Vanderbilt fans waited a year to see the show that a pair of freshmen, forward Simi Shittu and point guard Darius Garland, could put on, and the fans didn’t walk away disappointed.
The pair of McDonald’s All-Americans scored 18 and 24 points, respectively, in their first collegiate games, leading host Vanderbilt to a 92-79 win over Winthrop in Nashville on Tuesday night as each team opened its season. Shittu added a game-high 10 rebounds.
Forwards Matt Ryan (16) and Joe Toye (12), and guard Saben Lee (12) also hit double figures for Vanderbilt, which shot 53.1 percent from the floor.
Guard Nych Smith led Winthrop with 21 points, while guard Adam Pickett added 13 and Josh Ferguson scored 14.
The Commodores played at a break-neck pace, running at nearly every opportunity from about the midway point of the first half on.
Once Vanderbilt got rolling, the Eagles didn’t much threaten in the second half, getting no closer than 70-63 on guard Charles Falden’s lay-up with 11:04 left.
Winthrop got Vanderbilt in a half-court game early, a style that favored the Eagles, who went up 22-13 with 10:26 left in the half.
Then the Commodores started to run, going from seven down to four up in a 1:09 span of the first half, starting when Garland hit a jumper in the lane with 8:34 left.
Ferguson missed a 3, Garland grabbed the rebound and found forward Matt Ryan for a 3 on the right side.
A Shittu steal led to Ryan’s 3 off the break, and then after guard Kyle Zunic missed a lay-up just seconds into the shot clock, Lee snagged the rebound and, seven seconds later, Ryan hit about a 30-footer from the right side.
Vanderbilt extended the lead to 11 later on the half on Shittu’s spin move.
The 6-foot-10 freshman showed flashes of what was to come early in the game when he picked up a steal, dribbled about 70 feet, went around a defender and rammed home a dunk 1:13 into the evening to tie the game at two.
Guard Bjorn Broman, Winthrop’s leading returning scorer (10.2 ppg) didn’t get his first points until he hit a 3 with 5:56 left. He finished with five points.