That's the way you end things before Christmas break. Finally the team shot the ball to preseason expectations. Jermaine Beal played outstanding defense on James Florence, holding the 8th leading scorer in the country to just 10 points, 13 below his average. Brad Tinsley played within himself and it paid off. He led the team in plus/minus, setting a season high mark (see below). John Jenkins is getting more and more comfortable in the offense. It's only a matter of time for him until he's finally to the point where he can use the Commodore offense to his advantage (and my delight). Jeffery Taylor (and others including Lance Goulbourne) did a fantastic job on E.J. Kusnyer, holding one of the top 3 point shooters in the country to 0 points on 0-8 shooting (0-6 from 3).
Mercer apparently played more zone than they had all season (to limit our interior game). Unfortunately for them, they did not win the first ten Vandy opponent lottery when we shot the ball from the perimeter worse than Darius Coulibaly.
I think we should all focus on the positives at this point. Things appear to be heading in the right direction. There's still three more games before we open the SEC slate with Florida at home. I hope the players enjoy their short time off to travel home and come back with the same attitudes they've had over the last week.
Plus/Minus (By Game)
Plus/Minus Adjusted Per 40 Minutes (By Game)
Freshman John Jenkins scored a career-high 17 points and Vanderbilt played lock-down defense on one of the nation's top scoring guards to pummel Mercer 99-59 at Memorial Gym on Monday. "I feel a whole lot more comfortable, even from last game," Jenkins said. "I think it's just confidence. I get that going and I feel a whole lot better."
It was one of the team's best all-around efforts of the season and a good note heading into an eight-day layoff for Christmas break. "Our most complete game," Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings said. "As a staff, we were desperately hoping for a performance like that."
Stallings maintained a staunch belief right from the start of the season that his was a team that could shoot well from the perimeter. Yet over the course of the first 10 games, Vanderbilt made just 32.8 percent of its 3-point attempts. Its single-game high (nine) required 26 attempts against Division II Chaminade back on Nov. 24. This time, though, Jermaine Beal hit the first attempt 2:16 into the contest. It not only gave the Commodores a 5-2 lead (they led the rest of the way) it set the tone that others eventually followed.
"Well, that was a little better. It's amazing how things go when you shot the ball well, you make some shots," Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings said after the game. "It kind of gets contagious. Guys start feeding off it, lot of balls start going in. I was really pleased in how we played on the defensive end. Florence is a terrific player and I thought Beal was incredibly good on him. The fact that we were able to get some charges, was really valuable for us. They're a better team than that, it just kind of got snowballing on them and I've been on the other end of that, it's not any fun.
"I was pretty proud of our team, the way we worked. I thought we tried to guard for the entire 40 minutes and we were able to take their three primary scorers and limit them below their averages which is good. We're really pleased with how tonight went, it's pretty good to go into the break with a lot better feeling than we had on Saturday, when we didn't finish. We finished today, which was important."
Jenkins, who scored a career high 17-points and has scored in double figures in three of the last four games, said that he is getting more comfortable with the system, "I feel a lot more comfortable, especially with Beal playing like he did tonight. It’s good to play off each other as a team because it keeps the momentum going." Stallings attributed Jenkin's success to his becoming more familiar with the offense, "He’s gotten better and started to figure out our offense and how to make it work for him."