Nothing says “Welcome to the SEC” quite like a road trip to the nation’s fifth ranked Auburn Tigers, who also happen to be undefeated on the season.
These two programs were on completely opposite ends of the SEC hoops spectrum. Auburn is coming off of a Final Four appearance, while Vandy is looking for their first conference win in over a year.
On paper, this game is a blowout. In fact, in most Vegas shops, Vandy closed as a 14.5-point underdog to the surging Auburn squad. But, as the old basketball proverb goes, you don’t play the games on paper.
Auburn struggled to get going early while Vanderbilt plugged away. With seemingly every Tigers bucket, Saben Lee had an answer. He was the sole reason Vandy was in the game at the half. Dropping 14 first half points, Lee led the ‘Dores to the locker room facing just a 42-38 deficit.
After failing to make a field goal in the final three minutes of the first half, Vandy had just one bucket in the first three minutes of the second half and Auburn started to create some separation with a 51-40 lead.
Vanderbilt would eventually pull even with Auburn with just 59 seconds on the clock. With some uncharacteristically clutch free throws and some help from Vanderbilt after a Lee inbounds pass fell off the fingertips of Obinna and into Auburn’s lap, the Tigers were able to escape by the score of 83-79.
There is Shaq and Kobe, Magic and Kareem, Jordan and Pippen and Nesmith and Lee. Alright that is a bit of a stretch, but the duo put up yet another heroic performance.
Lee finished with a career high, 27 points on 10-14 from the floor in addition to stroking all three of his attempts from the three-point line. Nesmith, who struggled early, finished with 18 points and knocked down four-of-six from deep.
No. 2️⃣4️⃣ for 👌 from way out pic.twitter.com/KqjX2WSTOt
— Chad Bishop (@MrChadBishop) January 9, 2020
Auburn entered Wednesday’s night matchup not only leading the SEC in rebounds, but ranking sixth nationally in the category. With rebounding being the Achilles heel to this Vandy team, which is still missing the senior big man, Clevon Brown, Auburn was able to expose the ‘Dores inside.
Auburn’s 6-foot-11 center, Austin Wiley, who ranks second in the SEC in rebounding, averaging 9.2 per game, was the benefactor of the frail interior defense Vandy would bring. Wiley would finish with 13 points and 12 boards while Isaac Okoro (23 points) was also able to punish Vanderbilt down low.
“Obviously we would have loved to have gotten the win,” said Stackhouse following the game. “But, I think we have some really good things to build on, some positives to build on and some things we know that we need to clean up”
Stackhouse and his youthful team put up a valiant effort that was sure to impress all of Commodore Nation, but this loss will surely sting. Next up for Vandy is a home date with a Texas A&M squad Saturday afternoon at 2:30.