NASHVILLE, Tenn. — On an emotionally-charged day on West End, the Commodores were left emotionally-drained right at the buzzer.
Tyree Crump’s long 3-pointer as the horn sounded, and as the crowd stood – some hoping, some cringing – and as Vanderbilt watched in disbelief, fell through the basket giving visiting Georgia an 80-78 win at Memorial Gymnasium.
It wasn’t supposed to end that way Saturday.
TYREE CRUMP WINS IT AT THE BUZZER 🚨 pic.twitter.com/sdM5aHWF8v
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) February 23, 2020
“On a special day like this with the dedicating of 25th Avenue to Perry Wallace, it just felt like everything was right for us to have a good ending tonight,” Vanderbilt head coach Jerry Stackhouse said. “But it’s part of it. It’s part of big-time sports where you just have to continue to pick yourself up, keep your head high and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Just four hours prior, Vanderbilt University and Nashville officially changed a portion of 25th Avenue outside of the Commodores’ historic venue to be named after Wallace, a civil rights pioneer who became the first African-American to play for the Commodores in the 1960s. Members of his family spoke to the team at its morning shoot around and Stackhouse spoke at the ceremony before tipoff.
And when the game between the Dores and Bulldogs started there was a different energy. Vanderbilt pulled away early as star guard Saben Lee began to heat up – he had 22 points in the first half alone.
The crowd of 10,378 was roused by the heart and hustle of a team that hasn’t found many wins in the early part of the 2020 calendar.
“The players that were in, in practice I see them play,” Lee said of his seldom-used teammates. “We play 5-on-5 and they’re in there with us just like everyone else competing and battling. I knew they were going to ride for me so I trusted them.”
Georgia (14-10, 4-10 SEC) refused to go away in the second half despite trailing by as many as 11. And that deficit was still seven at the 4:28 mark, six at the 2:48 point and 78-33 with just 22 ticks to play.
But Lee missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 12 second to go and Sahvir Wheeler sank two freebies on the other end six seconds later. Then Scotty Pippen couldn’t connect on two free throws of his own with the score 78-77 and five seconds to play.
That’s was just enough time for Crump to chase down a long rebound and heave a prayer after crossing halfcourt.
“We did enough, man. I have no complaints about our effort. We did enough,” Stackhouse said. “I thought we deserved to win this game, but you go to play to the buzzer and that includes making sure we take care of our business, step up, knock down shots when we’re supposed to.”
Lee, who moved into 31st on Vanderbilt’s all-time scoring list, set a career high with 34 points. Pippen finished with 20 – 16 of which came in the second half – and Maxwell Evans added 10.
The Dores (9-18, 1-13 SEC) also scored 20 points off 13 Georgia turnovers and led for more than 35 1/2 minutes. It still wasn’t quite enough.
“It’s a little bit on everybody,” Stackhouse said. “We can look back and say, ‘Maybe we could have did this or maybe we could have did that.’ You always kind of second guess things when they don’t go exactly the way that you want them to. In this particular case I think we did enough, it just didn’t happen for us.”
Vanderbilt is back at Memorial Gymnasium at 8 p.m. Wednesday to host Missouri (13-14, 5-9 SEC) in its penultimate home game of the season. The after affects of Saturday’s loss remain to be seen.
But if the Commodores continue to fight like they did against Georgia, a fact not lost on many of the patrons who stood and cheered as Vandy left the court Saturday, maybe those bad breaks will turn for the better.
“We just got to keep fighting,” Stackhouse said, “keep trying to build and keep the guys confident.”