Commodores tame High Point Panthers, set school record for threes

Robbie Weinstein, Sports Editor

With a key road game against Middle Tennessee State looming 48 hours later, Vanderbilt hoped to roll by High Point and sharpen up its offense Tuesday night. A record-breaking 90-63 win did exactly that for the Commodores as they moved to 5-4 on the year.

Vanderbilt started slow defensively, prompting head coach Bryce Drew to make a pair of hockey-style line changes – pulling all five starters less than four minutes into the game before reinserting all five only two minutes later. High Point took an early 13-6 lead thanks to hot shooting from center Miles Bowman before the Commodores responded with a quick 11-0 run.

“First off, High Point came out and they made some shots, they executed really well,” Drew said. “But I didn’t think our urgency level was good enough to approach a game like this, and so we wanted to give the other guys a chance to go in and bring us some energy and turn around the game a little bit for us. I thought they went in, they played hard and then when the other five went back in they had a different perspective.”

Commodore forward Jeff Roberson busted out of a mild shooting slump in the first half in going four-of-six from three-point range. A career 42 percent shooter from outside, the junior power forward came into the game at only 34 percent through eight games.

“We’re not worried about Jeff,” Vanderbilt guard Nolan Cressler said. “He’s a good shooter and he puts the work in day-in and day-out. He hit a couple tonight, so that’s kind of what we expect from him, and I think he’ll get hot going forward.”

As a team, Vanderbilt torched the nets in the first half and would continue to do so all game. With eight-of-11 three-point shooting at one point, the ‘Dores threatened to pull away in the first half en route to 50 points. High Point showcased some hot shooting of its own, however, knocking down a scalding eight-of-nine from three over the first 20 minutes.

Bowman’s outside shooting dragged Kornet away from the basket and led to open spot-up opportunities for the other Panthers, but High Point guard Anthony Lindauer buried a couple of well contested outside shots as well. Vanderbilt forced only six turnovers and blocked one shot in the first half in allowing 42 points to a Panther squad that averages 66 per game.

“I thought it was a tremendous shooting display by both teams,” Drew said. “I don’t know if that’s because both teams are just really, really good shooters or there were a lot of breakdowns on the defensive end tonight.”

Both teams’ impressive shooting continued to start the second half, as Vanderbilt point guard Payton Willis made a pair of threes from a nearly identical spot on the left side of the floor. Willis’ 13 points and one turnover highlighted a bounce-back performance for the freshman after a rough game against Minnesota three days earlier.

The game threatened to turn with just over 12 minutes remaining in the second half, as Kornet went to the bench after picking up his fourth foul with Vanderbilt leading 62-49. Improved defense, however, allowed the ‘Dores to maintain a double-digit lead for the remainder of the game.

“In the second half, I thought our defense really picked up,” Drew said. “We were able to keep them in front a little better, we were able to contest shots a little better and it allowed us to get some stops, get out in transition and be able to build a lead.”

Fisher-Davis led the Commodores with 19 points on six-of-10 shooting, while Roberson and LaChance each added 14 of their own. Vanderbilt finished 19 for 32 from three, breaking the program record of 18 set in 2005 at Tennessee. High Point’s final stat line impressed as well, as the Panthers finished with 12-of-15 three-point shooting.

The ‘Dores will make the short drive to Murfreesboro, Tenn., Thursday night for their matchup with MTSU, which will air on CBS Sports Network at 6:30 p.m. CT.