upstate on Nov. 10th, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Barrie Barto)

After a disappointing loss at the hands of Presbyterian on Tuesday, the Vanderbilt Commodores’ Men’s Basketball team got back to its 2022-23 winning ways with a 74-67 victory over USC Upstate on Friday, Nov. 10th. 

“It’s been a long couple of days trying to get back to this point,” head coach Jerry Stackhouse said.

The Commodores did it without star guard Tyrin Lawrence, who was announced out before the game with an ankle injury, marking his second straight absence. Vanderbilt was also without transfer forward Ven Allen-Lubin and sophomore center Lee Dort, who were dealing with hip and foot injuries, respectively. 

In their absences, it was Tasos Kamateros, who contributed 21 points on 4-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc, that led the Commodores. Ezra Manjon added 16 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds. 

Stackhouse went with a surprise starting lineup, featuring guards Manjon and Isaiah West, forwards Evan Taylor and Colin Smith and center Carter Lang. The game marked West and Lang’s first career starts. 

A Manjon turnover on Vanderbilt’s first possession led to a fast break for Nick Alves of USC Upstate, but excellent hustle from Smith led to a chasedown block. West scored the first points of the game with a nice euro-step to the basket. A combination of sloppy offense and stifling defense from both sides saw the two teams enter the game’s first media timeout shooting a combined 1-for-11. A goaltend on a Justin Bailey layup attempt got the Spartans on the board, as the scoreboard flashed 2-2 in favor of the Commodores at the first break. 

The Commodores scoring struggled continued after the break after a missed 3-point attempt from Taylor and a turnover from West. After a defensive stop, West went right back to work, driving down the left baseline and finishing through contact, but Trae Braodnax responded right back with a pull-up mid-range jumper. The Spartans took a 6-4 lead after back-to-back blocks on the defensive end led to a tough layup through traffic from Ahmir Langlais. 

After another Vanderbilt turnover — its fifth through just eight minutes of play — Miguel Ayesa converted on a 3-pointer for USC Upstate to put his squad up, 9-4 just before the 12-minute media timeout. The Commodores continued to struggle on both sides of the ball after the timeout, committing back-to-back turnovers and allowing back-to-back buckets before a foul on a Paul Lewis 3-point attempt got them back into the scoring column. Lewis calmly hit all three to bring the deficit within five points. 

After a Taylor foul on a deep ball gave the Spartans three free throws —- all three of which they converted — and Ayesa hit another 3-pointer, Stackhouse was forced to take a timeout as Vanderbilt found itself down 19-7. Kamateros broke the scoreless streak with a crafty up-and-under layup, and a Manjon steal put two more on the board for the Commodores as they cut the deficit to eight. The Spartans answered back, but multiple offensive rebounds on Vanderbilt’s ensuing possession lead to a slam from JQ Roberts, marking the freshman’s first career points. 

Strong interior defense from Kamateros led to a nice move from Manjon, who banked in a layup with ease to make the score 21-15. Langlais responded to increase the Spartans’ lead to eight. Both sides continued to struggle with finding offensive consistency as Vanderbilt made some free throws to bring the score to 23-18. 

Four straight air balls on four straight field goal attempts (two from each team) truly embodied the struggles that Vanderbilt and USC Upstate dealt with in the first half. Nevertheless, Smith converted a pair of free throws to make it a one score game before Braodnax nailed a triple to increase the lead. Smith came back firing, hitting the Commodores’ first 3-pointer of the night to ignite the home crowd at Memorial Gymnasium. USC Upstate remained hot, cashing in on another longball, this time from Floyd Rideau Jr. 

An excellent hustle play from West on defense to grab a steal and find Lewis for a layup brought the Commodores within two, but Jorge Ochoa converted a layup right before time expired for the Spartans. A heave from Lewis fell harmlessly to the ground, and the opponents broke for halftime with the scoreboard showing 31-27 in favor of USC Upstate. 

