In many eyes, it was the “lowlight” of the first round of the NCAA Tournament. And it would have been easy to heap the blame on Vanderbilt guard Matthew Fisher-Davis following his critical mistake in the Commodores’ 68-66 loss to Northwestern during the Round of 64 of Thursday.
But Vanderbilt hoops stuck by its man, even when he was taking a beating on television, print and especially on social media.
In case you missed it, Vanderbilt’s Riley Lachance scored a go-ahead basket to put the Commodores up 66-65 with roughly 17 seconds remaining. It would have been on Northwestern to come up with a game-winning shot, but Fisher-Davis — presumably thinking his team was still behind —mistakenly fouled Wildcats player Bryant McIntosh with 14 seconds remaining to give McIntosh a chance to regain the lead from the free-throw line.
Have a look.
Vandy with the late go-ahead bucket! And then… the… foul????? pic.twitter.com/qDI1ANU3NC
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 16, 2017
In the moments that the Fisher-Davis foul, reactions varied from shock, anger and disappointment for many of the Vanderbilt faithful. But those in the Vanderbilt basketball community, who had the most to lose from Fisher-Davis’ awful error, were the ones who were most vocal in their defense of the junior sharpshooter.
Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew face the question straight on during a nationally televised post-game interview in the moments after the defeat. His overwhelming theme? He’s proud of Fisher-Davis, who helped lead the Commodores back from a 15-point second-half deficit and had a team-best 22 points.
Jamie Erdahl caught up with Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew following the Commodores' tough loss. pic.twitter.com/aSCwnYfXi9
— March Madness TV (@MarchMadnessTV) March 16, 2017
But having your back is what a good coach is supposed to do. Even when he may want to scream.
Fisher-Davis was still predictably feeling the blues in the locker room after the game. And he blamed himself for the loss to the media.
Matthew Fisher-Davis: "It was a collective effort in coming back, and it was my dumb mistake why we lost."
— Adam Sparks (@AdamSparks) March 16, 2017
According to a report from The Tennessean’s Adam Sparks, Fisher-Davis’ mistake stemmed from Drew pointing at the Northwestern player in hopes of Fisher-Davis defending him.
“I saw him point at (McIntosh), but he was just telling me to pick him up (and guard him),” Fisher-Davis said, per Sparks. “And then I committed a dumb foul. You gotta be smarter than that in that situation.”
Just when you think things look the worst, Fisher-Davis seemed to show some signs of feeling the love from his teammates, who decidedly had his back. Amidst some pretty ugly Twitter mentions, which we will not share here, Fisher-Davis left this message on Twitter on Thursday evening.
Vanderbilt senior star Luke Kornet, who played his final collegiate game on Thursday, had the most to lose from the mistake.
According to Sparks, Kornet had nothing both love for his teammate: “I just wanted to let him know that we’re with him no matter what.”
Vanderbilt guard Riley Lachance too acknowledged that the Commodores wouldn’t have been in position to win that game without the shooting efforts of Fisher-Davis. He tweeted a message of support of a statement about Fisher-Davis receiving unfair criticism online.
Memphis Grizzlies guard Wade Baldwin, who left the Commodores after the 2015-16 season to enter the NBA draft, made it clear he had Fisher-Davis’ back in the moments after the loss by changing his profile picture on Twitter to a shot of the two embracing in Vanderbilt uniforms.
More good news for Fisher-Davis: There’s a chance for redemption next season.
Though the Commodores lose the services of Kornet, Drew’s team is expected to return Fisher-Davis, Lachance, Jeff Roberson, Joe Toye and several other significant contributors. All while adding the fruits of another Drew recruiting class.