Rice routed at Vanderbilt

January 3, 2008 8:11:25 PM PST
Shan Foster had 24 points and five rebounds and No. 15 Vanderbilt remained undefeated with a 76-58 victory over Rice on Thursday night.The Commodores (14-0) forced a season-high 24 turnovers and showed they can win with more than their high-scoring offense, extending the best start in the program's 108-year history. Vanderbilt won their first 12 games in 2003-04 en route to the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament.

A.J. Ogilvy added 14 points and nine rebounds, and Alex Gordon scored 11 points for the energized Commodores, who forced 21 turnovers against Tennessee-Martin earlier this season.

The win kept the Commodores in the depleting group of unbeaten Division I teams. North Carolina, Memphis, Kansas, Washington State and Mississippi are the only other schools without a loss.

Paulius Packevicius led Rice (3-9) with 17 points, and Lawrence Ghoram added 15 points and six rebounds.

The loss was the second straight against a ranked opponent for the Owls, who lost 68-41 to No. 12 Texas A&M on Monday. The Owls fell to 3-15 against Vanderbilt, and have never defeated the Commodores in Nashville.

Vanderbilt finally showed the kind of pressure defense coach Kevin Stallings has wanted.

Everything that had been missing on defense for the Commodores -- hustle plays, forced turnovers, contested shots -- was there against Rice. Besides the 24 forced turnovers, Vanderbilt caused two 5-second violations, had seven steals and five blocked shots.

The only problem?

The Commodores struggled to score at times, a rarity this season.

With Southeastern Conference play beginning next week, Vanderbilt knows such droughts may occur more often, which is why Stallings has preached his Commodores must improve defensively.

They did -- albeit against a team with three wins.

The Commodores held the Owls to just one field goal over the first 6:11 of the second half to build a 44-28 lead. Stallings used a 10-man rotation to keep his players fresh, allowing Vanderbilt to swarm Rice constantly without tiring.

Vanderbilt's stifling defense turned into several fast-break points, including a windmill dunk by Foster that gave the Commodores a 31-20 lead and sent the 11,996 fans in Memorial Gym into a frenzy.

The game began in similar fashion.

Vanderbilt allowed only two field goals in the first 7:45, going ahead 13-4. With the Commodores enduring early dry spells, Rice was able to get within 31-26 at halftime.

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