The Vanderbilt Commodores pulled themselves out of another early hole, but could not complete the comeback against Kansas State on Sunday.
Here are some thoughts about the Commodores’ latest defeat.
Vanderbilt showed that they had guts, and that is something to build on. In his postgame press conference, Kansas State coach Bruce Weber mentioned that in the first half, he believed that his Wildcats had broken the spirit of the Vanderbilt Commodores after they took a 16-point lead. As the game went on, it became clear that this was not the case. It would have been easy for the Commodores to roll over and sleepwalk through yet another loss to a good opponent, but players like Jeff Roberson and Saben Lee simply would not let that happen.
The Commodores finished the half with a mini run and followed it with a spirited second-half effort, eventually coming back to tie the game on a Matthew Fisher-Davis triple with only a few minutes remaining. This effort showed that even in a loss, the Commodores have a lot to be proud of.
They crashed the offensive glass, got to the line (Lee especially, getting there for 17 foul shots), and were able to get the crowd at Memorial Gymnasium back in the game. There is a lot of heart on this team, and if they can replicate their second half effort during SEC play, there is no reason this team can’t make a run at the NCAA tournament.
Shoot Your Shot
Kansas State had perhaps their best shooting night of the season at Memorial, shooting 29-50 from the field and 22-24 from the line to put the Commodores away. The free throws were particularly impressive, as a number of players who had struggled from the line, such as freshman Levi Stockard III, stepped up and made big shots from the stripe down the stripe.
On the other end, Vanderbilt left ten points at the line, a margin that would end up sealing the game for the Wildcats. Kansas State was able to get inside the three-point line and make big shot after big shot from the midrange, and there were stretches where it seemed that every time Vanderbilt was making a run, they would get a quick jumper to quiet the crowd.
Vanderbilt struggled to shoot much as it has in many of the games it has played this year, going on scoreless stretches of five and three minutes in the first half before righting the ship a little in the second half. Roberson again led the Commodores in scoring much as he has all season, shooting a strong 75% from the field for 22 points to go along with 10 rebounds. For Vanderbilt to win big games, they must find a way to stay close with teams when their shot isn’t falling and not fall into holes like they did in the first half tonight.
Much as he has been all season, Matthew Fisher-Davis was a non-factor in this one, shooting just 1-6 from the field for three points. For someone who was expected to be the leader of this team, Fisher-Davis simply needs to be better. He has failed to start in the past two games, and it seems that Bryce Drew is open to trying whatever necessary to get his scorer back on track.
For Vanderbilt to have any hope in SEC play moving forward, they will need Fisher-Davis to revert back to his play from last year, when he made tough shot after tough shot for the Commodores. The talent and will is there, and if the shot for Fisher-Davis starts to drop, it gives Vanderbilt a dimension that it hasn’t shown many teams so far this season.