Vanderbilt tops Northern State, 98-94

NASHVILLE-- The Vanderbilt Commodores withstood a furious second half rally by Northern State (South Dakota) before picking up a 98-94 exhibition victory. Vanderbilt, which debuted the playing careers of several players, built a huge lead before watching the margin dwindle to just one with seconds remaining.

Vanderbilt raced out to a 51-42 halftime lead and eventually pulled ahead by 25 with 7 minutes remaining. That's when Northern State, led by Levi Hamilton who scored 19 points, went on a 29-6 run to pull to within 1 at 92-91 with 29 seconds left. Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings had seen enough and quickly put starter Shan Foster back in the game to get things back in control.

Free throws in the final seconds by Shan Foster, Alex Gordon and Dan Cage put the game away for Vanderbilt.

Vanderbilt shot 59 percent from field goal range and hit 44 percent of their 3-point shots. However, the Commodores struggled from the free throw line, hitting just 22 of 32 shots (68 percent). Northern State out rebounded Vanderbilt 44-30 and had an impressive 22 offensive boards to Vandy's 7.

Despite the close call, Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings attributed the near upset to first game jitters; "One of the things that really surprised me tonight was that some of our guys were a little bit tighter than I expected that they might be. Then I realized that we had four guys out there tonight who had never worn a Vanderbilt uniform before so I guess it is really not all that surprising.," said Stallings.

Newcomer report: Red shirt freshman guard George Drake had a super debut, scoring 17 points while hitting 7 of 8 from field in 19 minutes. Drake also had 5 rebounds. Fellow freshman guard Jermaine Beal had 6 points, 5 assists and a rebound. JeJuan Brown had 6 points, 2 rebounds and 2 blocked shots. LSU transfer Ross Neltner contributed 8 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 5 turnovers.

Other Vanderbilt scorers included Shan Foster 15, Derrick Byars 13, Alex Gordon 11, Alan Metcalfe 10, Dan Cage 9 and Ted Skuchas with 3.

Vanderbilt hosts 23rd ranked Georgetown in the regular season opener on Wednesday, November 15.

VandyMania's guest expert says:

Don Meyer's small but scrappy team overcame a twenty-five-point deficit, cutting it to three, before losing by a final margin of four points. George Drake, a red-shirt freshman from Calera, Ala. came off the bench to lead all Vandy scorers with seventeen points.

Vandy's offense was the highlight of their performance, especially in the first half. The defense lacked intensity and cohesiveness throughout the game. Their opponent scored far too many points in the paint.

Other double-digit scorers for the Commodores were: Gordon with eleven, Foster with fifteen, Byars with thirteen and Metcalfe with ten.

In two weeks on November 15th, the Georgetown Hoyas will be here for a tough intersectional game. They are ranked in the top Twenty in all the polls.

To summarize, I realize this was a Division II team and a larger margin of victory could have been expected. Just remember, this was the first game, and only an exhibition. Any assessment I have to offer of this 2006-07 team will not come until several games have been played.

Go Commodores!

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