Freshmen Brian Thornton and Corey Smith came up big in the last ten minutes after starters Matt Freije and David Przybyszewski got in foul trouble, scoring 12 and 9 points respectively.
Brian Plavich led the well-balanced attack with 13 points, Freije had 12, and Chuck Moore and Sam Howard 11 apiece.
The Commodores hit 55 percent from the field and 21 of 27 free throws.
A trapping defense bothered the Hilltoppers, a top 25 team playing without their 7'1" center, Chris Marcus, an All-American candidate. Nate Williams, Marcus's replacement scored 13 points and grabbed 7 rebounds, and forward David Boyden led the Hilltopper attack with 17 points.
Vanderbilt led almost the entire way, rushing out to 20-10 lead in the first half. Three 3-pointers by Patrick Sparks and one by Raynardo Curry brought the Toppers back to within five points, 35-30 at halftime.
Vanderbilt maintained the lead, always by 10 points or less, throughout the second half, but the lead was cut to one point, 76-75, before Vanderbilt scored the last four points on two free throws each by Freije and Smith.
Vanderbilt will play the Southeast Missouri Indians at Memorial Gym, 8:00 PM, CST, Wednesday, December 5.