Nashville, Tenn. - Saint Xavier University senior point guard Anthony Grant (Calumet City, Ill./Prairie State CC/Thornridge) finished with 19 points as the No. 14 ranked Saint Xavier University men's basketball team gave NCAA Division I and 2012 SEC Tournament champion Vanderbilt University (Tenn.) all it could handle in a 77-69 exhibition loss Friday night at Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville, Tenn. The Cougars pulled to within five points, 74-69, in the closing minute, but the Commodores were able to hit key free throws down the stretch to pull away for the victory. Junior guard Brad Karp (Valparaiso, Ind./Valparaiso) went on a tear for SXU in the game's final three minutes scoring all 10 of the team's points over the stretch. Saint Xavier was solid defensively holding Vandy to just 10 percent shooting (2-for-20) from beyond the three-point arc and helping force 19 Commodore turnovers.
The Cougars came out firing and jumped out to a 9-4 lead in the game's first five minutes behind a pair of three-pointers by junior point guard Roosevelt Green (Markham, Ill./Tinley Park). The Commodores used a 7-0 run to take their first lead of the game on a pair of free throws by junior forward Rod Odom at the 11:29 mark of the first half. Saint Xavier kept it close for most of the half until Vanderbilt used a 15-4 run to build a double-digit lead and went into the halftime break holding a 36-23 advantage. The Commodores were dominant on the boards in the first half out-rebounding the Cougars, 30-12, in the opening frame. SXU also struggled shooting the ball in first-half action hitting just 24 percent (6-for-25) of its shots from the field. Defensively, Saint Xavier was solid helping cause 13 Vanderbilt turnovers in the half behind four steals.
The Cougars picked it up in the opening minutes of the second half making it a nine-point game, 45-36. on a jumper by junior guard Munir Smith (Hazel Crest, Ill./Mooseheart) with just under 14 minutes remaining in the game. SXU stayed within nine points over the next nine minutes of play and a fast break lay-up by Grant made the score, 62-53, with five minutes left in regulation. A three-pointer by Karp brought Saint Xavier to within seven, 70-63, with 2:24 to play. Karp then scored six points over the final two minutes, including a fast-break jumper on a potential three-point play to bring the Cougars within five, 74-69, with 26 seconds left. Unfortunately, Karp could not convert on the resulting free throw attempt and SXU was forced to foul in the closing seconds allowing the Commodores to pull away on free throws. Freshman forward Tony Core (Matteson, Ill./Tinley Park) had a huge game off the bench for the Cougars finishing with 12 points and a team-best seven rebounds.
Saint Xavier (0-1 overall) opens its Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) schedule on Wednesday, November 7, with a road game against Indiana University-South Bend (IUSB). The game is scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. (eastern) start in South Bend, Ind.
Listen to Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings' post-game comments...