NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The last time out, Vanderbilt head coach Jerry Stackhouse was none too pleased with his team’s inability to play the brand of team basketball he’s looking for on a nightly basis.
On Monday? The Commodores (8-4) got back to that sort of action in a 76-71 victory over visiting Davidson at Memorial Gymnasium.
Four of the eight Dores that scored finished in double figures and Vandy hung on despite not making a field goal for the final 13:09 of the contest. It also left victorious with leading scorer Aaron Nesmith being held to 17 points.
“If we want to be successful down the road that’s how we’re going to have to play. It takes five people to win a basketball game,” Nesmith said. “So a lot more ball movement today, saw a lot more driving lanes are open, a lot more guys got more scoring opportunities – at the end of the day that’s how we want to play.”
Vandy actually led Monday’s win by as many as 24 with just less than 16 minutes to play. And Nesmith’s 3 with 13:09 remaining kept the Commodores ahead by 20.
But oddly enough, that was the last field Vanderbilt made the rest of the night. It needed 17 free throws after that to hold off the Wildcats (6-6) who actually ended the game on a 24-12 run.
“That was a really hard-fought win for us. I thought our guys came out and really set the tone in the first half,” Stackhouse said. “We knew this was a really good team that we were playing, a group that shoot the balls extremely well. Their offensive numbers have been great – not only this year but in the past.
“I thought we defended them really well in the first half. Not as well in the second half but I thought we pretty consistent throughout the game. We knew that they were going to make a run – which they did. We were able to sustain that run and a great, quality win for us.”
In an 88-73 victory over UNC Wilmington on Dec. 21, Nesmith scored 34 points – an individual performance that overshadowed a lackluster team effort. Against Davidson, however, Scotty Pippen had 18 points, Dylan Disu had 10 points and 10 rebounds and Saben Lee had 11 points and four assists.
“Trying to find more contributions right? We talked about trying to have a couple more guys step up.” Stackhouse said. “I think we know what (Lee) and (Nesmith) is going to bring it for us on a nightly basis – (Pippen) to a certain extent as well. Now (Disu) is starting to find is own and Jordan Wright has been trending in the right direction. Then (Moyer) and (Obinna) came in and gave us some good minutes, so it was a great team win.”
Vanderbilt hosts Southern Methodist at 8 p.m. Saturday and will do so on a two-game winning streak thanks to Monday’s win. The Commodores only led 17-16 before Lee broke a Vandy scoring drought of nearly four minutes by converting a three-point play to make it 20-16.
Lee’s bucket helped spark a 12-0 run from Vanderbilt that allowed the Dores take a 29-16 lead. Davidson went 6:22 without a point during that stretch.
Vandy took a 44-27 lead into the break and ended the half on a 27-11 run. It shot 68 percent from the field and held Davidson to just four 3s.
On cruise control in the second half, the Commodores ballooned the advantage to 56-32 at the 15:48 mark and still led 62-42 with less than 10 minutes to go. The Wildcats ended up making 14 of 31 of their 3s, but Vandy made just enough shots from the charity stripe to hold on for the victory.
The 17 points for Nesmith marked just the fourth time this season he’s been held to 20 or less. But Stackhouse was enthused by the way the sophomore affected the game in other areas as defenses begin to make him a prime focal point.
“I’m really happy with the way (Nesmith) approached the game. He didn’t come in and try to force things knowing that they ere playing him tough,” Stackhouse said. “Every team that we play probably from here on out is going to try to focus on trying to take him out of the game. But he can really help us by being a screener and doing a lot of the other little things when they’re trying to take him out offensively. I still thought he worked the game and made shots when he needed too.”
The Commodores can surpass their 2018-19 total of home wins with their next victory inside Memorial Gymnasium. Another win – home or away – would equal last season’s win total of nine.
Opportunities for both will be present at 8 p.m. Saturday against SMU.
Said Stackhouse, “We’re trending in the right direction.”
• Vanderbilt nows leads the series with Davidson 6-2.
• Nesmith and Lee have scored in double figures in every game this season.
• Lee now needs 58 points to reach 1,000 for his career.
• Vanderbilt has now made at least one 3 in 1,076 straight games.
• Attendance on Monday was announced as 9,640 giving Vanderbilt a season average of 8,739 through 10 home games.