Vanderbilt Jumps Out Early To Beat Texas A&M 68-54

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COLLEGE STATION (AP) – Bryce Drew is still getting a feel for playing on the road in the Southeastern Conference in his first year as Vanderbilt’s coach. Lately, Drew and the Commodores are rather enjoying the feeling.

“When you make shots, it makes everything a little smoother,” Drew said, smiling, late Tuesday night.

Make shots they did, as Luke Kornet and Matthew Fisher-Davis scored 12 points apiece, and five Commodores scored in double digits as Vanderbilt defeated Texas A&M 68-54 on Tuesday.

The Commodores (11-11, 4-5 Southeastern) started hot by scoring the game’s first eight points, and kept the Aggies (11-10, 3-6) at arms’ length the rest of the way. Vanderbilt held a 13-point lead at halftime (36-23) thanks in part to eight points each from Kornet and Nolan Cressler.

“They came out with a lot of energy to start the game,” Drew said of his players. “We shot the ball well, and that got us off to a good start.”

The Commodores, despite a losing record in SEC play, are finding their footing under their new coach, in winning three of their last four, including 68-66 at Florida on Jan. 21. They defeated Iowa State last Saturday in the Big 12/SEC Challenge in Nashville, and their lone loss over the four games was by a point to Arkansas in Nashville on Jan. 24.

“We’re definitely headed in the right direction,” Kornet said.

Vanderbilt on Tuesday led 55-33 nearly midway through the second half when the Aggies used a 14-0 run to slice the Commodores’ lead to 55-47 with 4:57 remaining. But consecutive 3-pointers by Joe Toye and Jeff Roberson shoved Vanderbilt’s lead back to 61-47 with 4:02 left, and the Aggies never threatened again.

A&M center Tyler Davis led all scorers with 18 points, in making 8-of-9 from the field. The Commodores prevailed despite shooting only three free throws, and made all three.

“Vanderbilt’s defense frustrated us as much as any team we’ve played,” A&M coach Billy Kennedy said. “They forced us to kick the ball out (from the inside), and we struggled scoring.”

BIG PICTURE

Vanderbilt: The Commodores lost four straight early in SEC play, but as Kornet said they’re headed in the right direction under Drew, who took over after longtime coach Kevin Stallings left for Pittsburgh last March. Drew said on Tuesday night he was lucky to inherit the likes of Kornet, a 7-foot-1 senior from Lantana, Texas.

Texas A&M: The Aggies expected to make a second consecutive NCAA Tournament entering the season, but that dream is dashed after losing twice as many as they’ve won over their first nine SEC games. A&M will be lucky to make any type of postseason at this point.

HE SAID IT

“He’s really tall. You see on TV how tall he is. But until you stand next to him, you don’t realize how big he is.” Bryce Drew said on his first impression of 7-1 Luke Kornet, when Drew became Commodores coach last spring.

STAT OF THE NIGHT

More like “stats of the night”: The Commodores edged the Aggies in rebounding (35-30), points in paint (38-32), off turnovers (14-9), second chance (13-9), fast break (6-0) and bench (20-12).

UNHERALDED RETURN

A&M’s DJ Hogg played 14 minutes after missing the two previous games with a foot injury, and missed four of his five field-goal attempts. Billy Kennedy said he might have brought back Hogg too soon, but that he believed the Aggies could really use Hogg’s offense.

UP NEXT

Vanderbilt: The Commodores try and make it three in a row when they play host to Mississippi on Saturday.

Texas A&M: The Aggies try and snap a two-game losing streak on Saturday at LSU.

(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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