Southern Illinois ambushes Vandy men, 67-53

LAS VEGAS-- The Vanderbilt men picked up their first loss of the 2004-05 season in a game in which they never seemed to get anything going. An lightning-quick Southern Illinois defense frustrated Vanderbilt throughout the night and produced 20 Commodore turnovers, propelling the Salukis to a 67-53 victory. The Commodores face Arizona State Saturday in the Las Vegas Holiday Invitational consolation game.

Vanderbilt opened the game with several early turnovers, which allowed SIU to bolt to an early 6-0 lead. Vanderbilt's Mario Moore finally put the Commodores on the board with a successful 3-point shot two minutes into the game.

A Corey Smith 3-point shot brought Vanderbilt within 2 at 8-6. Smith would go on to score 7 points. SIU then scored four straight points to build its lead back to 6 at 12-6. Later, the Salukis capitalized on more Vanderbilt turnovers and went on a 7-0 run to extend their lead to 19-6.

Vanderbilt's Shan Foster drilled a 3-point shot to cut the lead to 19-9 with 13 minutes remaining in the half. Mario Moore hit his second 3-point shot to make the score 21-14 with 7:27 remaining in the half.

Mario Moore's third three-point shot of the night brought Vandy to within 6 at 27-21. Moore would finish with 14 points. A Jamaal Tatum shot put SIU back up by 9 at 30-21 with under a minute remaining in the half. Tatum then hit a long 2-point shot as time expired to end the half with SIU in command, 32-23. Tatum went on to score 9 points.

Vanderbilt opened the second half much the same way as it did the first, with a flurry of turnovers. SIU scored 6 straight points to quickly extend its lead to 38-22.

A Corey Smith jumper brought the Commodores back to within 10 at 40-30 with 16:20 remaining in the game. However, a 3-point-play by Lamar Owen would put SIU up 46-32 with 15 minutes remaining.

Vanderbilt made its last serious threat to win when freshman Alex Gordon made four consecutive free throws to cut the SIU lead to 7 at 48-41 with 11 minutes remaining. The 6-point difference would be the closest Vanderbilt would get in the second half. SIU quickly responded with a three-point play by Stetson Hairston to put SIU back up by 10 at 51-41. Hairston finished with 15 points.

Two free throws by Southern Illinois Darren Brooks increased the Salukis' lead to 18 at 65-47 with 4:30 remaining. It was their biggest lead of the game.

"We didn't play as well as you have to play to beat a team like that," said a somber Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings after the game. "We got off to a bad start, and I think we turned it over six times in our first eight possessions. That got them going, and we never really recovered from that."

Vanderbilt (3-1) takes on Arizona State Saturday at 7 p.m. CT. The Sun Devils lost to UTEP 66-65 in the semifinals Friday. Southern Illinois (3-0) and takes on UTEP in the championship game.

NOTE: Tipoff was delayed by 15 minutes after the TSU-CSU Northridge game went into overtime. TSU prevailed 75-72.

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