First things first. If you spent your Thursday afternoon Tweeting vile shit at Matthew Fisher-Davis, get the fuck out.
Yes, Vanderbilt lost a winnable NCAA Tournament game against Northwestern. Yes, the Wildcats’ winning points came as a result of one of the Big Dance’s most memorable brain farts. Yes, MFD was the target of blame after the Commodores went down in a 68-66 nailbiter that served as the most exciting game of the tournament so far.
But without Fisher-Davis’s giant marbles, that game ends in a 12 point Wildcat victory. The sharpshooting junior put the team on his back in the second half, delivering the swagger Vandy desperately needed after falling into a 15 point hole with 13:41 to play. His back-to-back threes trimmed a double-digit deficit to three. One NU run later, his five straight points ensured his team wouldn’t go down without a fight.
In the game’s final three minutes, FIsher-Davis made four of five free throws, ended an NU possession with a clutch block, and pulled down the defensive rebound that allowed Jeff Roberson to make a go-ahead layup with 39 seconds to play.
Then, he made the foul that will unfairly define his college career. Fisher-Davis, misunderstanding coach Bryce Drew’s command to mark Bryant McIntosh, fouled him instead.
“It was a collective effort in coming back, and it was my dumb mistake why we lost," Fisher-Davis told ESPN.
"I didn't know the score, to be honest,. I saw Coach Drew point at my man, he was just telling me my matchup, and I got it confused with the foul. That was it."
A stupid foul, sure. But it wasn’t a fatal blow. Vanderbilt still had the ball, down by one point, with an opportunity to make the last shot of the game. Riley LaChance’s objective was clear; drive if you can, settle for an open three if you can’t. Taking a long three would increase the ‘Dores odds of pulling down an offensive board and resetting for a quick shot.
LaChance took a similar shot to the one he’d made minutes before to give Vandy the lead. It caromed hard off the back rim. Bodies collided as the ball scattered out of bounds. The refs got the call right; Northwestern ball.
And that was it.
Fisher-Davis’s postgame quote grasped the gravity of his situation, but it wasn’t accurate. His dumb mistake — and it was very, very dumb — wasn’t the reason why Vanderbilt lost.
Vandy lost because Luke Kornet was the only player who met expectations in the first half — and in the second half, Northwestern found a way to confound him. Vandy lost because a defensive unit that improved by leaps and bounds in February couldn’t find a way to stop Northwestern from shooting nearly 50 percent from the field. Vandy lost because, without a timeout in the final seven minutes, there was little communication between players and coach when it was needed the most.
No one person is to blame for yesterday’s loss. The Commodores started slow, failed to take advantage of their advantages in the paint, and committed unforced turnovers to allow a hungry Northwestern team all the opportunities it needed to pull out a program-defining win.
And yet, it’s Fisher-Davis getting the headlines and that hate that accompanies it. In another 12 hours his gaffe will largely be forgotten, save for the bitter remainder of Vandy fans that hold onto grief so hard their voices still haven’t recovered from screaming about Jeff Green’s travel. There’s only one thing he can do with that hate now; use it as fuel. It will the Matthew Fisher-Davis Revenge Tour of 2017-18.
We’ll all be lining up to buy tickets once he does.