Photography: Jim Brown

Vandy Too Hot to Handle For Bruce Pearl's Basketball Tigers

Vanderbilt's major edge in shooting percentage was more than enough for the Commodores to defeat Auburn in an SEC basketball contest.

Tyler Harris (above) and his Auburn team had a tough night scoring vs. Vandy.

Nashville, Tenn.--Auburn dropped its third straight basketball game and Vanderbilt picked up its first SEC win on Tuesday night as the Commodores cruised to a 75-57 victory.

Vandy hit its first six three-point attempts in the opening half while the visiting Tigers struggled with their shooting, particularly early in the game. The Commodores built their lead to 17 points at halftime as they defeated the Tigers for a 11th consecutive time.

For the game the Commodores out-shot Auburn 55.3 percent to 32.8 percent from the field.

The three-point shooting was a major difference, too. Auburn hit just 4-22 treys while Vandy made 7-13. Both teams struggled at the foul line, but Auburn was worse making just 9-20 while Vandy made 16-25.

Auburn dropped to 7-8 overall and 1-3 in the SEC. Vanderbilt is 9-7 overall and 1-3 in the league.

The Tigers didn’t help their cause by being out-rebounded 45-35, but did reduce their turnover total from recent games. Auburn finished with 10, seven less than Vandy.

Luke Kornett, a seven-foot-one junior who missed five games with an injury, showed he is on the comeback trail by posting a triple-double with 11 points, 11 rebounds and all 10 of his team’s blocked shots.

Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said that he was disappointed his team wasn’t more competitive and didn’t get more contributions from more players, but said the effort was encouraging. “They played hard, they competed,” he said.

“We can’t focus on winning right now because we have got some challenges so let’s focus on playing hard and we did that,” he said. “Now the next thing, and this is what I probably should have been doing a little bit earlier in the season, is getting us focused on getting better...because a lot of teams don’t get better throughout the season. Play hard, focus on getting better and we have got a chance.”

Kareem Canty led Auburn in scoring with 16 points while dishing out six assists. Cinmeon Bowers posted a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Tyler Harris added 10 rebounds and eight points for the Tigers.

Pearl said that Canty and Bowers were productive along with Jordon Granger, who contributed eight points.

“Tyler Harris didn’t have it tonight and forced some things on the inside,” Pearl said of the senior forward who was 4-13 from the field and 0-5 at the foul line. “Cinmeon Bowers was much better,” the coach added.

Pearl said it was a disappointing game for his freshmen–Horace Spencer, Bryce Brown and New Williams. “I appreciate their talent and I think they are all going to be good players, but for us to be better and get better they have got to get better.”

Sophomore guard Wade Baldwin led Vandy in scoring with 17 points, Jeff Roberson added 14 and Riley Lahance chipped in with 13 points.

Halftime Numbers: Vandy led 39-22 at intermission after hitting 14-21 field goals with six made treys on three attempts. Auburn made just 9-37 first half shots and the Tigers were 1-11 from three-point range.

Vandy out-rebounded Auburn 23-18 in the first half, but turned the ball over 10 times, six more than the Tigers. Bowers led the Tigers in scoring at the break with six points and the senior added five rebounds. LaChance scored 11 first half points as he made 3-4 treys.

Photography: Jim Brown

Freshman center Horace Spencer, who did not score vs. the Commodores, gets instructions from Coach Bruce Pearl.

Auburn shot the ball better in the second half, making 43.3 percent of its field goals, but the Commodores hit 46.2 percent from the field in the second half, which was more than enough to hold off the Tigers

“We had a good defensive plan coming out," Bowers said. "We had been prepared all week. We just couldn’t execute on the offensive end. For myself, I could’ve finished better.”

Commenting on the loss, Pearl said, “It's probably the first time that I've been in Memorial (Gym) where we didn't press for 40 minutes. A lot of people have seen my teams play here in the games, a lot of family and friends. Not that pressure always worked, you always saw our teams fly around a little bit, but when you've got three scholarship guards that are playing it's challenging. I thought that we played hard, I thought we defended fairly well, I thought we got good looks, but obviously it didn't convert so obviously we're disappointed."

Pearl had praise for the home team. "Vanderbilt's a good team, and I think that people around here need to relax and understand that they play one of the toughest schedules in all of college basketball," he said. "All they need is a couple of wins and they're going to get their confidence and get on a run. Vanderbilt's a good team and has great weapons-- Kornet makes a difference for them obviously, and not having him for that little stretch was definitely a factor.”

Worth Noting: Pearl changed the starting lineup with T.J. Lang taking freshman Bryce Brown’s spot. Lang hit 2-4 field goals and scored six points. Brown was 1-7 from the field and finished with two points. Brown was 0-6 on threes.

Stat of the Game: Surprisingly the Tigers outscored the taller Commodores 32-28 for points in the paint and shot 20 more field goals than Vandy, but never seriously threatened the home team due to being outshot by right at 22 percent from the field.

Up Next: The Tigers will return to action with a 3 p.m. CST tipoff vs. Kentucky on Saturday at Auburn Arena.

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