Comeback Keeps Commodores Alive

Vandy erases late deficit to keep NIT run going

by Chad Bishop

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — This time, Michigan felt the Magic.

Vanderbilt scored nine points in a span of 46 seconds and then got one last defensive stop to win 66-65 over the visiting Wolverines in the second round of the NIT on Saturday at Memorial Gymnasium.

The Commodores trailed 65-57 with 1:45 to play. And then Michigan unraveled in front of 8,337 raucous fans and never scored again.

“Like coach said, we just turned the pressure up with Colin (Smith) and Ezra (Manjon) up there,” Vandy senior Jordan Wright said. “We hadn’t put any pressure on them the whole game, but we did it there and disrupted their offense and their flow and the timing of their rhythm that they had. Finally got some steals at the end.”

Vandy’s comeback started on Tyrin Lawrence’s three-point play with 58 seconds to go, which made it a 65-60 game. Back-to-back turnovers by the Wolverines led to four straight points from Manjon, and it was a one-point game with 20 seconds left.

Michigan got the ball in bounds in its own backcourt but then threw it away into the hands of Manjon—who got it to Wright, who dished it to Lawrence, who drove and threw up a layup that was goaltended with 12 seconds on the clock.

“(Wright) saw me trailing, and I just saw a lane. I took it,” Lawrence said.

The Wolverines (18-16) still had one possession on the other end, but Dug McDaniel and Hunter Dickinson both missed potential game-winners and the clock ran out.

“It just shows the resiliency and the toughness that this team has,” Wright said. “(Lawrence) said it from the four-minute mark down, ‘This is our game.’ We play three-minute, three-possession games every day in practice. It just shows it can go either way—when you fight and play tough, you get stops on the defensive end and you make your free throws it’ll go in your favor.”

Lawrence scored 24 points as he continued tear the swath through opposing defenses that he started in early February. The junior guard also grabbed nine rebounds.

Smith finished with 11 and Manjon added 17 points and helped force the Wolverines into 15 turnovers.

Vanderbilt (22-14) will now host UAB (26-9) or Morehead State (22-11) either Tuesday or Wednesday in the tournament’s quarterfinals.

“That was Memorial Magic if you’ve ever seen it before,” Vandy head coach Jerry Stackhouse said. “We just kept fighting, and we found a way.”

The first half on Saturday was a game of runs for both teams.

Vandy trailed 5-0 after missing its first four shots, then exploded for a 17-0 run that was highlighted by nine straight points from Smith. Michigan countered by going on a 15-3 run to tie the game at 20 after a McDaniel three.

Dickinson’s hook shot with 41 seconds left in the period put the Wolverines ahead 30-29 and was the sixth lead change of the game. Michigan took that one-point lead into the locker room.

Dickinson came out of the locker room and took charge in the second half, at one point scoring 11 straight to take the Wolverines to a 52-42 lead with 11 minutes to play. Later in the half, Vandy went more than three minutes without scoring until a three-point play from Lawrence closed the gap to 59-54 with 5:09 on the clock.

A Trey Thomas triple a little more than a minute later made it a 61-57 contest. But Michigan got consecutive buckets to bump the lead back out to 65-57 and put what seemed to be the final nails in the coffin.

But the “zombie Dores,” as they have done so many times this season, rose up again to get it done.

“We could have easily gave up after I missed that 3, the last 3 that I took, or the charge we could have gave up there. But we didn’t. We kept fighting, kept working and it went in our favor,” Wright said. “To have the opportunity to go to the semifinals, which we hadn’t been to before, and then also to do it at Memorial Gymnasium with all the students back and with the crowd the way it was for us today—it’s incredible.

“I’m looking forward to whenever we play and having the fans and having a packed arena and going out and getting the win.”

Dickinson had 21 points and 11 rebounds to lead Michigan, and McDaniel had 19.

  • Vanderbilt’s 22 wins this season is its most since winning 25 in the 2010-11 season.
  • The Commodores have won 14 home games, their most since the 2014-15 season.
  • Wright needs 24 points to pass Billy Joe Adcock (1,190) for 38th on Vanderbilt’s all-time scoring list.
  • Vandy is now 3-6 all-time against Michigan.
  • Vanderbilt is now 3-10 this season when trailing at halftime and 19-7 when shooting better than 40 percent.
  • The Commodores are now 22-11 all-time in the NIT.
  • Vandy is now 12-2 since the start of February.
  • Attendance on Tuesday was announced as 8,337 giving Vanderbilt an average of 7,993 fans in 19 home games this season.

— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for
Follow him @MrChadBishop.