Monday, February 26, 2007

Vanderbilt Hotline

Big weekend for Commodore Nation, so I'll get right to it. The baseball team needed late innings heroics in two of their three games in the Music City Classic to continue their unbeaten streak which currently stands at 10; the Vanderbilt ladies were unable to take down Pat and the Vols at the Summitt; oh yeah, and the men's team had a game, too.

Of course, the game I am referring to is Vanderbilt's 67-65 win over the University of Kentucky yesterday at Memorial. Vanderbilt's victory marks the first time since 1974 (the same year Seamus' mom and Bobby's Betty's mom graduated from Vanderbilt, and the same year that Seamus' dad graduated from the law school) that Vanderbilt has swept Kentucky two seasons in a row. Vanderbilt only led for 25 seconds of the game, and were only tied 3 times. The Commies took the lead after Derrick Byars missed a free throw, fought for the rebound, and drained a 16 footer to take a 66-65 lead. Shan Foster clanked the first, but sank his second free throw with 9.7 seconds left to give Vanderbilt the 67 points they would ultimately finish the game with.

I will say a couple of things about this game. One, Kentucky let it slip away. Tubby's boys never put Vanderbilt away. As a team, they shot 58% from the floor, but their 14 second half turnovers that lead to 20 Vanderbilt points sank the Cats. Two, Derrick Byars and Shan Foster are the most dynamic duo in the SEC. Before you throw Florida in my face, don't. There is no "duo" on that team, they are all nasty. Byars and Shan on the other hand, have to put the team on their shoulders for the Commies to win. Derrick and Shan combined for 35 of Vanderbilt's 44 points in the second half and were the difference in the game (just ask the Louisville paper). Derrick scored 11 in a row to open the second, and Shan then added 8 straight to help Vanderbilt cut the lead. Three, I am very glad our fans didn't rush the court. It was a big win...but, it was at home, it was against an unranked opponent, and it was a game we should have won. Not to diminish how important a game it was, or how great the comeback was, but the fans acted like they'd been there before and were able to save the school some bank.

Derrick Byars HAS TO BE the SEC Player of the Year. I really think that rebounding his own miss and hitting the jumper to take the lead for the first time all game sealed the deal for Derrick. He had 21 second half points and was responsible (along with Shan) for this win. By my count, that means that Derrick is now directly responsible for at least 3 wins this season (Florida, South Carolina, and now Kentucky). There could be more, I've just lost count he is so good.

For good coverage of the game, check out the Sports Page of The Hustler. Good stuff.

After a few celebratory libations, Seamus and I broke down what has to happen for Vanderbilt to sow up 2nd place in the SEC East and a first round bye in the tournament. The Tennessean did the same thing, but as is to be expected, our information is much more exhaustive. If Vanderbilt beats South Carolina on Wednesday they are the #2 team in the SEC East. Period, done. If they lose to South Carolina but win against Arkansas at home on Saturday, and if Tennessee beats Florida at home and Georgia on the road (and Georgia beats UK at Rupp on Wednesday), then Tennessee would be second. Of course, if Vanderbilt loses its next two, and Kentucky, Tennessee, or Georgia win out, they would leap-frog Vanderbilt. It's worth mentioning that only one of these teams can win out since they all play each other. It is also important to remember that both Tennessee and Kentucky have to play Florida. Vanderbilt is in the drivers seat to take a week from Thursday off to see beautiful Atlanta. I bet if they ask nicely, Stanimal will even take them to The Varsity.

Woody will certainly have a recap of the exciting weekend in Vanderbilt baseball sometime soon. Suffice it to say, Vanderbilt had to struggle to keep their perfect record perfect. Yesterday, it was Ryan Flathery who played the role of hero with a 2-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth to lift the Commies over Boston College 7-6.

Unfortunately, the Ladies didn't fare too well yesterday in Knoxville, losing to Tennessee 73-53. I followed the game on the ticker, and was encouraged when Vanderbilt cut the lead to 42-36 early in the second. Clearly, that didn't last as UT ended the game outscoring the Dores 31-17. Vanderbilt finished the season in 3rd place in the SEC and will play Friday in the SEC Tournament against the winner of the Mississippi State/Florida game.

Keep checking back with VSL as we will post whenever the new rankings come out for the Baseball and Men's Basketball teams. Also, don't forgot to send a email to ESPN demanding more Commie coverage, to get your picks in for SEC Pick'em, and to nominate a Hoser of the Week.

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