Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Vanderbilt Survives: Beats Marquette 77-76

Tonight's game didn't feel like December. In fact, if the game hadn't ben played at Memorial, one might have thought it was March. But it's games like this in December that serve teams well (winners and losers alike) come tournament time. Luckily for the Commodores, they'll have a win to go along with their learning experience.

Vanderbilt eked out a 77-76 victory over a very discplined Marquette team that will be a tough out no matter who they're playing. With the exception of trailing at the half and allowing the Golden Eagles to shoot a higher percentage than them, Vanderbilt won the "key" stats outlined in my preview. Vanderbilt out-rebounded Marquette 36-29, including a 12-6 edge on the offensive glass that led to a 14-7 advantage in 2nd chance points. The Commodores also attempted more free throws than Marquette (only the second time that's happened this season). Finally, Vanderbilt only had 10 turnovers, compared to Marquette's 12.

Coach Williams' squad shot an incredible 56% from the floor throughout the game, including a blistering 60% in the second half. When you consider Marquette was only 2 of 8 from downtown in the 2nd half, they actually shot 75% on 2 point attempts. Now, it's worth mentioning that Marquette's 2 threes shot the Golden Eagles back into the game and came within 40 seconds of one another while Vanderbilt fell into a 2-3 zone. Still, the Golden Eagles were red-hot in the second half. Heading into tonight's game, Marquette was a whopping 40-2 when shooting a higher percentage than their opponents (Commodores shot a very respectable 47% from the field).

If someone said John Jenkins would shoot 4-21 from the floor, including 2-15 from downtown, the assumption would be that the Commodores lost. It's a testament to the play of the rest of the team that they were able to set-up despite John's shooting woes and gut out a win. There's a very fine line between a shooter shooting through a cold streak and simply forcing bad shots (Knicks fans know this phenomeon all too well with John Starks circa 1994 NBA Finals Game 7 versus Houston...but I digress). Despite hitting a critical 3 after which he was fouled, Jenkins probably crossed that line. I thought he took at least a couple bad shots in the second half on top of the good looks that simply wouldn't fall. I'm confident these struggles will be short-lived and had a lot to do with Marquette playing good defense on the Vanderbilt sharp-shooter.

With Jenkins struggling, Jeffery Taylor and Brad Tinsely really stepped up. Jeffery was unstoppable in the first half, scoring 14 of his game high 19 points in the 1st half. Taylor was an efficient 8-12 shooting, although one has to wonder why a guy who went 6-10 from the field in the 1st, only attempted 2 shots in the 2nd half. Taylor also grabbed 8 rebounds.

Brad Tinsely has taken a lot of criticism from Commodore fans, especially after his costly turnover against Missouri. While some of the criticism is deserved, I think the Vanderbilt faithful have been too quick to make Tinsely a scape-goat when the team struggles. Say what you want about Brad, but he had a HUGE game tonight. Pouring in 15 points and 8 assists (including the game-winner to Andre Walker), while only turning the ball over once is a stellar line. Considering the physical defense (and by physical, I mean absurd hand-checking that went uncalled throughout most of the game) he faced, 1 turnover in 36 minutes of action is incredible.

The Commodores also got great play from Stevie Thunder (happy birthday, big man), Festus Ezeli, and Andre Walker. Stevie Thunder had 10 points on 4-4 shooting including 5 points on consecutive possessions that helped keep Vanderbilt close after Marquette opened up an early 7 point second half lead. Oh yeah, Stevie Thunder also grabbed 9 rebounds. Festus' maturation and development continues to impress, making Seamus' drunken promise that the big man would be All-SEC seem nothing short of prophetic. Ezeli scored 15 points on 6-11 shooting, while hitting 2 critical free throws to extend the Commodore lead to 3 1:10 remaining. I tweeted it during the game, and I stand by it, no free throws were bigger for the Commodores this season (unlike the Missouri game, where Vanderbilt failed to seal the deal at the line, this was one the Commodores had to win), and Festus calmly sank them both. And what can you say about Andre Walker? He had quite a return and solidified himself (yet again) at the Commodores "Glue Guy" (Hear that, Seth Davis?), especially in light of Lance's suspension. Walker, in his first game back after being diagnosed with mono, added 8 points (including the game-winning bucket with under 5 seconds to play), 7 rebounds, and 5 assists in 30 minutes of play. He also returned to the familiar role of "safety valve" bringing the ball up and Marquette applied consistent pressure to Tinsely.

Vanderbilt won a hard-fought game against a quality opponent. Marquette, despite being under-sized, plays exceptionally good defense. They are patient on offense and rarely take bad shots. The fact they hit 15 of 20 from inside the 3 point line is a pretty good indication of that. They twice trailed by 10 or more points, yet refused to go quietly. While the Commodores certainly helped them get back into the game after extending leads in both the 1st and 2nd halves by suddenly becoming careless with the basketball, the Golden Eagles refused to quit. Memorial was definitely as hostile an environment as they've probably seen all season (even with the students being gone), and Coach Williams has to be pleased with how his team handled itself.

