It wasn't pretty, it wasn't a blowout, and it sure as hell wasn't consistent - but it was a win. Vanderbilt picked up a quality victory over a talented Marquette squad Wednesday night behind an Andre Walker layup with just 4.1 seconds left. The Golden Eagles had a chance to win it as Darius Johnson-Odom sprinted down the court for a final shot, but the junior tripped while driving into the paint, ending the game without a final shot.
The Commodores alternated between dominance and sheepish play, using a series of runs to open up big leads on Marquette and then letting them claw back into the game. Vanderbilt opened up five different leads of eight points or more but still trailed with under a minute to play in the game. The 'Dores trailed by one with just 19 seconds left, but patient playcalling allowed the team to regain the lead. Brad Tinsley drew double coverage and found Walker in the paint for a layup instead of forcing the shot, and the result was the team's first win in a close game this season.
Marquette led 37-34 at the half and by as many as seven in the second half. However, Vandy's transition to zone coverage and some inspired play by Steve Tchiengang helped get the team back in the driver's seat. Tchiengang was just one of many major contributors for the team; Tchiengang, Tinsley, Taylor, John Jenkins, and Festus Ezeli all scored in double figures for the Commodores. Taylor's night was especially impressive; 19 points, eight rebounds, and two blocks. Jenkins was nearly as bad as Taylor was good - he finished with a 2-15 shooting night from three-point range, a mark that Antoine Walker said was "excessive."
Despite Jenkins's off night and the loss of suspended Lance Goulbourne, the Commodores came away with the win thanks to solid play and intuitive coaching. Though the team's defense faltered in key points, Vandy's offense bailed them out with patient play and key contributions from role players. Steve Tchiengang's 10 point, nine board performance gave this team the contingency plan they needed in the face of Festus Ezeli's foul trouble - and gave Vanderbilt the post combination they'll need when SEC play rolls around.
This team wasn't firing on all cylinders by any means, but they proved they can win ugly and - more importantly - that they can win a close game.