Scores

Final

Auburn 53

(9-3, 0-1 SEC)

(20) Vanderbilt 59

(12-0, 1-0 SEC)

    8:00 PM ET, January 7, 2004

    Memorial Gym, Nashville, Tennessee

    1 2 T
    AUB 20 3353
    #20VAN 34 2559

    Vandy stays perfect as SEC tips off

    NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Vanderbilt (No. 21 ESPN/USA Today, No. 20 AP) being 0-for-13 from 3-point range in the second half didn't deter Russell Lakey from taking one more shot from beyond the arc.

    Lakey hit Vanderbilt's last 3-point attempt with 1:10 left and Matt Freije scored 15 points to lead the Commodores' rally in a 59-53 victory over Auburn on Wednesday night in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.

    Vanderbilt (12-0) blew a 17-point first-half lead and trailed 53-48 with 5:32 left, but managed to hold Auburn (9-3) scoreless the rest of the way to preserve the best start in school history.

    Mario Moore cut the Tigers' lead to 53-50 with a basket, and Freije added a free throw to make it 53-51 with 3:54 left, but neither team scored until Freije hit another free throw with 1:27 remaining.

    In the timeout just before the final flurry, Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings rallied his team.

    "We were all sitting there real calm, and Coach came over and said someone was going to hit a big shot for us," Freije said.

    It wasn't Freije, the SEC's preseason player of the year. He hit the first of his two free throws to make it 53-52, but Scott Hundley saved the ball and found Lakey for the game-winning 3-pointer.

    "I knew we were oh-for-something because we couldn't throw anything in the ocean," Lakey said. "It just showed our team grit."

    Auburn lost the ball on its next possession, and Julian Terrell made one free throw with 34 seconds left to make it 56-53. The Tigers' Marco Killingsworth, who finished with 12 points, had his shot blocked by Freije, and Lakey hit two free throws to put the game out of reach at 58-53 with 19 seconds left.

    "A couple of times we got rattled, I felt the momentum slipping to them, but we turned it around," Freije said.

    Auburn, trailing 40-33 midway through the second half, scored on 10 straight possessions and hit nine consecutive shots to take a 53-48 lead, capped by consecutive baskets by Brandon Robinson, who then sprained his left ankle.

    "We got down by something like 17, then stuck out our chests and went on our own run," Auburn coach Cliff Ellis said. "I thought the turning point of the game came when Brandon turned his ankle. He was making big shots and helped us to a five-point advantage."

    Lakey's steal and layup gave Vanderbilt a 31-14 lead with 4:27 left in the first half. The Tigers cut Vanderbilt's lead to 31-20 on a basket by Killingsworth and four points by Nathan Watson, who finished with 13.

    But Freije, who tied Barry Goheen for ninth place on the school's career scoring list, hit a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer to give the Commodores a 34-20 lead.

    Corey Smith added 10 points, all in the first half, for the Commodores.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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    » Jan 7, 2004 @VAN 59, AUB 53Recap