Commodores hope to improve to 9-0 vs. Appy State

Vanderbilt (8-0) plays its second game in three nights Monday when the Appalachian State Mountaineers (5-6) visit Memorial Gym. Coach Houston Fancher's team, which already owns victories over LaSalle, George Washington and SMU, tips off with the Commodores at 7 p.m. CT (no TV, 650 WSM-AM). VeeMan takes a close look at the Mountaineer lineup and makes a prediction.

As expected, the Wofford Terriers did not pose a serious threat to Vanderbilt's winning streak on Saturday. The final score of 90-59 was an accurate reflection of just how completely the Commodores dominated the game, as Kevin Stallings' team pulled away after the first few minutes and stretched its lead steadily. Vanderbilt continues to play consistently, and there was little evidence of the post-examination letdown so often seen in the past.

Matt Freije led the way with 24 points and David Przybyszewski, who replaced the ailing Julian Terrell in the starting lineup, added 16. Jason Holwerda scored ten points, and Scott Hundley had eight points and nine rebounds.

The Appalachian State Mountaineers are 5-6 in their first 11 games. They have played all but two of their games on the road, including three in the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands and two in the Red Auerbach Tournament in Washington, D.C. Their wins are over LaSalle (59-48 in the Paradise Jam), The Citadel (72-62), George Washington (80-77), Piedmont (92-36), and SMU (85-82). Their losses came to Monmouth and Boston College in the Virgin Islands, to George Washington and St. Francis (NY) in the Auerbach Tournament, 85-64 vs. Brendan Plavich and Charlotte, and to Tennessee Tech 86-78 last Saturday.

The Mountaineers have no player over 6-8 and are have not been especially effective on the boards. Also they have not hit a high percentage of their shots from the field and the free-throw line, but they do have some experience (mostly juniors) and plenty of quickness and spirit.

The leading scorer is 6-1 junior guard Noah Brown, who scores 13.8 ppg and is second in assists (2.4 per game). Brown missed the entire 2002-03 season because of injuries sustained in an automobile accident that required a rebuilding of his left hand. Coach Houston Fancher (a former Assistant Coach at Vanderbilt) calls Brown a "warrior." He hits only 37.9% of his shots from the field and just 28% of his three-pointers, but has made more threes than any other player on the team.

The other guards who have played a lot are 5-8 freshman D.J. Thompson (6.6 ppg), 6-4 senior Matt Jones (6.2 ppg), and 5-11 junior Corwin Davis (5.7 ppg). Thompson and Davis share the point and provide a lot of quickness. Jones is rated the best defender on the team and Thompson is making 53% of his threes. Others who may play are a pair of 6-2 freshmen, Demetrius Scott and Nathan Cranford, and 6-2 sophomore P.J. Bullock.

The front line is severely under-sized. The leading rebounder (5.3 per game) and second-leading scorer (10.8 ppg) is 6-5 junior Chris McFarland. 6-4 sophomore Derek Thomas, who scored 22 points and snared 8 rebounds against SMU, averages 9.0 points and 5 rebounds per game. He is a transfer from Okaloosa-Walton JC, and noted for his "explosiveness." 6-6 senior Jonathan Mitchell is a hustler and excellent jumper who scores 6.1 ppg and grabs 5 rebounds.

Also likely to see considerable action as backups up front are 6-4 senior Ahmad Smith (5.1 ppg), and juniors Clint Deas (6-8, 2.2 ppg) and Herbert Jones (6-7, 3.6 ppg, right), both junior college transfers. Smith, who saw limited action last year, has played more than had been expected.

Appalachian State played SMU last Thursday and Tennessee Tech on Saturday, so this will be the team's third road game in five days. Combining this factor with the lack of size, the Mountaineers are likely to have rough going in Nashville. Yet their scrappiness has brought them two very good wins (over George Washington and SMU), so they are not to be entirely overlooked.

This game should be the ninth consecutive victory for Vanderbilt. Assuming the Commodores continue their habit of not overlooking underdog opponents, they should utilize their big size and depth advantages and better outside shooting to win by 12-25 points.

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