The bread-and-butter for Vanderbilt this season has been creating opportunities at the free throw line. Entering the game last night, Vanderbilt was fifth in the country in free throw rate, which is a measure of free throw attempts over field goal attempts. The nice thing about getting opportunities at the free throw line is that even when a team isn't knocking down open field goals, they are putting points on the board and putting pressure on the other team to keep up by making shots. One hallmark of great tournament teams is that they make more free throws than their opponent attempts. Once you get to the line, you have to make the most of the opportunity. Thankfully, Vanderbilt is an excellent free throw shooting team. An interesting stat they showed during the game broadcast last night on ESPN was that A.J. Ogilvy and Jeffery Taylor combined have more free throw attempts than Alabama and LSU have as entire teams. A.J., in particular, is 4th in the country in fouls drawn per 40 minutes (8.3 fouls per 40 minutes).
Last night, Vanderbilt attempted 8 free throws, which is around 21 less than they attempt per game (29.4 FTA during SEC play). This was the second lowest total in a game this season (Vandy only attempted 3 against Chaminade in the Maui Invitational). Their previous SEC low was 19 against Georgia in Athens. Free throw rate, the Commodore bread-and-butter, failed them last night.
And they still won.
Another hallmark of great teams is that when things aren't going well, when things you normally rely on aren't working, they find ways to win. Sometimes Vandy wins with offensive precision reminiscent of Swiss watch movement. Other times they fallback on their extreme mental and physical toughness to grind and gut out victories in situations where even better-than-average teams would wilt or succumb. Not this team. Not this year.
John Jenkins rose to the occasion tonight, showing us a glimpse of The Future ahead. A.J. brought that nasty Aussie-toughness that has been so especially strong on the road, where he feeds off the hate of lesser mortals. I could have sworn I saw the shadow of the Rally 'Stache on that late putback he muscled in over Macklin and Werner. Steve Tchiengang brought his patented swagga-fied brutality. Toughness is the name of the game from here on out.
|Points Per Possession||1.05||0.99|
Plus/Minus Adjusted Per 40 Minutes
Despite early foul trouble, Jeff Taylor wins the plus/minus outright for the game. This is an example of why most only look to season-long plus/minus as a statistical indicator. Jeff benefited from the early run the Commodores made last night, giving himself a nice cushion. Foul trouble put him on the bench for the Gator comeback. (Of course, one could question whether his not being on the court helped make it easier for Florida to make their run...)
John played a great game last night and it shows up in the plus/minus, where he finished second in both the straight up and minutes adjusted versions.
Something that should not be overlooked is the decision to hold Lance Goulbourne out of all action this week. As has been reported, Lance has the makings of a stress fracture in his foot. Since the Commodores are unanimously considered to be an NCAA tournament lock at this point, giving LG an opportunity to heal is extremely important to our postseason. Not having the team's best out of position rebounder might have had something to do with Florida's ability to control the glass for long stretches while Jeff Taylor was on the bench with foul trouble. Hopefully LG's foot responds well to the treatment he's no doubt receiving from the trainers and the extra rest Stallings has the luxury of affording him at this juncture in the season.
Commodores limit Gators' scoring to free throws for nearly all of the final 10 minutes
Let's move on to Florida, and there were no Chandler Parsons heroics last night for the Gators, who fell at home to Vanderbilt. Is it going to be three straight NIT appearancse for Billy Donovan's team? John Jenkins introduced himself to anyone just getting into the college hoops groove by going for 18 points and doing to UF what Diebler did to Illinois. The last time the Commodores won two games in the regular season over the Gators was 1997. Vanderbilt's been a staple in the rankings this year because they can play eight guys in double-digit minutes and make them all contribute. Florida was the opposite: Vernon Macklin was the only one who did anything.