Tolbert, who was limited in practice this week with an ankle injury, scored 26 of his points in the second half as the Tigers trimmed a 12-point lead to one point with 6:35 to play as Tolbert hit both ends of a one-and-one free throw situation.
Vandy then got a key three-point shot from guard Jermaine Beal followed by a fastbreak basket by the sophomore guard to put the brakes on AU's comeback and stretch the lead to six. Beal scored 13 for the Commodores, who were led by 19 points from 6-11 freshman center A.J. Ogilvy.
A running hook shot by Ogilvy made the lead 72-62 with 3:41 to play and gave the Commodores the cushion they needed to stay unbeaten on their home court this season. Vandy has now won 27 of its last 28 appearances at Memorial Gym.
The closest the Tigers could get after that was with 2:16 left when Tolbert hit a three to narrow the gap to 72-66, but Vanderbilt hit enough free throws down the stretch to preserve the victory.
The Commodores, who are ranked 18th and 19th nationally, improved their record to 18-4 overall and 3-4 in the SEC. Auburn dropped its third straight game to fall to 12-8 overall and 2-5 in the conference.
"We didn't start him--he was late for practice," Lebo says of Tolbert. "He was just terrific offensively off the bench."
Tolbert's previous highest scoring game at Auburn came on Jan. 19th when he scored 29 in a victory over Ole Miss. That game also put him over the 1,000-point mark for career college points. Coming into Saturday's game, the senior from River Falls, Ala.,, was averaging 11.6 points per game.
Vandy took control of the game early, jumping to a 15-5 lead against the Tigers, who struggled with their shooting. At halftime the home team led 37-25 as Auburn made just 8-35 field goals in the first 20 minutes while Vandy hit 11-25.
"We had a little trouble against their pressure," Lebo says of the first half offensive problems for his team. "They kind of took us out of our rhythm a little bit."
In the first half the Tigers made just 22.9 percent of their field goals. In the second half AU hit 55.6 of its shots to improve the game total to 37.2 percent, which was still well below Vandy's 48.2 percent and that proved to be the difference in the game.
As expected the taller Commodores held an advantage in rebounds with a 38-31 margin, but Auburn countered that by forcing 16 Vandy turnovers while turning the ball over three fewer times.
Both teams were effective from long range. Auburn hit 11-27 threes while Vandy made 10-25.
"Our kids battled back," said Lebo, who added, "Finally the ball started going in the bucket and we finally got a few stops there. Our zone helped us a little bit."
Barrett, who had taken over as the team's leading scorer with Korvotney Barber out with an injury, was averaging 14.2 points per contest, but finished 0-9 from the field in 23 minutes of action.
In contrast, Tolbert made 10-19 field goals. He was 5-8 on three-pointers and 7-8 at the foul line where the Tigers continued their recent streak of good shooting by making 14-17 free throws. Tolbert also contributed eight rebounds.
Next on the schedule for the Tigers is a 7 p.m. home game on Wednesday vs. Kentucky.