Disappointments do little to diminish Vanderbilt's entertainment value

Wednesday, January 16, 2013 at 9:59pm

Any number of adjectives can describe this year’s Vanderbilt men’s basketball team.

Boring isn’t one.

Look no further than the last three games — all losses — to see that while these Commodores might be inconsistent, inexperienced, young, frustrating and so on, they do not lack entertainment value.

Last week, against Kentucky, Vanderbilt rallied from a 16-point, second-half deficit, took the lead but lost in the final minutes, which included a controversial shot clock violation not called by the referees. Two days later, at Arkansas, the Commodores nearly rewrote the record books — not the good kind — with their second 33-point game of the season.

And on Tuesday they showed signs of growth only to regress in the last nine minutes. They blew a 13-point lead and watched as a 35-foot 3-pointer by Ole Miss’ Marshall Henderson at the buzzer forced overtime. They ultimately lost 89-79.

It left all associated with Vanderbilt (6-9, 0-3 Southeastern Conference) dumbfounded and in search answers ahead of Saturday's game at South Carolina.

“It is very disappointing to lose in that manner and to self-inflict it,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said on Tuesday. “I think it is safe to say we should have won the game and we did enough to lose it. But that is a sign of a team that maybe expects to lose. When you do things that are inexplicable that make no basketball sense whatsoever my opinion is you are waiting to lose.”

The same bothersome problems sunk the Commodores against Ole Miss.

The most confounding issue arose at the foul line. In the last 3:26, the Commodores missed five free throws (three by Shelby Moats and two by Dai-Jon Parker). They finished the game 10 for 23 (43.5 percent) to drop to 56.8 percent for the season and to the second-lowest mark in Division I.

Conversely, the Rebels shot 70.4 percent (19 of 27) from the foul line, including all five in overtime.

“They made big plays. They made their free throws,” Parker said. “Unfortunately we didn’t make ours, which is a trending topic for our team this year, which we’re trying to turn around. That was the ballgame right there.”

Amazingly enough, Vanderbilt could have prevailed.

Despite making a Memorial Gym record 17 3-pointers out of a school-record 40 attempts, the Commodores reliance on the long shot cost them. They went cold in the last 13:50 of regulation, missing nine of 12 from beyond the arc. In overtime, they missed all five 3-point attempts and scored just one point. Ole Miss scored 35 of the game's final 47 points.

To make matters worse, Vanderbilt committed three costly turnovers in the closing minutes and gave up four big offensive rebounds, which the Rebels turned into six points.

“Winning players just didn’t make winning plays,” Parker said. “We had the game in our hands. I feel as though everybody could have contributed. We just didn’t pull it out.”

Still, a confidence-boosting win looked inevitable when Kevin Bright hit a 3-pointer in the corner with 3.2 seconds left for a 78-75 lead. Then the frustrations came back to the forefront for a young team without any seniors. The Commodores failed to match up defensively and Marshall Henderson got open for the improbable game-tying 3-pointer.

“I figured if we just played as hard as we could we would put ourselves with a chance to win at the end,” point guard Kedren Johnson said. “That’s what we did. But unfortunately we couldn’t pull through.”

Thus, it is back to the proverbial drawing board for Vanderbilt, which is trying to avoid the first 0-4 start in SEC play in program history.

If this problematic start, though often interesting, continues to spiral downhill, the Commodores might not be able to dig themselves out.

“We just have to coach them to expect to win better, which, of course, we’re trying to do,” Stallings said. “But we’ve got to continue to do a better job with that.”

9 Comments on this post:

By: VU in Mempho on 1/17/13 at 6:45

It's time for VU to thank CKS for his service and for him to retire. Back in the days of Roy Skinner et al, VU used to WIN games at the free-throw line. Perhaps CKS could get some tips from old assistants or coaches: Bargatze, Newton, etc.

By: Rasputin72 on 1/17/13 at 7:05

There is no entertainment value in losing. Stallings is the fellow who recruited these boys and he should accept as much responsibility for losing as his team.

By: TITAN1 on 1/17/13 at 7:14

I don't think it is coach Stallings' fault that the players are struggling at the free throw line. Most of his teams have shot very well from the line. IMO, shooting a free throw is mostly mental. They didn't make it to the college level by not having the skill to shoot from the foul line. That is something each player needs to work on individually even on his own time.

By: rldavenport@com... on 1/17/13 at 8:40

His last two teams have NOT shot well at the free-throw line. Last year's team also had games where they missed 10 or more at the line. It's just that this team is abysmal at it, which is something I never thought I'd ever see at Vanderbilt.

By: Jughead on 1/17/13 at 12:11

Nobody in their right mind wants to play for Stallings. Fat, bald, whining little beotch who runs to mommy when things go wrong.

By: TITAN1 on 1/17/13 at 2:04

Jughead, how old are you?

By: 4gold on 1/18/13 at 7:20

I wittnessed this team lose to a Marist team in Orando. They scored 33 points and was the worst excuse for a college team I have ever seen. I fully expected a 40 point blowout against UK and 30 point blowout against Ole Miss. I can only access that dispararity to Stallings coaching because there is very little talent on the floor. If Calepari has half the top 10 recruits in the country and can only beat this VU bunch by 2 he is no coach AT ALL. But show me a team that misses 5 straight free throws down the stretch and I will show you a bunch of loser chokers. Where is Barry Goheen when you need him?

By: 4gold on 1/18/13 at 7:23

Yea Jughead, everyone wants to play for Calepari. Do you want to go to school or a basketball camp? What would every high school flunky pick?

Go Dores, Preds, Titans! Go Nashville a great place to live!

By: shakafan on 1/18/13 at 11:04

Question, how do schools like Butler, Gonzaga, and VCU go deep into the NCAA tournament? Could it be the coach?