NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Cuonzo Martin and his assistant coaches hadn't talked about Missouri needing to win a road game in the Southeastern Conference.
That doesn't make the Tigers' first league victory in nearly a year any less important.
The Tigers (14-14, 6-9) had not won away from Columbia since a victory at Georgia on March 6, 2019. Now Missouri has won four straight against Vanderbilt giving the Tigers their longest current winning streak against any SEC team. Martin, the Tigers third-year coach, also improved to 6-2 all-time against the Commodores.
“It was important just to win the game first and foremost to keep pushing, keep getting better,” Martin said. “I think we've gotten better as a team, but to always get a road win is not an easy thing. And for us I think it was becoming more mental."
Reed Nikko added 14 points for Missouri.
Vanderbilt (9-19, 1-14) lost its sixth straight after leading by as many as nine in the first half. The Commodores went cold making only one bucket in 12:27 spanning the end of the first half and deep into the second.
Coach Jerry Stackhouse called it a disappointing loss.
“Sound like a broken record,” Stackhouse said. “Did some things in the first half, come out in the second half and didn't execute quite as well on either end offensively or defensively. But we were pretty good for most of possessions defensively, but we didn't secure the rebound. That was probably our biggest nemesis tonight.”
Scotty Pippen Jr. led Vanderbilt with 19 points, and Saben Lee added 14.
Vanderbilt jumped out to a 28-17 lead thanks to Pippen scoring 15 in the first half, his last coming with 3:59 left. But the Commodores went cold and didn't make another bucket the rest of the half. Missouri scored seven straight to pull within 28-27 at halftime.
The Commodores' shooting woes continued in the second half with Lee's layup with 19:06 the only made bucket by Vanderbilt until walk-on Drew Weikert's layup with 11:32 left. Missouri went on an 11-1 run and led by as much as 42-33 on a three-point play by Nikko with 13:31 to go.
Vanderbilt stayed close at the free throw line. Ejike Obinna dunked to pull Vanderbilt within 53-48 with 3:40 remaining. But he missed the free throw after being fouled, and the Commodores never got closer down the stretch as Missouri padded the lead to as many as 10 in the final two minutes.
Martin said Missouri must improve at finishing games, something they struggled with against LSU and Arkansas. He noted they didn't finish well against Vanderbilt.
“To give ourselves a chance, we got to continue to do a better job of not turning the ball over down the stretch executing,” Martin said. “We did a better job in this game than the previous two road games of executing on the defensive side of the ball. I think that was the difference.”
Missouri: The Tigers came in ranked 22nd nationally defending the 3, allowing teams to shoot only 29.4%. They held Vanderbilt to 19% (4 of 21) outside the arc. ... They also outrebounded Vanderbilt 42-27.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores rank 10th in the SEC at the free throw line, shooting 69.3%. They shot only 55% against Missouri (16 of 29). They were even worse shooting from the floor in the second half, making only 6 of 18 (33%).
Missouri hosts Mississippi State on Saturday afternoon.
Vanderbilt starts a two-game road swing Saturday at Ole Miss.
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker
More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/MarchMadness and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25
Is Kentucky done, is UNC really better than Duke and other college basketball questions
An active night in college basketball has prompted a number of pressing questions.
Middle Tenn. looks to end streak vs UAB
UAB (12-2, 5-1) vs. Middle Tennessee (3-9, 1-5)
Jones, Southern Utah visit Idaho State
Southern Utah (11-3, 6-2) vs. Idaho State (8-7, 5-3)