Second-half rally helps Vanderbilt hold off USC, 82-78
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Vanderbilt’s talented freshmen passed their first road test against a Power Five team on Sunday night.
Darius Garland had 19 points and Simisola Shittu added 14 points and 15 rebounds to lead the Commodores to an 82-78 victory over USC on Sunday night. The game is part of the Pac-12/SEC Showdown.
“For a lot of these guys it was their first college road game and it’s always great to get a road win early in the season,” Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew said. “We had a lot of teaching moments tonight but fortunately it came during a win. It’s a lot better that way.”
Garland and Shittu, who were five-star prospects in high school, are off to strong starts. Garland, a 6-2 guard, is averaging 22.5 points and has led the Commodores in scoring both games. Shittu, a 6-foot-10 forward, has double doubles in his first two games and is averaging 16 points and 12.5 rebounds. Aaron Nesmith, a four-star recruit, also was in double figures with 10 points.
The Commodores (2-0) led for most of the game but trailed 69-67 with 3:11 remaining after a Jonah Mathews layup. Vanderbilt (2-0) was able to seize control again with a 9-2 run as four different players scored. They were 5 of 6 from the line during that stretch while USC was 1 of 5 from the field and committed three turnovers.
“We fought hard and executed all the way to the end. It’s big a deal to hit our free throws and win a big game like this on the road,” Garland said.
Derryck Thornton got USC (1-1) within 76-74 with 14 seconds on a layup while being fouled by Shittu but was unable to make the ensuing free throw.
Vanderbilt was 11 of 12 from the line in the final three minutes. Senior Joe Toye scored five of his 16 points down the stretch.
Nick Rakocevic led the Trojans with 19 points and 18 rebounds while Thornton added 17 points and Kevin Porter Jr. 14.
“We had momentum and the lead, and then had some turnovers and missed shots,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “We have to recognize what we need to do to win games. Turnovers and quick shots aren’t the recipe for success.”
Vanderbilt: Garland said he was pleased with win but lamented the errors the Commodores made on the defensive end.as they allowed USC to get 21 offensive rebounds. “We made too many defensive mistakes and I’m sure we’ll dwell on that in practice this week,” he said.
USC: Porter, who scored 11 of the Trojans’ first 15 points, has been an impressive scorer in his first two games but has been in foul trouble in both. He needs to correct that during nonconference play if he is going to have more of an impact for the Trojans this season.
The Trojans continue to lack depth. Senior Bennie Boatwright (knee) and freshman guard Elijah Weaver (ankle) are working their way back from offseason surgeries while sophomore guard Charles O’Bannon fractured his left pinky finger on Friday and is likely to have surgery on Tuesday.
Vanderbilt hosts Alcorn State on Friday.
USC hosts Stetson on Wednesday.