NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Gary Waters wanted to test his Cleveland State team right at the start of the season to see how much they would miss Norris Cole.
Turns out, the Vikings are just fine without him.
D'Aundray Brown had 18 points, eight rebounds and seven steals as Cleveland State opened Sunday by upsetting No. 7 Vanderbilt 71-58 in a regional game of the Legends Classic.
"Norris Cole was a first-round draft pick, and now all of a sudden he's gone," Waters said of a player taken in the first round in the NBA draft. "You can have first-round draft picks but when he's your point guard and leading everything, that's a whole different world. I wanted to see starting out early how fast we could adjust and make certain things happen. And when you've got four seniors out on the floor, some things happen."
Brown missed all of last season after tearing a tendon in his finger early, and the sophomore guard helped hold Vandy forward Jeffery Taylor to just nine points and forced the senior into six turnovers.
Cleveland State has four seniors back from a team that won the Horizon League last season. The Vikings hadn't played since an exhibition Wednesday night and looked very fresh, while Vanderbilt (1-1) appeared sloppy and slow after opening Friday night with a late tipoff against Oregon.
"I was very impressed with them and very disappointed in us," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. "I would say it's right in there about equally really impressed and really disturbed."
Cleveland State scored first on a 3-pointer by Trevon Harmon within the first minute and never trailed. The Vikings forced Vanderbilt into 21 turnovers — 15 of them steals. Harmon finished with 11 points and Jeremy Montgomery added 10.
"We continually tried to cross the ball over in front of them, and they just continually kept taking it," Stallings said. "I wish they would have sent us a Federal Express package that said, 'We are going to take your ball if you cross it over in front of us because we're good.' Apparently we didn't get the memo because we kept doing it. I really liked how they played."
And the Vikings have a name for that defensive approach, too.
"We call it water pressure," Montgomery said. "That's what we came out with today. Those guys were having some struggles out there. It was good for our side."
John Jenkins, the Southeastern Conference's leading scorer with 19.5 points last season, had 17 for Vanderbilt. Lance Goulbourne added 11.
With the early tipoff, Cleveland State came into a Memorial Gym barely half full, and the Vikings jumped to a 16-point lead and were up 37-24 at halftime. They outshot Vanderbilt, hitting 50 percent (27 of 54) compared to 35.3 percent (18 of 51) and scored 22 points off the Commodores' turnovers.
Montgomery said the Vikings circled this game during the preseason as the game they wanted to start their success with after going to the National Invitational Tournament.
"Definitely, it's a great win. It's a really great win," Montgomery said. "We've just got to go back to the drawing board and get better."
Vanderbilt, with its highest preseason ranking since starting No. 5 in 1965, never got closer than six in the final 10 minutes. The loss snapped Vanderbilt's 20-game home winning streak against non-conference opponents dating to Dec. 3, 2008, in a 74-55 loss to Illinois-Chicago.
The Commodores were sloppy, missing easy layups, throwing the ball away repeatedly and even struggling at the free throw line despite a huge advantage there.
They had more turnovers through the first 13 minutes (nine) than they had in their opening win over Oregon (eight), and one of those came when they couldn't inbound the ball quickly enough. Vanderbilt wound up with more turnovers in the first half (13) than made shots (seven).
"I'm just embarrassed the way we played," Goulbourne said.Comment on this story
Cleveland State couldn't have been more refreshed and looked much quicker than Vanderbilt. They helped themselves by repeatedly driving the lane for easy baskets with a 34-20 scoring edge in the paint. Cleveland State led 37-21 before Steve Tchiengang managed at three-point play with 33.7 seconds left to trim it to 37-24 at halftime.
Vanderbilt used a 14-2 run to get back into the game capped by a pair of free throws by Goulbourne and then his dunk to pull within 41-38 with 13:31 left.
Then Harmon hit a jumper from the top of the key that kicked off a 9-2 Vikings spurt, and Charles Lee's bucket with 9:50 left put them up 50-40. Vandy never got closer than six down the stretch.