Vanderbilt Defeats Ole Miss 76-68 2/1/03

Vanderbilt got stellar play once again from junior Matt Freije who tallied 20 points and a career-high five steals helping the Commodores defeat the Ole Miss Rebels 76-68 Saturday night in Memorial Gym. The 'Dores improved to 10-8, 3-4 as the Rebels drop to 12-6, 3-4.

The Commodores have proven they can beat the big boys of the SEC, but Vanderbilt has had a tough time putting two quality wins together. It was important that tonight the Commodores prove they were for real and the recent upsets were not just luck.

Vanderbilt knew it had a tough matchup as the Rebels came into the game with the third best defense in the nation and the reigning SEC Player of the Week in Aaron Harper. Vanderbilt's offense answered the test as they put up 76 points on a defense that only allows 56 points per game.

The Rebels grabbed the early lead and held on for the first eight minutes of the game. Trailing 12-9, Freije nailed a three-pointer to even the score. On the defensive end, Freije stole the ball and raced the length of the court for a layup that put the 'Dores up 14-12. Vanderbilt would lead the rest of the way.

But the Commodores could not find an answer for John Wooden Award candidate Justin Reed. Reed torched the 'Dores for 26 points on 12-of-18 shooting. Every time Vanderbilt would put a run together, Reed hushed the crowd with a bucket.

Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings was prepared for Reed, but senior Emmanuel Wade provided offense that neither team had seen before. Wade, who came into the game averaging 7.4 pints per game, exploded for a career-high 24, including three buckets from long range.

With the Rebels going zone, Vanderbilt found junior Scott Hundley floating around the interior. When Hundley got the ball in the paint, Vanderbilt usually put points on the board. Either Hundley drove the lane for a foul, layup, or he kicked the ball out to an open teammate who knocked down a jumper. Hundley finished the game with a season-high 18 points and converted eight of 10 free throws.

Vanderbilt went into halftime leading 36-30 after junior Russell Lakey drained a three-pointer at the end of the half.

The Commodores pretty much controlled the rest of the game by pounding the ball down low to sophomore Brian Thornton. Thornton had 16 points and was a perfect 4-of-4 from the line. Vanderbilt led by as many as 13 at one point, but Ole Miss would just not go away.

In the final five minutes of the game the Rebels put together a furious rally to try and steal a road win in the SEC. Trailing by 12, Ole Miss went on a 10-2 run that cut the lead to just four points. The run was fueled by two threes and a layup by Wade.

But with under 2:00 to play, the Commodores looked to their primetime player to make a big play. Freije got the ball and knocked down a baseline jumper that ended the Rebel rally.

The Commodores hit the road for an SEC-West matchup with No. 21 Mississippi State Wednesday February 5th at 7 pm CT.


Vanderbilt Athletic Department
2601 Jess Neely Drive
Nashville, TN 37212
615-322-GOLD (4653)