So this is what it looks like when Vanderbilt puts it all together.
The Commodores got their most complete performance of the season in a game where they needed it most, cruising to a 74-57 victory over 13th ranked Marquette Thursday night. Vandy played efficient offense and stopped the Golden Eagles' vaunted scoring attack to take home their biggest win of the season. Lance Goulbourne led the team with one of his best games under Kevin Stallings, scoring 13 points and adding 16 rebounds, three blocks, and three steals.
Marquette led the game 2-0 in the first minute after a Davante Gardner layup, but couldn't even keep things close after that. Vanderbilt sprinted out to an early lead behind sharp long-range shooting and strong play around the rim. At their best, the Commodores led 35-8 in the opening frame.
Vandy held onto this lead behind a balanced attack and strong efforts across the court. Jeffery Taylor continued his torrid streak of play with 19 points and a pair of breakaway dunks that rattled the home crowd. He showcased his ability to score and defend across the floor and put together a good showing that will play well on his NBA Draft resume. Festus Ezeli, hampered by knee injuries, still made an impact in limited time. He pulled down seven rebounds in 17 minutes and his alley-oop dunk from John Jenkins midway through the first half put the game out of reach before halftime.
Vanderbilt's backcourt did a superb job of limiting Marquette's scorers. Darius Johnson-Odom and Vander Blue were limited to just 6-22 from the field and the Golden Eagles shot just 33.2 percent on the night. Point guards Brad Tinsley and Kedren Johnson also helped set up a Commodore offense that was especially sharp in moving without the ball and finding easy baskets. The pair combined for 12 assists in the game.
The win gives Vandy a statement victory for their out-of-conference schedule. The team had previously been denied in come-from-ahead losses to Xavier and Louisville. They'll hope to roll this confidence and balance into league play, where the rest of the SEC awaits them. At 9-4, the Commodores will have to put together a strong performance to earn a respectable seed in the NCAA Tournament.
However, this win should be the building block upon which the foundation of hope rests for Vanderbilt fans. The Commodores got hot out of the gate and never let up, playing tenacious defense and extending their lead rather than watching it fade away. This team showed what they're capable of when they're firing on all cylinders - and why pundits argued that they could be a Final Four team before this season started. The victory answered many of the questions that lingering losses had left behind and inspired renewed hope in a season that had the chance to spiral out of control.
Tonight's performance was by far the most complete game this team has played this season. It was a testament to the talent that these players possess. Unfortunately, if Kevin Stallings and his squad can't capitalize on it and show that they can pull this off consistently, it may turn out to be the most frustrating win in Commodore history.