Vanderbilt shook off a poor first half to push a 5-1 Baylor team to the limit on Thursday night, but it wasn't enough as the Commodores fell 66-63. Vandy used a big second half run to take a brief lead with six minutes to play, but couldn't hold on as the Bears notched a win in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.
Damian Jones and James Siakam had big performances in the Vandy front court in the loss. Jones held Baylor big man Rico Gathers scoreless through 36 minutes while scoring 21 points and pulling down nine rebounds. Siakam had 12 points and three steals in one of the better performances of his NCAA career.
Listless play and cold shooting allowed Baylor to run out to an early lead at Memorial Gym. The Bears led by as many as 11 points before settling in to a 34-25 halftime lead. The 'Dores shot less than 40 percent from the field before heading into the locker room.
Vandy came out stronger in the second half and cut the BU lead to 34-31, but the Bears responded with three straight three-pointers to push their lead back to double-digits. Then, the Commodores came alive behind their big men. Jones and James Siakam led their team on a 21-10 run to take a 54-53 lead with six minutes to play. It was their first lead since holding a 3-2 advantage 1:36 into the game.
It didn't last. Baylor responded with an 8-2 lead that gave them the lead for good. The 'Dores closed to within 61-59 with fewer than two minutes to play, but this inexperienced team didn't have the juice to get over the hump and steal a win at home. Senior Royce O'Neale used his size advantage in the paint to back down an undersized Vandy lineup and score a pair of massive baskets to ice this game. Baylor missed enough free throws to give Kevin Stallings's team a chance to tie this one up at the buzzer, but sloppy ballhandling doomed the team to an ill-fated 30-footer as time wound down.
The loss dropped Vanderbilt to 5-2 on the season and was the team's first at Memorial Gym. Baylor improved to 6-1 on the season. Vandy will return to action on December 13th when they host Stallings's alma mater Purdue in Nashville.