Vanderbilt bounces back, blows out Buffalo 90-76 at home

Saben Lee's career-high 25 points led the way as the Commodores held Buffalo to just 39% shooting in the victory.

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Brent Szklaruk

Clevon Brown finishes at the rim in the second-half of Vanderbilt's home victory over Buffalo.

Justin Hershey, Staff Writer

In Vanderbilt’s (6-2) final game before exams begin on West End, Jerry Stackhouse’s team put together its best performance of the season in a 90-76 win over the Buffalo Bulls (5-3).

Against a fast and athletic Buffalo team, Vanderbilt turned their focus to slashing and paint scoring. Thanks to key contributions off the bench, the Commodores took care of business after a sluggish start.

Lee led the way for the Commodores, finishing at the rim routinely en route to his career high 25 points to go along with four assists. Coach Stackhouse continues to be impressed by his sixth man’s ability to balance scoring and distributing

“He is one of the best penetrators in the country in my mind,” Stackhouse said of Lee. His ability to, again, create for others if no one’s there,vI really believe he is a guy who can lead this league in assists”

Maxwell Evans added an efficient 13 points by attacking the offensive glass, including one ferocious put-back slam.

The Bulls opened the game on a dominant 10-1 run, highlighted by quick ball movement and aggressive defense. Senior guard Antwain Johnson was active for the Bulls, hitting an early three and tightly guarding Commodore forward, Aaron Nesmith.

Vanderbilt finally ended the Buffalo run just before the first media timeout thanks to a transition dunk from Evans and a three point play from forward Clevon Brown.

Vanderbilt continued to chip away as the first half rolled along. Freshman guard Jordan Wright had arguably his best game as a Commodore and along with Saben Lee, helped turn the game in Vanderbilt’s favor. Wright’s four steals, all of which came in the first half, were a career-high.

Lee was immediately aggressive and played right into the fast paced brand of basketball Buffalo wanted to play. He scored 13 points in the first and helped the Commodores get into the bonus at the 13 minute mark of the half.

From there, it was all Vanderbilt. Everyone got involved in a 21-4 run that was fueled by strong defense and sharing the ball.  

On the run and to the surprise of many in attendance at Memorial Gymnasium, with about seven minutes remaining in the half, walk-on junior guard Isaiah Rice checked into the game. He quickly got the crowd on their feet by continuing Vanderbilt’s three point streak after smoothly draining one from the corner. 

Coach Stackhouse praised his walk on guard’s ability to stay ready and play smart basketball.

“Defensively he does everything.  He knows that he is really smart,” Stackhouse said. “I could see him being a future coach at some point.”

The Commodores continued to turn defense into offense and after not scoring for the first 15 minutes of the game, the SEC’s leading scorer, Aaron Nesmith, scored nine points in the final five minutes of the period.

With just under a minute left, Coach Stackhouse drew up two perfectly-executed plays out of the timeout by helping free up Nesmith and Clevon Brown for closing threes that gave the Commodores a 47-34 lead and all the momentum heading into the locker room.

Vanderbilt did not let up in the second half. By attacking the rim and continuing to hold the Bulls to one shot per possession, Vanderbilt played a clean frame.

After Antwain Johnson nailed a three 5 minutes into the second half , the Bulls cut the Commodore lead to 12.  But that is as low as it got the rest of the way.  In an effort to make a comeback, the Bulls instituted a full court press in the middle of the second half.  On the first posession of the press, Vanderbilt committed a turnover that led to a quick Bulls score and it looked like the pressure could rattle Vanderbilt’s young backcourt.  But the Commodores did not turn it over again against the press and thanks to composure from upperclassmen Saben Lee and Clevon Brown, Vanderbilt avoided any disastrous comeback.

The teams traded baskets down the stretch, but with efficient free throw shooting and 32 out of their 43 second half points in the paint, the Commodores were able to close out the Buffalo Bulls.

Despite the slow start, the Commodores played their most complete game of the season. With a balanced scoring attack and fundamental defense, they forced the Bulls into deep threes and 17 turnovers on the night.  

Coach Stackhouse was excited about the win and praise the Buffalo Bulls, who will be a favorite to win the Mid-American Conference this year.

“We will look back at this win at the end of the year and be really proud, because I think that that’s a tournament team that’s going to cause some guys a lot of problems.”

After a solid victory, Vanderbilt will be back in action on December 14th against Liberty at Memorial Gymnasium.