Vanderbilt men’s basketball falls to Auburn 73-67

The Commodores fought hard, but they dropped their eighth SEC game this season.

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Clevon Brown puts up a contested shot against Auburn on Feb. 9, 2021. (Hustler Multimedia/Hunter Long)

Betsy Goodfriend, Deputy Sports Editor

The Vanderbilt Commodores fell to the Auburn Tigers 73-67 at Memorial Gymnasium on Tuesday night.

Auburn came into the game having lost three in a row, and Vanderbilt recently returned from Athens after a close loss to Georgia.

The game looked like it was a matchup between the 12th-place and 14th-place teams in the SEC. Auburn had four SEC wins to Vanderbilt’s lone conference win entering Tuesday night’s matchup, but the teams looked evenly matched for most of the game.

Clevon Brown returned to the starting lineup for the first time since Vanderbilt’s Jan. 23 loss to Arkansas. The fifth-year forward rewarded head coach Jerry Stackhouse for putting him back in the starting five with a defensive effort he hasn’t shown all year. Brown had five blocks and four defensive rebounds.

“I thought Clevon was phenomenal tonight,” Stackhouse said. “He did a good job protecting the rim. He did a good job of hitting on the perimeter and pick-and-roll coverages where he was able to see the ball go through the basket a couple of times.”

Sophomore forward Dylan Disu showed off his motor on both ends of the floor, but he fought especially hard on defense. Eight of Disu’s 10 rebounds were on the defensive end to go with three steals and a block. He added 18 points to earn his fourth double-double of the season.

Vanderbilt as a team fought hard for defensive rebounds, and the squad finished with 26 on the defensive end. A combination of Auburn’s sloppy play and Vanderbilt’s awareness of the ball led to 17 turnovers by the Tigers including eight steals by Vanderbilt’s defense.

“We had a great defensive effort in the first half,” Stackhouse said after the game.

A strong defensive performance like Vanderbilt’s creates more possessions for the offense as well. And that’s where things got ugly for the Commodores.

After an 8-0 run in the first three-plus minutes of the game, Vanderbilt went ice cold. It didn’t help that Scotty Pippen Jr. was off the floor. In the three minutes he sat out, Vanderbilt’s 9-4 lead shrunk to 12-10.

Vanderbilt shot just 33% from the field in the first half, and it seemed like a miracle that the Commodores were able to hold a 25-23 lead at halftime.

“We’re just in a slump, but we’ll be back,” sophomore guard Jordan Wright said. 

Wright made both his three-point attempts and finished the game with 14 points, the second-most on the team. His offensive performance was a bright spot in an otherwise tough night.

The Commodores’ offense produced just three assists in the first half. Vanderbilt was unable to get good shots off of its set plays, and Pippen Jr. created the majority of his shots and all five of his first-half points.

Vanderbilt stayed with Auburn in the second half, but Auburn took the lead 40-38 with 13 minutes left in the game. The Tigers would not relinquish the lead.

Pippen Jr. made a three-pointer with about five minutes left to cut Auburn’s lead to four, but he collected his fifth foul seconds later on defense. Pippen Jr. exited the game and finished with 12 points, four rebounds and four turnovers in 24 minutes.

Vanderbilt only made 50% of its 22 free-throw attempts. The Commodores could not muster much offense off of set plays either with just three second-half assists.

“Our offense failed us,” Stackhouse said. “We had some great opportunities around the basket and got some good, clean looks from three.”

Vanderbilt will look to get its offense going before it travels to Starkville to face Mississippi State on Saturday. The Commodores lost to the Bulldogs 84-81 in their Jan. 9 contest at Memorial Gymnasium.