Fuller fuels VU's comeback at Xavier

CINCINNATI (AP) — Xavier had no answer for Kyle Fuller at crunch time.

The Vanderbilt junior guard scored all of the Commodores’ 12 overtime points on his way to a career-high 25 points as they outlasted Xavier for a 66-64 win on Thursday night.

“It was a huge win for us,” said Fuller, who scored 20 points in the second half to lead Vanderbilt back from a 13-point deficit. “We’ve been struggling. We’re a young team and we have to learn how to win. It is a growing point for us.”


Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings had mixed feelings about Fuller’s overtime effort.

“I didn’t realize that,” Stallings said about Fuller’s solo act. “That’s awesome for him and almost embarrassing for the rest of us. Good for Kyle. He made some huge plays.”

Fuller gave Vanderbilt (3-4) the lead for good at 61-60 on a leaner with 1:26 left in the game. He was fouled and missed the free throw, but he followed up by being fouled while scoring on a driving layup and making the free throw for a 64-60 lead with 1:10 left. His two free throws with 14.9 seconds left were the difference.

Sophomore guard Kedren Johnson scored 19 points and freshman guard Kevin Bright added 11 with 10 rebounds for Vanderbilt. The Musketeers knew the Commodores’ strength was in their backcourt, coach Chris Mack said.

“They had a good game plan,” Mack said. “Their guards were as good as we thought.”

The Commodores won despite making just 13 of 25 free throws.

“I’m almost glad we missed them, because that meant we had to continue to make plays and get stops,” Stallings said. “We were very lucky to win missing all those free throws.”

Travis Taylor scored 15 points to lead four Musketeers in double figures. Justin Martin added 13 and Stephon Christon finished with 12 for Xavier (6-2), which suffered its first loss in four home games. Xavier was almost as bad as Vanderbilt on free throws, making just 9 of 17, which was just one of the Musketeers’ problems, Mack said.

“It was a very frustrating game,” he said. “We opened up a 13-point lead in the second half and we weren’t able to get stops or score for an eternity, it seemed.”

Isaiah Philmore, a Towson transfer making his first career start for Xavier, had a double-double and set season highs with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker and coach Billy Hatcher were among the near-sellout crowd of 10,011 at 10,250-seat Cintas Center. Baker and Hatcher were sitting in the first row behind the scorer’s table.

Martin scored 10 points and Xavier shot 53.8 percent from the field (14 of 26) while leading by as many as eight points in the first half before settling for a 33-27 halftime lead.

Johnson, who went into the game leading the Commodores with an average of 16.7 points, scored 12 in the half and had four steals to help keep Vanderbilt in the game.

Taylor scored the first seven points of the second half to give Xavier a 40-27 lead. The Commodores committed two turnovers and missed their first three shots from the field before Johnson connected on a 3-pointer with 15:50 left in the game.

“I was proud of our team,” Stallings said. “We haven’t been playing very good, and when we were down 13, we could’ve hung our heads between our legs and gone home, but we didn’t.”