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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Vanderbilt barely survived against a fired-up neighbor Saturday night.
The Commodores rallied from a nine-point deficit in the second half to improve to 11-0, one win away from tying a school-best 12-0 start by the 2003-04 team. The Tigers were seeking their first win over their cross-city rival in six games.
Given an opportunity against Nashville's largest school, TSU gave the Commodores all they could handle.
"We knew we were going to take their best shot," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. "This was their shot to beat the big boys on the block, and they came in and gave it a great effort."
After squandering the lead, the Tigers were left to wonder what might have been.
"I told our team we lost the game when we had them down and didn't bury them," Tennessee State coach Cy Alexander said. "This was the best game we've played all year, and this was against a top-20 team."
Alex Gordon finished with 16 points for Vanderbilt, and A.J. Ogilvy added 14.
Gerald Robinson scored Tennessee State's first 20 points of the second half, including 13 in a span of 2:38, to stake the Tigers to a 55-47 lead. A free throw by LaDarious Weaver made it 56-47 with 11:53 left, giving TSU (3-7) its largest lead of the game.
Vanderbilt stormed back behind strong 3-point shooting, going on an 18-4 run to reclaim the lead. Gordon made consecutive 3s, Keegan Bell added one and Foster sank two to give the Commodores a 65-60 lead with 7:33 remaining.
"They made big-time shots," Alexander said. "That's why they're undefeated right now."
Vanderbilt never doubted itself.
"As a team we feel like down the stretch, when the games are close, we're the best team in the country," Foster said. "We have a lot of players on this team who can make big plays and are willing to make big plays."
Five straight points by Tennessee State's Bruce Price, capped by a steal and layup, tied the score at 65 with 7:03 to go.
Gordon answered with a jumper and Ross Neltner scored on a layup, putting Vanderbilt ahead 69-65 with 4:26 remaining. The Commodores would not trail again, and a 3-pointer by Jermaine Beal was the final blow, pushing the Vanderbilt lead to 76-70 with 2:27 left.
The Commodores made five of six free throws in the final 1:13 to help secure the victory.
Vanderbilt shot 57.7 percent from the field in the second half after shooting only 37.9 in the first half. The Commodores made seven of nine 3-pointers in the second half.
Robinson led Tennessee State with 24 points, while Price added 19.
Price scored 12 points in the first half to spark a 35-33 Tennessee State lead at the break.