Robbins to the Rescue

Vandy center propels Commodores to win over Texas A&M

by Chad Bishop


NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt junior guard Scotty Pippen Jr. said during the preseason that he didn’t return for his junior season to lose.

The sensational scoring guard referenced that during a postgame television interview after Vandy beat Texas A&M 72-67 at Memorial Gymnasium. That victory gave the Commodores their sixth league triumph of the season, matching the program’s SEC win total from the last three seasons combined.

“After the last game at Auburn (a 94-80 loss), we sat in the locker room and said, ‘We got to turn it around. We got to win the next couple games – especially at home,’ ” Pippen said. “We got to protect our home court. And that’s what we did today. It was a big confidence boost for the team.”

Vanderbilt (14-12, 6-8 SEC) now sits in 10th in the SEC standings with four games to play. But it is only one game back in the standings of four teams – Alabama, LSU, Florida and South Carolina – all tied for fifth.

Vandy hosts Alabama (17-10, 7-7 SEC) at 8 p.m. Tuesday. 

“When we were in that last timeout I was like, ‘Man, this is our season right here.’ And our guys locked in and did everything they needed to do on both sides of the ball,” Vanderbilt head coach Jerry Stackhouse said. “It wasn’t the prettiest game, we made some mistakes, but when it came down to winning time we executed and did more than enough to win the game.”

The Commodores led for most of the night Saturday, but a scrappy Aggies team (16-11, 5-9 SEC) clawed in front to take a 66-65 lead with 2:10 to go. Eleven seconds later Pippen knocked down a pair of free throws to put Vanderbilt back in front – and it never trailed again.

Liams Robbins, in just his fifth game of the season, hit a crucial jump hook in the lane to make it 68-65 and then Jordan Wright converted a tough layup with 26 seconds to play making it a 70-67 game.

The Dores’ defense bowed up and got physical stops from there. Pippen and Robbins, respectively, each hit a single free throw in the waning moments to put the cherry on top of a victory Vanderbilt badly needed.

It was the fourth win in a row at Memorial Gymnasium for the Commodores. A fifth straight will inch Vandy even further up the standings ahead of the league tournament.

“We got four games left in our conference season and we’re trying to go win all four,” Robbins said. “Every game has been a grind, but closing this one out definitely gives us confidence moving forward.”

Robbins scored a season-high 14 points, collected a season-high eight rebounds and played a season-high 26 minutes. The 7-foot center has missed most of the season while recovering from an offseason foot injury.

His presence was undeniable Saturday as he scored seven points in the final 3:52. He also blocked two shots.

“I’m feeling more and more comfortable with each game, with each practice I’m out there,” the Minnesota transfer said. “A lot of it is just game speed is a little different than practice, so just getting reps in games has made me more and more comfortable.

“I still make some mistakes in games but I’m getting there. I think toward the end I’ll be right there with the rest of them as far as knowing exactly where I’m supposed to be.”

Pippen finished with 24 points to go with six rebounds while Wright scored 15 and had six steals. Quentin Millora-Brown continues to be the heartbeat of the operation and he finished with eight rebounds.

But more importantly Vanderbilt found a way to come out on top to continue trending in the right direction.

“It was an unbelievable win. Our guys just kept grinding, kept fighting,” Stackhouse said. “Things weren’t really going our way. We just made plays. At the under-4 timeout our guys just locked in, came out there and played real stingy defense. We took care of the ball – didn’t have any turnovers after that. Just a great, great win.”

— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for
Follow him @MrChadBishop.