Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Bobby's Tennessee Post-Game Thoughts

What a game. I tweeted that I've never personally been at Memorial Gym when it was that loud, perhaps with the exception of the Florida game where the Commodore fans commiserated with Matt Walsh about his alleged venereal disease. The crowd was in it from the beginning of the game, and it was clear the team fed off that energy.

Make no mistake about it, beating the #12 Volunteers 90-71 is a statement win. Winning at home is one thing, but dominating a rival as the Commodores did is an instance where attention must be paid.

Some Things I Think

1. Jeffery Taylor actually can shoot. I kept hearing about Taylor's ability to knock down jumpers in practice, but having never seen it in games, I was skeptical. After tonight, I'm not. He played with tremendous confidence all night long and gave the Commodores the kind of effort we hadn't seen for the last few games. 26 points was a career high, but it was how he scored the points that was so impressive: 7-11 from the field (including 3 outside jumpers if I recall correctly), and a mind-blowing 12-12 from the free throw line. He did all this, while grabbing 7 rebounds, dishing out 3 assists, and playing just 27 minutes. Talk about having a game.

2. The Return of the Front Court. I sang the praises of Jeffery Taylor above, so I won't discuss this any more. But Andre Walker also played a great game. Walker was steady in his 31 minutes of play. He hit a couple of big jumpers, scored 8 points on 2-4 shooting and 4-4 from the line, and grabbed 9 rebounds. A.J. Ogivy's play was a little less inspired. I thought his technical foul was well-deserved and incredibly stupid. There are ways to "make a statement" or "stand up for your teammate," I just didn't think that was one of them. Still, A.J. did have 11 points in 22 minutes. He was 3-8 from the floor and 5-7 from the line. That line says a couple things to me: 1) with the exception of 1 or 2 shots, he didn't force that many shots. Certainly, he's less forceful around the basket than he should be, and the team is better when the offense can run through a big man scoring in the low post. More disconcerting is A.J.'s paltry 6 rebounds.

3. Great Minutes from the Bench. The bench stepped up huge tonight, especially in the wake of Jenkins being unavailable due to a stomach bug. The Vanderbilt bench scored 17 points (compared to UT's 13), but more importantly, the bench ate up some quality minutes without causing the Commodores to lose any ground. Lance, Darshawn, Steve, and Festus were especially effective, adding 17 points and 12 rebounds.

4. The Commodores Wanted it More. Vanderbilt appeared to get every loose ball, especially in the first half. They did a great job boxing out, and grabbed 40 rebounds compared to UT's 31. The Volunteers certainly turned it over a lot, and missed a lot lay-ups, but from the git-go, Vanderbilt played harder.

5. Free-Throws. Any time Vanderbilt attempts 41 free throws, you've got to feel good. Any time they shoot 85% from the line, you'd got to feel good. When both those things happen in the same game, and you are ecstatic. Free throws enabled Vanderbilt to take control in the first half, and helped the Commodores finish off the Volunteers in the second.

6. Jermaine Beal is Becoming Derrick Byars. Colin's criticisms aside, Dolla Beal is the primary reason this team is now 7-2 in the SEC and now solidly in second place in the east. Beal's line was a stellar 20 points on 5-10 shooting, including 3-6 from three and 7-8 from the charity stripe. He added 3 assists, and 4 steals, and had just 1 turnover.

7. Vanderbilt Isn't That Guard-Deep. The team compensated for Jenkins' absence quite well. On this front, you can't say enough about Andre Walker, and how valuable he is as an option to bring the ball up. Still, even with Jenkins (who isn't a great ball-handler), Vanderbilt only has 2 guards. Lance can play some 2, but he (like Jeffery) is more of a forward than a guard. Despite this team's depth, we are a little thin in the backcourt.

Bottom Line:

This was a great win for the Commodores. They now have swept the Volunteers (who still have to play Kentucky twice, and travel to Gainesville) and have shown they can both a) respond to a tough loss and b) get up for a big game.


Douglas James said...

Very good win, especially with Jenkins out. I'm starting to accept that AJ is not going to be the dominante player we all think he can and should be.

the LSU game is huge on saturday. Not because we need it to make the tourney but if we want to be a real player in the tourney (and I have no problem saying we should all expect at least a sweet sixteen visit out of this team)then we MUST dominate easily the worst team in the SEC at home. Plus it would not surprise me in the least to see us lose both games next week so I want a big win.

Stanimal said...

