Furman shuts down Vanderbilt, 70-62

NASHVILLE-- Not many expected Vanderbilt to compete for an SEC Championship in 2006-07 but few could have envisioned the depths to which the once proud Vanderbilt basketball program has fallen. Tuesday night the Furman Paladins gave Vanderbilt a black eye when it handed the Commodores a 70-62 loss in historic Memorial Gymnasium.

Superior 3-point shooting, led by Eric Webb's 3 treys, and an aggressive defense led the Paladins to a win over a SEC team. Webb and teammate Gerad Punch each finished with 13 points for Furman. Stanley Jones and Robby Bostain both contributed 11 for the winning team. Vanderbilt was ice cold on the night shooting, making just 2 of 17 three-point shots.

Furman, who had four players score in double figures, jumped out to an early 8-2 lead on a George Brozos' field goal. The Paladins achieved their biggest lead of the game with 10:40 remaining in the half on a bucket by Stanley Jones that put the South Carolina school up 18-7.

Vanderbilt, led by Dan Cage, Ross Neltner and JeJuan Brown, retook the lead at 26-24 on a tip in by Brown with 2:50 remaining in the half. The freshman Brown, a bright spot in an otherwise dismal night for Vanderbilt, scored on several tip-ins off misses and finished with 10 points. Cage had 11.

After trailing early, Vanderbilt seemed to have things under control at halftime, leading 32-28. In fact, Vanderbilt led most of the second half, building its biggest lead at 46-40 with 12:10 remaining in the game. However, Furman would outscore the Commodores 30-16 over the remainder of the game to score the upset victory.

Furman took the lead briefly at 49-48 with 9:50 remaining on a 3-point basket by Alex Opacic. After Vandy regained the lead on a Ross Neltner basket, Furman then retook the lead for good on a Jones field goal with 7 minutes remaining in the game.

Throughout the final 7 minutes Vanderbilt was plagued by missed lay-ups and high percentage shots while the Paladins seemed to make shots with ease. Most of the Vanderbilt fans in attendance had evacuated the building before the final horn.

Other scorers for Vanderbilt included Ross Neltner 12; Shan Foster 6; Derrick Byars 9; Alex Gordon 2; Jermaine Beal 4; George Drake 4 and Ted Skuchas 4.

"Obviously, we're disappointed, but we got some good shots all night and just couldn't buy one. We had point blank lay-ups and missed. It snowballed from there. We'll keep pushing forward. We have a bunch of good kids and we'll keep pushing hard," said an obviously frustrated Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings.

Vanderbilt falls to 1-3 with the loss. The Commodores next host Toledo on Saturday night. Furman improves to 4-2 with the win. Furman hosts North Carolina-Asheville on Saturday.

Dan Cage (VM/Stan Jones)

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