Vanderbilt holds off Santa Clara for 76-66 victory
LAS VEGAS (AP) — After two straight losses, Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew was hoping something would spark his Commodores.
Turns out the Thanksgiving loss to Butler in the Continental Las Vegas Invitational semifinals established a toughness and resiliency into his players.
Luke Kornet had 18 points and six rebounds to lead Vanderbilt, which held off feisty Santa Clara in a 76-66 win on Friday night at the Orleans Arena.
“We had some adversity on this trip, and I think we played a lot harder out here, and (were) a lot tougher,” Drew said. “Butler is a team that makes you play tough, so I think that game made us a lot tougher for tonight’s game. Hopefully that toughness will continue into our next.”
Riley LaChance added 17 points, Matthew Fisher-Davis had 13 and Jeff Roberson added 12 for Vanderbilt (3-3).
Jared Brownridge led Santa Clara with 36 points. It was the senior’s ninth career game with 30 or more points.
The Commodores outmuscled Santa Clara (3-4) in the paint, finishing with a 32-21 rebounding edge. Vanderbilt also got better contribution from its bench, as its reserves outscored Santa Clara’s, 10-4.
Vanderbilt shot 14 of 26 from the field in the first half to build a 41-23 lead at halftime. The Commodores’ hot perimeter shooting coupled with Santa Clara’s stagnant offense that produced 10-of-24 shooting from the floor in the first 20 minutes.
“In the first half, early on, we certainly were in a zone hitting our shots,” Kornet said. “Defensively, we tried to keep them of the 3-point line as much as we can and make shots hard for them.”
But the Broncos wouldn’t go away, opening the second half on a 17-3 run to cut the 18-point deficit down to 44-40 with 13 minutes left in the game. Led by Brownridge’s 10 points during the run, the Broncos’ feisty defense frustrated the Commodores to just 1-of-10 shooting during that stretch.
Santa Clara got as close as 46-44 with 10:21 left, but the Commodores regained their touch and used a 13-3 run to distance themselves. The closed the game hitting nine of their last 12 shots from the floor.
Santa Clara: After playing four games in seven days, including Thanksgiving night against No. 8 Arizona, the Broncos return to Northern California and will get a five-day reprieve before their next game. Santa Clara will travel home Saturday and take the weekend off before getting back to practice on Monday.
Vanderbilt: While the Commodores may still be getting used to first-year coach Bryce Drew’s system, they warmed up Saturday night with their best performance from long range. Vandy’s 15 3s topped its previous game-high of 10, against Norfolk State on Nov. 18. The Commodores had 10 at halftime.
After the Broncos closed to 46-44, Roberson buried a pair of 3-pointers during an 11-3 spurt to spark Vanderbilt.
In his first career start, Willis’ eight assists were a career high, as was his 32 minutes and four 3-point attempts. The freshman’s four rebounds tied his previous career high, set against Norfolk State.
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
Brownridge continues to build on his career scoring total which is second on Santa Clara’s all-time list. The preseason all-West Coast Conference selection moved from fifth to second all-time in the first two games of the season, and currently has 1,861 points through the team’s first seven games. Nevertheless, the senior is well behind all-time leader Kevin Foster, who scored 2,423 from 2008-13.
Santa Clara: The Broncos are off until next Wednesday when they’ll host fellow California mid-major UC Irvine.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores return home to host Tennessee State on Tuesday in what will be their first game back in Nashville since losing to Bucknell there on Nov. 21.
This story has been corrected to fix the spelling throughout of the last name of Luke Kornet.