Tonight is what we were all looking for out of Jeff Taylor, an absolute breakthrough game that showed how diverse a weapon he in fact can be. After his first two jumpers went in, it wasn't even a question. The guy was hitting everything. From this point forward, I would be shocked to see another regression out of Jeff Taylor, and in my opinion, he is now the key to this team making a deep run in the tournament.

Unknown said...

Just watched the game with some Vandy alum in NYC. I think Bobby said it best - Vandy wanted this more. They truly out hustled UT and even in the final minutes were not giving UT much breathing room. We were impressed with the game.

Chuck Heston said...

Starting to get that feeling that I had with the 92-93 squad and the 06-07 team. Defeating ranked opponents in Feb. is a beautiful thing. 2 moments that stood out in tonight's game: Jeffrey Taylor's back door cut and slam and then the primal (yet still classy) scream. At that point, I knew JT was back. Also, the ridiculous lean back and shot by Lance which had no chance of going in . . . but did. When you're hitting shots like that, it's a crime.

Is there any chance Kansas loses over the weekend so KY can be #1 coming into Memorial?

Unknown said...

Holy hell... this is exactly what my stomach needed. Where has that offense/ hustle been the last 3 games?! Can you imagine what this would've been like with J.J. (aka J-squared) making it rain in Memorial a la Frank Seckar?! ... I shant have doubted you CKS.

Unknown said...

although effort/desire is a huge part of it, i think vandy's defense tonight was the best showing in recent memory. except for the stretch early in the second we kept UT out of the line and forced some really tough shots. on top of that we absolutely dominated the glass (+14). taylor can be a stud defender (and therefore all around stud) if he gives that effort on a consistent basis.

Anything but Gatorade said...

Really, really great game from the Dores. Best I've seen them play all season. Great win.

Anonymous said...

Anyone watch Sportscenter this morning? All they did was show UT turnovers instead of good Vandy plays and basically implied that's why we won. Still no respect...

Bobby O'Shea said...

That's not surprising given UT plays at Rupp on Sarurday where GameDay will be. ESPN needs the Vols to have lost the game because of careless play, rather then just plain getting worked by a better team.

Anonymous said...

I think its time to start thinking about NCAA seeding. If Vandy can stay in the 3-6 range, a Sweet 16 run could easily be on the table.

Good times

Colin said...

As someone who was also present at the game I have a few observations. 1)That was easily the worst first 4 minutes of a basketball game I've ever seen two teams combine to have. This can't be understated and the only reason we came out on top early was because of observation number 2.
2) Jeffrey Taylor was the deference in this game. He clearly asserted himself early on, got to the line to build confidence and commanded the ball. Midway through the first half he was actually outscoring the entire Vols team, and his reemergence has significant ramifications for that other player I love to talk about.
3) It's very hard to complain about anything after beating down UT, but since I was called to task I feel obligated to point out that Jermaine is a different player when he is not shouldering the scoring load, and that is a good thing. There were still some ill advised threes, and I would have preferred to see more clock run late with a 20 point lead (though I blame K-Stall for that), but on more then one occasion I saw him start to get a little carried away only to have JT command the ball or for Beal to recognize it and slow things up, which is what you want to see, less scoring more playing PG. Most of his scoring was done in the flow of the game once we had a lead, and it has to be said that his real impact was early on as a facilitator, and not the stat line everyone is so giddy about.
Lastly: The natives are officially restless when it comes to AJ. The student section is uncomfortably close to turning on him, and was genuinely calling for Fez on a number of occasions last night. In fact I'd say the only thing he did to redeem himself to the crowd was win free tacos with his late ft. This is a bad development from a preseason all sec candidate. My opinion since you all seem to value it so much: Is that he didn't go far enough with his Technical, it's reached the point where anything short of AJ actually getting into it with someone despised by the crowd (Corey Smith style) isn't going to redeem his reputation, and with LSU coming in on saturday I found myself wishing he would sucker punch Chism and use the suspension to nurse whatever injury it is this week.

Bobby O'Shea said...

No joke, I always like your takes Colin. I've also got to say (I meant to mention it in the post) that I agree 100% re: the student section and AJ. There were several times when the crowd was yelling at him to give the ball up. With that said, he should be able to dominate against LSU, which will make many forgive him his recent docility.

Stanimal said...

I love A.J., but I'm fine with him taking more of a team role. If Jeff Taylor can take this game and build off of it, we are infinitely more dangerous. Our front court need only be productive, and not dominant when Taylor plays the way he did against Tennessee.

It is not a surprise that when Taylor plays well this team soars. He is by far the most dangerous weapon on the floor, and the sooner he realizes it and just takes over, the better.