Fuller's first basket sends Vanderbilt on to victory

Saturday, November 10, 2012 at 8:21pm

Kyle Fuller was pressing.

One of two juniors on a senior-less team, Fuller was trying to make a good impression in Vanderbilt’s season opener against Nicholls (La.) State on Saturday. Instead, he just needed to give the Commodores something to build off.

A last-second jumper to finish the first half ended one run and sparked another as Vanderbilt rolled to an 80-65 victory in front of 7,655 at Memorial Gymnasium. 

After missing his first four shots, Fuller pump-faked a defender and made a jumper with one second left to give Vanderbilt a 28-22 lead at halftime. The basket capped off a 15-5 run and he began another with a 3-pointer to open the second half. It was the first of eight straight baskets for the Commodores, who grabbed a 49-31 lead less than five minutes in and never looked back.

“It was a starting point for me,” said Fuller, who played 36 minutes. “I kept missing so it was a confidence booster to get my game going. I knew I was helping the team on defense but I know now I can help the team on offense.”

Fuller finished with a career-high 15 points and six assists and Kedren Johnson scored a career-high 25 points as Vanderbilt improved to 13-1 in season openers under coach Kevin Stallings.

“I was proud of the way we came out in the second half,” Stallings said. “We played for each other and exhibited more patience and more trust in the offense and more faith in each other of which we showed none in the first half.”

For much of the first half, the Commodores looked like a team that had lost its top six scorers from the previous year. Nicholls State’s Fred Hunter, who finished with 21 points, scored his team’s first 11 points and the Colonels led 17-13 with 8:51 left in the half.

The Commodores' shots started falling after that. Vanderbilt went on a 36-14 run that lasted until the 15:35 mark of the second half.

For the 833rd straight game the Commodores made a 3-pointer. They made eight during that stretch, which spanned halftime, and finished with 12. Vanderbilt, Princeton and UNLV are the only schools with a 3-pointer in every game since the inception of the arc in 1986.

“We have been shooting it well in the practice so when we came out in the first two exhibition games it was a surprise to us too how bad we were shooting the ball,” Johnson, who made three 3-pointers. “We just got up extra shots and it wasn’t as much nerves as it was the first two exhibition games.”

Vanderbilt was without two guards and limited Stallings to an eight-player rotation even in a rout. All eight players scored for Vanderbilt and they set 27 career-highs in the process. Freshman Kevin Bright, from Germany, was 3-of-3 from 3-point range and finished with a personal-best 15 points.

Freshman A.J. Astroth missed sat out with an ankle sprain. Sophomore shooting guard Dai-Jon Parker remains indefinitely suspended for a violation of non-academic team rules. Stallings said Parker will not play in Vanderbilt’s next game at Oregon on Nov. 16.

 Vanderbilt women win: Prior to the men’s game, the 16th-ranked Commodores started the season with an 82-71 win over McNeese (La.) State.

Tiffany Clarke scored 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds and Christina Foggie had 18 points as Vanderbilt won its sixth straight season opener.