Saturday, December 9, 2006

Commies Sting Jackets at Memorial

In a seesaw battle against the ramblin’ wreck of Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt was able to hold on for their first quality win of the season. Vanderbilt’s win at Memorial was that much sweeter as the game was televised nationally on ESPN2. The 25th ranked Yellow Jackets came to Nashville, losers of their last 11 road games, rife with inexperience. While the announcers might have made a little too much of Memorial’s unique set-up, it was clear the young Georgia Tech team struggled with not being able to hear their coach, especially when Commodore Nation came to life. Overall, the game was sloppy, with a combined 43 turnovers among the two teams. Despite their early sloppiness which translated into 6 turnovers in the first 5 minutes, Vanderbilt opened up the game with a 26-17 lead. The Commies were red-hot in the first 12:30 minutes, shooting 12-15 from the floor. Then, as has happened throughout this season, they went ice cold. Vanderbilt ended the half missing 13 of their last 15 field goals and trailing 34-33, after a careless Dan Cage pass was taken the length of the floor by Tech. Another area where Vanderbilt struggled was on the bounds. Georgia Tech dominated the Commies on the glass, beating Vanderbilt 38-27, including allowing 17 offensive rebounds that led to 20 Tech points. Conversely, Vanderbilt only scored 3 points off of second chances and could not seem to get a rebound when they needed one. If this team is going to be successful, particularly in SEC play, they are going to have to become more effective on the glass.

While everyone in Commodore Nation should be happy with this win, and I don’t mean to harp on the negative, but I do not understand what Kevin Stallings is doing. Is there any reason why Ted Skuchas was playing the final 6 minutes of the first half when Tech went on their 17-7 run instead of Ross Neltner? Skuchas has terrible hands, is not an offensive threat, and struggles to get rebounds against athletic big-men who are his size. Neltner, on the other hand, is one of the only Commies who crashes the boards, consistently plays good defense, and poses a threat inside and out. It seems to me that, in general, Neltner was significantly under-utilized tonight. Derek Byars and Shan Foster cannot do it all themselves, and Ross Neltner’s game is a nice complement to what might be the best backcourt in the SEC. So why isn’t he playing more? Why did he only attempt 4 shots all game?

Foster and Byars continued their strong play, and “Red” Gordon provided quality minutes with 14 points, 6 assists, and only 2 turnovers. Foster poured in 25, and Byars added 18 including the go-ahead three to put the Commies up 51-50 at the 7:56 mark. JeJuan Brown continued his strong play, adding 6 points and 4 rebound in 13 minutes of play. It appears to be two steps forward, one step back for freshman guard Jermaine “Dolla” Beal, who turned the ball over 6 times in 10 minutes, including 4 in the first half. The offense was completely discombobulated when Beal was in the game and Stallings made the right move (one of the few times you will read this in one of my posts) by letting Red be the floor general for most of the game.
I would like to think that Vanderbilt’s, at times, porous defense and sub-par rebounding was a product of playing 3 games in 5 days. In college, such a run is unusual. The boys will get a well-deserved rest, not playing their next game until a Saturday, December 16th at home against Nicholls State. Riding a three game winning streak, and finally playing some good basketball, tonight’s win could ultimately be a turning point for this team. It wasn’t pretty, and their were several times when it appeared the Commies might either a) get blown out or b) let the lead slip, but in the end, they will take the win. Tonight was a big night for Vanderbilt basketball, if they can continue to find ways to win, this will be an exciting season. I just hope Brad Nessler doesn’t get too drunk at Tootsie’s.

