By TERESA M. WALKER AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Arkansas Razorbacks didn’t want to become the first Southeastern Conference team to lose to Vanderbilt, and they turned in a dominating performance that left the Commodores coach apologizing.
Daniel Gafford scored 20 points, and Arkansas routed Vanderbilt 84-48 Wednesday night to seal the Commodores’ worst season ever.
“We weren’t nervous,” Gafford said. “We made a mindset to where we weren’t going to be the first loss or the first win, so we came in and did what we had to do to prevent that.”
The Commodores (9-21, 0-17 Southeastern Conference) now have the most losses in school history, and they wrapped up their home schedule at 8-10 for the first losing record in 67 seasons at Memorial Gym. A loss Saturday night to No. 10 LSU would make Vanderbilt the first SEC team to go winless in league play since Georgia Tech went 0-14 in 1953-54.
“It hurts of course,” Vanderbilt freshman Aaron Nesmith said. “Everybody on the team’s hurting, everybody on the staff’s hurting.”
Arkansas (16-14, 7-10) now has won two straight after snapping its own six-game skid. The Razorbacks also have won four straight against Vanderbilt, sweeping the season series after taking the first game between these teams 69-66 in Arkansas.
Mason Jones added 16 points for the Razorbacks. Isaiah Joe had 12, and Desi Sills 11.
This game was only that close at halftime with Arkansas up 29-25. The Razorbacks outscored Vanderbilt 23-4 over the first 11 minutes of the second half, taking advantage of the Commodores’ worst shooting performance this season. They went 17 minutes, 35 seconds between field goals and shot a season-low 29.6 percent.
“Our defense was really good, and once our defense was going, we obviously started to execute offensively and then we made some shots,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said.
Nesmith led Vandy with 11 points as the Commodores also suffered through their widest margin of defeat this season. That’s why coach Bryce Drew started off apologizing to every Vanderbilt fan and those inside Memorial for the result.
“I apologize for our ball-handling, our shooting and our passing,” Drew said. “The fundamentals of basketball. Those are three things we have to get better at.”
Vanderbilt appeared ready to end their painful skid as they opened the game with a 12-2 run and led 15-5 on a 3-pointer by Maxwell Evans with 13:17 left. Then the Commodores didn’t hit another field goal the rest of the first half, missing their last 16 shots. Their first made field goal in the second half was a goaltending call on a jumper by Simisola Shittu with 15:42 to go before Aaron Nesmith finally scored on a layup with 12:49 left.
Arkansas shook off its own poor shooting after missing five of its first six. After that, it was a fairly easy night for the Razorbacks as they took the lead with their first 23-4 run of the game.
Arkansas: Joe made four 3s to give him 104 this season and the school record for a single season, passing Scotty Thurman who made 102 in 1995. … The Razorbacks finished the game hitting their last 11 shots and finished at 52.6 percent (30 of 57).
Vanderbilt: At least the Commodores have managed to remain one of only three schools to knock down a 3 in every game since the 3-point line was added in the 1986-87 season. Senior Joe Toye, getting the start, hit a 3 for the game’s opening bucket to extend the streak to 1,061 consecutive games with a made 3.
The Commodores had 23 turnovers, and Arkansas scored 33 points off those mistakes. The Razorbacks had just one of their 11 turnovers after halftime. They also outshot Vanderbilt outside the arc, going 11 of 18 (61.1 percent). Anderson called the points off turnovers a big key.
“We chart deflections, we had 21 at halftime so that tells me we were active and we ended up with 40 for the game,” Anderson said. “But we not only touched it, we came up with them, so that’s huge.”
Arkansas: Hosts Alabama on Saturday.
Vanderbilt: Visiting No. 10 LSU on Saturday night.
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