NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt could never get its offense going Monday night. Visiting Memphis took full advantage and ruined the Commodores’ season opener.
Vandy fell 76-67 to its in-state foe on a night when it shot 41.1 percent from the floor and missed 18 3-pointers. The result overshadowed plenty of promising minutes from newcomers and left a sour taste in the mouth of Vanderbilt’s proven veterans.
“We just came out flat,” Vandy senior Jordan Wright said. “The first unit didn’t come with the intensity we know we’re capable of playing with. We didn’t hit the shots. We got good looks. I didn’t think we attacked like we were supposed to, we didn’t get two feet in the paint like we talked about in our leadup to this game.”
The Commodores returned three starters from last season’s squad to the starting lineup Monday. Tyrin Lawrence was also among that first five, and returners Liam Robbins and Trey Thomas were the first few Commodores off the bench.
Lawrence (14) and Myles Stute (12) combined for 26 points, but the rest of Vandy’s vets totaled just 24 points. Stackhouse put six newcomers into the game, and all had varying moments of promise throughout the first 40 minutes of the season.
But promise wasn’t enough to slow down the talented Tigers, an NCAA Tournament team one season ago.
“Tonight we dug ourselves a little bit of a hole to begin the game. I didn’t think we had the urgency that we talked about that we wanted to come out with,” Vanderbilt head coach Jerry Stackhouse said. “We played a really good team. That’s what we wanted to do—to start the season off against a really good team to measure ourselves and see where we need to improve.”
After all the offseason hype and anticipation, Vandy couldn’t have gotten off to a poorer start. The Commodores missed 15 of their first 17 shots, endured two separate scoring droughts of at least five minutes and sank just one of their first 11 shots from distance.
Memphis (1-0) was able to build leads of 19-6 and then 28-11, the latter of which was after Vandy had cut the deficit to 21-11. The Memorial Gymnasium crowd yearned to rev the volume up with each possession, but Vanderbilt’s 30 percent shooting clip over the first 20 minutes was met with groans and moans after nearly all of the Commodores’ 21 misses.
Vandy went into the locker room down 34-22.
“Our first unit has to come in and set the tone, and I don’t think we did that tonight,” Stackhouse said. “Gave up too many paint points, gave up too many offensive rebounds, and we didn’t crash the boards and do the the things that we want to do that gives us the best chance to win the game.
“I think them playing with the lead, they were comfortable for most of the game. We didn’t really put that single-digit pressure on them that can change the game for you.”
The Commodores began the second half playing much better offense—but not so much better on the defensive end. Memphis took its largest lead of 49-30 just 5:07 into the period.
Vandy (0-1) desperately continued to try to get back in the mix and was down 51-38 with 11:16 to go, 55-41 with 10:12 remaining and 55-44 with 8:50 on the clock. Memphis refused to budge.
The Tigers wound up with 38 points in the paint and finished with a 35-28 rebounding advantage.
“Even some of our older guys started to hang their heads a little bit because they knew that they missed their assignment and they know that’s one of the things that we talked about,” Stackhouse said of that discrepancy. “We talked about getting in the paint, us winning the paint, and coming in there and having a plan.”
Vanderbilt, which lost a season-opener for the first time since 2016, returns to action at 6 p.m. Friday against Southern Mississippi (1-0) at Memorial Gymnasium.
- Wright now needs 172 points to reach 1,000 for his career.
- Stute made his 100th career 3-pointer during the second half Monday.
- Vanderbilt is now 8-7 all-time against Memphis and has lost three straight in the series
- The Commodores had won five straight season-openers before Monday’s defeat.
- Attendance on Monday was announced as 10,380.
— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for VUCommodores.com.
Follow him @MrChadBishop.