Rushed Reaction: #5 Vanderbilt 79, #12 Harvard 70Posted by AMurawa on March 15th, 2012
Three Key Takeaways.
- Vanderbilt Struggles To Close. The Commodores led by as much as 18 in the second half, but struggled to close out against a game Harvard team late. The Crimson used a 14-3 run over 2:30 to get back within five late, but an ill-timed turnover killed the momentum. Still, for a Vanderbilt team with a history of losing opening round NCAA Tournament games, their performance down the stretch was not confidence-inspiring. In the final five minutes, they turned the ball over three times and missed three free throws while Harvard hit clutch shots. Now that the Commodores have that NCAA win under their belt, maybe they’ll finish stronger in the future.
- Too Much Size and Athleticism. At one point in the middle of the second half, Vanderbilt’s Jeffrey Taylor picked the pocket of a Harvard guard, leading to a breakaway on which he threw down a massive, soaring dunk. And throughout the game, Festus Ezeli blocked shots, rebounded and scored above the rim, while being able to step out and challenge shots away from the basket. While these types of athletes may not be typical for Vanderbilt, they were certainly the difference today.
- Six-Point Swing. At the start of the second half, Harvard junior forward Kyle Casey blew a dunk that led to a Vanderbilt breakout, on which John Jenkins pulled up and hit a three-pointer in the process of getting fouled. The made free throw turned it into a six-point swing in the Commodore favor, a total that could have made the pressure on Vanderbilt even tighter in the end-game.
Star of the Game. John Jenkins, Vanderbilt. Jenkins was the one guy to finish the game with confidence, knocking down game-sealing free throws on top of his effort in the meat of the game. The final line says it all: 27 points, six boards, three assists, and three three-pointers in helping the Commodores earn their first NCAA Tournament win since the 2007 Sweet 16 team.
Sights & Sounds. Despite the fact that Albuquerque’s own Lobos were playing during this game, The Pit was mostly full during action, and with plenty of locals among the crowd. While Vandy and Harvard each had chunks of the fans in the crowd, there were quite a few people in the crowd wearing New Mexico shirts keeping track of the game in Portland by phone or word-of-mouth. The score was announced regularly throughout the game, to nervous reaction from Lobo fans, but once the final was announced, The Pit exploded in approval.
Wildcard. Harvard’s sophomore wing Laurent Rivard had a busy day, not only having to shadow Taylor throughout the game, but also providing a big scoring threat for the Crimson. Rivard hit six increasingly improbable three-pointers (the last a fall-away, shot-clock-beating dagger in Jenkins’ face) that helped keep the Crimson in the game.
Quotable. Jenkins on Rivard: “I hadn’t seen somebody get that hot in a long time. He was making them from everywhere, no matter how deep they were and the shot clock going down, it was money. So it was very impressive.”
What’s Next? Vanderbilt will face Wisconsin Saturday in what should be a heck of a game. They will need to close with a lot more confidence and they will need to do a better job on the glass in order to advance to the Sweet 16.