NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Vanderbilt used a 12-day break for final exams to figure out how to play without freshman Darius Garland.
Saben Lee scored 14 points to lead five players in double figures and sharp-shooting Vanderbilt beat No. 18 Arizona State 81-65 on Monday night.
Vanderbilt snapped an eight-game skid against ranked opponents that dated to an overtime win over Florida in the 2017 Southeastern Conference Tournament. The Commodores (7-2) also beat Arizona State for the first time in five tries on the Sun Devils’ first visit to Memorial Gym.
They did it without Garland, a touted freshman who tore the meniscus in his left knee in a loss to Kent State on Nov. 23.
“It’s huge for us,” Vanderbilt junior forward Yanni Wetzel said. “We obviously lost a critical piece a couple weeks back and to get this win that just shows the resilience of this team and that we can put the next man up mentality. And I think we definitely showed that tonight.”
The Commodores had a big night from beyond the arc, hitting 6 of 12 from deep in the first half and 12 of 28 for the game.
Aaron Nesmith added 13 points off the bench for Vanderbilt. Wetzell had 12, and Matt Ryan and Joe Toye had 11 each. The Commodores’ bench outscored Arizona State’s 36-21.
Arizona State, which moved up two spots in the AP Top 25 earlier Monday, has lost two of three.
“We got to get back home, get back to the drawing board, watch the film and see how we can be more effective offensively,” Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley said. “It’s hard to put that much pressure on your defense, especially on the road. We didn’t make shots. We shot 32 percent, and that’s not going to win you a lot of games.”
Rob Edwards led Arizona State (8-2) with 14 points. Luguentz Dort came in as the fourth-highest freshman scorer in the nation averaging 20.9 points, but he had just 10 points. Zylan Cheatham had 14 rebounds.
This was the first game after the Commodores’ finals break and is the second part of a home-and-home deal with Arizona State. The Sun Devils won 76-64 in Tempe last season.
Arizona State opened by scoring the first nine points as Vanderbilt missed its first six shots. After that, the Commodores finished the first half outscoring the Sun Devils 34-19, including an 18-3 run over the final 6:49.
“Really proud of how we responded,” Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew said. “Obviously, the start wasn’t how we planned it going down 9-zero, but guys really fought back and played with a lot of energy the rest of the game.”
Vanderbilt pushed that to 37-28 when Ryan hit a 3 to open the second half. Dort scored five straight points to pull Arizona State within 37-34, but that was as close as the Sun Devils got until Edwards and Kimani Lawrence hit back-to-back 3s with 3:53 left to pull within 62-59.
Simisola Shittu answered with a layup, and Toye knocked down a 3 as Vanderbilt pushed the lead back to double digits.
Arizona State: The Sun Devils finish 2-1 in nonconference play against the SEC. They beat Mississippi State in November in Las Vegas and edged Georgia last weekend before coming to Nashville. Hurley said it was a lot to ask of his Sun Devils playing Georgia and Vanderbilt in the span of three days. “I hope that it pays off when we have to reach deep in Pac-12 play and play two games in three days on the road somewhere and hope we’ll benefit from it,” Hurley said.
The Sun Devils came in ninth nationally with a rebound margin of 11.6, yet they outrebounded Vandy only 42-39.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores are part of a rare trio with UNLV and Princeton as the only programs to make a 3-pointer in every game since the 3-point line debuted for the 1986-87 season. After Vanderbilt missed its first seven shots, Nesmith hit a 3 to make it 1,040 straight games with a 3-pointer.
Arizona State: Hosts top-ranked Kansas on Saturday.
Vanderbilt: Visits Kansas State on Saturday.
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