Vanderbilt’s Garland rebounds big in Vandy’s win
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Darius Garland followed a career low with a career high.
The freshman point guard scored a career-high 33 points one game after being held to three as Vanderbilt won a battle of unbeaten teams with a 77-70 victory over Liberty on Monday night.
It was the second-most points ever scored by a Vanderbilt freshman, trailing only the 34 scored by Mike Rhodes against Virginia Tech in 1977.
“I thought I wasn’t as aggressive in the last game as I was tonight,” Garland said. “The last game they told me I need to be more aggressive and that’s what I did.”
Alcorn State focused its defense on containing Garland in Vanderbilt’s win Friday, but Liberty (3-1) couldn’t stop him as he hit 12 of 18 from the floor, including five 3-pointers.
“He’s as good as I’ve seen in a while,” said Liberty coach Ritchie McKay, a former Virginia assistant. “He won’t be around long. He’s really special.”
Garland, an NBA prospect, was a McDonald’s All-American and five-star prospect at nearby Brentwood Academy last season.
“Darius can take over a game,” McKay said. “He has the ability to affect the game without scoring a point, but also can take over from an aggressive scoring standpoint into the teeth of a lot of defenses and he did that against us.”
It was the most points scored by an SEC player this season.
“I think the beauty about him is that he can control a tempo by scoring or not scoring and that’s a very special trait that he has,” Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew said. ”(Liberty) really smothers the roller in their half-court defense and they’re going to give you more 3′s. As the roller was covered, I thought Darius did a good job making 3′s.”
Garland’s backcourt partner, Saben Lee, added 17 points.
Vanderbilt’s Matt Ryan, a Notre Dame transfer, scored 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds. He was ejected after a flagrant foul with 5:21 left.
Liberty cut the deficit to 46-45 with 11:20 left, but Vanderbilt (4-0) pulled away with an 18-2 run.
Lovell Cabbil led Liberty (3-1) with 16 points, Darius McGhee had 15 and Scottie James added 12 in front of a crowd of 8,493 at Memorial Gym. James is 15 for 17 from the floor in the last three games.
Vanderbilt capped an 11-0 run late in the first half with an alley-oop pass from Garland to Lee, who finished with a dunk for a 34-27 lead. Garland waved his arms above his head in encouragement to the Commodores’ student section after the play.
Garland and Lee connected on a similar play in a season-opening win over Winthrop.
Liberty’s Caleb Homesley, who scored a season-high 16 points in Friday’s win over Kent State, was held to two points on a 1-for-6 shooting night.
Vanderbilt’s Simi Shittu had eight rebounds and eight points.
Liberty won its first three games for its best start since 1999.
It’s way too early to predict the NCAA Tournament field, but McKay believes Vanderbilt is on the right track. “I know what an NCAA Tournament team looks like and I’d be hard-pressed to think that they they’re not going to be playing in The Dance,” McKay said.
The Flames fell to 0-9 against Southeastern Conference teams. Vanderbilt improved to 17-0 against the Big South, including a win over Winthrop in the season opener.
Liberty: The Flames finally cooled off after winning their first three games as the Commodores pulled away late.
Vanderbilt: Garland regained his scoring touch and played a high-speed game with Lee.
Liberty hosts Alcorn State (1-3) in the first of a two-game homestand Friday.
Vanderbilt hosts Kent State (3-1) on Friday in the third of a four-game homestand.
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