Hot-shooting Vanderbilt downs Arkansas, 72-59
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) The memory of a blown lead in the closing minutes to Arkansas two weeks ago was still fresh on the minds of Vanderbilt on Tuesday night.
The Commodores certainly played like they wanted to make amends for that disheartening defeat, jumping out to a 25-4 lead and never looking back on their way to a 72-59 win over the Razorbacks.
With leading scorer Matthew Fisher-Davis out because of disciplinary reasons, Vanderbilt (12-12, 5-6 Southeastern Conference) set the tone from the outset – hitting seven of its first nine 3-pointers on the way to a 39-18 halftime edge.
Five players scored in double figures for the Commodores, with Nolan Cressler leading the way with 13. Riley LaChance, Jeff Roberson and Luke Kornet added 12 point each and Joy Toye had 11 for Vanderbilt – which finished 12 of 23 on 3-pointers and shot 52.2 percent (24 of 46) overall in the win.
”Arkansas got us at our place, and it definitely left a sour taste in our mouth,” Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew said. ”… They were really excited to have the chance to come back and right that wrong.”
The 3-point barrage marked the 11th time this season the Commodores have finished with 10 or more makes from behind the arc. They were at their best in the first half, hitting 10 of 15 3-pointers and leading by as many as 24 points while the Razorbacks (17-7, 6-5) hit just 7 of 28 (25 percent) shots.
LaChance had three of the 3-pointers for Vanderbilt as did Toye, and all five starters made at least one shot from behind the arc while atoning for the 71-70 loss two weeks ago – a defeat in which Arkansas rallied from 15 points down with six minutes remaining.
”(The loss) was a huge punch to the gut, being at home and giving up that kind of lead,” Cressler said.
The loss is the second straight and third in the last four games for the Razorbacks, who were led by Dusty Hannahs’ 24 points. Moses Kingsley also finished in double figures with 11 points for Arkansas, which is 3-3 at home in SEC games this season.
”It was one of those train-wreck type games,” Hannahs said.
Vanderbilt shot 56 percent (14 of 25) in the first half, with its first seven field goals coming on 3-pointers on its way to the early 25-4 lead and comfortable win.
”We just had no answer for them tonight,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said.
Vanderbilt: Fisher-Davis, who is averaging 15.6 points per game this season, didn’t make the trip to Fayetteville because of what the school called ”a violation of athletic department policy.” Despite the absence of Fisher-Davis, and only suiting up eight players, Vanderbilt had no problems closing out an Arkansas team it lost to two weeks ago. Drew said he expects Fisher-Davis to only miss the one game.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks entered Tuesday ranked 36th nationally in the RPI, despite a loss at lowly Missouri last week. However, that coupled with the blowout loss to the Commodores could put an end to any NCAA Tournament hopes for Arkansas. It could also call into question the job status of sixth-year coach Mike Anderson, who has reached the NCAAs only once in his first five seasons.
Vanderbilt freshman Payton Willis scored eight points in his return to Fayetteville. The guard, who entered the game averaging six points in 19 minutes per game, was a prep standout a few hundred yards away from Bud Walton Arena at neighboring Fayetteville High School.
Vanderbilt is at Missouri on Saturday.
The Razorbacks travel to LSU on Saturday.