The Commodores will have a couple days off before facing Davidson Sunday, a team that plays a decidedly different type of game than Marquette. After the physical and emotional effort the team expended, they're entitled.


Douglas James said...

Some of my random thoughts about the game:

1) Monster 1st half by Taylor. I was also frustrated by his lack of production in the 2nd half> But I think it was a combination of Marquette's improved d against him and the fact that it is tough to maintain that pace. I wish he would maintain his aggressive play but overall can't complain.

2) Brad was great tonight. You know why? Because he didn't shot that much from the outside. His outside game is terrible. However he is pretty good at getting to the hoop. Stick with layups and foulshots and he will get you 10-15
3)As happy I am with Festus overall, his interior defense was not what we need it to be. Granted Marquette was unconscious it shooting the ball but Festus needed to be a better job keep guys out of the paint.

4) Shooters need to shoot. I was fine with 97% of Jenkins shot selections. Taking those shots, even if he isn't making them keeps the other team honest because everyone knows he can real off 3 or 4 of those in a row real quick. I really thought after he got that first three things would starting falling. But I'm not worried about him at all.

5) Out main scoring options are obviously JJ, Taylor and Festus. But Stevie-T, LG and Walker are such great complimentary pieces. Steve had a huge game tonight when we needed someone else to step up with LG suspended and JJ mis-firing.

6) Kyle Fuller is a barrel of energy but he has to learn to contain it and work on his outside shot ALOT.

Bobby O'Shea said...

No arguments with any observations other than #1. Either JT, his teammates, or CKS have to do
something to get him more shot attempts in the 2nd half, 2 FGs is simply not enough given Marquette's inability to contain him all night

Chuck Heston said...

I had serious doubts prior to the season begining about VU's ability to secure 10+ wins in non-conf play. They have and a win against Davidson would mean that they could go 8-8 in the SEC and still get Tournament consideration.

I'm looking at the next stretch of games, which sets up well for VU. Davidson (home), USC (away), UGA (home), UT (away), Ole Miss (home). W/o jinxing the team, it's very possible that all of those would be "w's" making the team 15-2.

Anything but Gatorade said...

I know Jenkins is a very talented shooter, but his best shots last night came on drives in the lane. I maybe saw two open jumpers he took all night, the rest were contested, too quick, or off balance. I really don't think his shot selection was very good.

Doug has a point, though, and I'm usually remiss to note it: you have to let shooters shoot. My caveat is yes, shoot the ball, but don't take 13 bad shots on 17 attempts.

Great win for the Dores.

Anonymous said...

i disagree that most of jenkins' shots were bad ones. i think the standard of a bad shot depends on the player and he's certainly earned some latitude. his quick release means a bad shot for, say taylor, is not necessarily a bad one for him. also, a LOT of those were "good misses". by that i mean back iron, but on target.

i think the most exciting thing about this team is its balance. there are so many guys on this team that contribute on any given night that we can still win against a quality team when our best scorer has a rough outing. i'm pumped for lance to come back and get a win over davidson before conference play

CAR said...

Taylor's missed FTs in Mizzou easily more important than Fez's.

We dont have to win this game if we win that one (and we are already top 15 at this point).

That would have ended up being our best quality win all season which is going to be very important come tournament time (especially with how the SEC has fallen apart).

Marquette is going into an absolutely stacked Big East and will be a bubble team at best (there is no way they are one of the top 7 teams in that conference and they are going to get killed all season long on the boards). Not to say they cant go 500 in conference, I am just saying they wont be a signature win come March.

So, while this game was a good one and a nice win, there is just no comparison to how important that Mizzou game could have been--hence Taylor's FTs there were significantly more important.

Anonymous said...

I agree you let shooter's shoot, but CKS has to instruct JJ to try to change what he's doing. Missing three after three without attempting to drive to 15' and pull up or spot up for a 17' jumper was maddening.

Greg M said...

Kenpom's current prediction is for VU to finish ~25-5 with our only losses bening @ UT,KY and FL. What do you guys think?

Josh said...

Hypothetical question: As I recall, Marquette hit a long 2 with under a minute left that could have put them up 2 if it was called a 3 (which the scoreboard registered for a couple seconds until corrected.) If it had come down to someone taking the final shot of the game with Vandy down 2, would you have drawn up a play for JJ? I think I might have. A shooter is a shooter. Every shot he took almost went in.

Anonymous said...

There was a point in both the Mizzou and Marquette games that this Vanderbilt team was in control, yet they let the opponent back in, i.e., did not finish.

If they learn to finish, this could be a special year, and I mean historically special: Taylor can create his own shots. Jenkins is this decade's Travis Ford, a threat to score from anywhere in the gym. Ezeli is a force under the basket. Taylor, Goulbourne, et al. are way above average role players. Tinsley will be fine, and will be a competent point guard this year.