Heartbreak in San Jose

After mounting a strong second-half comeback, the Commodores became part of another magical March moment. Unfortunately, they were on the losing side of it.

Jermaine Beal knocked down a pair of free throws to give Vanderbilt a 65-64 lead over Murray State with 12 seconds left to play. The Racers came down the floor in a hurry and B.J. Jenkins missed a three-pointer. Murray State was given a last-second reprieve as Andrew Walker couldn't gather the rebound and knocked it out of bounds.

With only four seconds on the clock, fate smiled on Murray State's Danero Thomas. As he dribbled the waning seconds away, Thomas pulled up for a jumper that sent the HP Pavilion into an uproar. As the chaos was sorted out, Murray State walked away with a 66-65 win, leaving A.J. Ogilvy laying on the floor in disbelief.

"Let the madness begin." Those were the words of Murray State head coach Billy Kennedy in his opening statement. "Our guys did a great job of executing the game plan against a very good Vanderbilt team. Down the stretch we got a good look for B.J. Jenkins in transition and we had one timeout left. It was a miracle play. It was just something I drew up at the end of the game."

Kevin Stallings was graceful in defeat. "We congratulate Murray State. They played a very good game, and I felt that going down the stretch both teams made a lot of winning plays. They made one more than we did. I think the things that plagued our team all season long showed up today unfortunately, but our guys fought hard."

Vanderbilt started off the game well. They held their largest lead of the game with a six-point cushion at the 17:05 mark of the first half. That would change quickly. Murray State controlled the next 17 minutes, shooting 44% on 14-for-32 shooting. The Racers ended the half on a 12-5 run to take a 36-32 lead into the locker room.

The second half was a back and forth struggle, with Vanderbilt finally tying the score at 52 with 7:35 left in the game. Over the next four minutes, the Commodores went on an 8-4 run, five of which coming from a revitalized John Jennings. With only 3:46 remaining, the ‘Dores clung to a 60-56 lead with the momentum clearly swinging in their favor.

Murray State responded with back-to-back 3's from Isaiah Canaan and Jenkins. That helped set the stage for Danero Thomas to become a household name.

Thomas was asked how it felt to hit the biggest shot in school history. "It's great, but I give all the credit to Isacc Miles. He found me on the play and I put it in the hole."

For Vanderbilt, they have a couple of "what-ifs" to sort through.

What if Jeffery Taylor could have stayed out of foul trouble?

Taylor only played six minutes in the second half, getting his fourth foul early in the frame. His aggressiveness was effective early in the game, but it cost the team in the long-run. Taylor scored nine points, all coming in the first half. For that matter, the sophomore didn't even attempt a single shot in the final 20 minutes.

What if Vanderbilt was able to shoot free throws like they are accustomed to?

The stripe was unkind to the ‘Dores, who didn't look like the same team that finished second in the SEC East. The Commodores only hit 58% from the line (17-29). If they would have been anywhere near their season average from the line, Vanderbilt would be in the round of 32.

Hopefully not lost in the defeat is that this was the final time for Jermaine Beal to take the floor as a Commodore.

"We're extremely disappointed," said Stallings. I feel real bad for our players, I feel really bad for Jermaine, but again, this is why this is a great tournament because things like this happen. It is what it is."


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