Things started so promisingly...
At their best, Vanderbilt led by double digits. At their worst, they went scoreless for a four-minute stretch. That drought was all it took Xavier to swing the momentum and leave Memorial Gym with a victory.
The Musketeers topped Vanderbilt 82-70 in Andre Walker's return to Nashville. The Commodores sported a much improved defense but familiar problems with rebounding and turnovers sunk the team in their second home loss of the season. The 'Dores had 18 turnovers in the defeat and were beaten on the glass by a 48-30 margin.
The loss was especially disappointing given the team's hot start. Vanderbilt led 34-29 at the half behind some of the best basketball the team has played all season. Things looked even more promising when the 'Dores opened their lead to 10 points with just 10 minutes to play. Unfortunately, that all changed.
Vandy led 51-42 but watched that lead slip away in a matter of minutes behind the team's second unit. Kyle Fuller and Dai-Jon Parker showed that they can't be an effective backcourt against a high level team, committing turnovers and fouls that allowed for a 10-0 run that put the Musketeers in the lead. Coach Kevin Stallings rolled the dice waiting for the television timeout at 12 minutes rather than burning a timeout to re-insert his starters, and this decision was a costly one for the Commodores.
The game was a back-and-forth affair from there, with the 'Dores clinging onto a slim lead over the final 10 minutes. John Jenkins buried a deep three with 4:03 remaining to give the team a 66-62 lead, but it would be the last time Vanderbilt scored in regulation. After Jenkins missed a jumper with 16 seconds to play, Xavier took the ball the length of the court and tied the game behind Mark Lyons's spinning layup. Brad Tinsley's ensuing jumper was stripped out of his hands and the game headed to an extra frame with Xavier holding all the momentum.
Tu Holloway went nuts in the extra frame to give Xavier a 74-66 lead that the 'Dores couldn't overcome. Holloway buried a pair of deep threes that put a dagger in Vandy's overtime hopes. Though Vandy cut that deficit down to four, it was the closest they'd come as the Musketeers walked away with the 12-point win.
Jenkins led the team in scoring with 20 points, while Lance Goulbourne and Jeffery Taylor added 18 apiece. The rest of the team managed to shoot just 5-18 from the field, making the 'Dores pretty easy to stop in crunch time. Tinsley had an uncharacteristically rough night, shooting just 2-9 from the field and turning the ball over four times from the point.
Vanderbilt will have to regroup quickly in order to beat a surging Louisville team on Friday. The Cardinals won Monday night to improve to 6-0 on the season.