AUBURN, Ala. — Freshman Isaac Okoro scored 17 of his season-high 23 points in the first half and No. 5 Auburn held off Vanderbilt 83-79 on Wednesday night to remain unbeaten.
Ranked in the Top 5 for the first time in nearly 20 years, the Tigers (14-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) withstood a late challenge by the Commodores (8-6, 0-1) after blowing a 13-point lead.
Auburn and No. 7 San Diego State remain the nation’s last unbeaten teams.
Jordan Wright was fouled to prevent a breakaway basket and made both free throws to tie it for Vandy with 59 seconds remaining.
J’Von McCormick hit two foul shots on the other end and Ejike Obinna missed two shots inside. Okoro made 1 of 2 from the line with 29 seconds left, giving Vandy the ball three points down.
Danjel Purifoy stole the inbounds pass after a Commodores timeout and McCormick made 1 of 2 free throws with 14 seconds left.
Saben Lee scored a career-high 27 points for Vandy, making 10 of 14 shots and all three 3-point attempts. The Commodores failed to win an SEC game last season but flirted with one in their league opener.
Austin Wiley had 13 points and 12 rebounds for the Tigers. He made 9 of 10 free throws.
Anfernee McLemore got all 14 of his points before halftime and Purifoy had 12 in addition to the big steal. Okoro made 10 of 14 free throws.
Aaron Nesmith scored 18 points and made 4 of 5 3-pointers for the Commodores. Jordan Wright added 10 points.
Nesmith, the SEC’s leading scorer, was having an uncharacteristically quiet night until the final minutes. Then he hit back-to-back contested 3-pointers, drawing a foul on one, and Wright drove for a layup to pull Vandy to within 78-77 with 1:15 left.
Purifoy and Okoro both exploded for one-handed dunks as Auburn built its lead to 13 points midway through the second half.
McLemore and Okoro combined for 31 of Auburn’s first 37 points.
Vanderbilt: Has lost seven straight against ranked opponents dating to a win over No. 17 Arizona on Dec. 17, 2018. … Made 10 of 16 3-pointers and shot 52 percent from the field.
Auburn: Rose to the Top 5 this week for the first time since Jan. 17, 2000, and fifth overall. With win No. 88, this senior class became the winningest in program history, breaking a 19-year-old record.
Vanderbilt: Hosts Texas A&M on Saturday.
Auburn: Hosts Georgia on Saturday.