Vandy Trails, Leads, Trails, and Finally Wins

Vanderbilt is one of only three teams in the nation to have made a three-point field goal in every game since it was introduced in 1986, a span of 480 contests. The ‘Dores extended that streak on Saturday night against Centenary with eight field goals from behind the arc, three coming from the hand of sophomore Brendan Plavich.

However, Plavich's game winning three-pointer with only 3.4 seconds on the clock may be the most memorable in the now 481-game streak, as Vanderbilt edged Centenary 77-75 for their fifth straight win, and seventh of the season.

It was a wild finish to a wild game that saw the ‘Dores trail by as many as nine and lead by as many as 17 before almost coughing up the victory down the stretch at the hands of Centenary's hot shooting and resilience.

"Well, we are starting to make a habit of this," coach Kevin Stallings said. "This one was closer than the others, but we still won. We had a good stretch at the start of the second half, but let them off the hook."

It was a well-known fact going in that Vanderbilt would need to get ahead early if they had hopes of securing a victory. The ‘Dores have trailed at halftime in both of their losses this season. The team, however, came out sluggish.

Brian Thornton opened the scoring with a lay-up, and Matt Freije followed less than a minute later with a lay-up of his own to put the ‘Dores ahead quickly. However in the next minute Vanderbilt relaxed, and Centenary scored once on an offensive board and twice on the fast break after costly Vandy turnovers.

The teams traded baskets and the lead for the next few minutes, and pulled to a 10-10 tie at the 15:52 mark. Centenary failed to score for the next 2:30, but Vanderbilt failed to gain much breathing room.

Centenary seemed committed not to make the same mistake, and when the ‘Dores went into a funk of their own, scoring only four points in just under six minutes, Centenary jumped out to an eight point lead, its largest of the game, with 7:11 left in the first half.

But Vanderbilt failed to wilt under the surge, and steadily chipped away at the lead behind dominating paint play by Thornton and swarming defense. Over the final 6:11 of the half, Centenary scored just one bucket, a dunk by Kreimir Tomorad with 65 seconds left, and the ‘Dores led 34-30 at the break.

It was an evenly distributed scoring effort for Vanderbilt in the first half, with all but two players getting in on the scoring action, and no one scoring more than seven. As a team, the ‘Dores were shooting 45 percent from the field, but had coughed up 11 turnovers. Overall, even though Vanderbilt showed considerable strength to stay in the game when it appeared they may fade, it wasn't the ‘Dores performance everyone was hoping for.

Vanderbilt, however, came out firing in the second half, and quickly built a big lead. Sam Howard, who contributed a solid 13 points in only seven minutes of action, opened the half with a bomb from behind the arc, and Plavich quickly followed it up with a three of his own to extend the Vanderbilt lead into double digits for the first time.

Over the next nine minutes, the ‘Dores played the type of basketball that will get them a lot of wins as the season rolls on. They didn't do anything spectacular in that span other than play solid basketball on both ends of the court.

However, just as quickly as they used a string of good offensive and defensive plays to build a big margin, Vanderbilt allowed Centenary back into the game with a non-existent defense.

"We shot the ball pretty well in the second half," Stallings said. "We ran the offense effectively. Defense is a problem. We just aren't there yet. I think our confidence is a little shaky, but we are still getting the job done. It isn't pretty, but we are getting the 'W'."

Shaky confidence perhaps, but the ‘Dores acted as though they had the victory in the bag, and Centenary, maybe sensing the cockiness, started to drain their shots.

A three-pointer with 5:43 left in the game by Andrew Wisniewski brought Centenary within eight points.

And then, after a Thornton dunk, a three-pointer by DeAndre Cornelius brought the deficit to seven.

And then, another three by Cornelius brought Vanderbilt's lead to only four.

And then, after both teams traded buckets, Wisniewski hit yet another three, and Vanderbilt lead only 72-69 with 1:05. Centenary called a timeout, and the ‘Dores were left shaking their heads, wondering what could have been an easy victory.

However, Vanderbilt still held the lead, and time was on its side. That is, until Chuck Moore turned the ball over out of the timeout, and Cornelius hit his third three in less than three minutes. The inevitable had occurred. The game was tied.

Vanderbilt called a timeout with 43 seconds left, and as both teams stood at their benches, the crowd hushed, not sure what to think, it's safe to say no one anticipated the ending to the see-saw battle.

Out of the timeout, the ‘Dores managed the clock well and Plavich worked the ball inside to Thornton for a lay-up, the final two of his team-high 15 points. The clock read 24 seconds, and there were still six points to be put up on the board.

Following a Vanderbilt timeout, Wisniewski drilled an amazing three. Centenary didn't need three points, it only needed two - but for the game, Centenary shot a blistering 56.3 percent from behind the arc, including 7-of-9 in the second half. Overall from the field, the team shot a commendable, but lesser, 53.6 percent, so the numbers were on their side.

But the ‘Dores weren't done quite yet, and they in bounded the ball, setting the stage for Plavich's heroics.

"It was the biggest one I have hit this season," Plavich said. "I was waiting for coach to call timeout, but he let us run the offense. Chuck (Moore) made a nice cut and found me open and I hit it." Top Stories