Just days after blowing a 15 point lead in the final minutes of a loss to Arkansas, it was deja vu Saturday for Vanderbilt. But this time the Commodores did just enough to hold on against Iowa State.
Luke Kornet scored 21 points and fellow senior Nolan Cressler chipped in 20 to make sure Vanderbilt didn't repeat it's late game collapse from earlier in the week.
"Definitely a similar situation," Kornet said. "I'm happy the way we finished the game to pull the W out."
The Commodores finished the game by making 59 percent of their second half shots, building a lead as big as 58-44 after being tied with the Cyclones at the half. They closed the game out by making 21-26 free throws compared to Iowa State, which attempted just 12 free throws for the game.
Perhaps most importantly, a Vanderbilt team that has struggled to defend at times this season for first year coach Bryce Drew got just enough key stops down the stretch to survive for their 10th win of the season.
"We just really corrected what we did last game," Cressler said. "We made our free throws and we were able to get a few stops, which was the big difference."
It's a sign of progress that a young team could come back from such devastating loss just four days before and beat an Iowa State team that likely will be in the NCAA Tournament come March. That point wasn't lost on Drew after the game, who saluted his team's resolve.
"It was great to see some of the things we talked about, some of the things we saw on film all come out in those last three minutes," Drew said.
It's also a tribute to his two seniors, Kornet and Cressler, who could've easily checked out in the middle of a sub-par season with a first-year head coach, but instead remain part of the heart and soul of this team.
"We want to make sure we look back and leave a legacy on this program," the Cornell transfer Cressler said. "And have set the standard for the culture and where this program's going forward along with coach Drew."
Kornet and Cressler set the standard Saturday, combining for 41 ponts, 10 rebounds and six assists in the win.
"They're excitement to play and improve on Tuesday set the energy for our whole team," Drew said. "The combination of those two, it may have been the best game of their career."
It was an effort Vandy badly needed to get back on track. And the type of leadership that Drew hopes will rub off on his younger players the rest of the season and beyond.