Apparently, Vanderbilt’s players have grown weary of hearing how they aren’t tough enough after losing overtime games to Xavier and Louisville early in the season, not to mention a home game to Indiana State.
The Commodores may have put the toughness issue to rest, however, with their dominating 74-57 win over Marquette on the No. 16 Golden Eagles’ home floor.
This wasn’t one of those games that was close until the final minutes with the winning team breaking it open with a strong closing run.
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The Commodores jumped out to a 10-point lead in the first seven minutes and never let up. The difference reached 27 points in the first half, which ended with Vandy on top 44-22, and remained mostly in the 20s through the first part of the second half. It was never less than 16 points the rest of the way.
“Our goal coming into this game was to establish there was some toughness on this team,” coach Kevin Stallings said. “We’re a little bit maligned for not being tough. I think we’ve got a pretty tough team. I think they showed some toughness tonight.”
Now the goal is to take that attitude with them as they prepare for the start of SEC play. The Commodores, who improved to 9-4 with the win, had one more non-conference game, against Miami (Ohio) at home on Jan. 2, before opening league play at home against Auburn on Jan. 7.
“I like how my team is thinking right now,” Stallings said. “I like how they’re thinking.
“I like their attitude, and I like their determination, and I like the fact that they have sort of drawn a line in the sand and tried to do something about the things that have plagued us.”
Coach Kevin Stallings acknowledged that his Vandy team has had problems closing out opponents, not just in losses like the setbacks to Louisville, Xavier, and Indiana State this season, but even in wins going back to last year.
He called it an “enigma for us.”
But there may have been some lessons learned in those defeats, especially the overtime affairs to Xavier and Louisville. He liked his players’ attitude when they came out of an eight-day break over Christmas to get ready for Marquette.
“I don’t know if losing ever helps,” he said. “I think it made us more determined maybe. But I just thought we had a great disposition going into the game.”
Vandy held Marquette to just 32.1 percent shooting for the game and to just 21.2 percent in the first half. The Commodores, meanwhile, shot 46.9 percent for the game and were 10-of-22 (45.4 percent) from three-point range.
Senior G/F Jeffery Taylor continued his solid play. He scored a game-high 19 points against Marquette, his 11th consecutive game in double digits.
In his last five games at that point, Taylor was averaging 23.0 points and shooting 62.6 percent (46-of-74) from the floor.
BY THE NUMBERS: 2-1 — With the win at Marquette, Vandy has won two of three true road games this season. The Commodores also won at Davidson but lost at Louisville.
QUOTE TO NOTE
“I just tried to not look at the scoreboard there in the first half for a while because I was sure that I was in a mirage or something and I was just seeing things.” — Coach Kevin Stallings, after his Commodores held double-digit leads throughout their win over No. 16 Marquette.