In a matter of seconds, the historical 17th 3-pointer in Memorial Gymnasium became a footnote.
It took 3.2 seconds, in fact.
After it looked like Kevin Bright won the game for Vanderbilt with a 3-pointer in the corner, the Commodores failed to lock down in crunch time. With two defenders swarming to the ball, the Southeastern Conference’s top scorer got loose.
Marshall Henderson made the Commodores pay with a 35-footer at the buzzer to cap a furious rally by the Rebels, who trailed by 13 with 8:48 left. Vanderbilt never recovered in overtime, scoring one point in the extra period, and suffered a deflating 89-79 loss on Tuesday night.
“We just tried to be heroes instead of getting back and doing what we’re supposed to do defensively in that situation,” coach Kevin Stallings said. “Just disappointing.”
Henderson scored a game-high 26 points and made four 3-pointers. His last came thanks to a defensive lapse by Vanderbilt (6-9, 0-3), which has lost three straight and five of six. The 0-3 start in conference play is its first since 2001-02.
After Bright’s 3-pointer, which broke the Memorial Gym record for the most by a team (Vanderbilt attempted a school-record 40), Stallings tried to call his last timeout to set up his defense. It wasn’t granted.
Ole Miss (14-2, 3-0) rolled the ball to the Vanderbilt free-throw line, where Jarvis Summers finally picked it up. Dai-Jon Parker went after the ball but slipped. Bright tried to help on Summers, who split the defense. He got a pass off to Henderson, who ranked sixth in the country with nearly four 3-pointers a game.
In one motion, he caught the ball, landed on the other side of half-court and uncorked the game-tying heave as Rod Odom raised his arms in defense.
“It was brainless on our part,” guard Kedren Johnson said. “We didn’t match up the right way. The fire burnt us, unfortunately.”
The wounds were “self-inflicted,” as Stallings described it.
Besides faulty defense late, what really doomed the Commodores were their woes at the foul line.
A week ago Stallings feared poor free-throw shooting would cost the Commodores a win. His nightmare became reality.
Vanderbilt entered as the third worst free-throw shooting team in the country, making just 58.1 percent. The Commodores were just 10 of 23 free throws (43.5 percent) against Ole Miss and missed five straight in the last 3:26.
“What can you say?” Stallings said. “They missed. I can’t shoot them for them. They make them in practice. Ten for 23. That won’t get you very far.”
With freshman forward Sheldon Jeter and Parker making their first career starts, Vanderbilt got off to a surprisingly hot start after scoring just 33 points against Arkansas on Saturday.
Only one of their 13 field goals in the first half was worth two points as the Commodores matched their season-high by halftime with 12 3-pointers — from six different players — for a 41-40 lead.
When the Rebels tightened up the perimeter defense out of the break, Vanderbilt began attacking the basket. Up 56-52, Jeter sparked an 11-2 run with a floater in the lane. Bright found Josh Henderson for an open layup to cap off the spurt for the game’s largest lead, 67-54, with less than nine minutes remaining.
“Coming off the debacle last game we knew we couldn’t do any worse than that,” Parker said. “So we just went up there. The 12 3s, we were just finding the players that were open and making plays for our teammates basically.”
Johnson, who started despite a sore shoulder, led Vanderbilt with 19 points, had a career-high eight assists and made a team-high five 3-pointers. Parker scored a career-high 16 points, Jeter added 13 and Bright scored 12.
But the Commodores unraveled and made just two shots in the last 8:48 until Bright’s 3-pointer.
Defensively, they were outmatched inside as Ole Miss dominated the paint, 44-16. Reginald Buckner’s slam on an alley-oop pass from Murphy Holloway with 2:13 to go put Ole Miss ahead 73-72. After a layup pushed the lead to three, Parker sunk a game-tying 3-pointer to set up the frantic final minute.
“We don’t know how to win,” Stallings said. “We don’t know how to make winning plays. We’re not there yet. We’re trying to get there. But we’re just not there yet. … It is safe say to we should have won the game and we did enough to lose it. But that is a sign of a team that maybe expects to lose.”