This was a Vanderbilt team we had not seen before.
On opening night of the 2018-19 basketball season, the Vanderbilt Commodores started three players who had never suited up for the team before — Darius Garland, Simi Shittu, and Matt Ryan — and all three had a big impact in a win over the Winthrop Eagles to get the season started with a win.
With that many newcomers, however talented, you kind of expected a slow start and that was what you got. Winthrop actually led for a few minutes as Vanderbilt had trouble getting, well, dunks to go down. But the tide started to turn about midway through the first half when Saben Lee elevated for his first dunk of the season, and then Ryan — the Notre Dame transfer who sat out last season — really got things going by knocking down three consecutive three-pointers to give Vanderbilt its first lead of the game.
And then Darius Garland — one of the two touted freshmen — started to take over the game toward the end of the first half. Garland was quiet for the first few minutes of the game, but the relentless attacking of the basket eventually started to pay dividends. Garland hit a basket at the first-half buzzer to give Vanderbilt a 47-40 lead going into the locker room, and while the Commodores never truly put the game away until the closing minutes, they mostly kept Winthrop at arm’s length throughout the second half, coasting to a 92-79 victory.
Garland ended his Vanderbilt debut leading all scorers with 24 points. Simi Shittu had 18 points and 10 rebounds in his debut, while Matt Ryan had 16. Joe Toye and Saben Lee had 12 apiece.