Thursday, January 25, 2007

Rollin' Through the Rouge

When the smallest guy on the court hauls in 10 rebounds against one of the best rebounding teams in the league, you kind of get the feeling it was meant to be.

With 40 minutes of some of the stingiest defense our Commies have played all season, Vandy (14-6, 4-2) won its fifth straight game against a ranked opponent by toppling #21 LSU 64-53 in a game in which we never trailed.

After a very questionable start to this season, we're firing on all cylinders after beating the second straight Top-25 opponent ON THE ROAD, something no Vanderbilt team has ever done before. In the process the boys outrebounded LSU 42-36 and held 295-lb. Glen Davis to just 12 points on 5 of 15 shooting.

We're going to go with Derrick Byars as player of the game (18 pts, 10 rbs, 4 ast, 2 stl) because the senior played like he had something to prove and came up huge for the third straight time, but make no mistake: this was a team win. Ted Skuchas gave great minutes off the bench and had 4 blocks to go along with 6 points and 2 boards in just 12 minutes (3 of his blocks came in a 2-minute span). Cage and Foster chipped in 14 points each, with Shan hitting a couple big shots and free throws when LSU made a run at it down the stretch. Alex Gordon had a ridiculous 10 rebounds, and seemed very poised commanding the offense, not once turning the ball over.

Ross Neltner continued to struggle offensively and was only 1 of 5 from the floor against his former teammates, but we're hoping he's going to break out of this slump soon. The real story here is the Commodores' defense. This is a different team than we saw the first half of the season, and the fact that we didn't shoot lights-out (41.8 FG%) is very encouraging. Allowing a paltry 53 points on the road in the SEC, against a Top-25 team that had won 19 straight conference home games, is going to turn some heads (just ask the folks in Knoxville).

With the likes of Notre Dame, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Northern Iowa losing, and with Villanova headed to South Bend on Saturday and Michigan State headed to Columbus, the path ahead of us to the Top-25 looks to be clearing out. Winning at home this Saturday against Ole Miss is a must (and not a given), but even if we do it's possible we won't crack the Top-25, despite being one of only TWO teams in the COUNTRY (along with UCLA) who can claim to have beaten FIVE ranked opponents this season (and did we mention it was five in a row?).

Regardless of what the voters think, this Vandy team is playing as well as anyone in the country right now, and for that we'd like to thank Coach Kevin Stallings for taking the time to read our suggestions on this, the best damn Vanderbilt Sports Blog on the web (for more on that story, stay tuned...).


Woody said...

While Neltner's offense performance was paltry at best, I think his defensive presence on 'Big Baby' was a significant reason why Davis was held to just 12 points. Thoughts?

Seamus O'Toole said...

No question about it. Neltner deserves a lot of credit for limiting Davis's production. With that said, it was clear that Stallings had a plan for doubling down on Big Baby when he got the ball in the low post, and I think they mixed it up enough to prevent LSU from getting a read on what we were doing. When the help-side defense created open looks for LSU's shooters, they weren't impressive (32.3 FG%, 22.7 3-pt%), and when Davis tried to make it happen himself (as he's usually able to do) we had hands in his face and boxed him out.

Bobby O'Shea said...

Commie fans, welcome to the driver's seat. Vanderbilt is hot and starting to get the love they deserve from the national media. While no SEC game is a given, Vanderbilt's schedule down the stretch stacks up pretty well. With Ole Miss, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, Kentucky, and Arkansas coming to Memorial Vanderbilt, if they take care of business, can virtually assure themselves 8 or 9 wins. On top of those very winnable home games, Vanderbilt will also travel to South Carolina and Mississippi State. Winning in Gainesville or Knoxville is never easy, but neither is winning in Rupp or Baton Rouge.

Commodore Nation, it's time to be excited.

Unknown said...

Bobby, are you trying to say that Florida is a "very winnable home game"? Being positive is one thing, but trying to say that Florida will be a walk in the park is a little absurd. Even if we play like we have been playing, Florida is a test for any team right now, home or away.

Bobby O'Shea said...

We are currently 4-2 with 6 home games left. Getting to 8 or 9 wins assumes we win between either 4 or 5 of those games. I think every team we are playing at home, with the exception of Florida, is a very winnable game. I would classify the Florida game as winnable, especially when you look at how Florida struggled on the road last night against Mississippi State. Memorial is a much more difficult place to play than Starkville and the way this team is playing right now, there are no games that fans should readily concede.

Stanimal said...

In my relatively short tenure as a Vanderbilt fan, that being since my attending school there in '01, I can honestly say that I have never been more excited about our performance.

Going to the Sweet 16 was an amazing feat, but the way we have come out and dominated the SEC to this point has been unbelievable. Defensively, we have a lot to be encouraged about. If we can shut down a guy like Big Baby Davis when there isn't a single guy in our starting 5 over 6'9", then we can shut down just about anybody's big man. Multiple big men, I dunno, but it's encouraging to note that we can win without some bruisers down low. And if Neltner comes back around, we're going to be a dangerous, dangerous team.

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

Except maybe Greg Oden or Wright from UNC,. That kid Durant is pretty good too.

Good thing these guys aren't in the SEC.

Stanimal said...

I repeat, multiple big men. I don't know.