NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Vanderbilt won by 25 points, but it seemed like an off-night during much of the game.
That’s how high expectations have become for the Commodores with their highly-touted recruiting class.
Freshman Simi Shittu scored 20 points and senior Joe Toye added 14, and Vanderbilt beat Alcorn State 79-54 Friday night.
“I thought Alcorn played really well,” Commodores coach Bryce Drew said. “Early in the season when you face a lot of changing defenses, especially with a young team, it can keep you off balance. We just couldn’t get into a rhythm offensively until about that 15-minute mark in the second half.”
Shittu, a 6-foot-10 power forward, was a force inside, hitting 9 of 11 shots from the floor. He also blocked three shots for the 3-0 Commodores.
Vanderbilt freshman Darius Garland, who entered the game tied for second in scoring in the Southeastern Conference, was held to a season-low three points — 18.5 below his average. The point guard missed 5 of 6 from the floor, but he had seven rebounds and four assists.
“We wanted to focus in on Garland and I thought defensively we did a great job holding a guy of his caliber to three points,” Braves coach Montez Robinson said. “We wanted to just try to take the ball out of his hands as much as possible. But when you take away a player like him you can’t let other guys make up for it.”
Shittu and Garland, both five star-prospects and McDonald’s All-Americans, form the core of Vanderbilt’s best recruiting class in school history.
Vanderbilt’s Matt Ryan added 12 points as the Notre Dame transfer hit four 3-pointers. Saben Lee added 10 points and a game-high six assists.
Matthew Moyer, who was granted an NCAA waiver earlier in the week, had a team-high eight rebounds and five points in his Vanderbilt debut after transferring from Syracuse in the summer.
The NCAA allowed the 6-foot-8 forward to play immediately instead of sitting out one year.
“Length, he brings energy as well,” Shittu said when asked what Moyer can add to the lineup. “Leadership because he’s been to where we’re trying to be this year. And he’s a good teammate as well.”
Troymain Crosby led Alcorn State (1-2) with 11 points and Deshawn Andrews had 10. Maurice Howard, who scored a career-high 24 points in Alcorn State’s previous game against Blue Mountain, was held to five points on 2 of 11 shooting.
Alcorn State cut Vanderbilt’s lead to 50-41 with 12:11 left, but the Commodores closed with a 29-13 run. The Braves shot 32 percent from the floor.
Vanderbilt had a 16-2 edge in fast-break points and a 42-22 advantage on points in the paint.
Vanderbilt couldn’t find a steady rhythm in the first half, but still managed a 37-29 lead.
Alcorn State faces another SEC team when it visits Mississippi State on Nov. 26.
Alcorn State’s Alonzo Campbell, a 7-foot center, was helped off the court, favoring his right hip 19 seconds into the second half. “I think it was a hip pointer,” Robinson said. “We won’t know the depth of it until we get back. With something like that (he could be out) a couple of weeks maybe. I hope it’s two weeks, it’s a guessing game.”
Garland still found ways to contribute even though his shots weren’t falling. “Obviously, we’d like him to score more, but he does so many things out there,” Drew said. “He controls the tempo. He only had four assists, but if we probably would have made more layups and 3’s, he could have had 10 assists easily. Even when he’s not scoring he’s so important out there.”
Alcorn State: The Braves stayed within striking range until the Commodores pulled away late.
Vanderbilt: After demolishing the Braves by 39 points last season the Commodores got a much tougher battle this time, especially during the first 30 minutes.
Alcorn State visits Kent State Sunday in the second of a five straight road games.
Vanderbilt hosts Liberty on Monday in the second of a four-game homestand.
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