College Hoops Weekend Recap: Vanderbilt Falls at Home

November 14th, 2011
One big reason why so many were hesitant to peg Vanderbilt for a trip to the Final Four has been their toughness, of both the mental and physical variety. After being able to run freely around the floor for much of their 78-64 win over Oregon on Friday night, those spaces closed up a great deal against Cleveland State on Sunday. And to be frank the Commodores didn't handle it well, shooting just 29.4% from the field in the first half and trailing 37-24 at the break. Vandy was unable to close the gap in the second half, falling 71-58 and becoming the first Top 10 team to lose this season.

"They got us out of our ability to get into our offense," said Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings. "Our point guard play was less than stellar. We just didn't play well. We didn't guard well with toughness. We got what we deserved."

There's that word: toughness. It's not all about being able to stick one's chest out during a game, but rather the little things. The ability to run sharp cuts and not allowing the defender to change one's path, hitting the glass on both ends, taking care of the ball and not settling for poor shots. The Commodores turned the ball over 21 times on Sunday, with guards John Jenkins and Lee Tinsley turning the ball over three times apiece and wing Jeffery Taylor six. And Cleveland State's D'Aundray Brown was the chief instigator for the Vikings as he led the team with 18 points, eight rebounds and seven steals.

"I thought he guarded your best player and shut him down, and that's D'Aundray Brown," said Cleveland State head coach Gary Waters. "D'Aundray Brown was defensive player of the year two years ago with our league. I feel if we had him last year, we won 27 games, I thought we'd been really good last year, but he didn't play. Now he's hungry, he's excited about coming back. But he is a defensive star."

Jenkins scored 17 points but made just five of fourteen shots from the field, and after boasting an offensive rating of 133.8 against Oregon the junior was limited to a rating of 91.9 by Cleveland State. The Commodores were able to get to the foul line, making 18 of 26 from the charity stripe, but they didn't deal with the Vikings' physical defense very well and it showed in the numbers.

Vanderbilt's effective field goal percentage dropped from 47.7% (Oregon) to 39.2%, and their efficiency dropped some thirty points. Just goes to show the value of a good defense, as Cleveland State bore a closer resemblance to what's expected of Vanderbilt on a nightly basis. The good news for Vanderbilt is that they've learned this lesson on November 13th. The key now is to build to the point where they aren't getting that final jolt far too soon in March.

Other Notable Happenings

1.Evansville beats Butler for the second straight season in an overtime thriller.
Marty Simmons' Purple Aces got off to a horrific start offensively against the two-time defending national runners-up, making just six of sixteen shots and turning the ball over ten times to trail 37-28 at the half. But Evansville turned things around, turning the ball over six times and out-rebounding the Bulldogs 19-12, scoring 41 points and using an 11-0 run to tie things up at 54 with 8:24 left in regulation.

A wild finish to regulation resulted in the game going to overtime after Butler's Andrew Smith missed a pair of free throws, and behind Colt Ryan's 23 points the Purple Aces beat Butler for the second straight season. Evansville was picked in the preseason to finish 5th in the Missouri Valley, and this is a good result for a program that before last season hadn't finished the season with a non-losing league record since 2000-01.

2. Tray Woodall posts his second straight double-double for Pittsburgh.
With Brad Wanamaker moving on to the professional ranks it was clear that Jamie Dixon would call on redshirt junior Tray Woodall to take over at the point. And if the first two games of the season are any indication of his preparedness Pittsburgh could have their seventh winner of the Big East's Most Improved Player award since its inception for the 1996-97 season. After accounting for 25 points, 10 assists and six rebounds in Pitt's blowout win over Albany on Friday, Woodall posted a line of 17 points, 10 assists and seven rebound in an 86-78 win over Rider.

Ashton Gibbs added a game-high 24 points and Nasir Robinson 22 and the Panthers held a dominant 40-16 edge on the boards as they moved to 81-0 in non-conference games at Petersen Events Center in the months of November and December. But at this rate, Woodall could be a big reason why Pittsburgh enjoys a more profitable March.

3. Kevin Parrom returns to the court for Arizona while Josiah Turner sits.
Arizona received a good boost to their rotation with the return of wing Kevin Parrom, who was out due to a gunshot wound suffered in late-September. And while it wasn't apparent early as the Wildcats struggled to deal with a Ball State team that led by as many as 11 points early in the second half, Parrom's spark was most noticeable on the defensive end as the Cats came back to win 73-63. Parrom finished with six points, four rebounds and two assists in 18 minutes of action, far more than anyone expected him to see on Sunday.

