Vanderbilt got more than it wanted from UNC Asheville most of the day, but the Commodores pulled away midway through the second half for a 90-59 win at Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville, Tenn., on Monday afternoon.
Vandy’s biggest lead was the final margin. Center Simi Shittu had 17 points, nine rebounds and four assists for the Commodores (9-3). Forwards Matt Ryan (19 points), Yanni Wetzell (16) and guard Saben Lee (11) all added double-digit scoring.
Guard L.J. Thorpe, playing in just his second game this season, scored a career-high 17 off the bench for the Bulldogs (2-12). Guard Devon Baker added 15.
The Commodores didn’t trail after the 10:34 mark of the first half, but struggled to find breathing room. The Bulldogs, ranked dead-last in the NCAA’s NET rankings of its 353 Division I teams, cut the Vandy lead to one, 46-45, on a long 3 from guard Jalen Seegars with 16:49 left.
Vanderbilt didn’t take its first double-digit lead until forward Matthew Moyer canned a free throw with 9:51 left. He missed the second, but forward Clevon Brown grabbed the rebound and threw down a one-one-handed dunk for a 65-53 advantage.
The Commodores pulled away as foul trouble mounted for the Bulldogs, who had three players foul out, one more with four fouls and two with three. Lee gave the Commodores their first 20-point lead with 4:38 left on a pair of free throws.
Despite the win, Vanderbilt’s problems with slow starts continued. UNC Asheville, fresh off a 17-point loss to Division II Fayetteville State, grabbed a 16:11 lead at the 13:28 mark of the first half on forward Coty Jude’s 3.
Vanderbilt took the lead when Shittu found a crease in the Bulldog press, drove and laid it in with 10:05 left in the half, and converted a three-point play on the next trip.
That was part of a 12-0 Commodores run that included a pair of Wetzell free throws that put Vandy up seven with 8:42 left. But the Bulldogs came back to tie twice, and Vandy led just 40-34 at the break.
Vanderbilt had 10 turnovers at half, four by Shittu.
Thorpe’s first appearance came in the Fayetteville State loss. The sophomore was injured prior to the start of last season and redshirted. He scored 15 in the first half Monday.
—Field Level Media