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December 29, 2007

Vandy hangs on to defeat Skyhawks

NASHVILLE, Tenn.-Vanderbilt remains one of the nation's eight unbeaten teams, as the No. 15 Commodores overcame a second-half deficit against an Ohio Valley Conference team for the second-straight game in knocking off Tennessee-Martin, 92-85, at Memorial Gym on Saturday afternoon.

The Commodores, playing in front of a home crowd of 12,559 fans, weathered a 36-point performance from Lester Hudson and a 25-point game from Gerald Robinson, and their own 39 percent shooting from the field. VU was able to overcome defensive deficiencies by getting 24 offensive rebounds and committing just 10 turnovers.

Vandy built a 51-39 halftime lead, but watched most of it melt away when UT-Martin scored 10 straight points in the first 1:42 of the second half. The Skyhawks took an 81-80 lead when Hudson, the OVC's leading scorer, hit a 3 with 3:53 remaining.

But Jermaine Beal answered with a 3 on the next possession, and though Martin would later tie the game, Vandy never trailed again.

"We lived to kind of tell about it, but there's not a lot to be pleased with right now," Vandy Coach Kevin Stallings said. "We're going to have to get back to the drawing board and get better."

Clutch play by seniors Shan Foster and Alex Gordon also helped the Commodores down the stretch. With the game tied at 83, Foster hit a 3 with 3:10 left to give Vandy the lead for good.

Moments later at 1:30, after Robinson's dunk again cut the margin to one, Gordon stole the ball from Carlos Wright. He was fouled and hit a pair of free throws to give the 'Dores an 88-85 lead.

Foster later hit a free throw with 20 seconds left for a four-point lead, and forced Hudson into a pair of misses in the game's final 1:13.

Hudson, the OVC's leading scorer, had 23 in the second half. He and Robinson-who had missed the Skyhawks' last three games-tied Vandy's Andrew Ogilvy (21 points) with a game-high nine rebounds.

Stallings was mostly disappointed about the Commodores' continued inability to defend.

"[Coming in], we really couldn't make an accurate assessment of our defense because all of our turnovers were leading to so many points for our opponents. Today, we got our answer. We didn't turn it over very much, and we couldn't guard them," Stallings said.

"We've got a lot of work to do, and not a lot of time to get it done."

The Skyhawks built an early 26-19 lead behind 10 points from Hudson, but VU used a 15-0 run starting at the 10:43 mark of the first half to turn the deficit into a 34-26 lead. The Commodores used that run to vault to the 12-point halftime lead, as a combination of Foster, Beal and Keegan Bell to hold Hudson scoreless from the start of that run until he hit a 3 with 39 seconds left in the half.

Two Robinson 3s and another by Hudson to start the half cut the margin to 51-49 before Bell hit a pair of 3s to give Vandy a little breathing room.

But Robinson answered with a 3 and a fast-break lay-up, then Hudson added a layup to cut the VU lead to 57-56. The Skyhawks later tied the game at 64 at 12:21 on Hudson's layup and again at 83 on Carlos Wright's jumper. They took a 74-72 lead on Joe Bailey's jumper at 8:19, but after that, led just one more time on Hudson's 3 at 3:53.

Vandy (12-0) joined Washington State (12-0), North Carolina (12-0), Ole Miss (12-0), Miami of Florida (12-0), Butler (12-1), Rhode Island (12-1) and New Mexico (12-2) as the nation's only 12-win teams.

The Commodores next play Iona on New Year's Eve at noon.


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