Vandy holds off scrappy Alabama A&M, 74-58

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Dan Cage finished a final exam at 5 p.m. on Saturday night, but his day was just beginning. Two hours later, Cage played the starring role in an otherwise spotty performance by the Commodores, as his 18 points (all in the second half) helped Vanderbilt put away Alabama A&M 74-58. The Commodores survived a season-high 19 turnovers and led just 61-56 with less than four minutes to play before closing the game on a 13-2 run.

"Dan Cage was the difference in the game," said Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings. "We made some nice plays down the stretch, but we looked a little out of sync."

Julian Terrell pumped in 13 points and Ted Skuchas muscled his way to 11 points and seven rebounds, but without Cage's effort off the bench, the Dores might be staring at a two-game losing streak. Cage hit four of six three-pointers, had two steals, two rebounds and three assists in 26 minutes.

"We haven't really needed my scoring this season because we've got some great scorers," Cage said. "Fortunately, I was able to take advantage of my opportunity tonight."

Cage had an opportunity because leading scorer Shan Foster again performed below is expected level of play. Foster scored five points and played just six minutes in the second half.

"(When Shan doesn't produce), it puts a lot of stress on everybody," Stallings said. "He catches the ball and we are all waiting for him to shoot it and he holds it. You can't speak any more clearly than I have spoken about catching the ball ready to shoot it. His teammates are saying, ‘Shan, shoot it.' Shan has to work that out."

Foster has scored 17 total points in his last three games after averaging 19.5 in the first four games of the season.

Obie Trotter, the Southwestern Athletic Conference Player of the Year in 2005, scored 27 points for Alabama A&M, which gave Vanderbilt fits with a full-court press and swarming half-court zone.

"They do a good job of scattering the game," Stallings said. "We played into their hands."

Turnovers were a point of emphasis for the Dores after committing 17 in the Cincinnati. But that number increased by two, with six coming off in-bounds passes.

"They are a very disciplined team and threw us off," said guard Mario Moore, who had eight assists after once again losing his starting job to Alex Gordon. "Coach told us we needed to take care of the ball and we obviously didn't."

Vanderbilt led 29-25 at halftime after shooting 36 percent from the floor, and was never able to shake the Bulldogs until the very end of the game. This performance, along with the Cincinnati game, signaled the team is not living up to its potential.

"We have too many players who are wallowing in their problems," Stallings said. "Instead of enjoying the game of basketball, they are worrying about their own problems. We are worrying about what's wrong with me instead of ‘let's take care of us.' We'll get that fixed." <>P When asked if he was frustrated with his team, Stallings said no.

"On the one hand, they want to do the right thing," he said. "On the other hand some of them are afraid to do it. I can give them a lot of things, but I can't give them courage."


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