Dec. 5, 2013
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Vanderbilt held on to win the game with a money shot and a big stop, but also lost a seasoned player to injury in Thursday night's 69-67 victory over Marshall.
Dai-Jon Parker sank a 3-pointer just inside the final minute to give the Commodores (5-3) a 69-65 lead over the hard-charging Thundering Herd (4-4). Shawn Smith sank his final two free throws and Marshall had a chance to tie it on a drive into the paint before James Siakam stole the ball.
"We changed and had a small lineup, not knowing they also changed and had a small lineup," VU Coach Kevin Stallings said. "James (Siakam) came off and defended on a ball screen. He tends to give guards trouble because he has a seven-foot wingspan. Obviously their coach thought he got fouled.
"James made a very good defensive play. I'm proud of him for that nine seconds - at that point anything can happen."
Siakam and freshman center Damian Jones scored 15 points apiece, and Rod Odom added 11 points including two 3-pointers.
Vanderbilt junior center Josh Henderson, however, suffered a knee injury at 11:15 of the first half right after back-to-back blocks by his teammates on a Herd fast break. Initial indications are a torn ACL and MCL, with an MRI scheduled to confirm the damage.
"It's tough because he was playing well," Stallings said. "He really improved in the offseason and had three really good games in a row. I'm disappointed for him."
Jones, starting his fifth straight game, played a career-high 28 minutes and was a force inside. Marshall Coach Tom Herrion said the freshman from Baton Rouge, La., had the chance to be "something special" and played like he had even more points and rebounds than Jones actually did.
"I just played hard. I just thought about playing with a high motor," Jones said. "With Josh being out, I guess my minutes will increase, but (I'll) just try to play hard for however many minutes I'm in and give it all to the team."
Jones' 3-point play a half-second before intermission handed Vanderbilt the largest lead of the first half at 35-26. He powered in a basket after halftime, then slammed in a dunk on a loose ball for a 41-30 advantage.
Point guard Kareem Canty, last week's Conference USA freshman of the week, led the Thundering Herd with 18 points. His third 3-pointer of the game cut what had been a 13-point lead to 66-65, and Marshall put the ball in Canty's hands for the chance to tie.
"We did exactly what we wanted on that last play, drove it and put pressure on them, played through the contact," Herrion said.
Siakam, however, stripped the playmaker of the ball as he appeared to go up for the shot.
"I just followed the defensive assignments," Siakam said. "The guard dribbled down, and I just followed the defensive assignments and switched . He kind of brought the ball in front of me. I kind of made him dribble or fumble it or whatever, and that's how we got a stop."
Siakam also made 9 of 11 free throws, hitting four straight sandwiched around Elijah Pittman's 3-pointer that trimmed it to 64-62.
Pittman, the leading scorer in C-USA, scored 17 points. Smith went 7-of-8 on the free throw line to finish with 15 points off the bench for Marshall.
Odom's second 3-pointer stretched Vanderbilt's second-half lead to 47-34.
Smith hit four straight free throws and then made a layup for a 6-0 Marshall run that cut it to 58-54 at the 7-minute mark. Canty followed with his 3-pointer to pull within a point.
"We battled mightily but we don't believe in moral victories in our program," Herrion said. "We didn't get the job done, I'm disappointed in that. But a lot of good things for our team to build on, you probably don't know how young we are unless you have been around our program."
Vanderbilt's Eric McClellan scored four straight baskets, his first points of the game, including three long jumpers to widen the first-half margin to 22-14. The Herd pulled within 22-21 with a 7-0 run capped by Pittman's 3-pointer from the left baseline 3:46 before halftime.
The Commodores answered with an 8-0 run including consecutive 3s by Kyle Fuller and Luke Kornet for a 30-23 lead.
"We'll take all the two-point wins we can get, especially when we play that poorly," Stallings said. "James Siakam had a good second half, and Dai-Jon Parker made a shot that probably won the game for us. I'm a little disappointed because we had a chance to put the game away and didn't."
Stallings said Kornet, another freshman, might be looked at to play more time at the No. 5 position in the next game after exams.