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Slow start shutters Vanderbilt’s NCAA Tournament chances in 68-66 loss to Northwestern

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Vanderbilt wasn’t the better team Thursday, but had a chance to win, until...

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Northwestern vs Vanderbilt Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

After 3:11 in Vanderbilt’s first round matchup with Northwestern, the Commodores led 5-4. It took more than 30 minutes to regain the lead — but it wouldn’t last.

A Salt Lake City crowd drenched in purple watched the ‘Dores play one of their sloppiest games of the season in a disappointing finish to a resurgent season. Riley LaChance’s drive to the hoop gave Vandy a one-point lead with 17 seconds to play, but Matthew Fisher-Davis’s inexplicable foul 60 feet from the hoop gifted the Wildcats two points and an eventual win in the NCAA Tournament.

Vandy’s first trip to the Big Dance under head coach Bryce Drew ended in defeat after a disheveled Commodore team failed to find its rhythm in a 68-66 loss to the Wildcats. Northwestern advanced to face No. 1 seed Gonzaga in the second round, while Vanderbilt’s season came to a close at 19-16.

Luke Kornet closed out his NCAA career with 14 points and three blocks, but he struggled to find his footing in the second half as the Wildcats found a way to contain him in the paint. Matthew Fisher-Davis gave the ‘Dores some hope with his shooting — and a team-high 22 points — but his tremendous game will ultimately be remembered for the brain freeze that led to a pair of Wildcat free throws in the game’s crucial moments.