NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) On a night when Vanderbilt reached a 3-point milestone, the long-range shot played an important role in keeping the Commodores undefeated.
Vanderbilt made nine 3-pointers in a 63-53 win over Norfolk State on Tuesday night in the preliminary round of the Barclays Center Classic.
The Commodores have made at least one 3-pointer in 900 consecutive games, dating back to the inception of the shot in 1986.
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UNLV and Princeton are the only other college teams to make a 3-pointer in every game since the shot was implemented.
”When I first got here (the 3-point streak) used to bug me because I felt like I owed it to everybody to make sure that we hit a 3,” said Kevin Stallings, in his 16th year as Vanderbilt’s coach. ”So we’ve kept it alive for 15-plus years – I’ve done my job. I used to let it bother me, but I don’t even think about it anymore.”
Freshmen guards Riley LaChance and Wade Baldwin IV led Vanderbilt with three 3-pointers apiece. Baldwin led four Commodores in double figures with 13 points.
LaChance added 12 and Matthew Fisher-Davis and James Siakam 11 each.
”I wouldn’t say (the 3-pointer) is our fall-back,” LaChance said. ”We can’t rely on 3s to keep us in games or to win us games. We’ve got to win games on the defensive end and on the boards. And, obviously, 3s tonight helped us a lot, and it’s definitely a perk, though.”
Vanderbilt is off to a 4-0 start for the first time since 2007 when it opened with 16 straight wins.
The Commodores, one of the top shooting teams in the Southeastern Conference, hit 44 percent. They cooled off in the second half after hitting 63.2 percent in the first 20 minutes.
Norfolk State (2-3), a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference member, struggled offensively, hitting 32.1 from the floor. Jeff Short was held to five points, 12.3 below his average, as he hit 2 of 11 from the floor.
D’Shon Taylor led the Spartans with 19 points and Malik Thomas added 13.
”If we had brought the same effort that we had in the second half in the first half, I think we could have made it a lot more interesting, honestly,” Norfolk State coach Robert Jones said. ”Obviously, in the first half we had a kid (RaShid Gaston) that was suspended for a violation of team rules. In the second half, he played and made a big difference because he gave us an inside presence.”
Gaston, a 6-foot-9 forward, had five points and three rebounds in the second half as the Spartans outscored the Commodores 30-25 the last 20 minutes.
Vanderbilt’s Damian Jones, who entered the game as the Southeastern Conference’s second-leading scorer at 19.3 points per game, scored six points. Teammate Luke Kornet, who scored a career-high 24 points in Sunday’s win over Tennessee State, had a quiet night with five points.
Norfolk State jumped out to an 11-8 lead before Vanderbilt answered with a 12-0 run to take a 20-11 advantage.
It was the Commodores’ first game against a team outside of Nashville after opening up at home against Trevecca, Lipscomb and Tennessee State.
Norfolk State: The Spartans faced a Southeastern Conference team for the fourth time after suffering previous losses to Florida, Auburn and LSU. Norfolk State upset Missouri in the 2012 NCAA tournament before the Tigers joined the SEC.
Vanderbilt: Commodores coach Kevin Stallings wasn’t happy with his team’s post play as Damian Jones and Luke Kornet were held to a combined 11 points. ”Hopefully we’ll get that addressed the next few days in practice,” Stallings said.
Norfolk State struggled from the outside, hitting just 3 of 19 from beyond the 3-point arc for a 15.8 percent clip. Malik Thomas was 2 of 7 and Jeff Short was 1 of 5.
Norfolk State’s D’Shon Taylor had a strong game with team highs in points (19) and rebounds (11). The 6-foot-5 junior guard from the Bahamas hit 5 of 12 from the floor and 9 of 11 from the foul line.
Norfolk State faces St. Francis Brooklyn on Friday at St. Peter’s in the Barclays Center Classic, continuing a stretch of four away games in eight days.
Vanderbilt plays away from Memorial Gym for the first time against Rutgers in the Barclays Center Classic in Brooklyn on Friday. Rutgers begins its first season in the Big Ten with seven games in 15 days.