By Ron Wynn
NASHVILLE, TN — The Vanderbilt Commodores ended the regular season with a victory Saturday, defeating Ole Miss 63-61 in Oxford to even their season record at 15-15 (7-11 in the SEC). Despite going for a long stretch without scoring, Scotty Pippen Jr. still led the way for Vanderbilt with 22 points and six assists. But the Commodores’ win wasn’t secured until James White missed a runner at the buzzer for Ole Miss that would have sent the game into overtime.
Pippen got help from Jordan Wright, who finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Liam Robbins came off the bench to score 12 points and collect six boards. The Commodores headed to Tampa, Florida where they met Georgia Wednesday in the opening round. Vanderbilt defeated the Bulldogs twice during the regular season, finishing 11th in the SEC. Georgia finished last in the league with a 6-25 overall record, and lost 17 of 18 SEC games.
Saturday’s contest saw both teams get off to sluggish start offensively. Vandy scored only five points in the first seven minutes, then were down 22-15 at the 6:47 mark. After falling behind by 10, Vanderbilt put together a 9-4 run right before halftime. A White buzzer-beating three-pointer from the left corner gave Ole Miss a four point half time lead. Pippen finished the first half with 11 points, missing four of his seven field goal attempts, while the rest of the team missed 12 of 17 shots.
But the Commodores rallied early in the second half, tying the game at 35 on a goal-tending call. Both Trey Thomas and Myles Stute hit three-pointers to keep the game tied before another Shute three-pointer gave Vandy the lead at 47-45. A Pippen steal and dunk gave Vandy a 49-47 lead. Another Pippen three-pointer made it 54-49, then he banked in another three with 4:21 to go gave the Commodores their largest lead at 60-53. They held on to achieve two high points. This year’s seven SEC wins are their most since the 11 they had in the 2015-16 season. The five road victories are the most since the 2016-17 year when they also had five road wins. Pippen finished the season with 616 points. That’s the eighth highest total in a single Vanderbilt season and fourth-most by a junior in a single Commodore season. If he leaves as expected for the NBA draft, he’ll have definitely proven himself one of the Commodores’ all-time greats.