Your team is 10-0. Now the fun begins.
Lehigh, as expected, fell by the wayside at Memorial Gym Tuesday night, in an 85-59 dismantling that had about as much suspense as many of the games that preceded it. Matt Freije bounced back from his five-point effort against Appalachian State with a solid 15 (and a slightly twisted ankle in the first half that turned out to be fine) and Julian Terrell came through with 14 points and seven rebounds.
After that, it was New Year's Eve planning time for the 8,823 in attendance, interrupted only by freshman Dan Cage's brilliant over-the-head feed to Terrell for a dunk with 7:50 to play. Cage finished with 11 points.
Stallings summed up the effort thusly:
"We're capable of playing better, but all in all it was a good performance," he said.
Such is the life for Stallings and his crew, who have an average margin of victory of 21.2 points through 10 games. Indiana has come the closest to Vanderbilt this year, and that was a 73-60 score in which Vanderbilt never trailed in the second half.
Which begs the question: Will this team be ready for a close game?
Stallings' first team certainly knew how to win the close ones. Vanderbilt was 5-1 in games decided by three points or less in 1999-2000. Vanderbilt was 2-2 in those games last season.
"We work on (close game situations) every day," said Freije. "I'm comfortable with it. We've got some seniors and some guys that have played a lot of minutes. We've been there. When the time comes, we will be ready for it."
Stallings has no doubt where his team will look when the situations do arise.
"They will know where the bread is buttered when the game is on the line," he said. "If we can figure out a way to get the ball to No. 35, we've got a good chance to win."
"Vanderbilt is a terrific team and certainly deserving of a Top 25 ranking," said Lehigh coach Billy Taylor. "They share the ball well and have a star player in Freije. They are well-coached and very disciplined."
So a road game at TCU awaits, and then the SEC, where Vanderbilt carries an ugly 13-35 mark over the last three years. Then 10-0 start is nice, one short of the best in school history, but Freije knows the true test still lies ahead.
"The first half of the season is over and the most important part is right upon us," he said. "We have a big road game and then Auburn. It is good to play well in the first half of the season, but it is better how you finish. That will be what defines our season."
Vanderbilt finishes the non-conference portion of its schedule on Saturday in Fort Worth, Texas, as the Commodores visit Texas Christian (7 p.m. Saturday, CSS TV locally, 95.5WSM-FM).
Bill Trocchi is the online editor at Athlon Sports.