Pressing its inside advantage against a smallish Auburn team, Vanderbilt found A.J. Ogilvy open time and again underneath for lay-ups and dunks. The big man from Australia capitalized, making 12 of his 13 shots. His 27 points led all scorers and was also a season high.
Meanwhile SEC Player of the Year Shan Foster found the Georgia Dome rims to his liking. The senior continued his torrid late-season shooting, sinking 9 of 14 field goals, including six 3-pointers, and finished with 26 points.
Though the scoring was dominated by two men, Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings attributed the offensive outburst to the team's unselfish attitude.
"We really made an emphasis with our team not to take quick threes and make a few extra passes and see if could put the ball in A.J.'s hands," said Stallings. "And I think as a result not only did A.J. touch it more but Shan touched it more. Our team bought into that, they did it, they executed it, and the best news was they did it with a smile on their face."
Vanderbilt torched the nets for 75 percent in the first half, taking a 47-36 lead at the break. The Tigers, who drained 12 3-pointers themselves, were able to stay within striking distance until roughly the 12-minute mark in the second half, when senior Quan Prowell fouled out. Shortly afterwards the Commodores stretched their lead to 16 on a Jermaine Beal 3-pointer, and were able to withstand a late Auburn rally.
"When Quan goes out our whole front line is gone," lamented Auburn coach Jeff Lebo, whose team fell to 14-17 on the season. "We were playing 6-6 and no subs at that point. We were fatigued, and the way we have to play -- we did what we needed to do offensively, but the fatigue and not being able to manufacture anything easy. They can get an easy one and throw inside to Ogilvy and he can throw an easy bucket. We couldn't manufacture anything easy."
Andre Walker came off the bench to pull down a team high 7 rebounds. Alex Gordon added 14 points, and Ross Neltner 10. Jermaine Beal dished out 7 assists with no turnovers.
Rasheem Barrett led Auburn with 20 points, and Frank Tolbert added 17.
On Friday the Commodores a face Arkansas, a team which defeated Vandy 78-73 in Fayetteville on Mar. 1, and which knocked Vandy out of last year's SEC Tournament. Vanderbilt will be trying to advance to the semifinals for the first time since 2004.
"I think [Arkansas has] one of the biggest big men in this league, and they do a good job of pressuring and doing a lot of different things," said Foster. "Unfortunately we haven't had great success against them, but we look forward to a great game tomorrow.
"We know they're going to be amped up and ready to play, and we will, too."
In the other games Thursday:
- South Carolina defeated LSU 77-73. The Gamecocks, whose coach Dave Odom is retiring at the end of this season, face SEC regular season champion Tennessee at noon CT Friday.
- Alabama surprised third-seeded Florida, 80-64, giving beleaguered coach Mark Gottfried a much-needed win. The Crimson Tide meets Mississippi State Friday at 6:30 p.m. CT.
- Georgia upset Ole Miss in overtime, 97-95 on a bank shot by Dave Bliss with 0.4 seconds left. The Bulldogs will face Kentucky in Friday's nightcap at 8:45 CT.