Saturday, January 14, 2012

Commodores Down Dawgs 77-66; Remain Perfect in SEC

It wasn't always pretty, but the Commodores survived the Georgia Bulldogs this afternoon at Memorial Gym 77-66. Vanderbilt led by just 4 points with 1:19 left after Lance missed a free throw and Jeffery Taylor was whistled for not only a loose ball, but also a technical foul that gave Georgia 2 free throws and a 1 and 1. Mark Fox's team would not get any closer, as the Commodores defense stiffened. The Bulldogs would miss their final 6 shots - all 3's - while the Commodores hit 7 of 8 free throws to ice the game.

When you look at the final score, it would appear Vanderbilt played (slightly) better today at home against Georgia than they did Tuesday against the Gamecocks, going to show you once again that the final score is not always indicative of what actually took place on the court.

Vanderbilt struggled to put Georgia away. Ironically, what ultimately won them the game was one of this things that prevented them from putting the game away sooner: free throws. Although the Commodores attempted a season high 44 free throws and shot 68% from the line, up until the final 1:19, Vanderbilt was just over 50% for the half (12-23).

The Commodores were able to win despite the fact that they didn't get a "great" performance from anyone. John Jenkins led the team in scoring with 18, but was a paltry 3-11 from downtown, and was only saved by a ridiculous 9 of 9 performance from the charity stripe. Jeffery Taylor struggled in the second half, attempting just 2 shots, and connecting on only 5 of his 10 free throw attempts. His frustration boiled over with the technical foul that could have been disastrous, but ultimately ended up not hurting the Commodores in the end. Lance Goulbourne had another excellent game, pouring in 13 points and pulling down 6 rebounds.

Beyond the defense, Commodore fans should be happy with play of the bench, who were able to provide quality minutes without dropping the level of play. The bench (Kendren Johnson, Rod Odom, Stevie Thunder, and Dai-Jon Parker) were 5-8 from the field, 1-3 from downtown, and 4-5 from the line for 15 points. In addition, the bench grabbed 7 rebounds in their 50 (out of 200) minutes of play. Special shout-out to Dai-Jon Parker who was 4-4 from the line, scoring 6 points in total and grabbing 5 rebounds in 14 minutes. After a pitiful performance in the final 3 minutes of the South Carolina game, Coach Stallings had to be pleased with what he saw this afternoon.

Certainly there are things to be disappointed with in the game, but the Commodores are 3-0 in conference and have shown a defensive intensity that I don't remember seeing . . . well . . . ever. More importantly, and I tweeted this during the game, this team appears to be having fun on the court.

This team is entering in the first of 2 critical 3 game stretches this season, with games at Alabama on Thursday, home against Mississippi State Saturday, and hosting the Volunteers at Memorial a week from Tuesday. This will certainly be the Commodores stiffest conference competition this season and will be an excellent barometer as to how far this team has come from it's early season struggles.

What say you, VSLNation?

3 comments:

Andrew Smith said...

Good

1. Nice to see Festus attempt to assert himself down the stretch, even if he was losing his hold on the ball and failing to convert. That will come back. And he still got to the line and converted pretty well there.

2. Bench looking a lot stronger. I'm not sold on Odom, but the freshmen are really improving and SteveT looks much more comfortable when he's doing his thing rather than trying to replace a far, far better player.

3. This team is scoring more inside, even without Festus. Not only was JT driving to the basket. LG and BT and DJP were as well. Drives open up shooters on the outside.

4. Lance continues to blossom.

Bad

1. Defensive intensity not there the way it was the last two games.

2. JT, for all that he's a gifted defender, keeps making the same defensive mistake. He is assigned to guard the other team's best man, but when someone else gets the ball near him, he often leaves his man to help, which means his man is wide open, gets the ball and scores. He needs to get it into his head that he's always guarding the other team's JJ and that it's never OK for him to leave. If he can shut down the other team's best scorer, that's enough.

3. Relying on the outside shot so much means this team can lose to anyone. Success in the college game, particularly in the tournament, requires that you play a game that maximizes the number of teams that cannot beat you, even if you're off. If you look at teams that get to the Final Four, you'll generally have one club on a magic run but the other clubs often made it despite an off game in the early rounds. We cannot ever endure an off game against a tourney-quality team. That's scary.

questionspresented said...

I agree with Andrew Smith that Vandy's margin for error in the tournament is extremely narrow. In this game, they were lucky that JT's mental errors didn't cost them the game. Festus' ability to convert at the line is huge and Lance G. is a difference maker.

-AD

Stanimal said...

This game was a case of us not playing our best and Georgia playing better than they are. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was simply unconscious from three and that kept Georgia in it for most of the game. The three was not falling for us, so we adjusted and went inside. It ended up working out very well. Not only did we increase our field goal percentage and become more efficient, we also started to dominate the glass. That was a good sign. We didn't turn the ball over inordinately either, which is another good sign.

I did my fair share of bench bashing earlier in the season. If you're going to criticize, you must also praise, and the bench deserves a tremendous amount of credit for this win. They provided quality minutes, they finally brought a level of scoring we simply haven't had, and they got after it on defense and on the boards. Their performance is the difference between this team being good and this team being great. Dai-Jon Parker was fantastic today and has really started to play within himself. He is no longer an offensive liability, and his defense and rebounding is arguably unmatched by anyone outside of JT (though Lance is really challenging in that category). In addition, Stallings is beginning to use the bench effectively. He is putting the right guys on the floor together who can make up for each others deficiencies without getting in the way of their strengths, and he's putting the right guys in during the right situations. I loved to see DJP get run late in the game in defensive situations. Perhaps we've seen Stallings finally figure out how to use this personnel grouping.

Huge week coming up. We're going to find out what this team is really made of.