It's only February, but contributor Anything But Gatorade may have already locked up this year's "most accurate prediction" award at AoG.
Vanderbilt dialed in the terror mode that gave them a second half lead against Kentucky in a 31-7 sprint through the end of the first half, essentially sealing a Commodore win with 20 minutes left in the game. Jeffery Taylor spurred Vandy's hot start and John Jenkins kept that momentum going in the second half of an impressive 102-76 win Thursday night. The point total was the most Vandy has scored on the road against a SEC opponent since 1968.
The Commodores showed what they're capable of when their outside shooting fires on all cylinders. Players not named Brad Tinsley combined to go 10-10 from three-point range in the first half. Jenkins was perfect from the field and scored a mind blowing 26 points on just five official shots. Taylor nearly outscored the entire Ole Miss team in the first half entirely on his own.
The win was a statement pick-me-up for fans who had watched this team drop three of their last four games. The Rebels had lost just once at the Tad Pad this season, and their fans were out in force for a potential resume-building win. Instead, Vanderbilt had patrons heading for the exits at halftime. The blowout win was enough to jump the 'Dores up eight spots in the Pomeroy rankings, from 30th all the way to 22nd.
Vandy can't afford to get complacent based on this win, however. The Commodores hold just a one game edge over the fourth place teams in the conference, and they're dangerously close to the cut line for a SEC Tournament bye. They're also one game behind Florida in the race for 2nd in the SEC. With five games left in the regular season, they're battling for postseason positioning in both the NCAA and league tournaments. Kevin Stallings has struggled with both in recent years, and any advantage the 'Dores can squeeze out will be an important one.
This team has just four wins over RPI top 50 teams. With matchups against Kentucky and Florida looming, they'll have a chance to add two more. Despite the lack of lustre, showdowns with Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee will be just as important. Vandy can't afford to stumble with eight losses already in the books. Fortunately, last night's performance suggests that this team could be regaining their stride.
Two more things we learned from Vandy/Ole Miss are after the jump.
Shelby Moats put some highlights together...but why is he playing, again? Moats, a true freshman out of Minnesota, put together a solid six minutes of play for the Commodores, marking his fourth appearance in a SEC game this season. The forward put up back-to-back blocks to show off a nice defensive touch. Unfortunately for Vanderbilt fans, that's about all we've seen of him this season.
Moats was originally planned to redshirt, but injuries to Festus Ezeli and Steve Tchiengang pressed him into spot action early. Instead of learning the ropes and boosting a depleted 2012-2013 team with four years of eligibility left, Vanderbilt has pressed him into just 57 minutes of game time this season. He's buried in the rotation behind the aforementioned big men, and for good reason - he's a raw talent.
The freshman has displayed some nice skills on the court this season, but he has yet to make a significant impact in a close game. It's safe to say that burning his redshirt was a mistake at this point. With a 2012 recruiting class that's short on big men, Vanderbilt will need Moats to stick around for as long as possible. Unfortunately, the team may have traded in a year where he would likely be a rotation player or better for 57 minutes of play in blowout wins.
The Jenkins and Taylor Show: Here's how these two stack up against their conference compatriots this season.
- #1 and #2 in the SEC in scoring (Jenkins 19.8 ppg, Taylor 18.0 ppg)
- #1 and #4 in the SEC in 3pt percentage (Taylor 49.5%, Jenkins 44.9%)
- #8 and #16 in the SEC in shooting percentage (Taylor 54%, Jenkins 48.5%)
- #8 in the SEC in steals (Taylor 1.48 per game)
Maybe it's just me, but I think we're looking at the stats of the First Team All-SEC wings.