Damian Jones had no interest in ending his season on Wednesday night. His freshman teammates felt the same way.
Jones, Riley LaChance, and Jeff Roberson helped carry Vanderbilt to a 75-64 win over Saint Mary's in the first round of the NIT on Wednesday night. Jones had a season-high 10 field goals en route to 21 points in a comeback road win for the Commodores. LaChance came on strong late to add 17 while Roberson helped the 'Dores battle back from an early deficit with 10.
Vanderbilt appeared to be rattled by the intimate atmosphere in McKeon Pavillion. The 'Dores trailed by nine points early on as they struggled to make shots and protect the ball. Big efforts from unheralded players like Roberson and Shelton Mitchell kept Vandy in this one early. The two freshmen sparked an 18-4 rally that put the Commodores in control and gave the visiting ream a lead that they would not relinquish. They led 36-28 at the half.
The Gaels tried to battle back into this one late, but Riley LaChance wouldn't let them. The freshman shook off a 3-11 start to score seven straight points to give Vanderbilt their biggest lead of the night at 64-53 with 3:27 to play. Saint Mary's got a few baskets to keep the 'Dores honest, but Vandy's ability to break their press led to an easy Commodore win and a berth in the second round of the NIT.
With the win, the Commodores will face either Colorado State or South Dakota State in their next matchup. If the Rams win tonight, they'll head back west for a second round matchup. If not, they'll welcome the Jackrabbits to Nashville for a matchup few NIT pundits saw coming.