Vanderbilt runs out of steam in SEC tournament semifinals

Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 7:40pm

The mind was willing but the legs were heavy.

Playing its third game in as many days, fatigue caught up with Vanderbilt in a 64-52 season-ending loss to Ole Miss on Saturday in the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament at Bridgestone Arena.

In the lone regular-season meeting between the teams — an overtime loss — Vanderbilt made a Memorial Gymnasium-record 17 3-pointers. On Saturday, the 10th-seeded Commodores made just six of 30 (20 percent). While No. 3 seed Ole Miss (25-8) received a first-round bye, Vanderbilt, the defending tournament champion, had to knock off Arkansas and Kentucky in consecutive days to reach its fourth straight semifinal.

“We lacked energy,” point guard Kyle Fuller said. “We lacked legs. We were really short on our shots a lot. I really feel like we could beat them even though they are a good team. I just felt like we kind of ran out of gas and ran out of the energy we usually had and that we were playing with.”

The Commodores (16-17) rode adrenaline early. The jump shots — and three 3-pointers — fell and contributed to a nine-point lead with 7:09 left in the first half. But they made just one basket in the final seven minutes as the Rebels switched to a zone defense and caught up for a 26-26 tie at halftime.

Marshall Henderson answered Sheldon Jeter’s baseline dunk with a turnaround jumper with 12:45 remaining to tie the game at 36 and spark a 24-4 run. With 3:25 left, Reginald Buckner dunked an offensive rebound for a 58-40 lead. In an 18-minute stretch, starting at the 3:55 mark in the first half, the Commodores scored just 14 points.

Coach Kevin Stallings had seen this before.

Two years ago, in Atlanta, the Commodores defeated LSU and Mississippi State in back-to-back nights to face top-seed Florida in the semifinals. Vanderbilt led by eight at halftime before hitting the proverbial wall. The Gators scored 49 points after the break and the Commodores were just 6-of-33 (18.2 percent) from 3-point range.

“We came out and they boat-raced us in the second half,” Stallings recalled. “It’s the second time that I know of where we seem to sort of run out of steam. … [On Saturday] we just had three or four guys who looked like a quart-low on energy. I don’t blame them. They didn’t choose to be or want to be but that is just the way it was. Mississippi played better than us and they deserved to win.”

Henderson finished with 23 points and Reginald Buckner added 15 as the Rebels will play Florida (26-6) in their first SEC Tournament final since 2001. Led by 16 points — all in the second half — from Kenny Boynton, the Gators rallied from a 10-point deficit to hold on for a 61-51 against Alabama earlier Saturday.

Vanderbilt, which got 12 points from Kedren Johnson, just missed getting over .500 for the first time since winning its season opener in November. The Commodores had won eight of 11 but couldn’t muster enough energy to advance to their second straight final and defend their championship.

“I feel like if this was our first game and their first game we would have the psychological and physical advantage,” Jeter said. “They had a tough game [against Missouri Friday] don’t get me wrong. But we had a tough game the first day and then we played as hard as we could yesterday. It is like the energy bar keeps going down each day and then [Saturday] we kind of ran out.”

6 Comments on this post:

By: TITAN1 on 3/16/13 at 6:42

Great coaching by Stallings in helping these kids to mature. Much better players now than at the first of the season. The future is BRIGHT!

By: Rasputin72 on 3/16/13 at 7:43

I sure enjoyed this group of overachievers. 16 and 17 record gives them a goal next year with a favorable schedule to win 20 games. Stay away from ACC and Big 10 schools and schedule as many Horizion and Sun Belt and Atlantic 10 teams as possible.

Thanks team for allowing me to watch you guys perform miracles.

By: 4gold on 3/17/13 at 2:21

It was obviously over when Moats and Henderson started taking all the shots and let OM catch up in the first half. Then when Odum missed the wide open uncontested bunny you knew they had no chance. It just wasn't going to happen. Win the big game and then lose to a mediocre OM team. VU always seems to fall sort of what twas possible. They made big strides from what was truly a pitiful team early season. But they better find some dependable front line scoring and a deadly outside shooter or it will be second tier basketball for several more years to come. I am ready to watch the baseball team now. This has been a struggle to watch.

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

By: TITAN1 on 3/17/13 at 8:08

4Gold, don't be a "Chicken Little"? There is a lot of talent on the team and coach Stallings is doing a great job. Always looking for a negative makes you a very unhappy person. Are you one of those people who some says good morning to and you mumble something back?

By: TITAN1 on 3/17/13 at 8:53

Have a blessed day, everyone!

By: 4gold on 3/17/13 at 8:49

Still laughing at Calepari whineing at halftime about how VU's brutal inside game was pushing shoving his inside guys. LOL, it was Henderson that was taking 4ft half hooks and coming down 6ft from the basket and all his shots fall ing a foot short. Cal needs to take his blue shades off. He has become a fan and quit coaching obviously.

And yes there is some talent on this team. But not nearly enough. UK will dump the misses and go get more. Thank God YU doesn operate like that. No integrity at UK. No respect for basketball camps.

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