Sunday, February 18, 2007

Vanderbilt says "Get your hands off me" to #1 Florida

Vanderbilt’s 83-70 win yesterday against the #1 ranked Florida Gators should put to rest all doubt as to whether or not this Commodore team deserves to be in the NCAA tournament. Snapping Florida’s 11-game SEC win-streak, and 17 game win-streak overall, Vanderbilt beat their 6th ranked opponent this season, and moved to 18-8 overall, with a record of 8-4 in conference. Kentucky’s loss to Alabama also ensured, at least for a few days, that Vanderbilt is in sole possession of 2nd place in the SEC East.

While many people in the Northeast were deprived of this barn-burner of a game in favor of a battle of perennial titans, 13-13 Army versus 13-13 Navy, those of us fortunate enough to see the game were treated to a classic. Big props to the Vanderbilt Alumni Association in Washington, D.C. for finding a bar not subject to the regional blackout and actually showing the game. Let's just say, it was worth the trip to he burbs.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, as the case may be) CBS’ broadcast team did not resort to the typical clichés we were counting on for the Vanderbilt Nationally Televised Basketball Drinking Game to be a complete success. Clark Kellogg did, however, solidify himself as the official spokesmen of the Derrick Byars for SEC Player of the Year Association. ESPN Sportscenter certainly helped matters by having Byars’ first half windmill dunk on the press break as the #7 play of the day.

There were several highlights to the game (besides the win itself). Derrick Byars and Shan Foster both had HUGE games. Byars had 24 points and 8 assists, including the aforementioned dunk to break Florida’s rather ineffective press. Byars had 4 assists in a 5-minute span early in the second that lead to 15 Vanderbilt points, including Skuchas’ monster and-1 jam. Byars’ court presence prevented Vanderbilt from having the early second half meltdown they did in Gainesville a few weeks earlier. Derrick then added 13 points in a 6-minute stretch from the 9-minute mark to put the game away. By my count, Derrick was directly involved in 28 of Vanderbilt’s 48 second half points. Shan got the ball rolling for the Commies in the first, netting 13 points in that frame, and ending the game with 24 points, including 5-10 from behind the arc. The dynamic duo of Shan and Derrick were on display for all the country to see yesterday.

As team, Vanderbilt played a fantastic game. Shooting 57% from the field and 47% from downtown, Vanderbilt also had 21 assists and were able to correct early sloppy play by only turning the ball over 6 times in the second half (compared to 10 in the first). Vanderbilt also stepped up their defensive intensity in the second and forced 14 Gator turnovers. But the highlight of the game had to be when Kevin Stallings told would-have-been #1 overall pick Joakim Noah to “Get [his] F---king hand off” him during a baseline exchange early in the second half. There is a joke to be made here about Noah being French, but since I can’t think of it, I will leave that to you all in the comments section.

Based on the transitive property of sports that we are so found of here at the Vanderbilt Sports Line, we are prepared to say that Vanderbilt is a better team than Florida because when you add up the scores of the two Vanderbilt/Florida match-ups this season, Vanderbilt leads 147-144. If you are unconvinced by this logic, one would have to call into question why you are reading this site to begin with. In all seriousness, if Vanderbilt isn’t ranked in both polls, it will be an absolute travesty. I personally think Vanderbilt will be ranked 21 in the AP, 23 in the Coaches. While I think there is a case to be made that the Commies should be ranked higher, I will certainly be satisfied with cracking both polls for the first time all season coming down the stretch. Let us know where you think the Commies will be ranked when the polls are released tomorrow.

Vanderbilt must now look ahead to Wednesday’s meeting in Starkville against Mississippi State. This game will not be televised, but this is a huge game for the Commies. Many would argue (including myself), that this is Vanderbilt’s biggest test left in their remaining 4 games. Mississippi State beat LSU in Baton Rouge yesterday (no easy task), and almost beat Florida at home a few weeks back. Mississippi State is 6-6 in conference and 4-2 at home, with their two losses coming against South Carolina and Florida. Mississippi State has won 3 straight and are starting to play better basketball after a rocky SEC start. This is not a game the Commies can look past as they come down the stretch trying to earn the best seeding possible not only in the SEC tournament, but also for the big dance in March.


Anonymous said...

That's the type of thorough and quick coverage one can expect from Vandy alums. Great job. This blog is really showing its merit at a time when Vanderbilt is finally getting the recognition it deserves. Cheers.

Randal Burgess said...

Nice win, Vandy!