Second half surge propels Vandy past Auburn, 67-43

AUBURN, Ala.-- Corey Smith scored 19 points as the Vanderbilt Commodores overcame a 15-point first half deficit and used a 46-17 second half surge to defeat the Auburn Tigers, 67-43. The rare SEC road win improved Vanderbilt's record to 15-10 (5-6 SEC) and re-kindled hopes of a possible NCAA bid.

Despite taking an early 3-0 lead, Vanderbilt had trouble scoring in the first half. Auburn jumped out to an 11-3 lead with 13:16 remaining in the half when Nathan Watson made a 3-point shot. The lead swelled to 11 with seven minutes remaining when Watson scored again on a lay-up. Watson would go on to lead the Tigers in scoring with 16 points.

A Daniel Hayles jumper gave the Tigers their biggest lead of the game at 15 just 5 minutes before the half. Vanderbilt, led by senior Corey Smith, outscored the Tigers 14-4 over the last 5 minutes to the half to pull within 5 points at the break. Smith had 7 points during the run.

In the second half Vanderbilt erupted into a scoring frenzy while simultaneously playing in a possessed defensive state.

An Alex Gordon lay-up got a 21-0 Vanderbilt run started and quickly cut the Tiger lead to just 3. Vanderbilt re-took the lead and would never relinquish it when Corey Smith scored on a fast break. Vanderbilt led 27-26 with 18:53 remaining in the game.

Jason Holwerda's 3-point shot pushed Vanderbilt's lead to 8 with 17 minutes remaining. A minute later, a DeMarre Carroll jumper put the visitors up by 10, 36-26.

A Corey Smith dunk swelled the Auburn deficit to 14. Smith netted 8 of the 21 Vanderbilt points scored during the run.

DeMarre Carroll's jumper at the 13:28 mark completed the Vanderbilt run with the Commodores up 42-26. A Quinnel Brown lay-up ended the 7 minute, 1 second Auburn drought.

The Vanderbilt lead reached 21 on a lay-up by Ted Skuchas with 5:51 remaining. Commodore walk on Aubrey Hammond got into the box score with a lay-up just 7 seconds before the final buzzer.

The Vanderbilt defense was stifling in the second half. Vanderbilt limited Auburn to a total of just three 2-point field goals (11%) and two 3-point goals (18%). The Commodores forced 21 Auburn turnovers, including 13 steals. Corey Smith also led the way on defense with 5 steals. Meanwhile, Vanderbilt was sizzling from the field, hitting 66 percent of their shots and 50 percent of their 3-point attempts.

After the game, Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stalling said that he told the team at halftime not to panic, to concentrate on defense and the shots would start to fall; "We can't shoot the ball any worse than we did in the first half. If we just do a better job of getting the ball inside and be a little more patient, we can let our defense win the game for us."

Vanderbilt hosts Arkansas on Saturday. Auburn falls to 12-12 (3-8 SEC) and next travels to Georgia.

Vanderbilt's Ted Skuchas (54) grabs a rebound during the first half against Auburn in Auburn, Ala, on Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2005. Vanderbilt's Dan Cage is on the left. (AP Photo/Todd J. Van Emst) Top Stories