Friday, February 19, 2010

VSL Gets You Ready: Vanderbilt Hosts #2 Kentucky

While there is some debate as to whether or not this is the biggest game at Memorial Gym in recent memory, there is no disputing that tomorrow evening's match-up with the #2 Kentucky Wildcats is huge. What's at stake? In the short-term, the SEC Regular Season Championship. If the Commodores win, they will be tied with Kentucky for first in the SEC East at 10-2. Given the respective schedules down the stretch (UK hosts South Carolina, travels to UT and UGA, and ends the season with UF in Lexington; while Vanderbilt hosts UGA, travels to Arkansas and Gainesville, and winds up the year against South Carolina at Memorial), and the way the SEC Tiebreaker works, if Vanderbilt wins, the SEC East Crown is very much up for grabs game (and if the Vols can knock of the Cats in Knoxville, the Commodores have the advantage). Of course, all this depends on winning tomorrow.

Their Last Meeting

Kentucky beat Vanderbilt 85-72 the last team these squads faced off in Lexington in late January. In many respects, the game was closer than the final score reflects, yet never a game Vanderbilt had a chance to win.

The Wildcats started off the game red-hot. They outscored the Commodores 49-34 in the first half after shooting 60% from the field, and 7-12 from downtown (58%). A.J. Ogilvy and Jeffery Taylor each picked up 2 fouls and only played 10 and 12 minutes respectively and scored just 9 points between the two of them. DeMarcus Cousins was a force of nature, scoring 13 points, while Patrick Patterson added 6. Not to say that 15 points is close, but it could have been much worse at UK shot better than 12-21 from the charity stripe.

The Commodores (save Jermaine Beal) didn't play well in 1st half. As a team, the Commodores shot 40% from the field, and 44% from downtown. It's worth mentioning that Dolla was 4-5 from downtown and 4-8 overall. The rest of the team was 0-4 from 3, while just 6-17 from the field (36%). UK got 9 second chance points, scored 7 points off Vanderbilt turnovers, and got 16 points from their bench. By comparison, Vanderbilt scored 0 second chance points, scored just 3 points of 8 UK turnovers, and got just 3 points from the bench. Need I go on?

The second half was better. Vanderbilt actually outscored the Cats 38-36 and shot better from the field than than the Wildcats (57% compared to 31%). The Commodores continued to struggle from downtown (1-6), while UK cooled off only nominally, hitting 45% from behind the arc (5-11). Vanderbilt was doubled up on the boards (20-10), and could only manage 2 second chance points, compared to UK's 11. Still, Vanderbilt had a chance to at least tighten up the game and cut the lead to 10 with under 5 minutes. However, Jeffery Taylor's missed dunk at the 4:58 mark proved to be the death knell for the Commodores. The score was 76-64 when JT missed the open-court slam. UK hit a 3, Vanderbilt was completely deflated, and the Wildcats went on to win by 13.

Still, there is reason to be encouraged heading into Saturday given the way Vanderbilt ended the game. John Jenkins netted 10 points on 2-3 shooting, 5-6 from the line in 11 minutes of play. The Commodores got a balanced scoring attack from Walker (6), Taylor (5), A.J. (8), Beal (7). While Jeffery Taylor was somewhat of a shrinking violent in Lexington, there is reason to think he's regained his confidence on the offensive end. After beating Tennessee, squeaking by LSU, and beating a desperate team in Ole Miss last night, Vanderbilt has shown a grit that all to often Commodore teams have lacked.

The Keys:

Getting to the Free Throw Line:

Vanderbilt has attempted 65 more free throws than their last 3 opponents (120 - 55), which has resulted in a 57 point advantage. Those are staggering numbers. For Vanderbilt to be successful tomorrow, they have to get to the line a lot, and they have to take advantage when they get there.

DeMarcus Cousins and the Wildcat Freshmen

He is an absolute beast. But he is also crazy. Kentucky has played some tough road games this season and have equipped themselves well in hostile territory. Still, Memorial is a different animal and will be unlike anything Cousins or the rest of the team will have seen. Cousins played a huge game Tuesday at The Hump and was certainly playing with added purpose after the text messages and phone calls he received. Still, I can't help but think there might be a hangover effect and Cousins is ripe for a meltdown. He should have been thrown out of the game in Lexington for his errant elbows and generally disagreeable disposition. I think it's possible the student section (with the help of the VSL Brain Trust) might be enough to rattle him, John Wall, and the rest of the young Wildcats. Which brings me to my next point...

Patrick Patterson

Andy Katz said last night on The Bracket on ESPNU that he thought Patterson might be the key to tomorrow's game. He might be right. Patterson is a senior who has been to Memorial before. He knows what it's like and is likely to be the calmest player on the floor in blue at tip-off time. That, plus the fact he is a very good player who can extend defenses given his range, makes him an incredibly dangerous player for Calipari.

