Vanderbilt watches second-half lead evaporate in 92-81 overtime loss to SMU

The Commodores saw their 15-point lead slip away thanks to two late threes from SMU and a dominant overtime period from the Mustangs.

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Vanderbilt watches second-half lead evaporate in 92-81 overtime loss to SMU

Vanderbilt falls to SMU 92-81 in the team's last non-conference matchup.

Vanderbilt falls to SMU 92-81 in the team's last non-conference matchup.

Hunter Long

Vanderbilt falls to SMU 92-81 in the team's last non-conference matchup.

Hunter Long

Hunter Long

Vanderbilt falls to SMU 92-81 in the team's last non-conference matchup.

Max Schneider, Sports Editor

With a 15-point lead and 6:28 to play, Vanderbilt looked well on its way to a statement win. Aaron Nesmith had just sunk his eighth three-pointer of the game, hyping up the crowd on his way back on defense. SMU’s players had their heads down headed into a timeout.

In a matter of minutes, what looked to be a gigantic win and the latest chapter in Nesmith’s brilliant start to the season, evaporated. What was left were the Commodores, watching the final seconds tick away in overtime, wondering how it all managed to slip away.

“We felt like we did a lot of things right tonight for 30-plus minutes of the game,” Head Coach Jerry Stackhouse said. “Everything that possibly could go wrong at the end of that game went wrong for us. That’s part of the game.”

“I feel confident we’ll be better because of it,” Stackhouse continued. “We’re a young team, we’re learning, and we’ll go back and watch the film.”

For the better part of the second half, Vanderbilt looked well on its way to a victory. Nesmith, who finished with 29 points on 8-13 shooting from three, had just become the first Vanderbilt player since 1996 to have four games in a season with seven threes. But it was the 6’6” sophomore who was subbed out with 26 seconds to play and watched SMU steal a 92-81 victory after hitting two threes in the final 30 seconds and running away with the game in overtime.

Davis led the way for SMU, scoring 24 points to go along with four rebounds and six assists in the win.

Vanderbilt withstood a sucker-punch from SMU early in the first half, in particular from Mustang big man Ethan Chargois, who found the bottom of the net early and often. Chargois, who averages just 7.2 points per game, scored 10 in quick succession, drilling a pair of triples and a couple of lay-ins to give SMU an early lead.

The Commodores answered with the three-ball, though. On their first possession, Dylan Disu nailed a jumper from the corner to extend Vanderbilt’s three-point streak. The bucket came on a play that Stackhouse has run often to open games, usually with Clevon Brown as the beneficiary, but Brown was held out again Saturday night with a lingering knee injury.

SMU continued to build its lead early in the ballgame. A three from Tyson Jolly and an open layup from Isiah Jasey – who beat the Commodores down the floor on the break – gave the Mustangs a 20-8 lead just seven minutes into the contest.

Vanderbilt took SMU’s punches, and threw back a few of their own. Saben Lee ignated the offense upon checking into the game, finding his backcourt mateMaxwell Evans in the lane for an alley-oop finishing and hitting a three of his own on the next possession. A fast-break layup from Evans brought the Commodores back within two at the under-12 media timeout.

The two teams continued to trade triples for much of the first half. SMU regained control out of the timeout with back to back deep balls from Kendric Davis and Emmanuel Bandoumel. The Mustangs sprinkled in post-touches to Jolly, Chargois and Feron Hunt, who converted to give SMU the lead with just a few minutes remaining in the first.

It was Nesmith who would deliver the ultimate blow before the break, however. He sunk a pair of threes to bring Vanderbilt within two, and when Vanderbilt found itself down three with 15 seconds left in the half, it was Nesmith who rained a corner three off a nifty baseline feed from Scotty Pippen Jr. to tie the game at 40 heading into the locker room. The basket came off a designed play out of a timeout, and pushed Vanderbilt to 9-18 shooting from beyond the arc.

The Commodores stayed hot to start the second half. Evans drilled one from downtown to get the scoring going and redshirt sophomore center Ejike Obinna got in on the action, scoring four points in quick succession. Nesmith capped off the run, hitting his sixth three after getting his defender in the air on a shot fake. Nesmith pumped his first and yelled to the Memorial Gym crowd, who promptly answered louder than they had all night.

After an SMU time out, his one-man show continued, with another one-dribble pull-up giving him his seventh three of the game.

On the ensuing possession, Nesmith’s prowess paid off for Pippen Jr. Nesmith drew the double team on the drive and kicked it out to Pippen Jr., who swished a three from the corner to give Vanderbilt a 58-47 lead, its largest of the game.

SMU responded with an 8-0 run, capitalizing on three Vanderbilt turnovers and leaning on Jolly to cut into the Commodore lead. Another three from Pippen Jr. gave Vanderbilt a six-point cushion at the under-12 timeout.

After a stroke of luck defensively that saw Chargois miss four consecutive tip-ins, Nesmith took advantage on the other end, converting an old-fashioned three-point play. He found himself open again on the next possession, hitting his eighth three of the game, extending the lead to 72-57.

But if the Commodores have learned anything this season, it’s that no lead is safe, and their struggles down the stretch reared their heads once again on Saturday night.

SMU chipped away at the Vanderbilt lead, cutting it to eight with four minutes to play.

Two free throws from Nesmith with 36 seconds to play gave Vanderbilt a six-point lead, but even that wasn’t enough.

Jolly drilled a three on the ensuing possession to cut the lead to three, and Davis stole the inbounds pass to give SMU a chance to tie. His missed layup caromed right back to him, where he found Isiaha Mike at the top of the key. Mike promptly drilled the three to tie the game. With a chance to win the game at the end of regulation, Pippen Jr.’s three clanged off the back of the rim, the game headed to overtime.

“I’ll take the hit for that. Maybe I should’ve called something different,” Stackhouse said of the last play, noting that a designed play for Nesmith never materialized because the timing was off.

Momentum carried into overtime for SMU, who took advantage of its second life and buried the Commodores. A three-point play from Bandoumel and a floater from Davis gave SMU the lead, and a dunk from Hunt off a steal put the icing on the cake and handed Vanderbilt a heartbreaking loss.

The Commodores will look to recover as they kick off conference play at Auburn on Wednesday.

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