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Monday, March 27, 2023

Streaking Vanderbilt readies for Yale to open NIT

Streaking Vanderbilt readies for Yale to open NIT


Not known for much athletic success outside the baseball diamond, Vanderbilt became one of the darlings of February and March in men’s basketball.

The Commodores’ late push to earn a surprise NCAA Tournament bid came up short, but they will be one of the hottest teams entering the National Invitation Tournament. Vanderbilt earned a No. 2 seed in the NIT and will host Yale in its opening-round game Tuesday in Nashville, Tenn.

Vanderbilt (20-14) has won 10 of its past 12 games, including two victories over Southeastern Conference titan Kentucky in 10 days — once on the road, then again during the SEC tournament. Vanderbilt bowed out in the SEC semifinals Saturday with an 87-75 loss to Texas A&M.

More remarkably, the Commodores have continued winning in spite of the absence of leading scorer and rim protector Liam Robbins, who suffered a season-ending leg injury earlier this month.

“I think you take … any candidate that was up possibly for the Defensive Player of the Year or even a second team All-SEC player, you take them out of the mix, do (other teams) still get where we are right now, still play with the same energy, effort and passion that these kids play for?” Vanderbilt coach Jerry Stackhouse said of his team. “Like I said, they deserve a taste, especially for our guys that have been here four years and labored through this rebuild.”

Tyrin Lawrence (12.5 points per game), Jordan Wright (10.8 ppg, 5.1 rebounds per game) and Ezra Manjon (9.9 ppg, 3.9 assists per game) are all major contributors to the Commodores.

Vanderbilt hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2017, but it reached the NIT quarterfinals last year and lost to eventual champion Xavier. Vandy won the NIT in 1990.

Yale (21-8) earned a share of the Ivy League regular-season title and secured the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, but it fell to host Princeton 74-65 on Sunday in the championship game with the automatic NCAA bid on the line. It faces a quick turnaround to head from New Jersey to Nashville.

“They’re not in a great place right now, but they’re a resilient group of young men,” Yale coach James Jones said postgame. “There will be a game on our ledger (in the NIT) and I expect them to go out and play it to their fullest.”

The Bulldogs rely on Matt Knowling (14.1 ppg), John Poulakidas (12.2 ppg, 41.0 percent 3-point shooting) and EJ Jarvis (11.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg).

–Field Level Media

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