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?