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