Well... that was ugly. But hey, a win’s a win, and we’re in no position to pish-posh over the quality of victories at Vanderbilt’s Memorial Gymnasium. Auburn took down the Commodores today 64-53 to improve to 6-6 in SEC play, 17-8 overall, and win for the first time in Nashville since 2000.
The first half was a study in messy basketball, as Auburn and Vanderbilt combined for just 50 points and the Tigers led 27-23 at halftime. After an opening three from Bryce Brown, Auburn continued to shoot fairly well from behind the arc, building a 9-6 lead on long balls from Jared Harper and Chuma Okeke. After that, the Tigers struggled from inside the three-point line, completing just two field goals from short range. Vanderbilt took a 15-13 lead on a jumper from Aaron Nesmith, and held that edge until Malik Dunbar’s three-pointer put Auburn up 23-22 with 2:11 to play. Dunbar then slammed home a dunk on a fastbreak, and a couple of free throws from Harper put the Tigers on top 27-23 at the break.
In the second half, things started slowly again. A three from Bryce Brown gave Auburn the largest lead of the game at 34-28, and then two straight threes from Harper just before the 12-minute mark put Auburn in front 40-31, and the Tigers soon opened up a double-digit lead on a short Harper jumper, but Vanderbilt answered. The Commodores strung together a 6-0 run, which felt like a huge swing in this low-scoring game, but soon after they lost Simisola Shittu to his fifth foul with 8:35 to play. Neither team seemed able to make the runs necessary, as Auburn couldn’t pull away when they reached an 8-10 point lead, while Vanderbilt couldn’t cut the margin to less than two possessions throughout the second half. Auburn got great play down the stretch from Malik Dunbar, as he scored six points in the final minutes to increase the lead, and the Tigers finally pulled away late at the foul line to win 64-53.
Auburn shot just 35% from the floor, and 36% from three, while doing good work at the foul line with a 21-29 performance. Jared Harper led the Tigers with 16 points, Bryce Brown added 14, and Chuma Okeke contributed 15 points. Vanderbilt was powered almost exclusively by Aaron Nesmith, who finished the game with 24 points and 14 rebounds in the loss. With the win, the Tigers are back to .500 in SEC play at 6-6, while Vanderbilt drops to 0-12 in the league.
Up next for Auburn, it’s a home date with Arkansas on Wednesday night at 7:30. The Razorbacks are in action tonight against Mississippi State at home as they try to break a two-game losing streak in the SEC.