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Vanderbilt advances in NIT with 75-64 win at Saint Mary's

The four seed Gaels tangled with the five seed Commodores at McKeon Pavilion in Moraga, Calif. in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament.

Saint Mary's head coach Randy Bennett.
Saint Mary's head coach Randy Bennett.
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The Gaels blew a big lead in their senior night game against Gonzaga earlier this season. With a second chance to send their seniors off on a high note, could they take advantage against the Commodores?

Five seniors started the game for Saint Mary's; the Gaels opened the game with the fervor of a team literally playing to avoid closing the book on its collegiate career. The Gaels were crashing the glass on both ends of the floor and completely prevented the Commodores from pulling down a rebound for nearly the first seven minutes.

Jeff Roberson grabbed a defensive rebound at the 13:07 mark, at which point Saint Mary's had already tallied six defensive and six offensive rebounds. The Commodores technically had two rebounds before Roberson grabbed his but both came as dead ball team rebounds.

Damian Jones picked up his second foul five and a half minutes into the game and went to the bench. He had been preventing the Gaels from scoring inside. Without him on the floor Saint Mary's pulled out to an eight point lead.

Kevin Stallings had enough of and put his star back into the game just a few minutes after sitting him on the bench.

Damian Jones returned and the Commodores ran out on a 13-0 run. A pair of Kerry Carter free throws interrupted the Commodores hot streak. Their run would stretch to 18-2. Saint Mary's was held scoreless from the field from the 11:35 mark until 3:44 remained.

When Stallings took the risk of putting his star sophomore center back into the game with two fouls he completely tilted the game in his favor.

Vanderbilt pretty well put the game away as soon as the second half started. Within the first two minutes the Commodores had stretched the lead to ten. Saint Mary's was never able to pull back within a basket.

Garrett Jackson, game high 23 points, did everything he could to keep the Gaels in the game. But he was pretty much the only guy on the team who could get his shot to fall. Jackson was the only Gael to make more than two baskets and shoot at least 50% from the field.

Brad Waldow, one of the greatest big men in Saint Mary's history, finished his career with a 12 point, 13 rebound performance. The final shot of his career was blocked by James Siakam.

That was pretty much the story of the night. Vanderbilt's young Commodores smothered the senior-laden Gaels on the defensive end of the floor. On offense four Commodores scored in double-figures led by Damian Jones' 21.

Vanderbilt will face the winner of South Dakota State vs. Colorado State.