DENVER -- Richmond guard Kevin Anderson insists he’s 6-feet tall while wearing shoes and that he modeled his game off an Allen Iverson highlights DVD his mother purchased for him as a child.
Fittingly, as the Spiders' program continued their giant-slaying ways with a 69-66 win against fifth-seeded Vanderbilt in their second-round NCAA tournament game on Thursday, the senior was at the forefront for hitting big shot after big shot.
He scored 16 of his game-high 25 points in the second half, getting hot from beyond the arc and then hitting a fadeaway over 6-foot-11 Festus Ezeli with 18.9 seconds left.
“I can’t go for a regular layup,” Anderson said. “They’re probably going to get a block. I had to shoot my floaters that have been effective throughout the season for me.
“They’re just floaters, regular floaters.”
Behind Anderson’s playmaking ability and low turnover count (one of Richmond’s three), the Spiders now have a chance to reach the Sweet 16 with a win against 13-seed Morehead State on Saturday.
For Vanderbilt, the loss was crushing. The Commodores became the first program in NCAA tournament history to lose in three consecutive round of 64 games as a No. 5 seed or better.
Last season, it was Murray State that sunk them at the buzzer. This year, coach Kevin Stallings was left conceding that his team “tightened up” toward the end of the game.
“As hard as we talked and as much as we talked about having a relaxed, confident attitude about us, you could tell we tightened up on a couple free throws,” he said. “But it’s the nature of this tournament. That’s why it’s exciting. There’s a lot of pressure and a lot of tension.”
Anderson reveled in it. Richmond trailed by 11 in the first half and by nine in the second half before the barrage of 3-pointers.
After Justin Harper made one, Anderson hit the next three to cap off a 12-0 run that gave the Spiders a three-point lead. Even with 6-foot-7 Jeffery Taylor defending him, Anderson crossed him over and faked him out on one play with three minutes left before hitting a leaner while being fouled.
“They just got hot,” Vanderbilt guard John Jenkins said. “We tried our best to contest shots, but they jumped up and made ‘em. I know we had a couple contested shots, but they kept knocking ‘em down, knocking ‘em down.”
Ezeli and Jenkins led Vanderbilt with 21 points apiece, but Taylor was held to four points on 1-for-10 shooting.
The Spiders got a big lift from their bench, including Darrius Garrett coming up with five blocks and five rebounds. Their bench outscored Vanderbilt’s 23-4, with Francis Martel (12 points, five rebounds) and Cedrick Lindsay (seven points, three assists) also making key contributions.
Anderson said it’s been nice having his teammates pick him up at times when last season’s A-10 player of the year struggled with his shot.
“It’s hard when you don’t have good games and you’re expected to have good games,” Anderson said. “That’s really tough.”
It was the complete opposite against Vandy. When Rod Odom’s contested 3-pointer wasn’t close at the buzzer, Anderson could only think about the Sweet 16 possibility.
“We don’t want to be one-and-done,” he said.