Commodores down Alcorn State 79-54 in Moyer’s debut

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Commodores down Alcorn State 79-54 in Moyer’s debut

Photo by Mattigan Kelly

Photo by Mattigan Kelly

Photo by Mattigan Kelly

Photo by Mattigan Kelly

Will Wang

The Vanderbilt Commodores took care of business Friday night, overwhelming the Alcorn State Braves 79-54 with a dominant physical and athletic effort.

The Commodores’ first offensive play suggested good things to come, with Darius Garland running a high pick-and-roll with Matt Ryan leading to a soft floater by Garland, but sloppy and rushed play on offense kept them from growing their lead by more than eight points in the first half.

Simisola Shittu took advantage of multiple opportunities to demonstrate his physical prowess and fluidity to the tune of 20 points and three blocks. Joe Toye contributed 14 points behind multiple acrobatic layups, and Ryan hit four three-pointers on seven attempts.

Matthew Moyer played his first game as a Commodore after transferring from Syracuse and earning immediate eligibility on Thursday, scoring his first points on a high-arcing three-pointer at the top of the key and flashing energy and size that could be valuable for the team.

Matthew Moyer plays his first game for the Vanderbilt Commodores. Photo by Mattigan Kelly.

Coach Bryce Drew spoke about Moyer’s debut.

“Very tough for him just getting the news yesterday,” Drew said. “It was a very emotional day. With him getting eight rebounds in 15 minutes is pretty impressive. He rebounded well last year when he played so we expect him to be able to do that for us.”

In the first half, Vanderbilt failed to get into a solid offensive rhythm, with Alcorn State’s soft press playing a part in slowing Vanderbilt’s offense from getting into its sets. When Vanderbilt looked to push the ball in transition, their sloppiness in passing and loose handle limited their effectiveness. Alcorn State also switched between playing man and zone defense to keep the Commodores off balance.

Alcorn State effectively found open three-pointers in the ebb and flow of their offense and openings in transition. While their half-court offense struggled to generate high-efficiency looks, often stymied on their first action, the Braves took advantage of the Commodores’ poor defensive rebounding discipline to score six second-chance points in the first half.

Darius Garland drives on Friday night against Alcorn State. Photo by Mattigan Kelly.

The poor effort on the boards seemed due both to a lack of effectiveness boxing out and too many block-chasing attempts by the Commodores. On the positive side, Shittu flashed effectiveness protecting the rim with three blocks.

Shittu looked like the best player by far in the first half. While responsible for some of the defensive rebounding troubles, he also acted as a deterrent in the paint, moved fluidly in transition for some nice finishes, and showcased strong inside-out passing awareness.

When asked whether he feels 100 percent in recovering from his ACL injury, Shittu was hesitant but optimistic.

“I wouldn’t say 100 [percent], but with all the rehab and all the coaching out here it’s been pretty easy to adjust to the tempo in college,” he said.

Photo by Mattigan Kelly

The Commodore offense picked up in the latter part of the first half once they started playing through Garland’s penetration off pick-and-rolls. While Garland was ineffective getting into the paint and converting, only putting up 2 field goal attempts and 3 points in the first half, his drives opened up opportunities for teammates.

The box score read 0 assists for him in the first half, but his passes out to teammates on the perimeter set them up to attack defenders off the catch and get downhill towards the rim.

The most exciting plays of the first half for the home crowd came during a sequence of two minutes when Ryan hit two threes and Shittu made a layup and collected a block, giving Vanderbilt a 34-25 lead with 3:04 left in the first half.

Photo by Mattigan Kelly

Inconsistent offense by Vanderbilt and tough shotmaking by Alcorn State kept the score to just 37-29 in favor of Vanderbilt entering the break.

The Commodores picked up their offensive rhythm behind Garland controlling the tempo and looking for Shittu in the paint. Hot shooting and smart passing by Ryan keyed the offense to light up the scoreboard, stretching the lead to 14 points with 11:28 left in the second half.

Team defensive effort pressured Alcorn State into speeding up and making mistakes, as the Braves looked outmatched and unable to take back control. Shittu demonstrated his ability to face-up and finish at the rim with spectacular body control.

Vanderbilt rode a 16-6 run from 13:15 to 7:26 in the second half to take a 66-47 lead. By the end of the run, Alcorn State looked worn out, unable to even get back on defense as the Commodores converted multiple uncontested fastbreak opportunities to the delight of the crowd.

The final minutes of the game featured waves of Commodores running down the court in transition and leaping at the basket, with the visual display overwhelmingly Vanderbilt gold jerseys. Moyer provided the final exclamation point with a dunk in the final minute.

Toye, the lone senior on the team, is exciting about the future to come for this team.

“Yeah it’s a lot of fun,” Toye said. “Everybody’s talented. I think it’s a more athletic team than we’ve had since I’ve been here.”

The Vanderbilt Commodores look to stay undefeated when they host the Liberty Flames at 7pm on Monday night, November 18th.

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