NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The way things started Wednesday, an 18-point win by the home team may have seemed like a far-fetched proposition by the end of the night inside Memorial Gymnasium.
Vanderbilt slogged its way through a first half mired by foul calls and turnovers and one that was clogged up by visiting Austin Peay’s zone defense. Then, the dam broke in the second half, and the Commodores put up 52 points during the final 20 minutes en route to a 90-72 victory.
“Give Austin Peay credit. They were really tough,” Vanderbilt head coach Jerry Stackhouse said. “They got into us, took us out of some things we wanted to do offensively. We took ourselves out of some things tonight with some early foul trouble and had to try to piece together a first half to get to the second half.”
The Commodores trailed by as many as nine in the first half with 6:44 to go until the break. They made just 4 of 13 shots from distance, had seven turnovers to just six assists and gave up 13 points off turnovers.
— Vanderbilt Men's Basketball (@VandyMBB) November 21, 2019
“Patience,” Vanderbilt freshman guard Scotty Pippen Jr. said. “Coach told me and the other guards to just get our feet in the paint and just try to get them out of the zone. So just moving the ball around, getting into the paint.”
Vandy scored six points in the final 1:04 of the half and was suddenly ahead 38-37 going into the locker room. Stackhouse’s team then kept plugging away and plugging away into the second half thanks in large part to Pippen.
The point guard scored 21 points – 15 in the second half – to go along with three assists and two steals. Pippen, Nesmith and Lee combined for 66 points and 12 assists.
“Obviously (Pippen and Nesmith) played well for us tonight whenever (the Governors) were in zone stuff, doing a lot of things to try to junk up the game,” Stackhouse said. “But I thought we just made basketball plays. Guys continued to try to get their foot in the paint.”
A major key to victory for Vandy on Wednesday was its ability to score inside. The Dores finished with 44 points in the paint as they worked to try to break down Austin Peay’s zone defense possession after possession.
Vanderbilt also scored 21 points on the fast break – a facet which meant APSU didn’t have time to retreat and settle into its defensive half of the court.
“We want to win the paint, we want to make sure we get our feet in the paint because that creates everything for us,” Stackhouse said. “We got guys that can finish in the paint and then when the help comes we spread to the outside and share it with each other.
“(The fast break is) a point of emphasis every time we get the rebound. We want to get out and get easy opportunities if we can. There will be games where there will be teams that have a really good get-back plans as far as their transition defense and we won’t have those type of numbers. We’ll have to sit down and execute our half court offense which we pride ourselves in being efficient in that department as well.”
Vanderbilt is now 3-0 in its first three home games this season and has six more in a row at Memorial Gymnasium before its next road trip. South Carolina State (2-2) is next on the docket at 8 p.m. Friday.
Stackhouse said he wouldn’t be surprised if more teams try to sit back and slow down the Dores just like Austin Peay did Wednesday. And it worked – but nor for long enough.
“They probably felt like that was their best chance to win the game. You do what you have to do,” Stackhouse said. “We’d love to play a team that plays man-to-man and lets us run our actions – I think we do a pretty good job of that so we’ll probably see more of (zone).
“I think we execute our zone (offense) plays well when we got the right personnel. A learning lesson for us to make sure we have a small lineup that’s used to doing some things whenever teams go to those junkyard defenses like they did.”
• Vanderbilt is now 17-1 all-time against Austin Peay and has won 14 straight in the series. The Governors last beat Vandy in 1939-40 season opener 40-28.
• The Commodores have made at least one 3 in 1,068 straight games.
• Vandy has now made at least eight 3s in every game this season.
• Lee now needs 177 points for 1,000 in his Vanderbilt career.
• Nesmith has now made at least one 3 in 26 straight games.
• Vanderbilt senior center Clevon Brown needs five blocks to pass Chris Woods (108) for the seventh-most blocks in a Vanderbilt career. Julian Terrell is sixth with 116.
• Attendance on Wednesday was 8,732 giving Vanderbilt an average of 8,376 over three home games so far this season.