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Vanderbilt plays hard, loses anyway

Not like this is a new thing.

NCAA Basketball: Vanderbilt at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

The efforts are getting better since back-to-back losses by 30 points, but the results aren’t.

Vanderbilt wanted to win this one, and that was obvious from the opening tip. After surrendering a couple of early threes to start the game, the Commodores went on an 8-0 run going into the game’s first media timeout, and it was clear that they weren’t going down without a fight. With Arkansas playing sloppy in the early going, Vanderbilt built a 28-18 lead late in the first half; but the Razorbacks came back with an 8-0 run of their own and the Commodores went into the half with a 35-34 lead.

Still, Arkansas appeared to be asserting its dominance early in the second half, with Daniel Gafford and Isaiah Joe doing most of the heavy lifting on their way to a 56-46 lead midway through the second half. But Vanderbilt came back, sinking four of five threes to cut the Razorbacks’ lead to 58-55 with 7:29 to go. Saben Lee cut it to one with a pair of free throws, and then gave Vanderbilt its first lead since halftime with 4:58 to go. Gafford tied it up with a dunk, but then Simi Shittu rebounded a Clevon Brown miss and made one of two free throws to give the Commodores the lead going into the final media timeout.

With 43 seconds left, Joe Toye appeared to hit the dagger, sinking a corner three to give Vanderbilt a 66-64 lead. But then came deflation: after playing great defense for 26 seconds, Keyshawn Embery-Simpson hit a three after Gafford passed the ball out of a triple-team to give Arkansas the lead. Vanderbilt still had a chance — but that was quickly ended when Saben Lee got whistled for an offensive foul on the ensuing possession, and after two Mason Jones free throws at the other end, Matt Ryan’s potential tying three rimmed out and Vanderbilt had its tenth straight loss.

The Commodores are now 9-13 overall and 0-9 in the SEC. They’ll play again when Alabama comes to town on Saturday.