Kevin Stallings was asked about the small crowd at today's game and if it was because of the SEC Football Championship. “It was a pretty convenient start time," Stallings said. "There must have been a lot of people who wanted to watch football. I didn’t think we had that many Alabama fans in Nashville.”
Coach, I must make a confession. I picked the SEC title game over the Vandy game. The sad thing is that I have a Commodore blog and I don't like Alabama or Florida.
I had every intention of going, but I was afraid that the football game would turn out to be a classic. I'm sure others felt the same way. The official attendance of 14,016 had to be a bit inflated. I depended on the soothing voice of Joe Fisher and my trusty Yahoo GameChannel to get by.
From everything I can gather, it looks like Vanderbilt survived a sloppy, gritty game to defeat DePaul 67-54. At halftime, with the Blue Demons leading 28-27, I thought the Commodores were heading down to a road similar to the Cincinnati game. I was already preparing a "Curse of the Big East" post. I'm glad I didn't have to go through with it.
Coach Stallings mentioned two things that stood out to me:
The first was free throw shooting. I'm sure Stallings won't be pleased with shooting 66%, but he will be trilled that the 'Dores made more (20) than the Blue Demons attempted (14). Free throw attempts typically prove which team was more aggressive on offense and solid on defense.
The second comment by Stallings was a little disconcerting. He pointed out how poorly the Commodores' shot selection was in the first half. Names were withheld, but Stallings said a few 'Dores were playing selfish and looking for their own shots. Coach said that other than insubordination, nothing angers him more than selfish play.
I wish I remembered the exact quote, but it was something like, "selfish play goes against the basic principles of this team." I'm not sure who he was talking about, but the stat sheet suggests to either Jermaine Beal or John Jenkins. The two combined to shoot 4-16 from the field. No other player's line appears to be worthy of those criticisms.
Even though Vanderbilt was a 17-point favorite and DePaul was picked to finish dead last in the Big East, this was a big win for the team. They responded to adversity well and did enough things to get by. Fisher suggested that this was a game to survive and move on. As bad as the 'Dores seemed to play at times, it was still the most points that DePaul had given up this season. That has to count for something.
Here are a few quick thoughts about the three Commodores that stood out to me:
I was following the live commentary on Anchor of Gold . The suggestion was that Taylor needed to assert himself more. He was a match-up problem for DePaul, and the team needed to take advantage of it. Taylor seemed to carry the team through some bad stretches. With 11 minutes to play in the game, Taylor had more made field goals (7), then the entire team combined (6). He finished with 18 points and 4 rebounds.
DePaul coach Jerry Wainwright had plenty of nice things to say about Taylor. "We haven’t really seen a forward like him, Wainwright said. "He’s really skilled and has great flow...so I thought he was really key."
The big Aussie is becoming tougher and tougher to guard. After his free throw adjustment, opponents cannot afford to send him to the line. In his last two games, Ogilvy has hit 24 out of 27 from the stripe. That's good for anyone, but excellent coming from a big man.
He really gave the team a boost, scoring 16 of his 19 points in the second half. It's fun to see that on any given night we have three players that can take over a game. Between AJ, Taylor, and Beal, the 'Dores have a trio that other teams must fear.
It was fun to hear Hinkle receive a lot of praise after the game. Stallings credited him with providing a defensive spark off the bench. He brought a level of intensity that was missing from Vanderbilt. He only had two points in 10 minutes, but scoring wasn't why he was in the game in the first place.
Ogilvy referenced how hard Hinkle plays in practice. It's always good the have people who will get after it in practice. It keeps the starers on their toes and doesn't allow them to go through the motions.
Vanderbilt, now 6-1, will travel to Illinois for a tough Big Ten battle on Tuesday.
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