Don't let the final score fool you. This one was ugly. With apologies to John Jenkins, the Vanderbilt offense failed to show up for the first 35 minutes of the game. This is the type of performance that will not cut it against better opponents, but was just good enough to beat a team picked to finish near the bottom of the Big 12.
A lot of the credit for the near upset goes to Doc Sadler for confounding the Dores with his two-center lineup and sound defensive strategy. Taking a page from the Murray St. playbook, Sadler's team used the entire shot clock on virtually every possession. This had the desired effect of preventing the Commodores from developing any offensive rhythm, and the Huskers held a slim lead throughout most of the game. Unfortunately for Nebraska, waiting 35 seconds to put up a shot only works if you make your shots. The Huskers shot 29% from the field in the second half and thier last field goal of the game came with 7:49 to play.
Anyway, what happens in Puerto Rico, stays in Puerto Rico. As far as the NCAA Selection Committee knows, this was a double-digit win over a major conference team on a neutral court. Great job, Dores!
If you are not a member of the Selection Committee and interested in seeing which Dores stood out for the right and wrong reasons, keep reading...
John Jenkins was the difference between an ugly win and a much uglier loss. He put up 22 and showed that he is more than just a three-point specialist - making only one three-pointer all afternoon. Of course, that three-pointer tied the game at 46, before his next shot - a somewhat out of control jumper - gave the Dores a lead they would not relinquish. Steve Tchiengang also contributed a solid 25 minutes off the bench, and drilled a huge three-pointer to put the Huskers away with 2:24 to play. His biggest contributions came on the defensive end, where he swatted away four Nebraska shots and grabbed eight rebounds.
On the other end of the spectrum, Festus Ezeli struggled against Nebraska's centers. He picked up four fouls, while missing all four of his shot attempts. Meanwhile, 2010-11 Jeffrey Taylor looked a lot like 2009-10 Jeffrey Taylor. Yes, he put up 14 points and grabbed 4 rebounds, but 6 of his points came at the free throw line (on 12 attempts) while none of his rebounds came at the offensive end. It's only one game, but this performance did not exactly shout NBA lottery pick. He has way too much talent for a team like Nebraska to hold him to 3-of-7 shooting. I'd mention Andre Walker too, but I'm still not sure whether he even dressed for the game.