Saturday, December 29, 2007

Commodores Pull Out Another Close One, Beat UT-Martin 92-85

Vanderbilt once again barely came away with a win in Nashville against a surprisingly tough UT-Martin team. After opening up a 51-39 lead at the half, the Commie starters came out flat in the first five minutes of the second and all five of them were promptly benched by CKS following a 10-0 run by the Skyhawks. The game was close the rest of the way, and the lead changed several times, but ultimately Vandy got big shots at big times and hit free throws when they were needed (24 of 30) to come away with a 92-85 win, tying the best start in school history with a 12-0 record.

Two things to take away from today's game:

1. This team has got to start playing better--and more consistent--defense. UTM's Lester Hudson and Gerald Robinson are great players to be sure, but there is absolutely no reason why those guys should be able to come in to Memorial and put up 36 and 25 points respectively. Their offense was quite obviously a two-man show, and for many stretches it was really just Hudson (the guy hit 7 of 9 three-pointers before missing his last two, which would have made it a different game down the stretch). For UTM to commit 21 turnovers and still have a chance to win at the end is a serious problem. The 'Dores have been susceptible to dribble penetration all season -- it would be nice to work that out before SEC play starts.

2. I'm very impressed with Vanderbilt's versatility in terms of having different guys step up and make plays when needed. Alex Gordon made some huge shots (15 pts) and created turnovers (4 stls) down the stretch that saved the game for the Commies. Jermaine Beal made a huge three-pointer to regain the lead with under three minutes to play (his only field goal of the game). Ogilvy drew big fouls and hit free throws in the last ten minutes (9 of 9 for the game). We had a sub-par day shooting (39% from the floor, 35% from behind the arc), particularly in the second half, but again showed a resilience in the closing minutes of the game that should be encouraging to all in Commie Nation.

AJ Ogilvy led all Commodores with 21 points, followed by Foster with 16 and Gordon with 15. Freshmen Keegan Bell (9 pts, 14 min) and Darshawn McClellan (8 pts, 16 min) gave great minutes off the bench and provided some much-needed energy when the starters seemed utterly devoid of it.

Interesting note: Freshman guard Jamie Graham, the scholarship-football player who we talked about a bit in the offseason, saw his first minutes of playing time today. In six minutes of action, he made a great three-point play getting fouled on a jumper, and picked up a rebound, two assists and a steal (on which he displayed speed that has perhaps never in history existed in a Vanderbilt jersey). Should be interesting to see what Jamie can do over the next few years.

Conclusion: 12-0 are the Commodores, equaling the 2003-04 squad for the best start in school history. I'm hoping for a less heart-pounding game on Monday against Iona, but a win is a win is a win and this team keeps finding a way to make them happen. Show your gold, baby.


Anonymous said...

if vandy plays like this against umass and any SEC team we will lose. period

Anonymous said...

AJ missed the front end of a 1-and-1 in the 2nd half - thus could not have been 9 for 9 at the line.

The officiating at times sucked as bad as american idol. You had to have been there in person to appreciate just how bad the officiating was.

Seamus O'Toole said...

Thanks for the correction, although it's probably better directed at the Sports Information Director seeing as AJ's line in the box score is 9/9.

Sounded like the refs were just awful. Still, the first comment is right. The defense has to improve quickly or else we'll never survive games that we're not shooting lights-out.

Trying to be as objective as possible, I'd have to agree with CKS that at #15 we're a bit overrated right now (I think Kevin's words were "the most overrated team in the country"). We may be top 10 in scoring offense, but against relatively weak competition the defense hasn't cracked a single statistical category in the top 50 of Division I. With that said, we've shown flashes of greatness on the defensive side, so if we can just get more consistent I think we should be fine.

Anonymous said...

I'm a big proponent of the adage, "Good teams find a way to win." Our games may be close, but I'm proud that we are, indeed, finding ways to win. That gives me hope going into SEC play.

Anonymous said...

kentucky fans are in town. i hate them!!!!!! gardner webb!!! uab!!!! san diego!!!!