John Calipari

Echoing my point about the UK freshmen, this is also Coach Cal's first trip to Memorial as well. He tries to keep a tight rein on his team given their youth and will undoubtedly have a more difficult time communicating with his squad given that the benches are on the end-lines. Communication, or lack thereof, could truly be a factor tomorrow.

Crash Those Boards

Vanderbilt got out-rebounded 41-22, the most lopsided performance since Cincinatti dominated the Commodores in Maui. This cannot happen if Vanderbilt is going to win. UK got 20 second-chance points in Lexington, compared to Vanderbilt's 2. While the Commodores don't have to get more second-chance points than UK, but they can't be -18.

Dictating Pace

Vanderbilt is deep, but UK likes to run. For Vanderbilt to be successful, they have to dictate the pace of play. If this game is a track-meet, I think the Commodores lose. This doesn't mean we have to take the air out of the ball, but Vanderbilt should certainly "pick their spots." Vanderbilt is a team that can be successful playing different styles. I'm not sure if the same can be said about UK, who much prefers to run. In part, Mississippi State almost won the game because they got UK to play a half-court game in the second half.

And In Conclusion (applause)

Memorial will be electric tomorrow. The key is Vanderbilt feeding off that energy in a positive way. They were able to harness that energy against Tennessee last week, can they do the same tomorrow?

We'll have more thoughts as the game approaches, in the meantime, get excited, the Commodores are ready for their close-up.


Bobby O'Shea said...

Updated Bracketology has Vanderbilt has a #4 seed in the same region as Syracuse, playing Wisconin in the 2nd round. Also intersting: here's got UF last 4 in, Miss. State last 4 out.

Anonymous said...

I've notice that Cousins after a few trips up and down the court gets tired starts lagging. I think they should run out AJ and Ezeli every chance they get.

Anonymous said...

Worried about how many UK fans might be here. They r all over town tonight. Hopefully they don't have tix. Will they deflate memorial?

AD said...

Because we all know the VSL brain trust will not be live blogging, those who want to follow along online can check out

You don't need to be a twitter user to read this live list of people who will be at the game or saying interesting things about it.

Go Dores.

Anonymous said...

This will be a very tough game for UK, and I think Vandy has a great chance for the win. That said, the author of this blog should at least proof read his article. I wonder, is he a Vandy Grad? A lot of wrong words used in the article. As an example, under the second part, titled "Their Last Meeting" is the following sentence:

Kentucky beat Vanderbilt 85-72 the last team these squads faced off in

Pretty sure the word "team" should have been the word "time". I don't profess to have a mastery of the English language, can't spell very well, and grammar is definitely not my strong part, but then I don't publish a blog and sell advertising on it.

Oh well, I am looking forward to a great game tonight, and no matter which team wins, it should be a fun game to watch.

Bobby O'Shea said...

Dear Anonymous 11:39, thank you very much for bringing to the attention of the readers the use of typographical errors and questioning where I attended school. I would submit that where one attended (and graduated Manga Cum Laude) school is not relevant to whether or not a 1,000+ word blog post contains mistakes. Errors like this are avoidable, regardless of where one graduated from.

I do apologize for not more carefully proofing the piece that you came across. I will be the first to admit that I am not as dilligent as I should be when it comes to such details, and perhaps your pointed comments will be the impetus for that.

I hope you enjoy today's game and find it enjoyable, although I imagine it will be less fun for you than belittling the work of others to make yourself feel superior.

Anonymous said...

It is blatantly apparent that neither Mr. O'Shea nor Anonymous 11:39 occupy a spot on the Vanderbilt Law Review, and I think that the blog is the poorer for it.

That said, it should be "proofreading" not "proof reading"--as in the process of reading proofs. If you are going to comment on others' spelling/grammar/etc at least make it intelligent.

Anonymous said...

People who complain about grammar on sports blogs can shampoo my crotch.

Unknown said...

You are all ridiculous! Come on guys, sports talk only please. I agree that we are going to have to run Cousins up and down the court and wear him out. We are also going to have to do what we do best and get Wall and Cousins in foul trouble.

papa oshea said...

hey anonymous
do you have any comments or your views of the game........or are you just commenting on the grammer and spelling of the blogs participants?
just curious.

papa oshea said...

watching the game...
its unfortunate, but ky has some kids who are just real PUNKS on the court.
prediction; ky has no chance of getting to the final four.
way to immature....they will implode somewhere before the final four.
both teams are at least playing hard.
att;anonymous, please critique grammer and spelling and advise.
fyi; i can assure you i didn't graduate from a top tier fact, not even a mid tier i always enjoy someone checking my work.

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