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November 29, 2007

Commodores outlast South Alabama in two overtimes

NASHVILLE, Tenn.-Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings saw a let-down coming after a bad Wednesday of practice. Fortunately, Shan Foster's performance after halftime was anything but disappointing.

Foster scored 19 points after the break and contributed a key defensive play in the final seconds of the first overtime, helping Vandy rally to a thrilling, 91-88 win over South Alabama in double overtime on Thursday night before 12,065 fans at Memorial Gymnasium.

The athletic Jaguars matched the deeper Commodores blow-for-blow throughout the night, but finally wilted in the second overtime when B.J. Ford missed a long 3 from straight-away with two seconds remaining.

"I don't know, really, what happened, but it was apparent to me yesterday that, as a coaching staff, we did not have our guys ready to play," Stallings said. "We had a great practice on Tuesday, and then we came in yesterday and had one of our worst practices of the year."

Foster finished with 26 points, including five-consecutive 3-pointers between the 17:08 and 10:06 mark of the second half, to help the Commodores (6-0) stay undefeated.

"We really weren't playing very well at all. As a senior, I kind of took it upon myself to put the team on my shoulders a little bit, to go out there and make some shots," Foster said. "And my teammates did a great job of finding me when I was open, and I was able to knock them down."

The Commodores broke a 35-all halftime tie to lead 46-41 after Foster's 3 at 16:47, but an 18-5 Jaguar run over the next 4:45 left VU trailing 59-51 with 12:02 remaining.

A couple of Foster 3s within the next two minutes cut the Jag lead to 62-59, and the 'Dores finally took a 69-67 lead on an Alan Metcalfe lay-up with 4:53 left.

Vanderbilt held that lead until the final seconds, but the Jaguars held the ball the final 44 seconds courtesy of a pair of offensive rebounds, the last of which resulted in Ronald Douglas's tip-in with a second left to tie the game at 73 and send the game to overtime.

The 'Dores led or were tied for the entire first overtime, but couldn't score in the final 2:15. South Alabama's Demetric Bennett tried to take Foster one-on-one on the right wing in the closing moments of the first overtime for the win, but Foster stripped him with 11 seconds to play for one final Commodore possession.

The 'Dores ensuing scoring chance was thwarted, as Douglas got a hand on Metcalfe's 3 as the clock ticked down.

The Commodores clinched the game when Alex Gordon hit a pair of free throws with 12 seconds remaining. Gordon missed his first shot, but got two more chances after a Jaguar lane violation.

"That certainly was not our best performance, but a lot of the credit has to go to South Alabama," Stallings said. "We knew they were a very good team. Nothing that they did caught us by surprise, including how tough they played us and how close a game it was.

"They're a very well-coached, very good team with perimeter guys that can really score."

Andrew Ogilvy (19 points), Ross Neltner (15) and Metcalfe (14) joined Foster as double-digit scorers for VU. South Alabama put Bennett (25), Domonic Tilford (20), Douglas (17) and Daon Merritt in double-figures.

The Jags played just eight men, and the four above all logged at least 39 minutes. That lack of depth may have hurt the Jaguars at the end. Foster got a wide-open dunk in transition with 3:09 left when USA failed to get back on defense, and Ogilvy added a key three-point play by converting a layup and a dunk with 2:29 left.

"When it gets down to a game like that, you have to stop certain things. Two of those things were their transition buckets and inside high-lows," Jaguar Coach Ronnie Arrow said.

"And we did stop the high-lows for a while and then I guess they called time out and said pound that thing in there. We just did a poor job on backside help."

"We were probably a little fresher than they were at the end," Stallings added. "They were struggling to make shots."

The Commodores face Georgia Tech at Memorial Gym on Saturday at noon. Vanderbilt defeated the Yellow Jackets in Nashville last December.


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