There's a simple moment from tonight's game that best sums up the evening. A family of four sits in front of us. At about the six-minute mark in the second half, the father had to take his young son to the restroom. Vanderbilt was rolling along with a 14-point lead (78-64) and seemed to be putting the game out of reach. When the father and son returned a few minutes later, he about went into shock. He gave his wife a stern "I can't believe you made me miss this" stare. In less than three minutes, the Missouri Tigers had rallied to within two points. With the Commodores leading 79-77, panic began to fill Memorial. At that moment a loss seemed to be inevitable.
In my preview, I wrote about the importance of momentum. Well a loss after losing that kind of lead would have been devastating. In the end, there was near reason for fear. With some clutch play down the stretch and timely free throw shooting the 'Dores held on for an impressive 89-83 victory.
Coach Stallings seemed to sum things up the best. Vanderbilt did to Missouri what Cincinnati did to Vanderbilt in Maui. The Commodores won the rebounding battle by an astounding 47-26 margin, including 15-9 on the offensive glass. Missouri lived up to their reputation as playing the fastest 40 minutes of basketball in the country. They forced the 'Dores into 24 turnovers and many more close calls on full and half-court traps. The reason Vanderbilt was able to overcome this was solid free throw shooting throughout the night. The team was 26-31 (81 percent), including six out of eight in the final two minutes. Their were a lot of heroes on the night, but I thought it was neat to see freshman John Jenkins hit four nerve wracking free throws in closing minutes. The first two came with the 'Dores clinging to a one point lead with only 54 seconds to play. After an ensuing Missouri miss, his final two free throws extended the lead to five with only 17 seconds left. Our heralded freshman sealed the game for us. Those are the kind of moments you truly enjoy as a fan.
Here are a few quick thoughts about the Five Commodores that stood out to me :
He seems to be the consensus player of the game. Walker had a really neat stat line that shows how important he is to the team: six points, 12 rebounds, four assists, three blocks, two steals. In his post-game interview on 104.5 the Zone, Stallings gushed over his performance. He made another reference to how badly Andre was missed after his injury last season. With Missouri's ridiculous full-court pressure, he gave the 'Dores another solid ball-handler to take care of the ball. It's nice to see a player carry a team without having to score the most points.
Let's just blame his early season problems on the concussion. Tonight he looked like a pro prospect. He went for 25/6 and a stellar 11-12 from the line. Stallings mentioned that they made a slight but important adjustment to AJ's free thrown routine. I think the Cavaliers need to get Stallings on the horn to take a look at Shaq. In all, Ogilvy looked much more energized and very aggressive. Another really good performance. The Aussie is back.
I hate to say anything bad after such a good performance from the team, but I couldn't help it. The Tigers should personally thank Lance for helping Missouri jump start their late rally. He was subbed in at 5:22 with Vandy holding a 12-point advantage. After breaking pressure, LG went for what would have been the dunk of the early season. Instead, his ill-timed aggressiveness led to a charge. In the span of the next minute, he committed another foul and two costly turnovers. That my friends is an impressive stretch. Stallings had to lose a good bit of confidence in him tonight. Hope things are better next time around.
Maybe I was talking every time he scored, but I had no idea he had this good of a game. Taylor put up a double-double with 18/11 and also had a fantastic night at the stripe (8-9). I guess he got a lot of points in transition? Five of his rebounds were on offense, so he had to some on put backs, right? Maybe I'm should start calling him Stealth.
This spot should probably go to Jermaine Beal, who played very well. Instead, I wanted to deepen my concern surround the play of Tinsley. He's only shooting 38 percent from the field, and seems to be missing a LOT of wide open three's. I'm sure he deserves a starting role because of his experience and play in practice. From a selfish point a view, here's my dream starting five: Beal/Jenkins/Taylor/Walker/Ogilvy. Isn't that a fun group? Tonight, Tinsley had a team-high six turnovers and only went 1-6 from behind the arc. I hope he snaps out of his funk soon.
What's Next ?
Radio guy extraordinaire Joe Fisher made a great point about this weekend. DePaul is the exact opposite of what Vandy faced tonight. They like to hold the ball and are extremely patient on offense. It seems like they will try to frustrate the 'Dores and get them to rush things. It would be nice to see them get another win before heading on the road to Illinois.