Dores Grow, Adapt in Defeat at Auburn

Vandy rallied from down 14 in the second half

by Chad Bishop



AUBURN, Alabama — Vanderbilt certainly wasn’t taking any moral victories from its 83-79 loss at No. 5 Auburn on Wednesday. But it was also quick to realize the multitude of positives within a setback to one the nation’s top teams.

The Commodores (8-6, 0-1 SEC) trailed by 14 points with just less than eight minutes to play in front of a sold-out and rowdy crowd of 9,121 fans there to watch their Tigers – one of two remaining undefeated teams in Division I college hoops. Things could have went sideways late in the second half.

But they didn’t.

“I’m extremely proud of my team, especially since we had a young team on the road who responded,” Vandy junior Saben Lee said. “There’s a lot of stuff to build on from this, but we’re not at all pleased to just be playing with them – we go out and want to beat whoever is opposing us.”



Lee set a new career high in scoring with 27 points. His 3 with 3:50 left cut the deficit to 73-67 and gave the visitors hope.

Aaron Nesmith, who came in averaging more than 23 points per game and was held to 18 on Wednesday, drained a 3 with 2:46 to go making it 75-72. Freshman Jordan Wright, who finished with seven rebounds, then stepped up with a layup that cut it to 78-77 and two free throws to tie the game at 79-all after the clock had fell under 1:00.

Unfortunately for the Dores, that would be the last points they could muster. Auburn (14-0, 2-0 SEC) made four free throws over the next 45 seconds to escape with the victory.

“I thought our guys competed really well. We knew it was going to be a game of runs,” Vanderbilt head coach Jerry Stackhouse said. “We were playing a really good team, great atmosphere – I just thought we weathered the storm and whenever they did make their runs we found a way to get some stops and our guys competed. We got a lot of positives from tonight.”



Vandy hung around Wednesday despite Nesmith, Wright and center Ejike Obinna all finishing with four fouls and with freshman forward Dylan Disu fouling out late. The Dores do not have a wealth of height and size from the inside positions on the roster and that, coupled with foul trouble, gave the Tigers the opportunity to pull away – an opportunity they almost completely squandered.

Auburn held a 39-28 advantage in rebounding and 38-28 edge in points in the paint. It also had 23 second-chance points while Vanderbilt scored none.

That still didn’t deter the Commodores in their effort to come back and nearly pull off a stunner.

“Being somewhat of a smaller team the boards are huge for us,” Stackhouse said. “That’s the thing that kind of haunts us in all the losses we’ve had so far this year has been our rebounding and free throws. Those are the things we got to try to continue to correct.

“I have no problem with our effort, no problem with our compete level. And they’re sticking together. We’ll get through it and be better because of it.”

The Commodores haven’t lost more than two games in a row this season and have a chance to keep that intact when it hosts Texas A&M (7-6, 1-1 SEC) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. To avoid a third consecutive defeat they’ll need to correct the mistakes that led to their demise at Auburn while continuing to make strides as a team.

After all, said Lee, that’s the most-important concept.

“We tell each other all the time it takes all of us,” Lee said. “We need each other. We’re a team. It’s not going to be one man. We all need to come together to get a win.”