NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Scotty Pippen Jr. scored a career-high 25 points as Vanderbilt held off Valparaiso 77-71 Friday night in the season opener for both teams.
Pippen put Vanderbilt ahead to stay by scoring six straight starting with a pair of free throws with 4:24 left at 61-59.
Vanderbilt improved to 3-0 all-time against Valparaiso, and the Crusaders snapped an eight-game winning streak in season openers with their first loss since 2011 when they also opened on the road losing at Arizona.
Maxwell Evans added 16 points for Vanderbilt.
Mileek McMillan led Valparaiso with 18 points. Donovan Clay added 14, and Ben Krikke had 13.
This was Vanderbilt’s latest start in 31 years dating to the 1989-90 season against Southern Methodist on the same date. It’s a game the Commodores have been waiting for since March 11 when they played in the final Southeastern Conference Tournament game before the league canceled the event.
No fans were allowed inside Memorial Gym. Both teams stayed on the end lines with benches turned into chairs spaced out for physical distancing. When Nick Robinson picked up his fourth foul within the first couple minutes of the second half, someone yelling “No” echoed throughout the gym.
Vanderbilt appeared ready to cruise to an opening win with a 12-1 run that put the Commodores up 50-43 on Pippen’s three-point play with 13:51 left. The Crusaders answered by scoring the next 12 with a pair of 3s before Daniel Sackey’s steal and layup gave them their biggest lead of the game with 11:27 to go.
They last led 59-54 on a layup by Krikke with 6:52 left.
D.J. Harvey, who sat out last season after transferring from Notre Dame, started a 14-2 run with a 3. Ejike Obinna tied it at 59 with a layup, and Pippen, who made all 14 of his foul shots, put them ahead to stay with a pair of free throws. Vandy pushed the lead to as much as 10 inside the final minute.
Valparaiso scored the final 11 of the first half with McMillan hitting two 3s, including his third of the half beating the buzzer for a 34-all tie.
Valparaiso: The Crusaders picked up where they left off last season shooting the 3. They made 287 3s last season, and they hit 7 of 15 in the first half but struggled outside the arc in the second (4-of-20) finishing 11-of-35.
Vanderbilt: Coach Jerry Stackhouse starts his second season with a much deeper roster thanks to five freshmen and a trio of transfers now available. He’s using the nine nonconference games to work out his best combinations, and 10 different Commodores scored with a total of 12 playing. … The Commodores also dominated the boards 44-34. Dylan Disu had a game-high 11 rebounds.
Valparaiso will visit Illinois-Chicago on Tuesday night.
Vanderbilt is scheduled to play UConn on Tuesday in the Romans Legend Classic in Uncasville, Connecticut.
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