Sometimes teams have trouble adjusting to shooting in a large, open arena like the Georgia Dome, but that wasn't an issue for the Commodores, who hit 76 percent of their first half shots to build an 11-point halftime margin.
The Commodores made their first nine shots in the game before Vandy star Shan Foster missed a jumper with 12:41 to play before halftime. Foster didn't miss many other opportunities on Thursday.
Part of the good shooting stats for the Commodores, who improved to 26-6 overall, were due to getting looks near the basket for 6-11, 250 freshman A.J. Ogilvy. He led all scorers with 27 points as he overpowered the smaller Tigers on the way to hitting 12-13 field goals.
Another factor in the equation was the Tigers had to deal with one of the hottest shooters in the country, Shan Foster, who burned the Tigers by scoring 26 points. He made 9-14 field goals.
Auburn had a solid shooting game hitting 47.5 percent from the field, but Vandy easily topped that by making 67.3 percent of its shots.
Despite those impressive numbers, the Commodores never could shake the Tigers who matched Vandy's 46 points in the second half despite losing Quan Prowell to fouls after he only played 11 of the game's 40 minutes.
"I thought Vanderbilt's game plan was fairly simple and something we struggle with because of our size," Auburn coach Jeff Lebo said. "They went inside on us. Ogilvy scored a ton in there and Quan Prowell got in foul trouble. We had to play the majority of the game with a 6-6, 190 guy (Lucas Hargrove) at the center position.
"Our kids battled hard," Lebo said. "They shot the ball extremely well. Offensively, it wasn't an issue for us, it was just having a way to stop them on the other end. Their two big guns really hurt us in this game."
Before Prowell fouled out with just 11 minutes of playing time at the 11:43 mark, the Tigers were within easy striking range of the Commodores. AU trailed 60-53 when Prowell was lost for the game and cut the gap to 61-56 on a three-pointer by Hargrove with 11:32 to play, but that was as close as the Tigers could get.
"They ran out of gas there at the end," Lebo said of his team, which faced a Vandy squad that used an eight-man rotation much of the game while Auburn mainly stayed with its top six players.
Tolbert said it was a tough matchup dealing with Ogilvy. "I am so small it was just as much as I could to do to try to keep him from getting the ball," Tolbert said.
Prowell said the Commodores made it tough on the Tigers to double-team the ball by quickly passing the basketball to the open man.
Prowell said several of his five fouls were "tough calls," but notes the fifth one that ended his game was his fault. "On the last foul when I came in, I don't what I was thinking," he said. "I just should have let him go. I just got caught up in the game and forgot about the fouls I had."
Lebo said it was disappointing to see his two seniors end their careers with a first round loss in the conference tournament, but found out later on Thursday evening that a new postseason tournament, the Collegiate Basketball Invitational, contacted Auburn after the loss to Vandy to see if the Tigers would be willing to participate in the event if they receive an invitation.
The new tournament, which competes with the NIT, is scheduled to be a 16-team affair with the championship a best two out of three games format.
Lebo said that he was interested in playing in the event, but said he needed to get more information about the tournament and to talk to AU officials about what the Tigers should do if they are invited despite their 14-16 record and a five-game losing streak. Invitations are expected to be sent out on Sunday night.
The losing record is certainly not what Lebo had in mind when the Tigers played their three exhibition games last summer in Mexico. However, with key players sidelined such as Josh Dollard, Korvotney Barber, Boubacar Sylla and Archie Miaway not available the Tigers were short on size and depth. Without those players, a season that began with high expectations may have ended with a loss to a Vandy team that is expected to be a high seed for the NCAA Tournament unless
Rasheem Barrett led the Tigers in scoring with 20 points in his hometown. He hit 9-15 field goals, but said his good game personally was of no consolation because winning and advancing in the tournament was the only thing that mattered to him at the Georgia Dome.
Tolbert scored 17 for the Tigers, Hargrove added 16 points and Quantez Robertson finished with 11 points as a crowd of 12,659 watched at the Georgia Dome.
The Tigers were out-rebounded 27-23 and turned the ball over 11 times, four less than Vandy.
"I thought our team did a great job of moving the ball and being patient withit and getting inside," Vandy coach Kevin Stallings said."
Stallings said keeping Prowell on the bench was important, too. "We were able to get Prowell in foul trouble and he's a very good player obviously having to play out of position and we were able to get him in foul trouble even though it caused us problems defensively because now they had five--really had five guards--in the game. Still, we had enough advantages on the offensive end that we were able to kind of hold our own."
Vandy will play Arkansas on Friday. The Razorbacks had a first round bye.