In the first half, IUPUI looked every bit the NCAA Tournament-worthy team it had been last season, while Vanderbilt struggled to keep pace with the athletic, hot-shooting Jaguars.
"They were a very difficult team to match up with," said Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings. "They started five guards out there. We struggled to find good matchups."
Vanderbilt countered in the second half with its own athletic, hot-shooting guard, and Mario Moore shot the Commodores to the lead and eventually to the 86-68 victory. Vanderbilt is now 4-0 heading into a showdown with Michigan Saturday night, the last major test of the calendar year.
The beginning of the second half was all Mario all the time, as Moore scored Vanderbilt's first 13 points of the second half, then dished off to Matt Freije for a three-point play. Moore drained four straight three-pointers, single-handedly helping Vanderbilt erase a 41-38 halftime deficit (VU's first of the year).
"I told him we needed somebody to step up and change the course of events out there," Stallings said of his sophomore guard. "Either he picked up his aggressiveness and hit some shots or vice versa, but he played well in the second half."
Moore ended the game with 24 points, which is more than he had in the first three games of the season combined.
The game was not settled, however, until a 12-0 run gave Vanderbilt a comfortable 78-62 lead with 4:30 to play.
In the first half, Vanderbilt fell behind early and never regained the lead until the second half. IUPUI shot 9-for-14 from three in the opening frame and led by as many as nine points.
"We wanted to come out here and make Vanderbilt uncomfortable, and we were able to do that in the first half," said demonstrative IUPUI coach Ron Hunter.
The Jaguars were led by Nashville native Odell Bradley, who had 25 points and 11 rebounds, both game-highs.
But the Jags had little depth and wore down in the second half. Vanderbilt's bench enjoyed a 28-0 scoring advantage against its IUPUI counterpart, led by Scott Hundley's 18 points (on 8-for-10 scoring).
"I enjoy coming off the bench," Hundley said. "It gives me an opportunity to get a look at the game and see what the team needs. Tonight, they needed someone to spark the offense."
Julian Terrell recorded a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds in 26 minutes.
Now the attention turns to Michigan (8 p.m CT Saturday, Fox Sports Net TV, 95.5 WSM-FM) for what figures to be an intense game in front of a rowdy Memorial gym crowd. Michigan is 4-0 after a victory against NC State on Tuesday.
"I'm looking forward to it because it is our first big game with our students here," said Matt Freije, who scored 18 points. "The Indiana game was over break when the students were not here. It will be fun to have them here for Michigan."
Bill Trocchi is the online editor at Athlon Sports.