The best way to watch a Vandy game this year? Tune in about thirty minutes late. Saturday's Auburn game showcased another harrowing start for the Commodores, with the team trailing by as much as 16 at home in the first half. Without Jeffery Taylor on the court, the Tigers ran out to a big lead that had fans nervous as the second half started. Then, as has been their calling card, the 'Dores came back with a vengeance in the second frame, pulling away in a 82-74 win. This pattern has been repeated in three of the team's four SEC games this year:
- Auburn 20, Vandy 10 after 6 minutes, trailed 41-25 after 17 minutes and 43-32 at the half.
- Alabama 9, Vandy 0 after 3:00, trailed 35-28 at the half.
- Florida 9, Vandy 2 after 3:30, trailed 44-42 at the half.
Only the South Carolina game bucks this trend, where the Commodores essentially led wire-to-wire in the most comfortable victory of the SEC schedule so far. The team also overcame sluggish starts against Arizona (down 41-34 with 30 seconds left in the first half) and Depaul (down 28-24 with 15 seconds left in the first half). There have been various reasons for these slow starts ranging from foul trouble, to defensive lapses, to cold shooting and missed opportunities. It seems that every game presents a unique opportunity for the 'Dores to dig themselves a hole to climb out of later in the game. Fortunately, their strength has shown through in the second half; Vanderbilt stands at 8-2-1 when it comes to winning the second half in meaningful games, losing the period only to Western Kentucky and Illinois (both overall losses).
While this shows that the team can handle adversity, two of their three losses to date have come when they've dug these holes against solid competition (Cincinnati and Illinois). Spotting Auburn and Alabama a ten point lead is one thing, but having to come back from a double digit deficit against a ranked team is a recipe for disaster. Whatever Coach Stallings is telling these guys at halftime needs to be said pregame against Kentucky and Tennessee, or else Vandy will be facing a big time disadvantage in a hostile environment versus an elite team. And while Stallings is apparently earning a PhD in motivation with his halftime speeches this year, not even CKS will be able to rally this team from 20 points down in Rupp Arena.