Dores top Aggies, 63-56


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Texas A&M probably didn’t target Dai-Jon Parker as a perimeter threat.

After all, the Vanderbilt guard entered Saturday’s game against the Aggies with just 12 3-pointers this season. Little did they know, however, Parker had been squeezing time in between classes and after study hall to fine-tune his long ball.

Parker witnessed the fruits of his labor and caught Texas A&M off guard with a personal-best five 3-pointers and a career-high 17 points to lift Vanderbilt to a 63-56 victory.

“It probably wasn’t on their scouting report,” Parker said with a wide grin. “I had to pull it out of my bag of tricks tonight. I had to come through for my team.”

Rod Odom added a game-high 19 points as the Commodores (10-14, 4-8 Southeastern Conference) won the first meeting between the schools since 1955. Odom added a career-tying four 3-pointers, including a clutch shot from the corner with 1 minute left, to help sink the Aggies (15-10, 5-7).

It was just the second win in the last seven games for the Commodores, who bounced back from an embarrassing home loss to in-state rival Tennessee on Wednesday.

Vanderbilt also received a boost from the presence of former players Festus Ezeli, John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor, who were taken in the first 31 picks of the NBA draft last year. With the NBA All-Star Break this weekend, the trio was back on campus. They received a standing ovation when they were recognized in the second half.

“We’re not going to give in,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. “These kids are not going to give in. They’re not cut that way. Our staff is not cut that way. That is not what this program is about. Maybe they were inspired by those three guys who came back.”

Before Saturday, Parker hadn’t made more than two 3-pointers in a game. By halftime, he had three. He added another in a 20-6 run spanning both halves that allowed the Commodores to create some separation. His fifth and final 3 came in the left corner with more than nine minutes left.

On the next possession, with the Aggies guarding the 3-point line, Parker drove the baseline, wiggled around Roberson and banked in a reverse layup with his right hand for the largest lead of the game, 46-33, with 8:37 left.

“We had a hard time defending dribble penetration and I thought they did a good job of finding him,” Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said. “I also thought Odom was a tough matchup for us and he shot the ball well. Dai-Jon Parker is a tough kid and he made some shots tonight that were critical.”

The Aggies chipped away though and kept the final minutes interesting.

After a jumper by Josh Henderson gave Vanderbilt what appeared to be a comfortable 56-45 lead with 3:18 to go, Texas A&M rattled off six straight points.

Kourtney Roberson tipped in a miss, Elston Turner followed with a jumper and a full-court press forced the Commodores into a turnover. Fabyon Harris made two free throws with 1:29 left to pull within five.

Vanderbilt, prone to relinquishing second-half leads this season, didn’t panic. Odom got free in the left corner and made a game-clinching 3-pointer with 1 minute left.

“We watch a lot of tape of those times we gave up leads,” Odom said. “We ask ourselves why did we give up those leads? A lot of it was due to bad shot selection and just mental errors on defense. We figured if we cleaned up those things we would fare better down the stretch and I think we did that better today.”

The Aggies jumped ahead 7-0 early and the teams exchanged leads in a slow-moving first half, but five quick points gave Texas A&M its last lead of the game. Jordan Green soared in for an offensive rebound and putback. Ray Turner then muscled his way into the lane for a basket and made his free throw to complete the 3-point play for a 21-19 lead with 2:57 to go until halftime.

Vanderbilt answered right back with a jumper by Odom, a forced turnover and a layup by Henderson.

Then with time winding down before the end of the half, the Commodores forced Elston Turner into a tough jumper that missed. Vanderbilt point guard Kyle Fuller drove the lane and made a pull-up jumper with 3 seconds left for a 25-21 halftime lead.

Odom kept the spurt going with a 3-pointer to open the second half. Henderson, Odom and Parker later scored in successive possessions to cap off a 20-6 run and take a 39-27 lead with 11:42 to go.

Henderson added 11 points and Kyle Fuller tied a career-high with six assists. Elston Turner scored 14 points and Ray Turner added 10 for Texas A&M, which had a special guest behind the bench.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry sat in the first row and mingled with Aggies fans at halftime. The former Republican presidential candidate watched as his alma mater sputtered early and made just 9 of 23 shots (39.1 percent) in the first half. The Aggies also missed nine of their 12 3-point attempts.

Leading scorer Elston Turner struggled to get into a rhythm offensively after scoring 37 points against Mississippi on Wednesday. He was just 7 of 19 from the field and missed eight of his first 10 shots.

Parker, primarily known as a defensive specialist, was one of several Commodores armed with the task of slowing him down. Elston Turner said Vanderbilt made it difficult for him to get the ball, let alone shoot it.

“I couldn’t really catch it in my sweet spots,” Elston Turner said. “I had to go out towards half court because they were denying me and switching on a lot of the ball screens. They kept it packed in tight. They made me pass the ball. I did have some open looks, but I just wasn’t able to knock them down tonight.”