8 comments:

papa o'shea said...

ok....i finally got to see an actual vandy game live.
quick observations:
1]they can definetly shoot the 3!!
2]can they win with the 3??.....no way....on the road ...in the sec....strange gym....rabid fans...intimidation will soon set in!!
3]vandy played "decent" defense in the 1st half....2nd half was very inconsistent with their defensive effort.....
4]i'm not ready to make a judgement on coach stallings.....but, unless i see 'fire in the eyes" of vandy on the defensive side[rebounding will come with good d] they are in for a long and disappointing season.

papa o'shea said...

addit observations...
vandy needs some "bangers'....they generally play "pretty boy" bball.......but, thats been the knock on vandy bball since i can remember...[which is loooooooonnnnnnnngggggggg time]

Bobby O'Shea said...

I think it's pretty clear where young bobby learned about Basketball.

Stanimal said...

This was a huge win for the 'Dores. However, this Tech team was also vastly over-rated to begin with. After showing a great deal of promise early, they lost Miami in the first game of their ACC play and now drop their second in a row against the Commies.

Our gym definitely played in our favor. We won the game with big time plays, but Tech coach Paul Hewitt is a very "in the game" kind of coach who likes to communicate with his players up close. Spending have the game on the opposite side of the floor from his team certainly hurt their communication and acted as an advantage for us.

The great thing about this win though is that we got amazing performances from both Byars and Foster. This team is not perfect, but you play to your strengths to control the game, and that's exactly what we did. Foster played great with 25 points and some crucial threes. Byars also played great, and we SLAMMED the door on them with our free throw shooting in the 4th. I hope Stallings is recruiting a big boy who's willing to fight for some boards, because not having one is going to kill us in the long-run, especially considering how dangerous a good three-point shooting team becomes with an inside-out game.

Stanimal said...

One other point, this Georgia Tech team came in averaging 86.1 ppg, and we held them to 64 points. We also outscored them off turnovers 26-15. While we allowed Tech to go on a couple of big runs, we still played a solid defensive game. We forced them to take bad shots and to make bad decisions with the ball and we capitalized. I'm going to applaud the defensive effort on this one.

Shamas O'Toole said...

A few points concerning the need for a big man who is willing to bang around inside:

1) We do look like a soft team, but a big part of the reason is that we currently start four guards and one forward. Not a recipe for bruiser-ball.

2) Stallings cannot be held completely accountable for the fact that Skuchas plays soft. Skuchas was never supposed to be the guy. Davis Nwankwo, who is no longer able to play due to a heart condition, was a big-time inside force, and learned to play tough inside by scrimmaging against Georgetown Center Roy Hibbert when they were high school teammates. Nwankwo's heart problem is tragic and no one's fault.

3) What Stallings perhaps can be held accountable for--to some degree, given the fact that we don't know all of the details behind their decisions--is the fact that bruisers like F DeMarre Carroll and F/C Brian Thornton have transferred and left us with a dearth of talent at key post positions in recent years.

4) Neltner, the only legitimate inside player we have, does not play soft, he just doesn't seem to be playing enough (at least in the Ga Tech game).

5) Size is not everything. There is no excuse for not boxing out and grabbing more defensive rebounds. That's fundamental basketball. But I hesitate to chalk it up to us being "soft", because there are so many other areas in which we are not fundamentally sound that it's unsurprising, if frustrating to watch.

The lack of "banging" and giving them so many second-chance points (we're going to give up some given the size disadvantage, but it shouldn't be that many) go hand in hand with things like lazy passes, and are symptoms of a more general lack of intensity, much of the responsibility for which I believe rests with the coach.

J.B., M.D. said...

I had sweaty palms from about 6:30 to go in the game. I do agree with Stanimal in applauding our defense, but it was our ball handling skills and our lack of "banging on the glass" that led Tech back into the game during crunch time.

The fact that we looked shaky down the stretch serves as a harbinger for future SEC away games (given the fact that we will become more comfortable playing with a lead at home).

It was extremely nice to watch Shan singlehandedly take the lead back with his 3s with around 8:00 left. You could tell by his body language he wasn't gonna miss.

Go Commies!

papa oshea said...

say what you want....but, unless vandy becomes more physical and more aggressive...it will be the nit again[maybe]