By Zac Ellis
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Memorial Gymnasium was filled to the brim with 14,316 Vanderbilt fans on the night of March 5, 2008. It was Senior Night for the 16th-ranked Commodores’ men’s basketball team, which had not lost a home game all season. That streak was on the line against No. 25 Mississippi State.
Senior guard Shan Foster made sure it was also a night to remember.
“Nobody wants to lose on Senior Night,” Foster recalled this week. “That was not going to be my reality.”
Foster, the eventual SEC Player of the Year, cemented one of the greatest performances in Vanderbilt history, and much of it came from behind the 3-point line. The 6-6 swingman missed his first six shots from downtown before connecting on a Vanderbilt-record nine consecutive 3-pointers. Foster’s final trey with 2.7 seconds left in overtime gave him a career-high 42 points and helped the Commodores cap a rally from eight points down to win, 86-85.
Today, Foster’s performance stands as the second-highest single-game point total in Vanderbilt history – and he did it his way.
“Being a 3-point shooter, that was my go-to,” Foster said. “That was how I started games, and that was how I finished games.”
But Foster’s epic outing on Senior Night did more than simply solidify his place in Commodore history. It extended a streak that is among the most revered in college basketball. Vanderbilt is one of only three programs to have hit a 3-pointer in every game since the 3-point line’s implementation prior to the 1986-87 season. Princeton and UNLV are the only other teams who can make the same claim.
Foster’s Senior Night against Mississippi State marked Vanderbilt’s 693rd consecutive game with a 3-pointer. Nine seasons later, the Commodores could make it 1,000 straight games this Friday during their home opener against Austin Peay (8:30 p.m. CT on SEC Network+).
"The Vanderbilt community, not only just our fans but our players, takes a lot of pride in that streak,” Foster said. “We look forward to having the streak continue on Friday.”
The 3-pointer has been ingrained in the fiber of Vanderbilt basketball for decades, but the streak has flirted with disaster. The Commodores had yet to knock down a three in a game at Florida on Jan. 24, 1996 when guard Drew Maddux famously drilled a shot from deep with 20 seconds to play. Thus, the streak has persevered on the shoulders of sharpshooters who personify a variety of eras in Commodore history. Foster sits atop Vanderbilt’s all-time record book in career threes made (367), but John Jenkins (306 from 2010-12), Ronnie McMahan (296 from 1992-95) and Scott Draud (288 from 1987-88, ‘90-91) round out the top four from four different decades.
Barry Booker, who ranks first in program history in career 3-point percentage (.460) and second in single-season 3-point percentage (.500), witnessed the implementation of the 3-point line during his Vanderbilt career. Now, he says the long ball is a defining characteristic of Commodore basketball.
“That 3-point streak is something everybody around the program takes a lot of pride in,” said Booker. “I think of Drew Maddox hitting that shot at Florida to keep the streak going. You go back to Tom Hagan, Mike Rhodes, great shooters in advance of the 3-point line being a part of the college game, and Vanderbilt has always been a place where good shooters have been a part of this program.”
This season, Vanderbilt stands to return one of the top 3-point shooting rosters in the country under head coach Bryce Drew. The Dores rank first in the SEC and 13th nationally in returning 3-pointers by a team (257). Senior guards Matthew Fisher-Davis and Riley LaChance are the most lethal returning 3-point duo in the SEC, as well, bringing back 150 combined threes made in 2016-17. Plus, Vanderbilt has other shooters like Jeff Roberson and Joe Toye at its disposal from behind the arc.
The pair of Fisher-Davis and LaChance also ranks first in the SEC in returning career 3-pointers with 413. The next closest duo in the SEC, Florida’s Ke’Vaughn Allen and Chris Chiozza, returns just 221 career threes this season.
Extending its own historic 3-point streak could point Vanderbilt towards a deeper NCAA tournament run. This season, a host of Dores have the potential to catch fire from downtown and alter any SEC game once again. That’s a feeling Foster knows all too well.
“Once you get hot like that, once you see the ball go through the basket,” Foster said, “it just feels like everything is possible.”
Zac Ellis is the Writer and Digital Media Editor for Vanderbilt Athletics.