Vanderbilt guard Saben Lee was 8 of 9 from the field and scored a career-high 23 as the host Commodores knocked off cross-town rival Tennessee State 95-76 at Nashville’s Memorial Gymnasium on Saturday afternoon.
Joe Toye scored 18 points for the Commodores (8-3). Vanderbilt forward Simi Shittu added 10 points and eight rebounds, while forwards Matt Moyer (10) and guard Max Evans (10) also added double-figure scoring.
Tennessee State guard Donte Fitzpatrick-Dorsey, the team’s leading scorer at 15.7 points per game coming into the contest, scored 16. But the Ole Miss transfer had just one in the second half, and got most of those with Vanderbilt ahead by double digits. Guard Armani Chaney and Kamar McKnight chipped in 16 and 10, respectively, for Tennessee State (3-9).
TSU cut Vandy’s lead to three early in the second half, then, Lee went to work, throwing down a fast-break dunk over a helpless Tiger via a steal and feed by forward Yanni Wetzell, putting Vandy up 54-43 with 16:11 to play.
The lead never fell below 10 again. It hit 20 for the first time when Wetzell hit both ends of a one-and-one with 8:38 left.
It was a slow-paced first half. The visiting Tigers, who shot 33.6 percent from 3-point range coming in, hit 5 of their first 6 (two from Chaney) and took a 17-7 lead with 13:13 left.
Vanderbilt tied it for the first time at 6:29 on forward Matt Ryan’s step-back 3 from the left side in transition. That came off a long pass from Evans, who had just secured the rebound.
The key to the comeback was Lee, who the Tigers couldn’t stop from getting in the lane. He had 14 at the half on 5 of 6 shooting, got the Commodores in the bonus with 7:50 left, and the double-bonus at 3:58.
With 3:23 left before half, he posterized TSU forward Stokley Chaffee, who had a six-inch height advantage, with a soaring one-handed dunk over the senior that brought the crowd to its feet.
Vandy extended that lead to 12, but a 9-2 Tiger run, punctuated by McKnight’s 3 that just beat the shot clock buzzer, cut Vandy’s lead to 40-35 at the break.
—Field Level Media