Commodores open 2017 with big win over Auburn

Photo courtesy of John Russell/Vanderbilt Athletics

Photo courtesy of John Russell/Vanderbilt Athletics

Elias Ukule

Vanderbilt thumped Auburn 80-61 Wednesday night to win the team’s first conference home game and welcome the new year with a victory. Junior guard Matthew Fisher-Davis was the standout performer, scoring 33 points, eclipsing his previous career high by eight points, on seven made threes.

Senior center Luke Kornet was the only other Commodore who scored in double figures, finishing with 10 points to go with a game-high 11 rebounds for a double-double.  

On the other side, three Tigers scored in double figures, with point guard Jared Harper scoring a team-high 19 points, 12 of which came in the second period. Freshman Mustapha Heron, who came into this game leading his team in scoring with 16.2 points per game, only managed 13, all coming in the first half and over half of them from the free-throw line.

Vanderbilt started the game on a 21-2 run in the first six minutes, finding Fisher-Davis’ hot hands for 16 of those points.

“The guys started the game tremendously with a run. We shot the ball well, had great energy on defense,” said first-year coach Bryce Drew.

The ‘Dores were able to run on the break after forcing some turnovers on the defensive end in the first half. In fact, Vanderbilt scored 12 points off eight Auburn turnovers, while only turning the ball over four times, in the first half.

Finding themselves in a 19-point hole only six minutes into the game, the Tigers picked up their intensity, pressing the ball every time the ‘Dores inbounded from the baseline. However, the turnover differential and the hot shooting by the Commodores (48 percent from the field and 44 percent from three) saw them carry a 17-point lead as they headed into the locker room for the half. The damage had already been done.

Vanderbilt continued its momentum into the second half, building the lead up to more than 20 points and maintaining distance for most of the period. In fact, Auburn never led the game, with the Commodores leading all but 23 seconds of the contest.

“I thought the end of the first half and the start of the second half were big for us … to be able to build on that lead,” Drew said.

The biggest lead of the night was 26 points as junior guard Riley LaChance made a three, his second of the night, with 3:57 left on the clock. That would be Vanderbilt’s final bucket, as the Tigers closed the game out with a 7-0 run for a more respectable scoreline: 80-61.

Asked about the key to the victory, Fisher-Davis credited “ball movement” as one of the factors.

“We got the ball moving, got them rotating and they were always one short on the rotation,” Fisher-Davis said.

Eighteen of Vanderbilt’s 28 baskets were assisted compared with only eight assists managed by the Tigers. Freshman guard Payton Willis, who maintained his starting spot, chipped in with a game-high six assists. In contrast, no Tiger had more than three dimes.

The Commodores also had the advantage on three pointers, making 14 threes, half of them coming from Fisher-Davis, to Auburn’s six, to counter the 32-24 advantage the Tigers held in points in the paint.