NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt continued its solid play Tuesday by disposing of Yale in the first round of the NIT at Memorial Gymnasium.
The Commodores, now 11-2 in their last 13 games, easily won 71-62 in a contest in which they never trailed. They have won six straight home games and moved into the second round of the NIT for the second season in a row.
Vandy will now face Michigan (18-15), 90-80 winners over Toledo on Tuesday, at 11 a.m. Saturday at Memorial Gymnasium. The Commodores and Wolverines have met eight times previously; the last time was in 2003.
“I know (Michigan head coach Juwan Howard’s) team is going to be prepared. We’re going to try to be prepared for what they do,” Vandy head coach Jerry Stackhouse said. “I know (Hunter) Dickinson is a load down in the post, and we have to be ready to try to guard him.
“We’ll lock into them, we’ll have a game plan and hopefully we can go out and execute it.”
Vanderbilt’s 21 wins is its most in a season since 2014–15, and its 12 home wins are its most in a season since 2015–16.
“Every year we’ve gotten better. Nineteen wins last year and 21 wins and counting now,” Stackhouse said. “We’re continuing to get better, and that’s what we want to do.
“Now it’s just about continuing to play confident. These guys enjoy playing together, and it’s fun to watch and fun to be a part of.”
Vandy came out white-hot in the first half Tuesday and was up 11-0 less than four minutes into the game. Even after a stretch of more than 5 1/2 minutes without a made field goal, the Dores went on to what amounted to a 19-11 run to take a commanding 37-20 lead.
Vanderbilt trotted into the locker room up 37-23 after shooting 50 percent in the first half and getting points from eight players and rebounds from seven players.
Yale shot 30 percent in the first half and just 36.4 percent for the game.
“I think we did it all together, just covering up for each other, helping each other whenever we needed, guarding our guys on our own,” Lawrence said of the Vandy defensive effort. “I think it was a collective effort tonight on defense.”
The Commodores struggled offensively in the second half, and that allowed the Bulldogs to creep to 50-46 with a little less than eight minutes to play. Three John Poulakidas free throws with 6:32 to play made it 52-49 Vanderbilt, and that would be as close as the visitors would get.
Lawrence scored six straight immediately after that to right the ship, and then the junior made five more free throws to put the game out of reach.
Yale’s season ended at 21-9. The Bulldogs got 17 points from August Mahoney in the loss.
“I love how our guys came out from the start,” Stackhouse said. “We talked about urgency, and I thought they really came out and set the tone for the game. That’s a really tough team to play, they really execute, they got guys that can make shots all over the floor.
“We knew they would make a run, which they did, but we sustained their run and found a way to make a run ourselves. Guys made big plays after big plays, and we made our free throws down the stretch.”
- Jordan Wright now has 1,161 career points and needs 30 points to pass Billy Joe Adcock (1,190) for 38th on Vanderbilt’s all-time scoring list.
- Vandy is now 6-1 all-time against Yale.
- Vanderbilt is now 17-3 this season when leading at halftime and 18-7 when hooting better than 40 percent.
- The Commodores are now 21-11 all-time in the NIT.
- Attendance on Tuesday was announced as 5,290 giving Vanderbilt an average of 7,974 fans in 18 home games this season.
— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for VUCommodores.com.
Follow him @MrChadBishop.