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Vanderbilt 69, Alabama-Huntsville 53 - Instant Reaction

Having had the great pleasure of attending the game tonight, I thought I'd throw out some gut-reaction observations I had:

  • As you may or may not have heard, Darshawn McClellan has asked to redshirt this season. Coach Stallings has made no secret of his great admiration of D-Mac in the past, and based solely on that, this isn't as surprising as it is unexpected. Thankfully, we still have two full seasons of his wily, grizzled, senior leadership from him before his eligibility is exhausted. I can only hope his attitude is as contagious to the team as it is selfless and ever-positive.
  • Fret not - Jeffery Taylor is still nursing a sprained ankle back to health. Based on his participation in the pregame warm ups (and the ritualistic sacrificing of roundballs to the basketball gods at their rim-like altar), I initially reported that JT did not appear to be suffering any ill effects despite the rumblings I heard earlier in the day that he might not play. He played, but he looked a little hesitant in being aggressive with the ball on offense and just a step slower than normal on defense. Mind you, Jeff Taylor is still beast enough to make plays despite not being 100%. Given the ankle context, don't look too critically on Jeff's impact in this game.
  • Festus Ezeli's slam (one of a few, though anyone who was there knows EXACTLY which one I'm talking about) was worth the price of admission alone. The sound we heard at impact was the UAH Chargers collectively shitting their pants. Can't wait for the inevitable youtubing of this moment.
  • Festus was the radio player of the game. 12 points, 7 rebounds, 1 block and only 1 foul. I remember thinking that Festus was doing a good job of being aggressive defensively without being out of control. More of that would obviously bode well for the 'Dores.
  • As I had heard, it looks like the switch has flipped for Lance Goulbourne. His first two seasons were unfortunately impacted by setbacks mostly related to health (mono, stress fractures). Lance played with a passion and energy I hadn't really seen from him but for flashes randomly throughout his first two years. We will see if this is truly the case, or if his play tonight was simply another one of those random flashes.
  • As expected, Stallings really didn't utilize what you should think of as a normal rotation.
  • Brad Tinsley and John Jenkins didn't have a great night from the field, and neither, really, did the rest of the team. John still scored 19. He took 16 shots, but it felt more like 8. I want it to feel like he's taking a lot of shots.
  • Kyle Fuller is quick. He's also a freshman point guard. Thankfully he has a reputation for playing a tough-nosed, above average defense for a freshman and he's going to generate some steals to make up for some of his turnovers.
  • All the freshmen looked understandably tentative in their first game at Memorial. the more minutes they get, especially early, the sooner they settle in and we really get to the business of seeing what kind of impact they can have on the program.
  • Rod Odom's a smooth cat. Nicely drained 3 ball for his only points of the game, and a nice, emphatic block to draw some oohs from the crowd. Looking forward to him getting comfortable.
  • I saw two great things from Josh Henderson tonight: the swish on the baby hook that drew a nice little reaction from the crowd, and a simple play where he crossed the lane, gathered a crisp pass from the wing with his back to the basket, and then immediately flipped it to the top of the key above the 3 point line to Tinsley who had just made a cut from the opposite wing. I doubt this was a designed play (given that this was only the first exhibition game), but it really served to underscore a few of the noted strengths of Henderson's game - good vision, soft hands, and great passing. I'm not sure if the staff will be recommending he redshirt. If so (and he agrees), the next exhibition game will be his last action of the season.
  • Based on his age (he skipped his senior year of high school to enroll early at Vanderbilt), position on the totem pole at forward, and the score of the game, we did not get to see but a few minutes from James Siakam tonight. I would imagine this means the staff will probably recommend that he redshirt this season. As with Josh, James agreeing to redshirt would mean that the next exhibition game will be his final game action for the season.
  • Alabama-Huntsville is an extremely solid D-II team. As one of the articles in the 11.03.10 links mentioned, they run the princeton-variant that Stallings rode to the Sweet 16 in 2004. This is important to note because it is notoriously low-paced (fewer possessions per game) and often requires a team to play defense for a full 30 seconds each possession. As far as the balance of what a team can learn from a game like this versus how enjoyable the game will be as an exhibition for fans, this tilts heavily to the former. Also, Stallings isn't one to schedule a team that is really only going to stroke the egos of the fans. MOV really isn't relevant, particularly when the scores don't count anyway.
  • If you wanted to gauge how the team did, Stallings noted in his postgame interview that he got from the team about exactly what he thought he would - namely great effort but subpar execution. If you were expected much more than that, you were probably disappointed. We need to give it a few more games before we start to really learn what kind of team we've got on our hands next season.

Coach Stallings postgame press conference

John Jenkins and Festus Ezeli postgame interviews