Vanderbilt finally experiences the thrill of last-second success

Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 12:43am

It all felt so wrong for Kevin Bright. But finally it went right for Vanderbilt.

Familiar with losing close games at the end, Bright thought his last-second baseline jumper was off the mark. It appeared that way when the ball bounced off the front of the rim. Then the Commodores received a fortuitous bounce as the ball glanced off the backboard and through the net with 0.8 seconds left for a 63-62 victory over Georgia on Wednesday night at Memorial Gymnasium.

“I didn’t see it coming,” Bright, a freshman, said. “I didn’t expect the ball coming to me with a few seconds left. I didn’t think about it. I just took the ball and dribbled it to the baseline and just was trying to get the shot off. Luckily, it went in.”

In rallying from 17 down, Vanderbilt (12-15, 6-9 Southeastern Conference) finally won a close game.

Against Kentucky and Tennessee, the Commodores witnessed last-second shots rattle out. At the end of regulation of an overtime loss to Ole Miss, Bright made a 3-pointer with three seconds left, only to see Marshall Henderson answer it with a 35-footer at the buzzer.

“We’ve lost several where it was just the bounce of a ball and we were off,” guard Kedren Johnson said. “Luckily tonight we got that bounce and it feels good to finally be on the other side of that win.”

The Commodores displayed significant resolve after a dreadful first-half shooting performance in which they made just 25 percent of their attempts.

Johnson led the team with 17 points and jumpstarted the rally. He scored 13 over an eight-minute span, including the last five points of the first half. He also received help from freshman Sheldon Jeter, who scored all 14 of his points in the second half but first said he had to wake up.

The alarm went off in the form of a call that didn’t go in Vanderbilt’s favor and appeared to be the turning point of the game. Trailing 47-39, Jeter drove to the hoop in transition and appeared to draw a blocking foul as he made a layup with 10:15 left.

The basket was waved off and Jeter was called for a charge. He didn’t agree. Neither did coach Kevin Stallings, who stared at the official for more than 10 seconds during a timeout. Same for the 10,211 in attendance as they showered the officials with boos for a majority of the final 10 minutes.

“Of course when you are sitting on our bench you thought that was a block. I think our fans agreed,” Stallings said. “But it was called a charge and I guess the best thing is that we played through it.”

Jeter channeled his frustration into offense and scored the next eight points to spark a 16-0 run. He sunk a contested 3-pointer. He followed that up by this time drawing a blocking foul and converting a three-point play. His two-hand dunk after a backdoor cut tied the game with 7:14 left. Johnson drained a go-ahead 3-pointer on the next possession to give Vanderbilt its first lead of the game.

“I was kind of dead” before the charge call, Jeter said. “I made a great move and I got a nice touch and he called a charge. I don't think I’ve ever got that close to a ref before, like yelling-wise. I got there and he was just staring at me. And I was like, ‘All right, I don't want a technical.’ so I just walked away. But it kind of fired me up really. It got me going. It did.”

It was the fourth win in six games for Vanderbilt, which has shown improvement and resiliency in the last month.

Even after the rally, the Commodores had to dig deep late to upend Georgia (13-15, 7-8). Behind Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s 20 points and 14 rebounds, the Bulldogs went ahead on two free throws with 42.3 seconds left.

After a Vanderbilt miss, Caldwell-Pope dribbled the ball off his foot and out of bounds with 19 seconds to go. That set up Bright, who received the ball from Dai-Jon Parker with time winding down. His off-balanced jumper gave him 11 points. More importantly, after Caldwell-Pope’s prayer at the buzzer was way off, he could finally celebrate making a game-winning shot.

“It felt way better than the last time against Ole Miss,” Bright said. “Against Ole Miss, we all thought the game was over. In this game, you just had .8 seconds left so it was kind of over already. We just knew we had to finish it this time.”

5 Comments on this post:

By: TITAN1 on 2/28/13 at 5:34

WTG, Vandy! Great comeback! As I have been saying, I really believe this is a talented team and will only get better with experience. IMO, coach Stallings is doing a fantastic job! The future is BRIGHT!

By: Rasputin72 on 2/28/13 at 7:43

This wonderful group of overachievers is bearing down on trying to get to 500.

I can remember when the gym seated almost 15,000 people and the scalpers were making money hand over fist. Attendence is now around 10,500 and tickets are available by the basket load.

Recruiting seems to be a problem for Stallings. Then again it appears to be a problem for the entire SEC.

It is difficult to tell how bad this team is because the caliber of the opposition is so bad.

Titan1-----Remember your Chirch of Christ training and. keep your low IQ comments civil.

By: TITAN1 on 2/28/13 at 1:30

Sorry, if being a follower of God and being a positive person bothers you. You might want to find out why that is. I guess I could be more like you, giving backhand compliments or being bitter all the time. Nah! Not going to happen!

By: 4gold on 3/1/13 at 8:23

Amazing a team can play that bad and still win a game. Testament to the quality of basketball in the SEC this year. Jeter does have potential but with only one second shelf-no help recruit coming in next year. It still looks grim for VU basketball. No doubt we got out recruited again this year.

Go Dores, Preds, Titans! Go Nashville a great place to live!

By: wiseguy1 on 3/1/13 at 10:12

Jeepers guys, don't over analyze it. VU won, came from behind to win versus coming from ahead to lose.

VU is tied for 10th in conference ... everybody expected them to finish in the bottom 4 ...

The schedule favors VU over UGa & A&M to close the season. Realistically, these kids can finish 9th and end season .500. Nobody figured that either.

Enjoy the victory.

Realtime RPI has VU @ 130 ... moved up 39 slots with win over UGa.

Go 'Dores, beat Auburn. Still a chance to make NIT.