It’s safe to assume that very few of the 14,256 at Memorial Gymnasium on Wednesday night were in attendance last week when Vanderbilt played one game in California and three more in Hawaii.
Thus they didn’t see the Commodores get outrebounded by 11 at St. Mary’s or by 21 against Cincinnati. They also didn’t see the team make just under 62 percent of their free throws in a four-game stretch.
Based on what they actually witnessed in Vanderbilt’s 89-83 victory over Missouri, they had every reason to believe those numbers were a lie.
“I was proud of our rebounding,” coach Kevin Stallings said. “I thought we came back and rebounded a little better after the Hawaii trip. And our free throw shooting was better. Those two things are going to be big in any close game.”
The Commodores (5-1) outrebounded the Tigers (4-2) 47-26 overall (15-9 in offensive rebounds) and made 26 of 31 free throws (83.9 percent). Both aspects of the game, in fact, proved critical down the stretch as VU watched a 14-point lead with 5:29 to play reduced to one in a little more than three minutes.
When Missouri cut the deficit to two, 79-77, with 3:29 remaining, Andre Walker restored a bit of a cushion when he tipped in Brad Tinsely’s miss. Then, with the lead at one for the second time – 84-83 with 1:17 to go – freshman John Jenkins made four straight free throws and Jermaine Beal made one more with five seconds to go.
A.J. Ogilvy, who hit on just two of eight foul shots in the final game of the road trip, made 11 of 12 against Missouri as he rolled up a game-high 25 points.
“I think it was more of an exception on that trip,” Ogilvy said. “I just didn’t shoot free throws in that last game. Usually I’m a pretty good free throw shooter. … We had guys like John step up in the last two minutes (Wednesday) and knock down free throws as well that ended up winning us the game. Obviously, that was real important for us.”
Walker’s put-back accounted for two of the Commodores’ 20 second-chance points and one of his game and career-high 12 rebounds. He also led the team in assists (four), blocked shots (three) and steals (two).
Missouri managed just three offensive rebounds in the first half and one in the first 14-plus minutes of the second. The one-and-done approach had a lot to do with the fact that Vanderbilt stretched a six-point halftime lead to 78-64 after an Ogilvy put-back.
“They were able to take the fight to us,” Missouri coach Mike Anderson said. “We created some turnovers to compensate for this, but rebounding was a big advantage for them, especially on the offensive end.”
There are plenty of people who will second that opinion.
• Sophomore forward Jeffery Taylor had 18 points and 11 rebounds for his second straight double-double. He had 13 points and 10 rebounds Nov. 25 against Arizona.
The last VU player with a double-double in back-to-back games was Matt Frieje in January, 2004.
• The Commodores have played just two games at Memorial Gymnasium. They have been their two highest-scoring games of the season.
Prior to the 89 points against Missouri, they rolled up 95 against Lipscomb in the season-opener.
Similarly, the two highest-scoring opponents this season have been Missouri (83) and Lipscomb (73).
• Missouri used its full-court pressure to force 24 turnovers. That was nearly nine more than the Commodores’ season average and six more than in any single game.
“I didn’t think if we turned the ball over 24 times against them … that we would win,” Stallings said.