Baby Dores to the Rescue

Freshmen trio comes off the bench to help lift Commodores to SEC Tournament win

by Chad Bishop

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt didn’t play its best basketball Thursday in the second round of the SEC Tournament, but fortunately for the hometown team, the Baby Dores shined.

The freshman trio of Colin Smith, Paul Lewis and Lee Dort came off the bench in the first half and provided a major head start on a 77-68 victory over LSU.

Vandy advances to face Kentucky at 8:30 p.m. Friday in the quarterfinals.

“There’s no reason to be nervous because when your coach is confident in you and what you can do, it’s easy to play,” Lewis said about stepping up on the big stage.

Smith, Lewis and Dort combined for 20 points in the triumph, Vanderbilt’s ninth in the past 10 games.

Smith hit a 3-pointer less than five minutes into the game to break a Vanderbilt scoring drought. Lewis connected on a pair of 3-pointers in the first half, the second of which came just before his right leg was kicked out from under him. And Dort played eight minutes after having missed the last 13 games with an injury.

They were key to the Commodores racing out to a 28-14 lead in a game where the Commodores never trailed.

“Coach (Jerry Stackhouse) and his staff, they just want us to be aggressive—and that’s what we do. If we get a shot, we shoot it,” Smith said. “They have trust in us, we shoot the ball pretty well. Me and Paul come in, try to be scorers, facilitate the ball and put the ball in the bucket.

“Lee is a big body, just gets rebounds and tries to finish us out. I think he brought that with the minutes he had.”

The freshman trio didn’t factor in as much as it got down to crunch time. Vanderbilt’s elder statesmen fueled a 12-0 run early in the second half after the Tigers had cut the score to 37-36 two minutes into the period.

LSU (14-19) never got any closer as Vandy pulled away with fresh veterans who had saved their legs for the second half.

Tyrin Lawrence had 22 to lead the Vandy offensive charge, while Ezra Manjon added 17. Jordan Wright had 15 points to go along with 15 rebounds.

Lewis had a career-high 11.

“Coach always tells us to just be confident when we get in the game,” Lewis said. “That’s the big thing he tells us: Whether we play five minutes or 15, just be confident when we get in. When you have your coach telling you to be aggressive and look to make plays on both sides of the ball, it’s easy to play.”

Vanderbilt now turns its attention to rival Kentucky.

Vandy and UK (21-10) met just eight days ago, and the Commodores stunned the Wildcats 68-66 on a last-second Wright shot that ruined Senior Night at Rupp Arena and snapped a 14-game winning streak the boys in blue had on the black and gold.

Kentucky ended Vanderbilt’s SEC Tournament run in 2022 in Tampa, Florida. And Vandy hasn’t beaten UK twice in the same season since 2007.

“I think we’re both going to be prepared,” Stackhouse said. “It’s going to be a battle of competitors. We have to come out and perform.

“We’re not going to come out with some miracle game plan that we’re going to beat them with, and they’re not going to come out with some miracle game plan to beat us with. It’s just going to be two teams that … make plays and make shots, defend. We have to come out and battle and compete, and we’ll feel good about that if we come out and do those things.”

Vanderbilt is now 4-3 in SEC Tournament games under Stackhouse, and Thursday’s win exacted some revenge on the Tigers—the only team to have defeated the Dores since the start of February. A victory Friday would be another notch on the belt in what could turn out to be a run to the NCAA Tournament.

“We’re playing to keep our hopes alive to make it to the [NCAA] tournament. That’s our goal, and [the Tigers] were just in the way,” Wright said. “We don’t want to put any added pressure on ourselves [about] who the team is, we’re playing … to accomplish our goal of winning this tournament.”


  • Wright now has 1,120 career points and is 43rd on Vanderbilt’s all-time scoring list. Luke Kornet (1,135) is 42nd.
  • The double-double for Wright was the 10th of his career.
  • Wright career-high 15 rebounds tied for the most by a Commodore in a single SEC Tournament game since 1997. Damian Jones also had 15 in 2015 against Tennessee.
  • The Dores are now 4-3 in the SEC Tournament under Stackhouse and 43-59 all-time at the event. 
  • Vandy is now 65-58 all-time against LSU and 5-6 against the Tigers at the SEC Tournament.
  • The Commodores are now 15-3 this season when leading at halftime, 13-2 when scoring at least 75 points and 16-6 when shooting at least 40 percent from the field.
  • Vandy secured a 19th win for the second season in a row. The last Vanderbilt squad to win at least 20 games was the 2014-15 team that finished 21-14.

— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for
Follow him @MrChadBishop.