Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Battle Tested Commodores Comeback in Athens

You play tough games in December and January to learn how to win them in February and March. Heading into tonight's game, the Commodores were just 2-4 on the road with losses at Missouri by 3 (OT), South Carolina by 8, Tennessee by 3, and Florida by 4 (OT). After tonight's gritty win, where the Commodores trailed by as many as 14 in the 2nd half, I think it's fair to say Vanderbilt learned from those losses. They learned how to win. The Commodores have beaten 3 projected NCAA tournament teams in 7 days, and are now in firm control of 2nd place in the SEC East (and the bye that comes with it), just 2 games behind a Gator team that still has to travel to Rupp and Memorial before the season is over. But let's talk about tonight's game.

1. John Freaking Jenkins

To quote The Voice, Joe Fisher (who I am currently trying to coax onto Twitter) from a few years ago (and changing the name): "if [John Jenkins] isn't player of the year, I don't know why." Jenkins was 0-5 in the first half, and missed his first 6 attempts. Then, we went off. John Jenkins scored 21 points in the last 13:16 of the game. He finished the game 6-8 from the field, including 5-7 from downtown. He has the killer instinct. He is a pure scorer. He is the SEC Player of the Year.

2. Control the Glass, Control the Game

Vanderbilt dominated the glass, out-rebounding the Bulldogs 49 to 32, including a 26 to 9 margin on the offensive glass. Vanderbilt had 18 second chance points, as compared to just 4 for Georgia. The Commodores are now 12-1 this season when out-rebounding their opponents: their sole win, against Georgia in Memorial where Georgia grabbed 8 more than Vanderbilt. In January, the Bulldogs had a +11 advantage on the offensive glass. Looks like the Commodores learned.

3. Festus Ezeli is a Beast

His line tonight was 10 points, 12 rebounds, and 7 blocks. 7 blocks. Really? 7! 7 FREAKING BLOCKS. I don't know what else to say other than he is the best center in the SEC, and one of the best big men in America.

4. Lay Off Jeffery Taylor

Jeffery Taylor has struggled on offense as of late. Tonight he was just 2-18 from the floor, including multiple misses close. In his last 2 games, JT is a woeful 3-25 for just 11 points. Don't panic. JT is going through a slump where his shots (wherever attempted from) aren't falling. That happens. Don't forget about JT's performances against Mississippi State where he single-handedly lifted the Commodores to a win on the road. He's still averaging 14.6 points a game, and 13.6 in conference play. He's not Vanderbilt's #1 offensive option, but with a pure scorer like John Jenkins, he doesn't have to be. JT is much better when he is option 2 or 3 (behind JJ and Festus). Despite his 2-18 performance, what I'm most impressed with was Taylor's performance on defense and on the glass. JT led the team with 13 rebounds and was instrumental in containing Travis Leslie, one of the best athletes in the SEC. While I was never as critical of AJ as others, I'll certainly concede he was a frustrating player to watch at times. JT can be as well. With that said, the JT as this year's AJ is a flawed comparison. While I can't exactly put my finger on it (neither can Seamus, we discussed it after the game), the best evidence that the comparison is off is JT's line tonight. Do you remember AJ having an impact on the glass when he wasn't scoring? Maybe my memory is selective, but I certainly don't. If any of you have thoughts, I'd love to hear them.

Final Thoughts:

There's no other way to put it, this was huge win. The Commodores are now firmly in the driver's seat in the race for a bye in the SEC Tournament. As I said above, winning a game like this (on the road no less) shows the team is improving and learning from the games they've played thus far. The Commodores remain a team beleaguered by injuries. Lance isn't health, neither is Andre. It hasn't mattered. Rod Odom, Stevie Thunder, and Kyle Fuller have filled in tremendously, playing quality minutes, knocking down huge shots, and making the most of their time. Get excited Commodore fans, this team is the real deal.


Anonymous said...

Really happy for our guys in the black and gold tonight. Really thought we would get the road win at Rupp before Athens so I'm really pumped right now. Hate to see JT going through this offensive slump (he hasnt been in a defensive slump... thats for damn sure) and hope he comes out of it quickly. This was a huge win... we might have knocked UGA out of the feild of 68, which is a shame. I really thought UGA would make it to the tourni this year, and they still could, but they have a tough road to get there.

