Published Sunday, March 03, 2013
BY JOHN ZENOR
AP SPORTS WRITER
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) – Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings watched his team go through rough spurts offensively and even at the free-throw line.
Ultimately, he also saw the Commodores pick up Saturday's only Southeastern Conference road win.
Kedren Johnson scored 16 points and Kevin Bright had 14 to lead Vanderbilt to a 62-55 victory over Auburn on Saturday night when the Tigers struggled even worse.
"We're very happy to get a very ugly road win," Stallings said. "I don't know if both teams had really bad offense, and I certainly don't want to speak for their side but it didn't feel like either side played very well tonight for me."
The Commodores (13-15, 7-9) recovered after the Tigers (9-20, 3-13) whittled a 14-point lead down to four several times in the second half.
Johnson had eight assists and five rebounds for Vanderbilt, which has won four of its last five games. Johnson hit four straight free throws and Josh Henderson and Dai-Jon Parker each made a pair in the final 50 seconds. Henderson scored 11 points.
Bright, who hit the game-winner with .8 seconds left against Georgia on Wednesday night, made 4 of 5 3-pointers and had eight rebounds.
The Commodores trailed by seven early before the Tigers went on a 13-minute field goal drought.
"I thought we didn't come out with the right energy level," Bright said. "They punched us in the mouth, and we woke up and realized we had to play harder. We bounced back after the first four minutes and got the game under control."
Chris Denson led Auburn with 16 points off the bench.
It's the third 20-loss season in Auburn history and the second in Tony Barbee's three seasons. The Tigers have lost 13 of their last 14 games.
Auburn struggled from the floor, hitting 20 of 56 (36 percent) and going 3 of 18 from 3-point range (17 percent)
"I saw a lot of wide-open shots," Barbee said. "I saw a lot of point-blank shots at the rim. I saw a lot of wide-open 3s. We collectively fought harder. I thought we were engaged. I thought we were persistent defensively, but you're not going to win many games in this league shooting 35 percent from the floor and 16 percent from the 3."
Jordan Price hit two free throws with 52 seconds left to bring Auburn to within 54-49 after Vandy managed just one point on a string of four possessions against the full-court press.
Johnson then hit two free throws after a quick foul, but the Tigers stayed alive with Allen Payne's follow shot after two offensive rebounds. Johnson and his teammates then iced it at the line.
The Commodores shot 7 of 27 (26 percent) in the first half before heating up. They were 13 of 29 (45 percent) in the second half.
"Our defense obviously picked up and held us in the game, because our offense didn't start clicking until about the last three or four minutes of the half," Stallings said. "It was just an ugly, grind it game. We never got into any flow offensively. I'm not sure they got into much of a flow either. "
It appeared like it might become a much easier win for the Commodores.
Vandy closed the first half with 10 consecutive points to take a 26-17 halftime lead, holding the Tigers to one point after Denson's alley oop from Frankie Sullivan with 9:52 left. The Commodores hit just 5 of 12 free throws in the first half.
The game was tied until Bright started the closing surge with two 3-pointers in a span of 32 seconds.
The Commodores scored the first five points of the second half as Auburn's streak of consecutive missed shots ran to 17.
"It's frustrating but at the same time I think we messed up when we were making shots," Denson said. We were defending well but we gave up a lot of boneheaded plays. So we have to make sure they don't score if we're missing."
Added point guard Josh Wallace: "If you dwell on it, it probably gets worse."
Denson's runner in the lane ended that drought with 16:13 left and sparked a 14-4 run.
Denson closed it with his second alley oop of the game from Frankie Sullivan, and his first 3-pointer in five games made it 35-31 with 12:30 to play.
The Tigers cut the deficit to four several more times, but the Commodores kept answering right back - several times with 3-pointers. The Commodores made 10 of 26 3s and were 6 of 23 in 2-point attempts.
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