The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

January 24, 2013

Johnson, Vanderbilt top Auburn 73-61


Associated Press

— NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — When Vanderbilt guards Kyle Fuller and Kevin Bright moved from the starting lineup to the bench, each handled the demotions differently.

After three games as reserves, though, their contributions off the bench have been equally significant for the Southeastern Conference's lowest-scoring team. Fuller scored 14 points and Bright added 12 to lead the Commodores to a 73-61 victory over Auburn on Wednesday night.

The former starters accounted for 26 of the team's season-high 30 bench points as Vanderbilt (8-9, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) won consecutive games for the first time in more than a month.

"It was (a problem) for Kyle I think initially, but since then he has been perfect and Kevin hasn't batted an eyelash since," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said of the demotions. "We need the guys who play to be productive. It is about mission, not position."

Auburn (8-10, 2-3) started hot, making its first five baskets. A baseline jumper by Jordan Price put the Tigers up 12-4 5:01 into the game.

Then the Commodores received a lift from the bench. After missing seven of its opening eight shots, Vanderbilt responded with a run of its own thanks to the play of three former starters. Bright popped off the bench with a straightaway 3-pointer, center Josh Henderson followed with a layup and Fuller scored five straight points. He bounced in a 3-pointer to cap off a 10-1 run and give the Commodores a brief 14-13 lead with 11:58 left in the half.

The game tilted back and forth until Vanderbilt ended the half with seven straight points. Stallings delivered high-fives to his team after Auburn called a timeout with 1:22 left in the half following an offensive rebound and layup by Shelby Moats, which gave Vanderbilt a 34-27 halftime lead.

After the break, the Commodores picked up where they left off as Jeter scored five straight points to stake them to a 39-29 lead. After Auburn sliced the deficit in half, Fuller answered with a 3-pointer to spark a 13-3 run. Fuller, Sheldon Jeter and Bright each drained 3-pointers during a 13-3 run. Rod Odom emphatically capped off the spurt with a two-handed dunk after Henderson found him streaking to the basket for a 52-37 lead with 12:28 left.

Kedren Johnson scored a game-high 15 points and Jeter, a freshman making his third start, scored 10 points as Vanderbilt won its seventh straight against Auburn.

Fuller, the team's second-leading scorer, scored in double figures for the second straight game. Bright is averaging 10.7 points the last three games and matched a career-high with four 3-pointers on seven attempts. Both players started the first 14 games, but were moved to the bench more than a week ago after combining for eight points and five turnovers in a 56-33 loss to Arkansas.

"I'm feeling pretty comfortable coming from the bench," said Bright, a freshman from Germany. "I don't have a problem with it. We're playing better since we made the adjustment. As long as we're winning, I'm fine."

Vanderbilt, which entered averaging an SEC-low 59.1 points, also finally received a boost at the foul line.

The second-worst free-throw shooting team (57.2 percent) in the country, they made a season-high 24 free throws out of 30 attempts. Johnson paced the team by making eight of 10. Fuller made six of seven and Odom sank all six.

"We're a good free-throw shooting team," Johnson said. "We've been shooting pretty good in practice. It was just the confidence has been built up in games to where we just got to go out and shoot them like we do in practice and not overthink your free-throw shooting. That's what happens a lot — mental blocks happen a lot during free-throw shooting."

Johnson sank a 3-pointer for Vanderbilt's largest lead, 55-39, with 10:59 left but the Commodores went scoreless for nearly 5 minutes. Auburn failed to capitalize even a little, committing four turnovers and missing three shots during a 4-minute drought. After shooting 50 percent (11 of 22) in the first half, the Tigers made just 11 of 31 shots (35.5 percent) in the final 20 minutes.

Chubb and Frankie Sullivan each scored 14 points and Brian Greene Jr. added 11 for the Tigers, who have dropped three straight.

"It's the same issue we had against Kentucky (in a 75-53 loss on Saturday)," Auburn coach Tony Barbee said. "I thought we got a lot of great looks. To win, you have to score the basketball and we aren't doing that efficiently right now."