It was a less-than-efficient first half for the Commodores, who shot just 8-of-25 from the field while converting 1-of-12 3-pointers. Eight turnovers didn’t do Vanderbilt any favors as it clearly struggled to find an offensive rhythm in the absence of Lawrence. Helping the Commodores was a productive night from the charity stripe, as they converted 10-of-11 attempts from the line.  Manjon paced the Commodores with six points, adding two rebounds, a steal and an assist on top. 

The second half opened with the Commodores exuding a different energy, as Stackhouse’s crew came out firing. A defensive stop and a deep triple from Smith brought them within just one point of the Spartans. A nice defensive possession and a crafty layup from West put the Commodores ahead for the first time since the 14:13 mark in the first half. Both teams traded misses for a few possessions before Ayesa connected on a three-ball from the right elbow to put USC Upstate up two once again. 

“We had some turnovers early, but I thought we really settled down and played some really good basketball,” said Stackhouse.

Lang drove strong into the post after a media timeout, fighting through contact for an and-1 finish. The freshman converted the free throw to put Vanderbilt up one. A pull-up jumper from Ochoa put USC Upstate back in the lead, and both sides traded turnovers before Lewis slipped a nifty pass to Kamateros for a layup to put the Commodores back up. A mini 4-0 run — thanks to a nice fast-break floater from Ayesa — put the Spartans back up. 

Manjon converted on back-to-back layups and assisted Taylor on a triple as Vanderbilt went on a 7-0 run of its own to go up by six points, its largest lead of the game. The Spartans called timeout in an attempt to get their ducks in a row, but tenacious defense from the Commodores kept the ball out of the basket once again. After a pair of fouls from USC Upstate, Vanderbilt was put into the bonus, and Manjon hit both free throws to keep the run — now 9-0 — going. Braodnax broke a 3:25 scoreless streak for the Spartans with a catch-and-shoot triple, but Vanderbilt answered right back as Kamateros splashed a 3-pointer from the right wing. 

After a layup from Langlais halted Vanderbilt’s momentum, Kamateros went right back to what was working, this time swishing a deep ball from the left elbow to increase the lead to nine. The Greek center seemingly could not be stopped, as he knocked down another 3-pointer on the following possession to send the Memorial Gymnasium crowd into a frenzy, and put the Commodores up double digits. 

With just over five minutes remaining, Vanderbilt had finally found an offensive rhythm, as Kamateros went low on the team’s next possession, finishing a layup in the post as he fell away to his right. 

Still, thanks to continued efficiency from 3-point range, the Spartans refused to go away. Bailey connected on a corner triple to cut the lead to six, but Lewis responded right back with another triple of his own. Manjon cashed in on a pair of free throws, and Kamateros drilled a fadeaway 3-pointer — his fifth of the game — to increase the lead to 12 and provide the metaphorical dagger.

“It’s a long season. Only thing we’re trying to do is continue to get better,” Stackhouse said. “Hopefully we’re a lot better in December and January than we are in November.”

The Commodores will be back in action on Tuesday, Nov. 14th, as they’ll take on UNC Greensboro at home in an attempt to make it two straight wins.

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About the Contributors
Aiden Rutman
Aiden Rutman, Sports Editor
Aiden Rutman (‘25) is a student in Peabody College majoring in human and organizational development and minoring in communication studies. He formerly produced The Hustler’s sports podcast, Live from West End. In addition to writing and podcasting, Aiden is an avid New York sports fan, and he loves playing sports, spending time outdoors and trying new foods. You can reach him at [email protected].
Barrie Barto
Barrie Barto, Editor-in-Chief
Barrie Barto ('25) is majoring in medicine, health & society with neuroscience and communication of science & technology minors in the College of Arts and Science. She previously served as Photography Director. When she's not strolling around campus with her camera, you can find Barrie cheering on the St. Louis Blues or tracking down the best gluten-free food in Nashville. She can be reached at [email protected].
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