- Defense- Unfortunately this is both a high and a low. It's a high because, for 3/4 of the game, Vandy played very solid D against a good offensive team. Holding the opposition to 43% from the field and 14% from three was a signal of excellent defensive effort. As CKS noted in the post-game presser, Jeff Taylor was "fantastic" on Jared Cunningham, who came into this game averaging 26 ppg. If it weren't for the nagging cold shooting we seem to be dealing with (the Commodores only shot 40% from the field), we might have taken a lead into the half. Of course, you have to give credit to Oregon State for that as well, as they did a great job not letting Jenkins get open looks, and *gulp* forcing turnovers.
- Lance Goulbourne, for the most part- Lance wasn't perfect, but he also has shown significant improvement on the offensive end. Consistent production out of the power forward spot is one of this team's major weaknesses, and Lance is doing everything in his power to dispel that. He came up big against NC State and also came up big against Oregon State with 9 points and 9 boards, including one 2 minutes stretch in the second half where you could have sworn you could see the killer eye. In my opinion, he is the most improved player from last year. His bone-head plays are fewer, and he missed a couple easy ones right at the cup, but tell me you didn't jump out of your seat when he tomahawked that dunk driving through the lane. That's a sign of a third scorer, and that could make Vandy very, very dangerous.
- Winning a close game when you aren't at your best- Vandy did not have their A game tonight, much like every other game this season. However, unlike last season, the Commodores stayed composed and won the game. Tinsley made a smart decision to not try to force the ball to Jenkins and executed a beautiful last second shot. Then on the very next possession after the timeout, Taylor was absolutely masterful on Cunningham as he drove the lane. There was no chance that shot was going to go in. When it comes down to the last possession in the ball game, perfect execution is a necessity. Last year we simply didn't have it, in this game we did.
- Turnovers, Turnovers, Turnovers- It seems that every year with this crew we have to deal with a rash of turnovers. Vandy had 22 last night on 15 steals, while only forcing 5 themselves. At the half, Vandy had allowed 8 fast break points and had none in return. That's a formula for losing games you shouldn't. Oregon State averages 11 steals per game and is in the top ten in the nation at taking the ball away, but Vanderbilt is averaging 14 turnovers a game, and has had 15 or more in its past two games. Yes, sometimes guards are just quicker than Tinsley and Jenkins, but when they're putting the pressure on like that, players can't be standing around, they have to work to get open and come to the ball.
- Interior Presence- CKS is 100% right that we can't be moping around because Festus isn't here, but there's no question that right now, teams do not fear us in the interior, from either an offensive or defensive perspective. Why should they? Particularly late in the second half, Vandy was getting owned on the offensive glass. We had two offensive boards total, while we allowed Oregon State to get 5 of their 6 second half offensive rebounds under 8:00 minutes. That's a major reason why we let them back in the ball game. We let them have six more shots than we did in the second half. As I've noted, if you're having a bad offensive night, you can't afford to let that happen. Of course, some of this is exacerbated by...
- Perimeter D- Don't get me wrong, Vandy did a great job for the most part not allowing open three attempts. But what doesn't show up in the stat line that obviously showed up during the game was the ability for Ahmad Starks to slash into the lane at will. Simply put, as I noted on Twitter last night, my confidence is waning on being able to keep Tinsley and Jenkins on the floor at the same time. Both are vital cogs but neither are even serviceable defenders. This means we need KJ and Dai-Jon to develop, and I mean we need it like 2 games ago. For one, I've been impressed with KJ's ability to take care of the ball while still finding open cutters to the bucket. But KJ also plays better defense than either Tinsley or Jenkins. I am the biggest Brad Tinsley defender of all time, but I honestly condone the idea that KJ should be on the floor when Jenkins is, and that Tinsley should plug and play at both 1 and 2 spots, either when Dai-Jon is in at 2, or KJ/Fuller is in at 1. Of course if I were Stallings I wouldn't pay a lick of attention to some dinky blog anyway, but that doesn't mean I can't voice my opinion!
Sound off on your highs and lows.