Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Vanderbilt Tries to Blow It, Holds on in Houston

In what was a tale of two halves, Vanderbilt jumped out to an 18-0 lead and a 45-27 first half edge, only to barely hold on 74-69 against Rice in Houston last night. Last night’s game highlights not only how good Vanderbilt can be, but also how vulnerable they are against any team in America. Shan Foster was red-hot in the 1st, going 10-12 for 26 points, but a defensive readjustment and clearly an inability to get Shan the ball with the same frequency contributed to Foster’s 1-5 second half, netting only 3 points. In reviewing the box score, the most encouraging thing for me was how Dan Cage was able to score 11 points on 8-10 shooting from the free throw line. Cage sealed the deal by netting 4 of 6 free throws in the final 24 seconds.

Now, to the negatives. Vanderbilt (predictably) went cold in the second half, shooting 33% from the floor, going 3 of 10 from behind the arc, and missing 9 of 23 free throws. It’s no wonder Rice was able to make up 13 second half points. Foster was the offense last night, and was clearly contained either by Rice’s adjustment or Stallings’ “game plan” in the second half. Explain this to me though: how is it that Ross Neltner and Derek Byars take a combined 6 shots for 9 points? It is not a “dynamic backcourt” if on any given night, one of the two dynamos takes the night off. Were Ross and Derek just so entranced by Shan’s NBA Jam like first half shooting display that they decided to phone it in? Foster was contained to 5 shots in the second, but wouldn’t we presume that that would open up either Neltner or Byars to take more than a combined 4 shots in the second? Obviously not.

At the end of the day, Vanderbilt did get the “W” despite having to sweat out a game that should have been put out of reach long before it was. Credit Rice for hanging in there behind an offensive explosion by Morris Almond, who scored 27 second half points and ended the game with 44. But Almond's performance frustrates me even more. How is it that a guy who scored 17 in the first was allowed to score 27 in the second? How come we weren't able to make a defensive adjustment similar to the one Rice made on Shan? Even if we give the team the benefit of the doubt, and say that maybe we didn't want to force the issue with Shan, isn't that why Vanderbilt went out a cherry-picked Ross and Derek, to give us quality 2nd and 3rd scoring options? A win is a win, but the quality of their opponents is about to increase significantly. I am afraid Saturday’s game at Auburn will be a rude awakening.

1 comment:

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

And who should we blame for this 2nd half implosion?

This certainly reflects a solid game prep coming in (not to mention a full bowl of Wheaties for Shan), but also an inability to make adjustments during the game. This negative results from poor coaching. If your go-to-guy blows up for a 27 point first half don't you assume big-time adjustments made by your opponent? There's gotta be a great analogy but it's escaping me right now.

Just another reason for change. Hopefully Gee or "faux-AD" Williams reads this blog.