Surging Vandy gets mid-week break

Monday, February 18, 2008 at 12:47am

Neither team seemed interested in winning when Vanderbilt and Florida hooked up at Memorial Gym on Saturday.

The 24th-ranked Commodores shot 37.9 percent from the floor. The Gators shot 39 percent.

Nonetheless, Vanderbilt escaped with a 61-58 victory, extending its winning streak to five games and improving to 7-4 in Southeastern Conference play and 7-4 overall.

Now down to five remaining regular-season games, the Commodores relish every victory.

“It certainly wasn’t a masterpiece, but at this point in the year, you take them any way you can get them,” VU coach Kevin Stallings said.

Reeling a few short weeks ago while losing four of five games, the rejuvenated Commodores are now winning games in every conceivable fashion.

Saturday’s grinder against Florida came just four days after a 41-point crushing of Kentucky. The struggles from earlier in the season now seem to be fading.

“Most programs can’t get back from that,” Vanderbilt guard Alex Gordon said. “We’ve put together a winning streak and we want to protect this streak. Get better and win each game.”

The Commodores must wait a week to take a shot at extending their winning streak. They have no mid-week game this week and return to action at home Saturday against struggling Georgia.

More time will be devoted to practice.

“I don’t know that any coach in the league wouldn’t tell you that they enjoy that Tuesday night or Wednesday night when all the rest of them are beating up on each other and you get to sit and watch,” Stallings said. “I like that a lot better than being the ones taking the abuse.

“The players would rather have a game on Wednesday, I can assure you of that. They look at this week of practice like purgatory.”

Joking aside, Stallings is seeing signs of improvement in his squad.

Combined, Kentucky and Florida made only two of 25 3-pointers in last week’s games against Vanderbilt. The Wildcats scored only 11 points and made three baskets in the first half. In the past four games, VU opponents have made only 16 of 67 from long range.

In addition, VU’s ball security has improved.

“I think we’re playing better,” Stallings said. “I think our defense has certainly gotten better. That’s pleasing. We’re taking care of the ball. I think those are the two places where you start.”

GOLD NUGGETS: The current Vanderbilt team is the first to reach the 22-win mark in a season by Feb. 16. …Saturday’s win was the 1,400th in Vanderbilt history, making it one of 48 schools nationally to achieve that mark. ...VU is 16-0 at Memorial Gym this season and has won 29 of its past 30 games at home. ...Foster now has 1,812 career points, 70 away from overtaking former Commodore Matt Freije for the No. 1 spot in the Vanderbilt record books. ...Ogilvy now has 448 points this season, the second-most ever by a Vanderbilt freshman.

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By: BHait on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Hey Vanderbilt fans-Brett Hait here. If you haven't checked out our sports blog, NashvilleBallerz, head over for some Commodore basketball talk.I started a thread there about Vanderbilt's NCAA Tournament hopes. Weigh in with your opinion and let's get some discussion going.