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March 17, 2011

Same sad song

Vanderbilt's postseason nightmares from seasons past and its nightmares from this season collided into yet another bad dream on Thursday.

As has happened in losses all season, the Commodores blew a big lead, couldn't get stops at critical times, couldn't stop an athletic point guard from making huge plays, missed important foul shots, didn't get good play from their bench, and had questionable offensive execution at the very end, as VU dropped a 69-66 decision to Richmond in their first game of the NCAA Tournament.

It's the third-straight tournament appearance in which VU has lost in its first game, all to double-digit seeds.

The Commodores led by 11 in the first half, and clung to a lead for most of the day. But Richmond's Kevin Anderson hit a 3-pointer with 12:05 left to give the Spiders a 51-48 lead, and the Commodores were never able to get a lead again as Anderson had 25 points and a key defensive rebound down the stretch for the Spiders (28-7).

The Commodores had their chances down the stretch, but didn't convert. With UR up 64-63, Anderson hit a leaner from 15 feet with Jeffery Taylor draped all over him, though he missed the ensuing foul shot.

Lance Goulbourne drew a foul on VU's return trip, but hit just one of two free throws. Anderson then missed a 3.

On VU's next trip, Goulbourne then hit one of two free throws to pull within one.

But Anderson took the ball from the far left side of the floor, circled right, got to the right baseline, and launched a looping eight-foot jumper just over the fingertips of Festus Ezeli, who had a foot on Anderson.

The shot went in, and Richmond led by three with 18.7 seconds left.

After a time out, VU's John Jenkins brought the ball the length of the floor, went left, ran into a double team, threw the ball to Brad Tinsley on the right side, who got it on the right baseline to Goulbourne.

Goulboure saw Ezeli flash open underneath, but he fumbled the ball as he made his move to the post, and his pass was picked off by Darrius Garrett with six seconds left.

Garrett missed the front end of a 1-and-1, Ezel rebounded, and was fouled immediately. With VU down three, he hit the first, missed the second intentionally, and Anderson rebounded quickly.

Anderson hit the first, missed the second, and VU rebounded. They eventually had the ball at mid-court with 2.8 seconds left after a time out.

With John Jenkins on the floor on a day in which he'd hit 4-of-6 3-point shots, the ball instead went to Rod Odom, who fired a flailing 3 from 30 feet that missed by several feet.

The Commodores out-rebounded Richmond 36-27, out-shot them 50 percent to 46.4, and committed only seven turnovers.

The Spiders felt they'd been under-seeded coming into the NCAA Tournament, and played like a team determined to prove the selection committee wrong.

They proved their case pretty well; Richmond turned it over just three times, and hit 12-of-24 3-point shots against VU's mix of man and zone defenses.

Vandy also hit just 14-of-23 (60.4 percent) from the foul line, and its bench was out-scored 23-4.

Jenkins scored 21, which tied Ezeli for a team high. The Spiders simply couldn't stop Ezeli in the post, as it took him just 10 shots to get those points.

Tinsley played all 40 minutes, and added 10.

VU did a good job defensively on UR leading scorer Justin Harper, who had 13 points on 12 shots in 38 minutes.

Vandy led 29-18 late in the first half after Jenkins hit a 3 with 5:54 left, but as has been the case a good bit of the year, Vandy couldn't close a half. Richmond got seven points on its next three trips down the floor, and when Harper hit a jumper with three seconds left, Vandy led just 35-32 at the half.

The Commodores, who had no active scholarship seniors on the roster, finished the year with a 23-11 record. They lost five of their last eight games, and six of their last 10.

Last season's team lost three of its last four games, as did the NCAA Tournament squad of 2007-08. Those teams lost to Murray State and Siena, respectively, in the NCAA's first round.


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