Garland, Shittu lead Vanderbilt past Winthrop 92-79
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Darius Garland scored 24 points, Simi Shittu added 18 and Vanderbilt won its season opener 92-79 over Winthrop on Tuesday night.
Vanderbilt’s Matt Ryan scored 16 points, while Saben Lee and Joe Toye scored 12 apiece. Ryan hit 4 of 11 shots from 3-point range.
Garland, Shittu and Aaron Nesmith formed the most highly touted recruiting class in Vanderbilt history. Garland and Shittu were five-star prospects and Nesmith was four-star.
Garland and Shittu were both McDonald’s All-Americans last season. Garland, a second-team selection, was the only freshman named to the All-Southeastern Conference preseason team.
Garland shined in his first college game, running the floor decisively from his spot at point guard and making the game’s most electrifying play in the first half on a fast-break alley-oop pass to fellow guard Lee, who finished with a dunk. Lee had five assists and Garland added four.
Shittu also looked good, showing great quickness for a 6-foot-10 forward and he got the crowd of 8,387 at Memorial Gym going with several fast-break dunks. He grabbed 10 rebounds.
Nesmith had a quiet debut with four points on 1-of-4 shooting from the field.
Vanderbilt rallied from a seven-point deficit with a 20-2 run to take a 39-28 lead late in the first half.
Winthrop missed 10 of 11 shots from the field during the run.
It was an encouraging start for the Commodores’ offense, which averaged 72.4 points per game during last year’s 12-20 season that ended with a 13th-place finish in the SEC.
Nych Smith led Winthrop with 21 points, Josh Ferguson scored 14 and Adam Pickett added 13.
Five Commodores scored in double figures as Vanderbilt hit 53 percent of its shots from the floor.
Vanderbilt improved to 60-7 in home openers at Memorial Gym, the SEC’s oldest arena at 67 years. The Commodores have won 12 straight home openers.
Vanderbilt is now 16-0 against the Big South Conference.
Winthrop will face another SEC team later this month when it visits Kentucky on Nov. 21. The Eagles are 3-28 against the SEC and their last win came in 2012 over Auburn.
Winthrop: The Eagles led for much of the first 10 minutes before the Commodores took charge with a decisive run in the first half. Winthrop misses Big South Player of the Year Xavier Cooks.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores got off to a good start with their prized recruits in coach Bryce Drew’s third season.
Winthrop: Visits Southern Illinois-Edwardsville on Saturday. SIU-Edwardsville was picked last out of 12 teams in the Ohio Valley Conference preseason poll.
Vanderbilt: Plays its first road game of the season Sunday at Southern California, the Pac-12 runner-up last year.