The Commodores outscored the Gaels the rest of the first half and built an eight-point lead at intermission, never trailing again in its 75-64 win in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament on Wednesday.
Damian Jones scored 21 points and Riley LaChance added 17 for Vanderbilt. Reserve Jeff Roberson scored 10 points for the Commodores (20-13), and Wade Baldwin IV also had 10.
The Commodores started three freshmen, one sophomore and one senior.
"I think probably just the first postseason game for all these guys, or most of them," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said of the slow start. "They just needed to get the cobwebs out a little bit and get hit in the face, and we got hit in the face and that kind of woke us up."
Garrett Jackson scored 23 points and had nine rebounds for the Gaels (21-10), who lost their third straight game. Brad Waldow had 12 points and 13 rebounds, while Aaron Bright scored 17 points for St. Mary's.
Vanderbilt will host South Dakota State Friday at 8:30 p.m. CT at Memorial Gym.
Damian Jones Jones, a sophomore center, shot 10 of 14 from the field, tying his career high for field goals made. He had seven rebounds.
"He was dominant the whole game," LaChance said of Jones. "He's the best player on our team and he definitely played like that tonight. That's what we need from him."
The Gaels trailed by eight points at halftime and by as many as 10 early in the second half. They cut the lead to 53-47 with 8:24 left as Waldow made two free throws, the center's first points since 6:30 of the first half.
"We had the experience out on the court, but we just weren't able to get it done today," Waldow said.
Vanderbilt led 57-51 with 5:10 remaining, but LaChance drilled a 3-point shot, hit a jumper and scored from the key, increasing the Commodores' advantage to 11 with 3:15 left.
"My teammates did a good job of setting me up, getting me good looks," LaChance said. "I was able to get a few to go down."
Roberson scored 10 first-half points, and the Commodores' bench outscored St. Mary's reserves 16-2. Jones had eight points on 4-of-6 shooting.
Jackson led the Gaels in the first half with nine points. St. Mary's shot 30.8 percent from the field but went 11-for-11 from the line.
Vanderbilt took its first lead of the game at 20-19 with 8:10 left in the first half when Shelton Mitchell, another reserve, scored on a driving lay-in. Mitchell drove for another basket, and James Siakam scored inside, extending the Commodores' lead to 24-19.
"That team's good," Gaels coach Randy Bennett said of Vanderbilt. "They didn't do what they needed to do for the course of the year, but they're playing like an NCAA Tournament team right now."
Vandy advances in NIT
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