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SEC Men's Tournament - 1st Round - Bridgestone Arena - Nashville, TN

Pippen Jr. powers 12-seed Vandy past 13-seed Aggies

135 days ago
Vanderbilt Athletics

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Vanderbilt broke Texas A&M's zone defense with a barrage of 3s on Wednesday and won its first postseason game since 2017 with a 79-68 win in the first round of the SEC Tournament at Bridgestone Arena.

The Commodores (9-15) sank 12 triples and led for 36:27 of the contest. Vandy moves on to face Florida (13-8) at 1:30 p.m. Thursday in the tournament's second round.

Scotty Pippen Jr. led Vanderbilt in Wednesday's win with 22 points (making 15 free throws), six assists, four rebounds (all offensive) and three steals. DJ Harvey scored 17 and Maxwell Evans contributed 12.

Vandy finished the contest with 16 assists in the contest.

"Through and through everybody played really hard," Harvey said. "We had the same goal in mind. Nobody came out there selfish thinking they had to play hero ball to get us to the next round.

"I'm super-proud of our guys. A lot of guys stepped up, bought in and we're just one step closer to our goal."

Pippen fueled Vandy early by scoring seven of the team's nine points helping the Dores to a 9-4 lead.

Halfway through the half the Commodores got back-to-back 3s from Myles Stute and Evans, respectively, to take a 17-7 lead. A second straight Evans then put Vanderbilt ahead 20-9 and that was followed by a Harvey triple making it 23-10.

Texas A&M found its footing shortly after that and clawed within 28-19 on Emanuel Miller's layup with 4 1/2 minutes left in the half.

But the Commodores answered emphatically getting back-to-back dunks from Evans and another Harvey 3 to go up 35-23. Vandy would settle for a 37-27 lead at the break after shooting 48 percent making seven 3s and recording 10 assists.

"I thought we came out and, defensively, we just jumped on them," Pippen said. "We got a big enough lead - 15 points at one point - and tried to maintain that defensive intensity. Offensively we were hitting shots. Everyone got involved."

After a sloppy start to the second half from both teams, Texas A&M began to gain momentum and cut the score to 45-40 on a Hassan Diarra 3 at the 14:51 mark. Two minutes later it was another Miller bucket that brought the Aggies down 45-42.

Jay Jay Chandler's long 3 from the right wing knotted the score at 45-all and completed a 13-0 run from Texas A&M.

Vanderbilt went nearly 5 1/2 minutes without scoring, yet still clung to the lead thanks to a Stute 3 making it 48-45 with 10:48 to go. Trey Thomas then got into the action with a left-corner 3 giving the Commodores a 53-46 edge.

Another Thomas 3 moments later put Vanderbilt up 60-49 and the freshman's third 3 of the night made it 65-58 with 3:54 to go putting the virtual nail in the coffin.

Miller finished with 22 for the Aggies who finished their season at 8-10.

"More so than anything (it's) just (about) coming out and competing," Vanderbilt head coach Jerry Stackhouse said about facing Florida on Thursday. "They're a talented team, they're a good team. They got good guards, they got bigs, got guys that can crash. We got those same type of guys.

"I think talent is a floor, but your character, your integrity, your work ethic, that's the ceiling. I think we got guys that really exemplify all three of those things. Maybe you look at that team top to bottom, yeah, they're probably a more talented team than we are. But when you put that integrity, that character and that heart and that competitiveness to the forefront, I like our chances."

NOTES

• Vanderbilt is now 40-57 all-time in SEC Tournament.

• Pippen, Evans, Jordan Wright, Clevon Brown and Harvey started Thursday's game for Vanderbilt. That marked the 18th different starting lineup for the Commodores in 2020-21.

• Vanderbilt has now made at least four 3s in 39 consecutive games.

• Vandy is now 9-2 when tied or leading at halftime.

• Vanderbilt is now 9-6 all-time against Texas A&M.

• Pippen now has the ninth-most assists (103) in a single Vanderbilt season by a sophomore.