NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — When coaching his Vanderbilt players, Jerry Stackhouse likes to use personal experiences to get his point across to his team.
As a successful NBA and college player, Stackhouse draws on his knowledge of what it was like to be on the court playing at a high level. He also tells the Commodores to rely on each other to create a winning environment, especially when your star player has an off night.
On a night when Aaron Nesmith, the Southeastern Conference’s leading scorer coming into the game at 23.7 points per game was only able to put up 16, Saben Lee netted a career-high 25 points to lead Vanderbilt to a 90-76 victory over Buffalo on Tuesday night.
“My experience has helped me put real-life situations to these guys,” Stackhouse said. “It’s about the work and trusting your teammates. These guys really pull for each other.”
Lee was a key factor the Commodores’ win, hitting 8 of 15 shots from the field and was a perfect 8-for-8 shooting from the free-throw line.
“When I go in I try to impact the game,” Lee said.
Clevon Brown added 14 points and grabbed a career-high eight rebounds for Vanderbilt (6-2). Maxwell Evans rounded out the balanced attack with 13 points and seven boards.
Antwain Johnson led Buffalo (5-3) with 16 points on 4-of-13 shooting and had seven rebounds. Davonta Jordan added 15 points and Josh Mballa chipped in 11.
The Bulls were looking for their first win against an SEC opponent and started the game off with a 10-1 run. But Vanderbilt answered with a 16-5 run to take its first lead of the game.
Nesmith was held scoreless until 5:15 to go in the first half when he hit two free throws. He has scored in double figures in all eight games this season.
The Commodores went on to close the first half on a 21-4 run for a 47-34 advantage. That was where the game changed, Buffalo coach Jim Whitesell said.
“The end of the first half really hurt us,” Whitesell said. “I thought we played pretty well, and defensively we were in pretty good shape. I think the last eight minutes we were down six and we used our second timeout, which I usually don’t do, but I wanted to finish the half well, which we did not.”
Vanderbilt posted a season-high 26 free-throw attempts, converting 22 of them for 84.6%. Vanderbilt entered the contest with the second worst free-throw percentage in the SEC at 62.6%. Free-throw shooting has been an obvious area of concern for Stackhouse. “We focus on it,” he said.
The Commodores, more of an outside shooting team, outscored the Bulls 56-44 in the paint.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores rebounded from scoring a season-low in their 67-58 loss at home against Tulsa on Saturday night.
Buffalo: The Bulls had their three-game win streak snapped.
Buffalo travels to DePaul on Sunday.
Vanderbilt hosts Liberty on Dec. 14.
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