Kyle Fogg led the way offensively with 21 points and Solomon Hill added 16, and Arizona clamped down to hold Ball State scoreless for nearly six minutes late in the second half. The other storyline on Sunday was the benching of freshman point guard Josiah Turner, whom head coach Sean Miller sat out in what would best be described as a "teaching moment". No suspension, just a chance to help the freshman mature some and it's a move that should pay off. Arizona added a player to the rotation, and as Parrom gets back into game condition look for this team to improve.

4. Ray Turner scores 20 for the second straight game as Texas A&M adjusts to not having Khris Middleton.
Khris Middleton is out for the next 3-4 weeks after undergoing surgery for a partially torn meniscus, so the question for the Aggies is who will step up to account for his scoring. Enter forward Ray Turner, who scored 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the Aggies' 83-58 win over Southern. This was Turner's second straight 20-point outing for the Aggies, who also received the boost of head coach Billy Kennedy returning to the sidelines. Kennedy had left the team for a few weeks after being diagnosed with the beginning stages of Parkinson's Disease, so it's good to see him back on the sidelines. But back to the Texas A&M offense, which could likely end up with more weapons than last year's outfit had, meaning that the Aggies could very well win the Big 12. And if they're getting consistent production from Turner once Middleton returns, Big 12 contention likely becomes a definite.

5. Northern Iowa impressive defensively in a 17-point win at Old Dominion.
You never sell a Ben Jacobson-coached team short regardless of the personnel changes, and Northern Iowa provided a nice piece of evidence as to why on Saturday night. Northern Iowa limited Old Dominion to 27.3% shooting and forced 19 Monarch turnovers in their 63-46 win in Norfolk, posting what could be the most impressive result of the weekend. It was a rough experience for ODU, who made just seven of twenty-seven shots from inside of the arc while shooting a frigid 29.4% (5-for-17) from beyond it. Starters Jake Koch and Anthony James combined to score 31 points for the Panthers and Mark Sonnen added 12 off the bench, but this was a powerful statement as to what UNI can do on the other end of the floor. ODU has some key personnel losses to account for as well, but this defensive show was outstanding.

Quick Hitters

1. Southern Illinois displayed how not to begin a season when some believe your head coach to be on the proverbial "hot seat", falling 64-63 to Division II Ohio Dominican. Mamadou Seck was productive for the Salukis with 18 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks but a pair of Jake Mochoskay free throws with 30 seconds remaining gave Ohio Dominican their first-ever win over a Division I opponent.

2. Louisville has absolutely no luck when it comes to the injury bug. Wayne Blackshear is out until at least February with a torn labrum in his shoulder, and Mike Marra went down with a season-ending knee injury in their 68-48 win over Lamar on Sunday.

3. Loyola Marymount did a poor job of building on their win over UCLA on Friday night as they lost to Middle Tennessee State 58-51 on Sunday. After scoring 21 points on Friday night Anthony Ireland made just two of eleven shots, scoring five points.

4. Wagner opened their season with an impressive 73-57 win at Princeton on Saturday. Josh Thompson led the way with 14 points and nine rebounds off the bench for the Seahawks, who are expected to be a contender in the NEC.

5. One stat line that may not jump out from a numbers standpoint but is important to note: James Padgett's 12 points and seven rebounds in Maryland's 71-62 win over UNC Wilmington. Even when Alex Len returns (serving a 10-game NCAA suspension) Mark Turgeon's going to need Padgett due to the Terps lack of frontcourt depth.

Notable Performances

1. G Damon Heuir (Southern Utah)
In the first two games of the season Heuir made just one of seven shots and scored six points. Against Bryant on Sunday: 13-16 FG, 33 points.

2. G Nate Wolters (South Dakota State)
32 points and 11 assists in the Jackrabbits' 82-76 win over Western Michigan on Saturday.

3. F Arnett Moultrie (Mississippi State)
28 points and 13 rebounds in the Bulldogs' 80-65 win over South Alabama.

4. G J'Covan Brown (Texas)
28 points, eight assists and four rebounds in the Longhorns' 82-46 win over Boston University.

5. G Jamar Franklin (San Diego State)
31 points, six rebounds and three steals off the bench in the Aztecs' 89-74 win over UC Davis.