Perhaps it’s a sign of good fortune that Vanderbilt knew in advance that it wouldn’t play well Thursday but still won.
One day after an ominous practice session, the Commodores posted a 91-88 double-overtime victory over South Alabama before 12,065 at Memorial Gym.
Although Vanderbilt survived, Coach Kevin Stallings found little to praise, even as his team improved to 6-0.
“It was apparent to me that we did not have our guys ready to play,” he said. “As a staff, we did a poor job of having our guys on edge that you need to be a good team. You can’t practice the way we practiced [Wednesday] and play the way we want to play.”
Vanderbilt was out-rebounded Thursday, coughed up 18 turnovers and shot 46.4 percent from the field.
But it was enough, as the Commodores made all seven of their free throws in the second overtime period to pull away. A three-point attempt by South Alabama’s B.J. Ford at the final buzzer could have tied the game but missed the mark.
And still, Stallings expected more.
“It’s always better when you win than when you lose, but we’d like to play to our potential,” he said.
Shan Foster scored 26 points to lead VU. A.J. Ogilvy scored 19 points for the Commodores, while Ross Neltner added 15 and Alan Metcalfe scored a career-high 14. Demetric Bennett led the Jaguars (4-3) with 25 points and Domonic Tilford had 20.
Foster, Vanderbilt’s top offensive gun, pulled the Commodores out of their funk by making five three-pointers in a span of 7:05 in the second half. That flurry helped trim South Alabama’s eight-point lead to 62-59.
“We weren’t playing very well at all,” Foster said. “As a senior, I decided to put the team on my shoulders, and my teammates did a great job of getting me shots.”
A 4-0 run by the Commodores, capped by two free throws by Neltner, gave them a 71-67 lead with 4:18 remaining in regulation.
But South Alabama battled back and sent the game into overtime when Ronald Douglas tipped in a missed shot by Daon Merritt with 0.8 seconds left.
In overtime, Vanderbilt’s size and depth seem to take a toll on the Jaguars.
“Our bench was a lot longer than theirs, and because we had subbed throughout the game, we were probably a lot fresher,” Stallings said.
“They got the ball inside and hurt us late,” South Alabama coach Ronnie Arrow added. “Late in the game, Vanderbilt executed better than we did.”
The Commodores got a lift from Metcalfe, who played a season-high 19 minutes in reserve of Ogilvy at center and made six of nine shots from the floor. Metcalfe’s contributions were timely after Ogilvy picked up two personal fouls in the game’s first 33 seconds.
“Alan was very good for us,” Stallings said. “His play was very critical.”