Thursday, February 1, 2007

Tale of two Halves: Gators best Commies in Gainesville

It was a tale of two halves last night, as the Commodores fell to the #1 Gators 74-64 in Gainesville. In the first half, the Commies showed they would not be intimidated and went into the half up 11. Florida’s first half deficit was rooted in sloppy play and 29% shooting from the floor, two things that would not be repeated in the final period. Florida opened the second half on an 11-0 run, and took the lead for good on a three-pointer from Lee Humphrey at the 14:37 mark. Making up for their poor first half shooting, Florida shot a whopping 72% from the floor and 60% from downtown.

The Commodores came out cold and flat in the second half. After squandering their 11 point lead in just over 3 minutes, Vanderbilt was never able to stop the bleeding and went on to be outscored 44-23. Vanderbilt shot the ball terribly in the second, going 2-10 from downtown and shooting 34% from the floor. Perhaps most frustrating was the Commies managed to only go 3-8 from the charity stripe. While I am not sure if it was a “turning point,” Dan Cage missing two free throws early in the second half was huge. When Tauren Green was assessed a technical, the score was 41-35 Vanderbilt. Hitting a few free throws during Florida’s iinitial run might have snapped the Commies out of their second half comma. They didn’t, and the comma persisted. Adding insult to injury, two techs were called on the Commodore bench a minute later, leading to Assistant Coach King Rice being ejected, and the Gators pulling within one. After Florida got 4 free throws and possession, they took a lead they never relinquished.

Derrick Byars led the Commodores, scoring 21 points on 9-18 shooting. Beyond Derrick however, none of Vanderbilt’s starters were ever able to get anything going. Shan scored 9 points on 4-12 shooting, including a paltry 1-5 from behind the arc. Dan Cage’s 12 game streak of reaching double-figures was snapped, as Dan was 1-4 from the floor and 2-4 from the charity stripe. While you have to credit Florida’s defense, Vanderbilt’s inability, particularly in the second half, to get Dan and Alex Gordon involved in the offense was a problem all night.

A few things struck me about last night’s game. One, we can certainly play with Florida. Vanderbilt took it to Florida early and proved they wouldn’t be pushed around by the bigger, more athletic Gators. Two, Kevin Stallings was not proactive during Florida’s early second half run. Kevin didn’t call a timeout until Florida had cut the lead to 1. Compare that to Billy Donovan, who called a timeout after Vanderbilt went on a mini 5-0 run to cut the Florida edge to 4. That was the closest the Commies would come. Three, Vanderbilt does not have to shoot lights out to win. Vanderbilt didn’t lose because they failed to shoot over 55%, they lost because they failed to shoot over 35% in the second half. Vanderbilt’s 16.7% shooting from downtown (3-18) didn’t help matters, especially with Florida going 8-19 from behind the arc. But if Vanderbilt makes a couple more threes and doesn’t miss 8 free throws, this is a different game.

Now, Vanderbilt heads home to play Georgia this Saturday. This is a huge game for the Commies, not only because they lost to Florida last night, but also because Georgia lost at Tennessee. Kentucky plays at Arkansas on Saturday (not an easy place for any team to win), and the worst-case scenario for the winner of the Vanderbilt/Georgia is being a ½ game out of second place in the SEC East. Vanderbilt cannot afford to lose games like this at home and desperately need to avenge their early season loss in Athens.


Anonymous said...

Great effort by Vandy. UF is going to be hard to stop in March.

Stanimal said...

That Georgia game is one that we need to win, where as this game is one that we didn't neccessarily have to take.

We played the #1 team in the country on their home turf, and in the first half we showed them that we could run. In the second half, we came out flat, and they capitalized.

Poor shot selection killed us in the second half. It was obvious that Shan got frustrated and was trying desperately to find his rhythm. When the momentum shifted, Byars also took a couple of questionable threes. We didn't win the first half shooting from behind the arc (1-8), we won the first half playing our, game, creating lanes, and making great passes for easy 2s. Once we allowed Florida to dictate the pace, that pretty much killed our ability to score consistently, and it didn't help that we couldn't capitalize from the free throw line either.

I think Alan Metcalfe's performance might have gotten lost in the disappointment of losing the game. While his stat line wasn't overly impressive, (8 points, 4 rebounds) you saw some intangibles with the guy that I thought were very impressive. He got himself into some foul trouble, but I think this Vandy team benefits greatly from his size.

Also, George Drake is raw, but that guy is going to be a great player for the 'Dores in the near future. He had a couple of very athletic moves to the bucket that I was impressed with.

Finally, Ted Skuchas should avoid all Al Horford two handed dunk impersonations, as he received the most embarrasing of rejections on what should have been an easy two points.