Tigers claw back, down Commodores 61-52 in defensive affair at Memorial

Scotty Pippen’s strong first-half wasn’t enough to give the Commodores their second SEC win of the season.

Scotty+Pippen+Jr.+drives+through+traffic+in+Vanderbilt%27s+Wednesday+night+loss+to+the+Missouri+Tigers.

Truman McDaniel

Scotty Pippen Jr. drives through traffic in Vanderbilt’s Wednesday night loss to the Missouri Tigers.

Max Schneider, Sports Editor

On Wednesday night, the Commodores fell at home to the Missouri Tigers in a low-scoring, sloppy, defensive affair.

The game was a stark contrast from the offensive showing against Georgia on Saturday night that saw Vanderbilt lose at the buzzer, but in the record-book, it will go down just the same.

Missed opportunities at the free throw line and early foul trouble plagued the Commodores, but for Coach Jerry Stackhouse, it was hard to not fault a failure to box out and secure defensive rebounds. The Commodores were out-rebounded 42-27 in a series of late offensive rebounds for the Tigers after shots deep into the shot clock  stunted a Commodore comeback and resulted in a 61-52 loss.

“The biggest thing I pulled from the night is again, we played defense for a good 25-26 seconds and then we don’t turn to box out and check out and they get a second chance opportunity,” Stackhouse said. “It’s just so deflating.”

“Looking at their lineups and seeing 6’10”, 6’10”, 6’10”, I knew it was going to have to be a huge rebounding night for us,” center Ejike Obinna added. I kind of expected them coming in and trying to out-rebound us, but unfortunately we didn’t do a good job of that tonight.”

Scotty Pippen Jr. led all scorers with 19 points, just two short of a career high. Xavier Pinson paced Missouri with 17 points and five rebounds.

Both teams came out of the gates cold, making for a lot of clanging off iron in the first few minutes. The Commodores missed their first eight threes of the game, while Missouri made just one of its first eight.

Pippen Jr. started the scoring for Vanderbilt with a short fadeaway jumper in the lane and Obinna gave the Commodores an early 4-2 lead with a layup, his first points in the past three games. After a three from Missouri guard Mark Smith, Vanderbilt’s defense buckled down. Dylan Disu’s block to prevent a fast-break layup took Vanderbilt into the first media timeout trailing just 7-6.

After a series of misses that saw just two points scored by either team in the next four minutes, Saben Lee gave Vanderbilt its first three of the game with a jumper from the top of the key. That’s when Pippen Jr. took over.

The freshman point guard scored five points in quick succession thanks to a steal leading to a slam on the break followed by a three from the wing. Out of a timeout, Pippen Jr. nailed another three with the shot clock running down to give Vanderbilt a 17-16 lead. After a bucket plus the foul on the next possession, he’d steal a pass from Missouri forward Mitchell Smith to earn himself two free throws. A three from Disu and another layup through heavy traffic from Pippen Jr. gave the Commodores a 27-18 lead with just a few minutes left to play.

Missouri shot their way back into the ballgame before halftime, though. Dru Smith hit two mid-range jumpers in the last two minutes to aid a 9-1 run and close the gap to just one, as Vanderbilt headed into the locker room with a 28-27 lead. Pippen Jr. led the way in the first half with 15 points.

The Tigers came out of the locker room aggressively on offense, drawing two quick fouls on Disu in just 25 seconds, forcing the Vanderbilt big man to sit with four. Pinson took advantage of Disu’s absence, scoring seven consecutive points for Missouri and giving the Tigers a four-point lead.

“Sounds like a broken record,” Stackhouse said. “Did some good things in the first half, came out in the second half and didn’t quite execute as well.”

After four consecutive misses from Pippen Jr. at the charity stripe, Missouri extended its lead on a three-pointer from Dru Smith plus an and-one from center Reed Nikko.

“Getting to the free-throw line in the second-half when I wasn’t able to finish, it kind of just threw my rhythm off,” Pippen said.

Minutes later, Jordan Wright picked up his fourth foul, forcing Drew Weikert into action with 13 minutes to play. The walk-on, who made headlines for stealing the ball from Georgia guard Anthony Edwards and converting a layup on Saturday, made his presence felt again. Weikert forced a turnover, ripping the ball away from Mark Smith and scored on a drive out of an ensuing timeout.

Missouri continued to build its lead, though, carving out a double-digit advantage on a three from Mitchell Smith. Vanderbilt battled back though with a layup from Lee and two free throws from Pippen Jr. to cut the lead to five. Obinna’s tip-in and subsequent dunk on a no-look feed from Lee brought the Memorial Gym crowd to its feet.

Missouri would tack on some late free throws, however, and the Commodores fell short of picking up their second SEC victory of the year.

The Commodores will look to earn that coveted second win in Oxford against Ole Miss on Saturday.