Let's start out with a comment from our friends over at the the Worldwide Leader in Sports:
There's still a lot of basketball left to be played, but this is shaping up to be perhaps Stallings' best and most complete team. The Commodores go nine deep with very little drop-off. They have good size, and have a senior point guard who can lead them where they want to go. - ESPN's Chris Low
That's why he gets paid the big bucks. Good summary of the Commodores in three sentences. I'll take a little more than that.
Vanderbilt just took care of business in a rival's backyard and really looked like the better overall team. The Commodore's 85-76 victory over Tennessee helped solidify their spot atop the SEC East, and continued to build momentum heading into their huge showdown with Kentucky.
Along with the records and momentum, this also gave the 'Dores some much-needed love nationally . On a personal note, it's always fun when the team you root for delivers a memorable win.
The star of the night was easily Jermaine Beal. He was very efficient, scoring 25 points on 8-for-12 shooting. He hit a couple monster jumpers; some to stop UT runs, others to give the Commodores a little breathing room. UT coach Bruce Pearl had some very nice things to say about Beal.
"Beal was special," Pearl said. "Part of our success against Vanderbilt in the past was that we had got the better of him. Everybody talks about A.J. Ogilvy, and whether he's a factor, but, in my mind, Beal has always been the guy that has made the team go.
"If you look at his numbers the last couple of years versus our point guard, we've done well. Tonight he was dominant, and he was focused."
Well said coach.
The best part of this season is that the 'Dores have six players that can lead the team in scoring on a given night. Either Beal, A.J. Ogilvy, Jeffery Taylor, John Jenkins, or Brad Tinsley could go off for 20 points on occasion. Opposing teams are forced to play solid team defense. You can't simply stop one guy from Vandy; there are too many weapons on the court.
When watching the South Carolina win over Kentucky, the second Devan Downey went off the floor, you had no idea where the scoring was going to come from. With the 'Dores, that is hardly ever an issue. There are also 2-3 guys on the court who can consistently put the ball in the basket.
This must be a really fun team to coach.
A couple other thoughts before I start dreaming of storming the court in Rupp Arena by myself:
Beal played 38 minutes and didn't commit a single turnover. Wow.
Andre Walker does everything. I hope he's appreciated by all Vandy fans. Here's his line from tonight: nine points, seven rebounds, five assists, two steals, and a block. Anchor of Gold calls him our glue guy. Seems to fit. I also like how Walker got a technical tonight. Our guys are getting a little toughness in them.
I could NEVER beat Jenkins in a game of HORSE...EVER. Please watch him shoot in warm-ups. There isn't any reason to watch anybody else. He doesn't miss.
I would like to see a bit more of Darshawn McClellan. I just don't think Lance Goulbourne has asserted himself as a solid contributor off the bench. He has flashes, but not enough to keep Darshawn completely off the floor.
It's been said a couple places, but winning with Ogilvy and Taylor off the floor for most of the second half is pretty impressive.
Not a big fan of Wayne Chism, but he put together a nice performance tonight: eight points, 16 rebounds, five blocks, and one ridiculous headband.
I'm not trying to pile on the kid, but the UT student reporter was a little out of his element. I'm not sure what his element was, but he was out of it. Hey ESPN, let's stick to the taped pieces with college students.
I think Joe Fisher said it in his postgame show, but the 'Dores are playing with house money now. They should be extremely loose heading into Lexington. Everybody, including Coach Stallings, would have taken a split this week. But now that they're here, a win against the Wildcats would easily catapult Vandy into the top 15.