For a long time on Monday night, the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders could not miss.
Back-to-back three-pointers by Vanderbilt Commodores star Aaron Nesmith gave the team an 8-5 lead with 14:39 left in the first half, and after Nolan Bertain tied it up at the other end, Dylan Disu hit a three for his first points as a Commodore. And that would be the last time the Commodores would lead in the first half. As Vanderbilt was playing sloppy, the Islanders were hitting seven of their first nine three-point attempts to go into the break with a 31-29 lead.
Aaron Nesmith tied the game with a layup to open the second frame, and then Scotty Pippen Jr. would finally get Vanderbilt the lead back at 34-31 with a three-pointer — but that was immediately countered by a three from Corpus Christi’s Jashawn Talton-Thomas. It was that kind of a night: Vanderbilt would land a punch, but Corpus Christi would land a counter.
Corpus Christi pulled out to a 50-45 lead with 11:58 left, but then Matthew Moyer would hit a three-pointer at the other end. Vanderbilt pulled even on a Clevon Brown dunk, and then Moyer banked in a three from the wing that gave Vanderbilt a 53-50 lead. All that was part of a 18-5 run that gave the Commodores a bit of breathing room — but with an eight-point lead, Nesmith fouled Nolan Bertain on a three-pointer from the corner and it went in; the free throw cut Vanderbilt’s lead to 63-59.
After a pair of Jashawn Talton-Thomas free throws following the under-four media timeout, Nesmith made a three to give Vanderbilt a 66-61 lead with 3:24 left. With the Commodores holding a three-point lead with 1:20 left, Aaron Nesmith drew a key charge on the defensive end, setting up a dagger three by Saben Lee to give Vanderbilt a 69-63 lead with 54 seconds left in the game. The Islanders’ Peyton Smith threw the ball away on their next possession, and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi took on the interesting strategy of waiting 17 seconds to foul Scotty Pippen Jr. while facing a six-point deficit.
But since there was no way this game could finish that easily, Pippen missed the front end of a one-and-one and Talton-Thomas made a three at the other end with 4.1 seconds left. Aaron Nesmith drained a pair of free throws on the ensuing possession to ice the win, but it wasn’t easy.
The final was 71-66, with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi shooting 12-of-23 from three but committing 21 turnovers. Aaron Nesmith led Vanderbilt with 21 points; Saben Lee had 15 and Clevon Brown had 12. Vanderbilt finished the game shooting 11-of-18 from the foul line.