This was, by far, our best win of the season. Maybe we are peaking at the right time, and this will be something we can build on going into the SEC tournament.
We played very good in the first half as we were able to build an 8 point lead by halftime. Hendrix was not 100%, but he still had a solid game and was complimented very nicely by Yamene and Jemison. One thing I liked about our play was our committment to getting the ball into the post. When they tried to front Hendrix, we actually ran plays designed to create passing lanes and get him in position to get the ball. It seems the 5 man substitution experiment has come to an end.
I was proud of the way we played defense for the most part in this game. Vandy is a difficult team to defend in the halfcourt with their motion offense and an explosive Foster. Alonzo Gee did an outstanding job on Foster. The way he was fighting through screens and contesting every shot was really fun to watch for someone who appreciates good defensive basketball. We played solid man to man defense most of the game, and we were fortunate that Vandy was not able to shoot as well from behind the arc as they usually do when we were in the zone.
We were able to get both Foster and #4 in foul trouble, but that proved to be a curse rather than a blessing. Stallings switched to a 2-3 zone to reduce the liklihood of those guys picking up their 4th foul, and our zone offense was horrible. I liked the fact that we put Hollinger in at point to counter the zone, in that it gave us a few perimeter shooters on the floor. Unfortunately, we were content to try to shoot them out of it, and nobody could make a shot. I was hoping we would put Torrance in to try to get some penetration, but we never got him in the game. As a result, we saw our halftime lead evaporate.
One thing I like about the way Vandy plays is that they waste no time getting the ball up the court after giving up a basket on the other end. They were able to burn us by taking the ball out of the net and running the court a couple of times.
Alabama showed a lot of poise in bouncing back after blowing the lead. For the most part, we put forth a lot of effort on defense and on the boards, although we did get outworked for a couple of loose balls that I thought we should have been able to get.
The last minute of regulation was frustrating, to say the least. We have a 3 point lead with less than a minute to go, and out of a timeout we decide to run 4 corners with Hollinger at point to run some clock. With the shotclock running down, Hollinger attempts to drive inside the arc and gets his shot blocked, resulting in a 2 on 1 fast break the other way. Riley, who is trailing the man with the ball, foolishly fouls on the layup and allows Vandy to tie the game on a 3 point play. No doubt, that was a boneheaded play by Riley, but the play call on the other end of the floor put us in that situation. I have no problem with running the clock down and going one on one, but typically if you are going to utilize that strategy, you need to get the ball to somebody who can at least create his own shot. Having the shortest player on the court drive in one on one when everyone else is cleared out in that situation is just inviting disaster. As if that wasn't bad enough, we then call another timeout and run essentially the same play, with Jemison forcing a last second shot. Vandy was left with only .8 seconds, and they threw the ball the length of the court where we only had Coleman defending underneath the goal. Yamene got sealed off, and Vandy had a great chance to score a game winning layup but fortunately they missed the shot.
In overtime, we finally started making some shots Riley had a fantastic conclusion to his career in Coleman Coliseum. After his bad foul allowed Vandy to tie the game, he took the game over and drilled several 3 point shots. It would have been very easy for him to get down on himself going into OT when Vandy had all the momentum. For all the hard time I have given him about his defense, we will certainly miss his ability to get on a hot streak and light up the scoreboard.
With this win, we are probably back on the bubble for the NIT or the new CBI tournament. I think 2 wins in the SEC tournament and we would definitely be in. With that in mind, I hope we either win the whole tournament or lose in the first round. I'd rather not prolong the agony of this season with meaningless NIT or CBI games, not to mention the possibility that we may have to face UAB.
Up next, the SEC tournament in Atlanta, where we will face a young Florida Gator team in the first round. The loss to Florida at home was one of the more aggravating losses of the season. The Gators have not been impressive lately, but you never know which Florida team will show up this year. Hopefully we'll play the bad Florida team. If we're able to beat Florida, we would face $tansbury's mi$$ $tate blowhards, er bulldgogs in the second round.