Vanderbilt fell in love with the three-pointer Thursday night at Memorial Gymnasium.
Oftentimes, that isn’t a winning strategy, but it worked out well for the Commodores, who connected on 12 threes and dispatched Missouri 78-75 for their first win of the season in Southeastern Conference play.
Vanderbilt, 9-6 and 1-2 in the SEC, entered play averaging 16 attempts from long range per game, but coach Kevin Stallings’ squad hoisted double that — going 12 for 32 overall — in fending off the Tigers.
“They set a lot of screens, so sometimes you’re helping on one screen and you’re late trying to fight off another,” Missouri junior Jabari Brown said explaining the defensive struggles.
More than half of Vanderbilt’s 59 shots came from three-point range, including the back-breaker with two minutes remaining from senior Rod Odom.
Odom, who scored a game-best 24 and went six of 13 from distance, caught a kick-out from junior Shelby Moats on the left wing and splashed a three that put the Commodores up 66-59 as the crowd of 8,478 erupted in cheers.
“(Odom) was moving a lot,” junior Jordan Clarkson said. “They set a lot of screens and some guys were getting confused on it. It was everything that we scouted. Guys were just confused. I don’t think they were focused or something.”
Missouri’s only first-half lead came on the game’s first basket, a three-pointer by Brown that proved to be the Tigers’ largest lead of the game.
But Missouri, 13-3 and 1-2 in the SEC, found a spark at halftime and managed to trade the lead with Vanderbilt six times in the opening 6 1/2 minutes of the second half.
The Commodores retook the lead 45-44 on a bucket by senior Kyle Fuller, who drew a foul on the play but missed the free throw only to have junior James Siakam outmuscle the Tigers for an offensive rebound.
Odom then drilled a three-pointer that pushed the lead to four points. Vanderbilt, which is down to seven scholarship players after Josh Henderson’s season-ending knee injury and Eric McClellan’s dismissal, never led by fewer than two the rest of the way.
“That felt like a knife in the heart,” said Brown, who finished with a team-high 22 points and added six rebounds.
Missouri coach Frank Haith also pointed to that play as a key turning point in the loss.
“Plays like that really hurt us,” he said. “Our inability to come up with those rebounds on the free throws, our inability to make layups around that basket, I thought that really hurt us.”
Missouri was credited with 12 missed layups, but the Tigers also struggled from beyond the arc. Brown hit four of seven three-point tries, but the rest of the team shot two of 16 combined.
Down the stretch, Fuller, who had a nifty 25-foot alley-oop pass for a dunk by Siakam late in the first half, added a runner and was perfect on six free-throw tries. He finished with 22 points.
Clarkson added 18 points with seven rebounds, but missed all four tries from long range. Meanwhile, Ross scored 11 with a game-high nine boards but missed all seven three-point attempts.
Missouri, which dominated the boards 45-35 and had 20 more points in the paint (36-16), spotted Vanderbilt a 12-point lead in the opening 4:08.
The Commodores went four of six from three-point range during that stretch and finished with eight first-half three-pointers.
“There’s no excuses for not being ready at the beginning of the game,” Brown said.
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