CKS has really turned VU into a top tier program and wins like this remind me of that.

Go Dores

macpfled said...

Wow, I remember thinking at one..if we get to 50 points I'll happy. What a freaking game. The reason I have a smile on my however is this...

-How the hell do we go all season getting beat on the offensive glass by athletic teams to DOMINATING the boards like that? And with our star rebounder (Lance) doing nothing. What was different? We get absolutely blown out by 20 if this doesn't happen. We got beat from the FT line, from the FG%, and didn't have a huge edge from 3Pt% and we got the win on the road BECAUSE OF REBOUNDING.

-Can everyone please imagine right now how good this team would be with 9..shit even 8 healthy guys in the rotation.

-Tinsley has played well all season but he is quietly making a lot less mistakes and shooting the ball really well. He is giving us EXACTLY what we need from him.

Andrew VU '04 said...


1) Have to agree with you on Tinsley. He's got his confidence back.

2) I have no idea what you meant by "a smile on my however," but that would make a great name for an all girl rock band.

Vandygal78 said...

Completely agree with everything in this article. This was huge. Now they know that they can come back from anything. Once again they did this without everyone healthy; imagine what this team will be like with everyone back (Andre). We are getting better and better at just the right time. Wow.

Anonymous said...

The USC lost was in OT, too. Just makes your point even stronger.

Anonymous said...

Jeff needs to learn from AJ and stay...then we'll be dancing in the Final Four for sure next year. This year's hopes are still very high.

Greg M said...

I think we will finish 23-7,possible lossing to FL at home as predicted by, with a nice respectful season we can be proud of. THEN COMES THE POST SEASON. I see nothing really from this team or CKS that leads me to expect anything other than a disapointing lose earlier in the tourney. Sorry guys, I still have zero confidence in them on the road agianst anybody. Hope I am wrong but doubt it.

Greg M said...

My Mistake. has us losing at KY and beating FL at home.

Anonymous said...

Now need to take care of business at Auburn.

JT wont leave unless he wants to play in Europe. He could benefit a lot from 1 more year.

macpfled said...

You are a pessimistic piss-ant Greg. Of course we could lose early in the tourney. 48 (now 52) pretty solid teams and some great ones do it every year. What more do want from this team?

We have played some really good and some really mediocre ball to this point, but as of NOW we have 2 superstars (Fez and JJ) who have been very consistently the best at their position in the conference for weeks now, a few role players playing great basketball (Tinsley, StevieT, Odom, FUller) not to mention 2 guys (Lance and JT) who could have successful NBA careers that are underperforming right now. What more can you ask for going into the post season? Sure, its fine to be the pessimistic fan, but WTF are you doing posting this after a huge win. Keep it to yourself.

Owen said...

did anyone hear the pregame with Stallings? he basically said that the players who are hurting are soft and we need them down the stretch to go deep into the tourney. it was interesting.

jenkins and ezeli were incredible last night.

it still baffles me how pretty much everyone on our team cannot finish around the rim. jeff is just one of many on our team that seems to have trouble making contested layups around the basket!

Anonymous said...

Yes, his comments were clearly directed at AW - and CKS did not seem very happy. AW has played about 10 games the last two years.

Agree on your second comment too. JT is too timid and Fes is too slow. Both are fixable.

Anonymous said...

BT is our best finisher at the rim

Anonymous said...

If BT is our best finisher, then JJ is now a close second.

I wish people would stop giving JT the AJ-treatment. This is clearly a different situation. I love JT; he's our best defender, and though his offensive-mindedness could use improvement, you could say that for almost anyone on our team. Furthermore, JT will still be drafted if he enters after this year - make no mistake about it - he will not be in Europe. That being said, let's hope he stays, and let's start showing him some more love.

On to Auburn...

Greg M said...

Macfly, why are we stupping to name calling you ignorant slut? I'm just tlling it like it is. If you can't handle Dore reality, get out.