Offensive explosion carries 'Dores past Catamounts, 99-79

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A freshman guard, an unselfish senior and one of the Southeastern Conference’s top post players helped fuel a Vanderbilt comeback on Tuesday night.

Guard Riley LaChance tied a career high with 26 points as the Commodores rallied in the second half to beat Western Carolina 99-79, handing the Catamounts their fourth straight loss.

After trailing by as many as 12 points in the first half, the Commodores (7-2) took control with a 16-2 run early in the second half.

LaChance had five 3-pointers as he hit 8 of 12 from the floor. He was named Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week after scoring 26 points in Saturday’s win over Purdue.

“He loves the fight,” Commodores coach Kevin Stallings said. “He walks towards the fight. I like guys that walk towards the fight. I’m not big on those guys that walk away from it.”

James Siakam, a senior forward, added 20 points and seven rebounds off the bench.

“I’m definitely OK with (coming off the bench,)” Siakam said. “If coach says, ‘This is your role,’ then you have to be able to accept it. You know, lose yourself within the team concept and move from there.”

Damian Jones, a 6-foot-10 sophomore who entered the game as the SEC’s third-leading scorer, added 16 for the Commodores.

“(Damian) is our best player,” LaChance said. “In the first half we didn’t do a very good job of getting him going. In the second half we really wanted to get the ball inside and get it to him.”

Vanderbilt started to pull away after a seven-point possession with 8 minutes left after a technical foul on Western Carolina’s Justin Browning.

Rhett Harrelson led the Catamounts (3-7) with 22 points, including six 3-pointers, and Torrion Brummitt scored 17. Mike Brown scored 14.

Vanderbilt fans booed whenever Harrelson touched the ball after he had a fiery verbal exchange with Commodores guard Wade Baldwin IV late in the first half.

“We got in a little foul trouble in the second half and their depth is a little bit more than ours,” Western Carolina coach Larry Hunter said. “(Vanderbilt) shot the ball very well in the second half.”

It was the most points Vanderbilt has scored since a 102-76 win over Mississippi in 2012.

Vanderbilt’s bench outscored Western Carolina’s 33-15, and the Commodores outrebounded the Catamounts 34-18 and hit 38 of 43 from the foul line.

Vanderbilt took its first lead, 47-46, since early in the first half when Damian Jones sank two free throws with 18:14 left.

Western Carolina broke a 12-all tie with an 8-0 spurt to take a 20-12 lead midway through the first half.

The Catamounts, who made their first five 3-point attempts, expanded their lead to 28-16 when Harrelson buried his fourth straight 3-pointer.

Western Carolina led by 10 when the Commodores closed with a 13-6 run, narrowing the gap to 44-41 at halftime. It was the most points Vanderbilt has allowed in the first half all season and only the second time the Commodores have trailed.

Harrelson led the way as the Catamounts hit 62.1 percent of their shots from the floor during the first 20 minutes.

Western Carolina: Vanderbilt was the third Southeastern Conference opponent the Catamounts have played this year. Western Carolina lost at Mississippi State and Alabama in the first two games of the season.

Vanderbilt: The Commodore improved to 57-9 all-time against the Southern Conference

Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings won his 299th game in 16 seasons with the Commodores. He has taken Vanderbilt to six NCAA tournaments.

Vanderbilt outrebounded Western Carolina 34-18 for a nearly 2 to 1 advantage.

Vanderbilt shot 69.6 percent from the floor in the second half as the Commodores hit 16 of their last 23.

Western Carolina hosts Wright State (7-4) on Thursday for the Catamounts’ first home game since Nov. 21.

Vanderbilt visits Georgia Tech (7-2) on Saturday.