NASHVILLE, Tenn. — When the clock hit zero, Jordan Wright turned and slung the ball into the frenzied Vanderbilt student section—a symbolic move of relief and joy after a volatile 40 minutes at Memorial Gymnasium on Saturday.
Wright scored 17 and was part of a relentless Vandy second-half barrage that helped take down No. 15 Arkansas 97-84.
“I just wanted to give them a little fire,” Wright said of the heave to his classmates. “They were a big reason why we won this game.”
Arkansas led by as much as 10 in the second half Saturday, but there was just no stopping the Commodores (9-8, 2-2 SEC).
Vandy shot 69.2 percent over the final 20 minutes and poured in 63 points. Five Dores finished in double figures (including Wright), led by Tyrin Lawrence’s 22. Myles Stute added 15, Liam Robbins scored 14 despite constant foul trouble and Trey Thomas chipped in 13.
Vanderbilt built a 14-point advantage with 7:43 to go, and the closest Arkansas (12-4, 1-4 SEC) could get was within six points with 2:20 on the clock.
“That was a tough game. That was a hard-fought game. Our guys they played their butts off. They competed,” Vandy head coach Jerry Stackhouse said. “That second half, they did exactly what we’ve been talking about: They led by example. No rah-rah, nothing but going out there and executing and being the veteran team that we are and playing like the veteran players the way they did. It was on them.”
When the competitive and highly contentious first half ended, Arkansas had a 42-34 lead. But the big story was the technical fouls with 49 seconds left in the period on Arkansas’ Kamani Johnson and Vanderbilt’s Ezra Manjon and Stackhouse. And Manjon was disqualified.
The Razorbacks got 24 of those 42 points from inside the paint and 31 of 42 from Ricky Council and Anthony Black. At that point, Vandy could do little to stop Arkansas from scoring inside, and the Dores suffered a five-minute drought without a field goal toward the end of the half.
“We came out with a chip on our shoulder,” Wright said about the difference between the first and second halves. “Liam got us going in the second half, Colin Smith got us going early in the second half—so we wanted to capitalize off that momentum.
“Our veteran presence kind of showed up there. We knew we had a lot of game left—20 minutes is a lot of time to play. They played their best ball, but like Coach Stackhouse said, we knew we had to come out and fight. And that’s what we did.”
Led by Robbins, Vandy came out a little angry in the second half.
The Dores hit their first four 3s and got eight points from Robbins, clawing to 54-53 on a Stute tip-in. Thomas tied the game at 56 with a 3 after curling off a screen on the left wing, and then Wright buried a triple from the right side to give Vandy a 59-56 advantage—its first lead since being up 22-20 with 7:53 left in the first half.
Vandy began to feel itself from there.
Wright was undeniable going into and out of the lane, and his leaner in the lane with 8:34 to go put the Commodores ahead 10.
The senior had a celebratory chest bump for his head coach coming off the floor into a timeout—it was an early start to a lasting celebration over the waning moments.
“We came out, knew we had to play our best ball,” Robbins said. “We executed what Coach Stackhouse drew up on the board, and, obviously, the result showed up.”
Ricky Council led the Razorbacks with 24, while Anthony Black (who was booed every time he touched the ball in the second because of his involvement in Manjon’s ejection) added 18.
Vanderbilt now sets its sights on No. 4 Alabama (15-2, 5-0 SEC) at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“We got another (ranked) team coming in here on Tuesday,” Stackhouse said. “We know they’re going to be jacked up. They’re going to be throwing everything at us, and we’re going to do everything we can to throw everything at (them) to try to win.”
- The 97 points scored by Vanderbilt on Saturday was its most against Arkansas since scoring 102 in a 1993 victory.
- Vanderbilt’s 63 points in the second half Saturday was its most in a half since scoring 65 in a half against Savannah State on Nov. 27, 2018. The 63 points is the third-most in a half in an SEC game since 1996-97.
- Vanderbilt had last defeated a top 15 opponent Feb. 4, 2016 (No. 8 Texas A&M, 77-60).
- The Commodores are now 1-5 this season when trailing at halftime and 7-1 when scoring at least 75 points.
- Vanderbilt has now had 10 different starters this season.
- Robbins now has 50 blocks this season and is tied with Chris Woods (1994-95) for the ninth-most in a single Vanderbilt season. Festus Ezeli (eighth) had 52 in 2011-12.
- Wright is now 18 points away from 1,000 for his career.
- The Commodores last beat Arkansas two games in a row Feb. 9, 2013, and March 14, 2013.
- Vanderbilt is now 14-29 all time against Arkansas and had lost four in a row at home before Saturday’s victory.
- Vandy is now 7-3 at home this season. The team won 11 home games in 2021-22.
- Attendance on Saturday was announced as 9,362.
— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for VUCommodores.com.
Follow him @MrChadBishop.