The old adage that defense wins championships is true, but more often it wins games. Such was the case for the Vanderbilt Commodores on Monday night as their defense and just enough free-throw shooting keyed them to a 76-71 win over the Davidson Wildcats.
The Commodore built a 56-32 lead early into the second half powered by a solid defensive effort through the first 25 minutes of the game. The Wildcats, however, would not go quietly.
Thanks in part to an inexplicable shooting slump from the Commodores that saw them go the final 13:09 of the game without making a field goal, the Wildcats were able to claw their way to within striking distance in the closing minutes as they were able to connect on 10 of 18 three-point shots in the final half.
Despite that, the Commodores defense managed to force the Wildcats into their second-most turnovers in a game this season (15) including four in the final five minutes that helped Vanderbilt hole on despite their lack of scoring from the floor.
Head coach Jerry Stackhouse spoke of the team's defensive efforts and the free-throw shooting in his post=game comments. The Commodores as a team missed 12 in the game despite going 25-37 overall. It was their highest number of made free-throw shots in a single game so far this season.
Defensively the Commodores held Davidson to just 42,1% shooting in the game, 24-75 as the defense continually forced the Wildcats into bad shots despite their production from behind the arc.
Free throw shooting has, and likely will continue to be an issue for this team, and one which Stackhouse says his players are putting in the work to improve. Still, leaving 12 points at the line, while not fatal in this one, will more than likely come back to bite them as the conference schedule begins after the new year.
The Commodores kick-off the New Year Jan.4 when they host the SMU Mustangs at Memorial Gym. Tipoff is set for 7 pm.