“...I guess I like it better when we can score more easily. It feels like a trip to the dentist about every time down the court for us right now.”
With those words, Kevin Stallings simultaneously acknowledged his 300th coaching win and gave a nod to the defense that got him there.
Playing in the first round of the SEC/Big East Invitational against South Florida—not exactly a Big East powerhouse—the Commodores racked up 71 points, shooting 44 percent from the floor and less than 50 percent from the three-point line.
Fortunately for Vandy, USF fared worse, managing only 34 percent from the floor and an abysmal 23 percent from beyond the three-point line.
It was a full five minutes before Vandy was able to get off the zero, using up seven possessions before finally getting the ball to drop. If South Florida had been on, the game might have taken on a different tone. As it was, USF only managed five points while Vandy struggled to find the hoop and get the ball rolling.
But it didn't roll very far; A.J. Ogilvy and Jermaine Beal each scored 20 points, but that was it. No one else on the Commodore team scored more than 10, with both Jeffery Taylor and Darshawn McClellan putting up nine each. While this was triple McLellan's earlier efforts, Taylor has been averaging nearly 14 ppg.
The saving grace, it seemed, was Vanderbilt's ability to crash the boards and create second, third, and sometimes fourth chances to score.
“We never could establish ourselves rebounding-wise, and that was a big key,” South Florida coach Stan Heath said. “We never could rebound. They really dominated the glass on us. Because we never were able to rebound, we never were able to run.”
This, ladies and gentlemen, qualifies as a major understatement. Of course, being able to rebound, and therefore run, didn't translate into high scoring for the 'Dores. Ogilvy's 13 rebounds, which were nearly half of USF's entire rebounding effort, kept the 'Dores in the game.
It isn't all bad news for Vandy. At 7-3, they aren't in the worst shape they can be in. They have demonstrated all year that they are able to control the rock off the boards; Ogilvy is maturing into a significant force to be reckoned with; and they are shooting tolerably well from beyond the arc.
But if they cannot figure out a way to get the ball to drop more frequently from in front of the three-point line, their luck is going to run out, and run out fast. With conference play fast approaching, they will need more than big rebounding numbers to prevail over their SEC rivals.
With exams nearly over, and Christmas break just around the corner, it might be time for the coach to get back to some good old shooting drills.
Rebounds are important, to be sure, but the fewer opportunities you give the opponent to get defensive rebounds, the better your chances are of winning.