David Changas is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from the Vanderbilt-LSU game in Nashville last night.
The Vanderbilt Commodores continue to be one of college basketball’s biggest enigmas. It is hard to understand how such an experienced team with so much talent has managed to lose seven games this season. Senior center Festus Ezeli, who has missed practice time over the past week nursing a knee injury, was dominant inside, scoring 21 points in just 27 minutes of action against talented LSU center Justin Hamilton. Meanwhile, Jeffery Taylor and John Jenkins combined to go 8-of-12 from behind the arc, and showed why the Commodores could be dangerous come March. The three-headed monster combined for 60 of Vanderbilt’s 76 points in the Commodores’ 15-point victory in Nashville.
As impressive as Vanderbilt was in the second half, its first half performance was equally perplexing. The Commodores were suffering from a hangover from last week’s losses at Arkansas and Florida, or were looking ahead to Saturday’s ESPN prime time tilt with top-ranked Kentucky. Whatever Kevin Stallings said to his team at the break got it going, as the Commodores outscored the Tigers 49-34 after intermission. Stallings was pleased with his team’s effort and saw this game as a challenge. “I expected a hard-fought game, and got one. I was proud of my team. I thought we showed our experience there at the end of the game,” he said. Stallings was also pleased with what he got from his bench. The reserves’ contributions may not have been noticeable on the stat sheet (four points), but Stallings thought they gave his team a lift. “I thought our bench played very well tonight. I thought [it] was very, very solid, and that’s what we need from them.”